Everyone likes Haribo. Starting in 1922 when a chap called Hans Riegel Sr made a jelly candy in the shape of a bear, the company is now a massive brand in the confectionary world, appearing in supermarkets all over the world. Similarly Penfold's originated as a small family run company and then became a similar global monster, also appearing in supermarkets all over the world. There is one major difference between the companies though. Haribo has stayed within the same family, whereas Penfold's has had many masters.
And that is the problem. When a company has the name of the people who own it, they usually have a pride that prevents them producing rubbish. Penfold's sadly left family control and became owned by a faceless corporation that didn't care about anything but the bottom line, so good less expensive wines like Koonunga Hill, became cheap, crappy wines for getting drunk on. Things changed a few years ago, when Penfold's decided to rekindle the quality that the Koonunga Hill brand had in the 1970s, and released some 'retro' wines. The cynic in me would say that this was a first step in a journey away from being associated as a supermarket wine - vital for companies like Penfold's as more and more supermarkets are putting the squeeze on their suppliers and focusing more on their own label products. But even if the cynic in me is right, does it really matter if the wine is decent? Here are my thoughts on their retro wines.
Fresh aromas of petrol, lime skin with some minerality elements coming through. A simple wine, with fresher, juicier elements that are quite nice. The palate is vibrant, lots of lime skin, a tiny touch of sweetness coming through with some tarter acidic fruit - a bit like fizzy lime Haribo if they made such a thing! There is lots of freshy squeezed lemon and lime juice on the palate. Not bad, clean, simple Australian Riesling without being all power and acid. 86pts
2010 Penfold's Koonunga Hill Seventy Six Shiraz Cabernet
Lots of sweet cherries and brambles with a tiny touch of raspberry tartness coming through. Quite creamy with some warmed blueberry compote coming through. The palate has some darker bonfire toffee and liquorice coming out with the black pepper spice from the shiraz. A lot of earth, dark, meaty charcoal flavours with some more black pepper on the finish and the alcohol is well integrated. The finish is a tiny bit clumsy but a nice wine and a good price. 85pts
Penfold's have always produced quality products that real wine enthusiasts have always got excited about, but at their entry price point, where most people buy their wine, quality had suffered. After trying these wines, priced at around £11 each, Penfold's are once again making good quality Australian wines that could age a little should you want to. Hopefully that quality will go to the mainstream Koonunga Hill wines soon.