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Penfolds Bin 389 - A Classic Australian
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. For more information go to

If there's one widely available wine that says "Australia" to me, it's Penfolds Bin 389, a bottling that I've followed, enjoyed and even cellared since I first got interested in fine wine.

Made every year from a varying blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grapes from McLaren Vale, Barossa and other South Australian wine regions, Bin 389 derives extra cachet from being aged, in part, in the small American oak barrels that had housed the previous year's vintage of Penfolds' storied Grange.

The 2000 vintage recently arrived, and I find it impressive. In fact, Australian friends tell me - although Penfolds has not formally acknowledged this - that the winery did not produce a 2000 vintage of its pricey Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon because there wasn't enough quality fruit, so the grapes normally destined for Bin 707 may have gone into the mid-range Bin 389 instead.

The 2000 Bin 389 is inky dark purple, almost black, with garnet glints showing when you hold it to a bright light. Black fruit, delicately fragrant pepper and a whiff of fresh dill (a signal of American oak barrels) show in the aroma. The flavor offers a blend of juicy black fruits and sweet oak, a hint of anise, soft tannins and tangy acidity. It seems a bit more austere than some past vintages at first. But with time in the glass it opens up in layers, suggesting that age will serve this one well, as it has in past vintages.

FOOD MATCH: Beef would be perfect, but it demonstrated its versatility at our table by making a fine match with a simple Italian-American-style dish of sausage in a spicy tomato sauce over penne pasta.

WHEN TO DRINK: Fruit and well-handled oak carry it now, especially given time to breathe in the glass. Cellared with care, it should mature and improve for at least a decade.

Penfolds offers a short Bin 389 fact sheet with a link there to a more detailed report in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format.


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