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Penley Phoenix 2000 Has “Everything Great Cabs Aspire to”

Penley Estate ‘Phoenix’ 2000 Coonawarra Cabernet

June 8, 2014
by Rafael Nazario

Texture and narrative began to take shape. A story line became present in the glass. Here was this badly stored wine, which ok, was a bit closed up, but it was unmistakably Cabernet, drinking very, very well all things considered. Old Cabernet and Old School old Cabernet at that. Had it not been for the focused Cabernet Sauvignon flavours it would have been like drinking old Claret.

I was impressed.

What a wine! Decidedly Old World in style (which might explain the French, Vin Rouge Produit Australie at the bottom of the label) this Coonawarra Cabernet had everything great cabs aspire to: purity of fruit and varietal expression (mature dark berry flavors which thankfully were not overripe when this wine was made) yes, plenty of oak, but the oak helped define it (a rustle of leathery overtones here and there), providing context and shaping it on the palate, never overwhelming the soulful black currant and cassis emerging from hibernation.

I vacuum-sealed and tasted this wine over two more days. It continued to change but not deteriorate (and this isn’t their Reserve wine!). Over the next two days the oak became less pronounced but was still the feature that brought on the long powdery dry finish, a kind of Long Nights Journey Into Day.

For a brief moment whilst I savoured thatĀ finish, it reminded me of Cabernets from Rutherford in Napa Valley. Here was a wine that came from a particular place that momentarily shared traits with wine from a different very particular place. I would have loved to be able to put this Cabernet into a blind tasting along with others from overseas. Coonawarra produces Cabernets of distinction and specific characteristics.

It had been a long time since I had a fully mature wine that had been for short-term cellaring, was badly stored but nonetheless, managed to grow old and tell stories.

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