Australia has become almost synonymous in the U.S. with inexpensive, fruit-driven wines — adequate but not especially exciting, and less interesting than many from Spain, France, and Italy in the under-$20 category.
This may be why Australia doesn’t have the buzz of other wine regions. But at the higher end, Australia produces some fabulous wines that show plenty of dimension.
One of them is the 2020 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz from Penfolds, the venerable winery most celebrated for its Grange Hermitage, the Shiraz-based classic that is Australia’s answer to first growth Bordeaux and sells for prices that can reach into the four figures.
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The Bin 389, at $60 to $80, gives us a hint of that greatness and has been a Penfolds mainstay since 1960, often referred to as the “Baby Grange,” as the winery points out. The 2020 is a blend of 51 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 49 percent Shiraz.
The overriding qualities are its midweight structure, fine-tannin smoothness, and bright, concentrated fruit that suggests boysenberry, blackberry, and black cherry. The labeling heralds “the considered use of American oak,” meaning that the wood influence is subtle, showing mainly as a cedar note and a touch of nutmeg in this young but already approachable wine that will evolve for years.
Try it with bold meats such as well-seasoned skirt steak, leg of lamb, and roast turkey, or with grilled vegetables.
One of the hallmarks of Penfolds is its blends — not only of varieties but of grapes from different regions. The 2020 Bin 389 is made with grapes from McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, and Padthaway — all top red-wine appellations in South Australia that combine superbly in this wine, one of the best in the world at its price.
The wine is available at many Total Wine stores and others, and can be ordered from Penfolds for delivery in many states.