Prolific Penfolds takes a double triumph

Name: John Moore and Steve Lienert

Penfolds senior red winemaker Steve Lienert was on hand for the second year running in December last year to accept the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation's (AWBC) George Mackey Memorial Trophy for Australia's export wine of the year. The 2006-07 winner was the 2004 Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, described by Lienert as 'a Cabernet Sauvignon flagship and a stalwart', beating more than 18,000 entries. Penfolds took the award in 2005-06 for its 2003 RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz.

Each year the AWBC wine inspectors assess thousands of wines submitted for export approval, and each one is in the running for the trophy. To qualify for the final selection, 200 cases (1800L) of the product must have been exported. By recognising Australia's best export wine from all those tasted during the year, it sets a benchmark for the quality of Australia's wine exports. Previous winners have included Wirra Wirra, Tatachilla, Coldstream Hills, Cape Mentelle and Penley Estate.

'One of the current challenges the Australian wine industry faces is how to differentiate itself in a crowded market place. We need to demonstrate the quality of our wines abroad,' said Sam Tolley, outgoing chief executive of the AWBC.

Retailing for $160 per bottle, the Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon fruit is sourced from 'fantastic vineyards owned by a good group of growers', according to Lienert, and the Kalimna Block 42 vineyard, planted in the mid 1880s and now home to some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the world. The Kalimna Block-grown Cabernet Sauvignon is low yielding and provides rich, concentrated fruit flavours.

Australian Viticulture caught up with Steve Lienert at the AWBC's 2007 annual meeting, after the presentation of the award. Lienert said Bin 707 wine is a blend of 50% Barossagrown fruit with the other half sourced from McLaren Vale and Coonawarra vineyards. The wine is aged in 100% brand new American oak barrels for 15 months. Made in a drink-now style but will easily last in the bottle for another 15-20 years.

The 2004 vintage was closed entirely with cork, but Lienert said half of the volume created from the 2005 vintage was closed with screwcap. Depending on export market preferences, Lienert expects future releases of the Bin 707 to be entirely closed with screwcap.

Volumes are similar to Penfolds Grange and depend on the vintage conditions but can range from 3000 cases to 7000- 8000 cases.

The first vintage of Bin 707 was made in 1964, and due to the fruit not being at a high enough standard for Penfolds, wines were not made in 1981, 1995, 2000 or 2003.

'The Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon is equally as well received in the domestic market as overseas yet slightly more of the volume share is exported,' Lienert said.

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