Penfolds Max’s Shiraz Cabernet South Australia 2015

Deep ruby color; redcurrant, cranberry, cherry on the nose; red & black cherry, blackberry, blackcurrant, vanilla, cinnamon on the palate.

Penfolds Max’s Shiraz Cabernet South Australia 2015 packaging

Penfolds Max’s Shiraz Cabernet South Australia 2015

Complex and vivid array of dark fruit flavors; big, sweet fruit thanks to hot February (Australia’s summer) complemented by good acidity (3.61 pH) and assertive tannin. There is oak here, but thankfully not over-the-top after a year in French oak, but only 10% of the barrels new. Blend of 70% shiraz and 30% cabernet sauvignon.

This is attractive entry-level wine to Penfolds quality. It, of course, does not measure up to the historic and iconic Grange, but it costs up to 100s of dollars less, too.

Penfolds is a legendary leader in Australian wine. After immigrating from England, Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold founded his winery in Adelaide in 1844, just eight years after the founding of South Australia. A medical doctor (his wife, Mary, was the daughter of a doctor), Penfolds believed fortified wines had medicinal uses and carefully tended his grape vine cuttings on the journey to his new home and country in order to produce this medicinal resource in his new land.

Penfold focused on fortified wines similar to sherry and port, creations Dr. Penfold favored for their medical benefits. Christopher died in 1870. His widow ignored her son-in-law’s advice to sell the winery. Mary had been active in the winery since its inception and did not hesitate to take over running the entire operation. By the time Mary retired in 1884, Penfolds owned about one-third of all wine stores in South Australia. The son-in-law, Thomas Hyland, assumed control and continued to build the family brand focused on fortified wine. The company went public in 1962, but the Penfold family retained controlling interest until 1976—132 years after its founding.

Penfolds shifted direction from fortified wines to table wines after World War II, led by chief winemaker Max Schubert, who created Penfolds most famous and honored brand, Grange, in the 1950s in spite of instructions from his bosses to abandon the experiment with Bordeaux and French style red wines. There is nice video about this part of the Penfold story on the website; link is below.

A beer brewer in New South Wales acquired Penfolds in 1976. A series of consolidations and re-alignments followed until Penfolds became part of the Foster’s Group (makers of Foster’s Lager) in 2005. In 2011, Foster’s Group spun off its wine operations into Treasury Wine Estates, which since has become one of the world’s largest winemakers. Also in 2011, after the wine spinoff, Foster’s Group, the beer brewer, was taken over by SABMiller, the world’s second-largest bear brewer (behind Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev). Treasury has wobbled some amid the changing fortunes of Aussie wine—hottest stuff on the planet, followed by glut of OK but not great. The Penfolds brand waltzes on.

Penfolds Max’s Shiraz Cabernet South Australia 2015 delivers all you expect from a big, shiraz-dominated, South Australian wine from legendary Penfolds. Big ripe fruit, 14.5% alcohol. It comes in special packaging—a bright red shrink wrap which you “un-zip” to reveal classic Penfolds label that also honors Max Schubert. Some think the packaging is inspired, while others think it tacky. Buy a bottle and you be the judge of the shrink wrap and the wine within. $25

Penfolds website

Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold

Mary Penfold

Winemaker Max Schubert-Penfolds

Penfolds winery