Penfolds: Bin 389 and Bin 600

From a soil that had never grown grapes and winemakers that had never made wine, came the very first bottles of Penfolds in 1844.

PICTURE YOURSELF IN THE MID-1800S.You’re a woman, married to a doctor and living in England. The two of you decide to board a ship for an extremely uncertain future.

You head, for more than 3 months over stormy seas, south, south, south, until it feels as though you could sail off the end of the Earth; only to arrive at a colony merely 8 years old.

The year was 1844 when Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary settled on 500 acres near Adelaide, South Australia. They planted the vine cuttings they carried from Europe. The dream was to begin his medical practice where Mary would make fortified wine, the preferred medicine of that time.

The pair grew Dr. Penfold’s reputation alongside the vines, and while many women of this generation would have tended house and seen to the children, Mary Penfold was not a woman of her time — but someone destined to do extraordinary, memorable things. It’s said she rode through the vineyard on a striking white horse, managing the fields until the doctor’s untimely passing in 1870. Rather than shy from the challenge, Mary again embraced it, carrying on as the head of the winery in a time when women were not even yet allowed a vote.

It’s from Mary’s first risks — of pioneering new lands and perseverance in the face of massive adversity — that the company was truly founded. Penfolds holds fast to that very cornerstone today.

"Complexity is derived via diversity and choice. Whilst steered by one conductor and one composer, the majesty and purity of the orchestral sound emanates from instruments from many countries, played by artists with many accents."- PETER GAGOPENFOLDS CHIEF WINEMAKER

BY THE 1931, PENFOLDS HAD HIRED ITS FIRSTchief winemaker ... they just didn’t know it yet. Max Schubert was originally hired as a messenger boy, but he rose steadily in the company ranks, and by his 33rd birthday, in 1948, he earned the loftiest title — Chief Winemaker.

Schubert, like Mary and Christopher before him, would face extraordinary risk with a confidence and a willingness to lose it all, for the sake of truly great wine. He was sent to Spain and Portugal to study in the late 1940s, but he took a side trip to Bordeaux to investigate the French cellar styles. He fell in love, and dreamed of an evolution for Penfolds Wines. Even then, the 1950s, the wines made by Penfolds were mostly still fortified.

Schubert began his first experiments with Shiraz using Australia-grown grapes and old-world French techniques. He sent out a wine he titled ‘Grange’ from Adelaide to the home office in Sydney, excited to hear the thoughts of the top management. They poured and tasted it and then — shockingly — sent him a telegram telling him to stop making it.

Likely channeling some of Mary’s gusto, Schubert carried on his experiments in secret. Three vintages were hidden — a 1957, a 1958, and a 1959 — until in 1960. He sent the now-aged wine back to the home office, and the rest is history. This 'house style' was truly the future for Penfolds. The 1990 vintage of Grange was named Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year in 1995.

On its 50th birthday in 2001, Grange was listed as a South Australian heritage icon, while the 2008 Grange vintage achieved a perfect score of 100 points by both Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, two of the world’s most influential wine magazines.It's the only Australian wine, and one of only 13 wines in history to acheive this.

To say Penfolds is famed among wine producers is an understatement. To say the company is built on experimentation and risk taking is to speak plain truth.

It’s with great joy and true humility that Vices now presents to you these two Penfolds bottles. There is nothing more apt we could have included in a box of Extraordinary Risk, and one meant to celebrate the beauty of California and of Australia.

We gave you this company history so that you could understand what lies before you in these bottles of Cabernet Shiraz.

Let’s begin with that bottle of Bin 389.

Bin 389

“A Bin meant it was where the wine was stored in the winery,” offers Charlotte Rawa, Penfolds’ US Fine Wine Ambassador.

“At its core, that’s not super glamorous. However, over time, it came to represent the style of what’s in the bottle. We added a layer of romance, because some bins have fanciful names. Or, are named to symbolize something special to us, represented by the different numbers.

Bin 707, for example, was so named because it was released in 1964, and that year, the 707 was the first Qantas jet that brought people to Australia. That 707 plane was a game-changer for transportation. We named the wine to honor that.”

In 1960, Bin 389 was part of Max Schubert’s red wine trials for Grange. He experimented with blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and Bin 389 became one of Penfolds best-selling and most collected — one of the most beloved in the entire portfolio. Their Bin 389 is nicknamed Baby Grange, because components of this wine are aged in the same barrels that previously aged Grange.

“BIN 389 IS WHAT PENFOLDS IS ALL ABOUT: AN INHERITANCE AND A TRADITION FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.” -STEVE LIENERT, RETIRED PENFOLDS WINEMAKER

Bin 600

This bottle is the product of a 20+ year journey. It represents the old of Australia and the new of California. These landscapes offer similar climates and similar soil, but opposite growing seasons.

This wine is truly remarkable, and what’s even more exceptional — you are among the first people to ever hold a bottle of Penfolds Bin 600 in your hands. You’ll be among the first in the world to pour it into a decanter, to watch as the light slices through its perfect ruby color, to inhale as it breaths and opens; among the first to ever sip it.

Bin 600 is part of Penfolds latest Extraordinary Risk. The idea behind Bin 600 began in the late 1990s. Just as Mary and Christopher sailed with vine cuttings to new lands, Peter Gago — the current Chief Winemaker — had an idea to again ‘set sail’ for a new continent.

In 1998 and 1999, cuttings from the mother vines of the Magill Estate and Kalimna Vineyard were flown to Paso Robles in the heart of California’s own wine-making country. They were planted, tended, watched and hoped over. They spent 20 years growing, and once the best fruit was harvested, expressed and aged, it was finally bottled. All of that work went into that bottle of Bin 600 — named for the Creston “600” Ranch in the Camatta Hills in Paso Robles.

“I think the concept of bringing these two hemispheres together speaks to a lot of people in wine who have taken a risk,” says Penfolds Senior Red Winemaker, Steph Dutton. “This California collection is intended to be something new and different that speaks to the winery's continued willingness to take risks and innovate. We wanted to see what we could do when using Penfolds technique, to make wine in California from these famous varieties of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. We say that Bin 600 is a mirror image of Bin 389. They are beautiful counterparts to each other.”

Bin 600 and the rest of the California Collection launched in March of 2021, to honor and pay homage to the best wines of California and the stamp of the Penfolds famous house style, while adding something new entirely in the connection to Australia.

“The success of Penfolds as a company is threefold,” says Rawa. “First, it’s about the wine, and it’s always been about the wine. Secondly, it’s about longevity. We’ve always had the good fortune to have impressive people who have incredible passion for what they do.

And, I think the third reason for success is that the winemakers have been stewards of Mary and Christopher Penfold's vision, courage and risk taking. Chief winemaker Peter Gago is only our fourth winemaker in the company’s history. He had the vision for this California Collection and that vision is now a bold reality.”

How to serve

To serve each of these, begin an hour before you plan to sit downto drink.

Decant each bottle, making sure to create a bit of splash along the sides. Really get the air moving through the wine.

Leave it to breathe for an hour and when you are ready, Rawa recommends rinsing your original Penfolds bottle with a little lukewarm water, to remove any sediment, and then funnel the wine back in its original vessel.

“We like to double decant, because most people like to see that original bottle during service,” she says. “It adds a nice touch on the table and is certainly a conversation piece.”

Bin 389 Notes

The first vintage was in 1960, and the variety is Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz; a multi-district blend from South Australia, including grapes from Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Padthaway, Rob, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Wrattonbully and Clare Valley. It’s aged 14 to 18 months in American Oak, including barrels used for previous vintages of Grange and of Bin 707.

Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz remains one of Australia’s most popular collectible red wines. It’s consistency and long-term cellar potential make it one to keep, but it’s also a hard one not to open, to pour and to adamantly enjoy.

On the Nose: a first impression of blackcurrant/cassis cabernet-driven aromatics.A second-wave of chive, mustard spice, beeswax, lemon/honey tea and thyme flowers. A third of cherry-wood, sarsaparilla, aniseed. And a fourth of wet cold steel and a wet peppercorn tree.

On the Sip: A generous mid-palate sip, bearing flavors of a platter of charcuterie meats, pastrami dominating. Also vying for taste and textural attention are pomegranate, cranberry, Madagascan vanilla pod and licorice straps. This wine’s youthful profile is tempered by softened and even tannins – from start to finish, with the judicious use of new oak.

Bin 600 Notes

Sixteen months in American Oak produces this wine of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Shiraz. Bin 600 is intrinsically linked to Penfolds beginnings in California, a narrative that now spans more than twenty years. Creston Ranch is now honored in the wine’s name, Bin 600.

In recognition of Penfolds history within the Californian wine story, grapes from the original 1998 vine cuttings feature in this cabernet shiraz blend. A blend that has been revered and championed by Penfolds in our modern winemaking era.

On the Nose: clove, sage, and turmeric immediately; drifting into coffee grounds, raw coconut kernel and jasmine tea. Fragrant salsa verde is dissected down to its components: flat leaf parsley, anchovy and basil. Oak provides a platform for these two varietal blending companions, a springboard for the blackberry and quince.

On the Sip: Medium-bodied, with sweet licorice, brimming with potent anise. Glycerous texture Radiating from this backbone is pepper-rubbed pastrami, rare roast beef, cocoa dusting, semi-dried dates and freshly harvested persimmons. Shiraz-driven, familial yet inaugural, with 176 years of history.

There is another first as we carry on in this booklet to bring you the stories and histories of these other brands. For the first time, we truly let Penfolds take the lead on compiling the other items featured.

The wine is so monumental and the pairings needed to be perfect.