2005 Penfolds St Henri is a blend of Shiraz 90% and Cabernet Sauvignon 10% and was matured in large old oak vats for 16 months. The 2005 Penfolds St Henri is dark garnet with a deep core. No the nose, the 2005 Penfolds St Henri is perfumed and fresh with fruit cake/nutmeg/mixed spice aromas. It’s medium to full bodied with beetroot/blackcurrant/ new saddle leather/nutmeg/liquorice flavours, lacy tannins and the oak is unseen. Fruit used for the 2005 Penfolds St Henri was sourced from premium vineyards located in the Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek, Padthaway, Clare, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills and Coonawarra wine regions.
Penfolds St Henri, is one of Australia’s greatest red wines; it is steeped in history and heritage, a bottle of 1896 Auldana St Henri Claret, surfaced in the late 1980’s from the cellar of a private collector in Tasmania and a bottle of the 1911 Auldana St Henri Claret was presented at the Penfolds Red Wine Clinic, in 1996 which was being held in Hobart. In 1943, Penfolds bought the Auldana Vineyard, which is where Leon Edmund Mazure created those early above-mentioned vintages of St Henri Claret. In 1947 Penfolds Winemaker John Davoren was appointed manager of Penfolds Auldana Cellars.
In the early 1950’s Penfolds Winemaker, John Davoren revived the label St Henri Claret, he was keen to make a wine based on the history of Auldana Cellars and his own families wine making traditions. The first vintage of Penfolds St Henri was made in 1953, although this vintage and the following three vintages were all experimental wines. The first commercial Penfolds St Henri was the 1957 Penfolds St Henri vintage.
Penfolds St Henri and Penfolds Grange began life together in the 1950’s in an intense and experimental environment. The two winemakers, Max Schubert working on Grange, and John Davoren working on St Henri, shared an intense and competitive relationship. They were good friends and had robust discussion about the wines, during this time Davoren actually reported to Schubert. Penfolds St Henri and Penfolds Grange come from the same stable, they are similar in style and at between 10 and 15 years of age they look remarkably similar to each other. Initially Penfolds St Henri was commercially more successful than Penfolds Grange because it was more elegant and approachable than the blockbuster Grange style. When they were both released St Henri and Penfolds Grange were priced at the same level.
The fruit used to make Penfolds St Henri is sourced from a number of high quality vineyards throughout South Australia with significant contributions from the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek. Penfolds St Henri is usually a blend of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, the blend varies each vintage from around 90/10 (shiraz/cabernet) to as little as 98/2, and some vintages such as the 1990 have been made with 100% shiraz. Penfolds St Henri is matured for 18 months in old oak casks, 1460 liters or more, it doesn’t rely on new oak like many fine Australian wines including Grange and Bin 707.
Penfolds St Henri flew under the radar through the 1970’s and 1980’s because of its contrasting style compared to Penfolds Grange (which was all the rage) and other fine Australian wines which all relied on oak. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that wine lovers began to again appreciate the Penfolds St Henri style, elegance, fruit and flavour with no oak. The best vintages of Penfolds St Henri will continue to develop of 30 years or more gaining complexity, weight and texture. Some Penfolds Winemakers believe Penfolds Grange and Penfolds St Henri are very similar at about 10 to 15 years bottle age.
Penfolds St Henri is a great Australian wine, wine collectors adore it and it’s currently very affordable compared to Grange. Old vintages of St Henri do come up for sale from time to time but there isn’t a lot of them around, so if you see a chance I’d suggest you take it.