A product of the 80s, my childhood TV-watching centred around a host of well-loved cartoons. Thundercats. The Mysterious Cities of Gold. Inspector Gadget. To name but a few. Each with its own iconic theme song which still have the ability to lodge in my head and take me back in time.
But the one that perhaps I think of most often is Danger Mouse. This time, not because of the theme song (although it is equally hummable), or even memories of the exploits the greatest superagent in the world got up to – but instead because of Danger Mouse’s sidekick, the rather meek and cowardly Penfold.
Ok, aside from the name, there is nothing much to connect the hamster Penfold with the giant of the Aussie wine industry that is Penfolds – but the child inside me always thinks “Cor!” or “Crumbs!” whenever I see the name. Followed closely by “Penfold, shush!”.
This is all a rather long preamble to say that it was Penfolds’ New Release tasting last week. Held at the RSA in London, it was a rather smart affair where the trade, media and a few lucky customers were able to taste the new vintages of Penfolds’ top wines for the first time. And I got to go along too. Crumbs!
Descending the stairs down into the RSA vaults where the tasting took place, part of the Danger Mouse theme kept playing through my head. “He’s the greatest, he’s fantastic…” For there was no denying it, this was quite the blinged-up tasting, designed to show off some of Australia’s finest wines. And yet, once you got past the neon red Penfolds signs, the backlit bottles and glossy catalogue – once you tried the wine, there was Danger Mouse again: “It’s Penfolds, shush”. For the wines really did deserve a bit of quiet, a bit of thought, a bit of stillness.
I won’t write out a long list of notes on the wines – there are plenty available on the Internet from numerous critics should you choose to look – but I have to admit to being quietly impressed with many of them. In keeping with the mood of the tasting the wines all showed a certain gloss – fine tannins and a lush texture. But this perhaps belied the power, concentration and elegance beneath. Grange 2010 was clearly the main drawcard, the pinnacle of the range and as iconic a wine as they get. Hugely complex and powerful yet simultaneously delicate and pretty, this was clearly built for the long term.
And yet for me the highlight of the night was the magnum of 2004 RWT Shiraz. Not part of the new release tasting, instead this offered insight into how well these wines can age – and this was still a baby. This was a beguiling wine, offering layer upon layer of complexity and interest. Delicate, fragrant, lifted, it somehow felt more ethereal than all of the other wines I tasted that night. And then it hit me – the main difference: the temperature of the wine. The magnum had been sitting on top of a metal grate which was pumping out cold air. This meant the wine was a few degrees cooler than all of the others I had tasted, and it’s amazing how much of a difference that can make – helping to accentuate the lifted aromas and also rein in the richer, riper aromas. A lesson in how best to serve red wine if ever there was one.
Oh crikey! Danger Mouse would be proud.