Penfolds St Henri is a great Australian red with a unique stature, emblematic story and enduring quality. Steeped in South Australia’s colonial heritage and inextricably linked to the development of Grange, St Henri offers an intriguing, alternative expression of Shiraz that is a sentimental favourite amongst collectors.
This year’s release of the 2010 St Henri was met with immediate acclaim from some of the world’s most distinguished wine commentators. Matthew Jukes (UK), Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (US) and Australia’s Tony Love gave the wine outstanding reviews of 20 (out of 20), 97+, and 99 (both out of 100) respectively.
The 2010 St Henri Shiraz is released on 1st May as part of Penfolds 2014 Icon and Luxury Collection, in the winery’s 170th year. Made from 100% Shiraz, it is a full-bodied, richly concentrated wine with excellent length driven by waves of intense fruits, a well of unbridled fine tannins, and a wash of awakening acidity. Its fruit is multi-regional and hails from mainly the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
According to Chief Winemaker Peter Gago, the 2010 expression is a classic Penfolds wine and a standout from the impressive 2010 vintage. Comparable to the excellent 1996 vintage, “It delivers all that is requested of St Henri, and some,” he says.
As with all vintages of St Henri, its features are so striking, that they need no enhancement or highlighting with new oak – something that is rare amongst high quality Australian red wines. Instead, the fruit-driven Shiraz is propelled by skin and seed tannins alone and matured for 18 months in old, 1460 litre oak vats. Whilst maturation in large old oak allows an alternative textural experience, it certainly doesn’t compromise longevity or stature.
First created in the 1950s, the inaugural commercial vintage was crafted in 1957 under the guidance of legendary Penfolds winemaker John Davoren, whose objective was to make ‘a genuine claret style’ wine that could be compared favourably with the greatest grand cru classé wines of Bordeaux.
The development in the 1950s of Grange by Max Schubert and St Henri by John Davoren heralded a time of immense innovation at Penfolds. The success of Grange was very much enhanced by the contrasting St Henri style, and the two wines began life together in a climate of intense excitement, experimentation and research. Both were regarded as classic Penfolds wines and distinguished Australian reds within a decade of first release.
Although St Henri is now a Shiraz-dominant blend, the first trials were centred on Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro and later Shiraz. By the 1970s St Henri was predominantly a Shiraz-Cabernet blend. The first vintages were reportedly foot-stomped in open-ended hogsheads, with a relatively high percentage of stalks retained in the vinification.
Nowadays, although a small proportion of Cabernet is sometimes used to improve structure, the focal point for St Henri remains Shiraz. It is a multi-district blend that draws Shiraz from the Barossa Valley, Eden Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek and Limestone Coast. When Cabernet Sauvignon is incorporated, the grapes are sourced from the Barossa Valley and Coonawarra to add both firmness and structure to the St Henri style.
With a wine style that proudly hasn’t succumbed to the dictates of fashion or commerce, St Henri is rich and plush when young, and gains soft, earthy, mocha-like characters as it ages..
After six decades of contiguous vintages under the Penfolds St Henri moniker, this iconic wine has a proven cellaring track record and a loyal following. Loved and debated for its entire history, St Henri nonetheless unquestionably lies at the heart of Australia’s fine wine scene.
Learn more about Penfolds 2010 St Henri