Penfolds RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz

RWT is an unusual wine in the Penfolds line up for three reasons. Firstly because it does not have a Bin number. Think of 389, 707, 28, all Penfolds Bin number wines, even Grange and Yattarna, white grange, have bin numbers, 95 and 144 respectively. Secondly because it is not a multi-region blend. Penfolds has enormous vineyard resources, both company owned vineyards and contract growers, which enables it to produce wines every year with consistent styles right across its broad portfolio. With its multi-region blending it can compensate for a poor vintage in one region by using fruit from another region. Again, even Grange which is substantially Barossa Shiraz will often contain fruit from other regions and even other varieties to maintain its renowned style and quality. And thirdly RWT does not have a history dating back many decades like St Henri, Grange and Bin 389 do.

So what is RWT? RWT stands for “Red Winemaking Trial” which is the name it was given when development began in 1995. The first vintage, released in 2000, was 1997. The current vintage is 2011 meaning there have been 15 vintages.  In the 2010 Langton’s Classification V, RWT was included for the first time and was rated excellent. In the recently released Classification VI it is in the second tier outstanding category, alongside its stalemates St Henri, Bin 389 and Yattarna.

The wine is made from 100% Barossa Shiraz and it is fermented for 12 -15 months in French oak hogsheads, 50 – 70% of which are new. Part of the reason for developing RWT was to give Penfolds a high quality French oak Shiraz as a point of difference to the American oak Grange and to compete against a number of other quality wine producers who were delivering premium French oak Barossa Shiraz wines. It was also intended to be an easier drinking at a younger age style of wine than Grange, and lower in price! At the annual Penfolds luxury and icon range releases, RWT is often the star wine on the night because it is more approachable younger than some of the other big wines.

We recently drank a bottle of 2002 RWT. Like all vintages, it is 100% Barossa Valley Shiraz and was matured for 14 months in 66% new and 34% old French barriques. It was a deep dark red colour. On the nose there was blackberry, liquorice and chocolate. On the palate it was a big rich generous Shiraz with strong berry flavours and the lingering liquorice and chocolate. An excellent wine, I gave it 94 points and it is perfect for drinking now or in the next year or two. Decanting an hour or two before drinking is strongly recommended. A wine that rewards the nine years in the cellar since it was bought for only $130 on release in May 2005. It was sealed with cork back then, later vintages are under stelvin. The current vintage, 2011, has a recommended retail price of $175.