If you are looking for a pleasant, mellow red wine that you can sip on a summer’s evening,Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet is a really nice, affordable wine that is made by one of the largest winemakers in Australia.
It is made mostly from shiraz grapes (71 percent) mixed with cabernet sauvignon grapes (29 percent). While Australia is known for its wines made with shiraz grapes — usually called syrah here in the US and elsewhere — sometimes the grape can produce wines that are slightly weaker and lack body. The addition of the cabernet helps give the wine structure, so there is a nice balance between the fruitiness of the shiraz and the tannins of the cab.
This particular wine is very affordable. I paid $6.79/bottle at my local wine shop, which included a 15 percent discount for buying more than 6 mixed bottles, well below my self-imposed limit of $7.99/bottle for affordable wines. That’s because it is made from grapes grown from all over South Australia, including Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra, rather than from a single vineyard.
Like Penfold’s Rawson’s Retreat, this wine has a very berry flavor, with hints of licorice. It is just lightly bitter, but smooth enough to enjoy by itself. Ideally, it would be best is served with beef, lamb or grilled meats, but in my opinion it goes great with just about anything.
The wine loses points for having a screw top cap, but at least that’s better than using plastic corks. Plus, it helps keep the wine fresher if you aren’t going to finish the bottle all at once.
To get maximum flavor, remove the cap and let the wine breathe for about an hour before you are ready to serve it. This allows the wine to oxidize with the outside air, releasing additional flavors.
I always thought that letting wine breathe was B.S., but a Frenchman I used to work with once had me taste the same wine side-by-side as an experiment. One had just been uncorked and the other had been allowed to sit uncorked for an hour. The difference was amazing: The bottle that had been allowed to oxidize tasted about 10 times better than the other one.
I have yet to find a Penfold’s wine that I don’t like. The seem to be very dependably good. And I haven’t even tried any of the wineries more expensive brands. I can only imagine what they taste like!