So this is Christmas, and my wife has baked a feast of field roast, potatoes, yams, carrots, mushrooms and cranberry sauce. We just happened to have a bottle of Penfolds 389: a nearly equal parts cabernet sauvignon and shiraz blend amalgamated from their plots throughout South Australia.
Rain and cold grip the outdoors. So our glasses tend toward the sunny Southern hemisphere. But I worry this will be a monster of alcohol and fruit. Will it overwhelm this hardy but still vegetarian dish?
But Penfolds manages a delicate touch here. The color may look an dark ruby. Yet the aromas smell filigreed, complex, and nuanced. It reminds us of orange rind, spearmint, toast, and dried vanilla bean. Red raspberry and blackberry compote support the wild array of spices. The palate feels similarly balanced, medium bodied, well poised and controlled, with enough acidity matching hands with the twang of the cranberry sauce. Our meal’s earthiness blends well the wine’s oak toast.
Rarely does a red with 100% American oak (40% new) work for me (they come off cloying, bourbon-like in their coconut and vanilla softness). But here, oak provides a bit of dust, ash, and drying tannin.
Penfolds’ 2012 389 is man over matter. They have created a multifaceted, interesting drink that is greater a sum than its parts. Very good (4 of 5).