Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2016
Blend: 95% Shiraz, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The latest St. Henri has all the polished, chocolaty plushness Penfolds is so known for, but this bottling is particularly comfortable in its own skin, and seems set for a longer time in cellar than Penfolds Grange. It’s denser, with more earthy, olivey, charred oak notes than the brand’s most famous wine—and also wildly more affordable— with fleshy plum and brambly berry fruit woven into those more barrel-derived secondary notes. Despite its velvety opulence, it’s not bombastic. Tannins are muscular and spicy and also precise and refined, knitting together the plump fruit. Drink 2023–2040 and likely longer.
There’s no new wood to get in the way of St. Henri’s blackberry freshness—the wine, developed by John Davoren in the 1950s, presented Penfolds’ top-level shiraz matured in large, neutral oak vats rather than the hogsheads Max Schubert was using for Grange. The 2016 is fragrant with dark fruit that seems to slow time—associate editor Corey Warren compared it to bullet time in The Matrix.Meanwhile, the gentle texture has a silken touch, even as the wine is super-concentrated. A remarkable vintage of St. Henri that will age for decades.
Penfolds has been producing remarkable wines since 1844 and indisputably led the development of Australian fine wine in the modern era. The introduction of Penfolds Grange in 1951 forever changed the landscape of Australian fine wine. Since then a series of stand-out wines both white and red have been released under the Penfolds masthead.
Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker and only the 4th custodian of Grange, relishes the opportunity to bring Penfolds to the world stage and is an enthusiastic ambassador and natural educator. Penfolds came to the attention of the US market when 1990 Grange was Wine Spectator’s ‘Wine of the Year’. Since then, Penfolds Grange has become one of the most collectable wines of the world and was honored to grace the front cover, once again, of Wine Spectator, with declarations of Grange as Australia’s Icon.
Though Syrah originated in the Rhône Valley of France, Australia is home to the oldest Syrah (called Shiraz here) vines on the planet. Found in Australia’s Barossa Valley, where phylloxera has never threated viticulture, these ancient vines are between 140 to 175 years old!
Having brought fame and merit to the country’s wine scene since the early 1950s, namely via the debut of Penfolds Grange, today Syrah (Shiraz) claims rank as the most widely planted grape in Australia. In fact, the amount of land dedicated to Shiraz in Australia is now almost equivalent to what it is in France. Australian Shiraz has its own personality with flavors and aromas of intense blackberry, fruitcake, menthol, tobacco leaf and umami. Conveniently one can find great Australian Shiraz at a variety of price points but the very best will be dense, gloriously complex and capable of long aging.