You Are Not Seeing Double – Penfolds Hyland Shiraz Vertical Tasting


As I am getting ready for this long weekend, I am excited to be traveling to Toronto to visit with good friends, who happen to be serious about their wine. As it happens, a few years ago they helped me prepare for my Spanish language class presentation, for which I wisely chose a topic of Spanish wines. Prepare we did, but I digress.

Joking aside, my friends have discerning tastes and most importantly, know what they like. And one of the wines they like is Shiraz. So it is only fitting that this blog is about that perfumed, jammy, full-bodied wine (hailing from France’s Northern Rhone Valley as a more tempered Syrah) made famous by its adoptive land, Australia.

The Shiraz featured is none other than that of Penfolds fame. If Penfolds, as a wine producer, is not familiar to you they are the ones that offer Penfolds re-corking clinics for (most of) their wines 15 years or older. They are also the ones behind Penfolds Grange, perhaps the most famous Australian wine, its 2010 vintage selling at the LCBO Vintages for $800. Alas, I am not writing about that particular one.

The one featured is Penfolds Thomas Hyland Shiraz. With 2012 on the shelves of my local store, the 2008 and 2010 vintages in my stash don’t sound as ancient as they may appear. Had my Toronto friends been around, we would have tasted all three, but for a smaller group that we were, we chose to open the latter two in parallel, for the joy of a mini vertical.

As opposed to a horizontal tasting, where we may try a specific wine style from different wineries, possibly from the same region but certainly from the same year, vertical tasting brings head to head the same wine from two or more different years. This comparison highlights the vintage-to-vintage variations. While wine makers try to reproduce a style for a particular wine year after year, differences are possible due to the variation in the weather and growing conditions which influence wine’s composition of aromas and tastes, levels of alcohol and acidity, and alike.

Truth be told, I was a bit concerned about the 6- and 8-year old bottles, but taking the 2012 price as a baseline the indicated that both are still selling slightly above, assuring that they have aged gracefully.

2012_Penfolds_Hyland_Shiraz 2010_Penfolds_Hyland_Shiraz 2008_Penfolds_Hylands_Shiraz

Indeed, both drank beautifully. They were full of rich dark fruit and spice aromas and flavours, while intense ruby colour was rimmed brownish for the older vintage.

And then, there were some differences. The 2008 had more pronounced vanilla aromas and fruit forward, stewed-berries flavours, with a nice acidity (that I like to describe as salty) which probably helped the wine age so nicely. Silky tannins carried good raisiny length. In comparison, the 2010 had more of a dark cherry, coffee and garrigue notes, the latter tipping the hat to the wine’s ancient homeland.

We paired the wines with lamb, roasted red peppers and kale & corn salad. And with the gluten-free chocolate cake below – the 2008 was a particularly good match.



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