We are thrilled to release the highly anticipated Penfolds St. Henri 2016 this afternoon. The 2016 is a staggeringly good St. Henri, one of the finest in their history. It has been awarded 98 points from James Suckling, his joint highest ever, stating it is ‘so long and pure. Silky and elegant. A real masterpiece, taking its place among the finest vintages like 2010, 1990 and 1971.’ Indeed, Joe Czerwinski from The Wine Advocate awards it 96 points, also declaring that ‘the 2016 St Henri Shiraz is one of the finest St Henri’s I’ve ever tasted, rivalling the likes of the 1986 or 1976.’ It is priced today on release at £324 per case of six, which offers brilliant value for one of Australia’s finest wines.
St. Henri vies with Grange for pole position on the points scale, which at 1/7 of the price is remarkable. St Henri has risen to become one of the most highly sought-after wines on release, which is not surprising given its quality. It truly does compete with Grange, but diverges stylistically, Grange embodies the masculine, while St Henri personifies more elegance and subtlety, but it retains strength, in a classical way. It depends on what mood you are in, but the price differentiation between St Henri and Grange, or the leading Northern Rhone wines for that matter such as Guigal’s La Las or Jaboulet’s La Chapelle is startling. Our release price today of £324 per case of six allows access to what we believe to be one of the world’s finest Syrah dominant wines for under £55 a bottle. In fact, we find St Henri synthesises the Old and New World, offering an almost Neolithic minerality, combined with gorgeous purity of fruit and elegance.
The history of Penfolds Grange and St Henri presents two competing styles, designed to complement each other. In the 1950s the Australian wine industry was largely trying to make dry red wine out of very raw materials, using grapes cultivated for port style wine production. Penfolds embarked on a project to create world class wines, engaging their winemakers to do something different; two winemakers broke the mould, Max Schubert and John Davoren. In 1951 Schubert created an experimental wine by bottling Shiraz after fermenting in American oak, he called it Grange Hermitage. However, at the same time Davoren was tasked with fashioning St Henri, created deliberately to challenge Penfolds Grange (then Hermitage Grange) by juxtaposing it; where Grange was viewed as polemical, St. Henri was designed to use conventional winemaking techniques. Davoren worked painstakingly throughout the 1950s and in 1957 ordained the first vintage.
Stylistically, since the 1990s, Penfolds St Henri has once again cemented itself as the highly efficacious counterpoint to Grange, a completely alternative expression of Shiraz. Unusually for Aussie Shiraz, St. Henri does not depend on new oak, being matured in old 1,460 litre vats, which encourages the wine to display the fantastic fruit concentration that is derived from the vineyard’s old vines. Shiraz makes up the lion share of St Henri, although some Cabernet Sauvignon is added to improve the structure. The wine has the potential to improve for 30 years in bottle. It is extremely complex, with high notes of eucalyptus, lavender, graphite cocoa and mint. Its layers unfold to express dried fig, mocha, coffee and delightful notes of soya sauce and sweet spice. All this is wrapped up in toast, cedar, leather, smoke and finishes with an incredible praline note.
St. Henri is incredibly age-worthy and our strong advice is to buy it every year. It will reward you in terms of investment and stunning future drinking, at a fraction of the price of Grange.
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