Following yesterday’s release of Penfold’s flagship wine ‘Grange’ and the stunning ‘Baby Grange’, we are delighted to release St Henri 2014. St Henri is the most sought after Penfolds wine and it is easy to understand why. 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 for quality, but diverges stylistically, Grange embodies the masculine, more Bach or Beethoven, while St Henri personifies more elegance and subtlety, more Mozart to continue the analogy: but like Mozart, 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 the Guigal’s La Las or Jaboulet La Chapelle is startling. Our release price today of £310 per case of six allows access to what we believe to be one of the world’s finest Syrah dominant wines for under £50 a bottle. In fact, we find St Henri synthesis the old and new world, offering an almost Neolithic minerality, combined with gorgeous purity of fruit and elegance.
Today’s case of six offers an incredible opportunity to secure a wine that sells out perennially on pre-orders alone. The price of £310 is excellent considering the vintage premium that St Henri displays, as highlighted below. The 97+ 2010 already trades at £450 per case of six, while the 2013 has already risen 20% since its release last year. The 90+ scoring 2004 trades at £390, yet it has been the run of great recent vintages achieved by St Henri which has driven its global cachet higher. We expect the average price of St Henri to rise over the next five years, along with an immediate uptick in the price of the 2014, as it represents a discount to the average trading price of St Henri vintages. This is a wine to perennially collect, its global prestige is reaching new heights.
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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 and in 2014 it is extremely complex, with high notes of eucalyptus, lavender and mint. Its layers unfold to express dried fig, mocha, coffee and delightful notes 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.
Penfolds St Henri 2014, 6×75 – £310 IB
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