As soon as this one came out of the purveyor’s bag, we started to chuckle.  It was part of a new line from Penfolds, a winery that, through their armada of “bin” designated wines, would seem to already have every conceivable wine scenario covered with plenty left over.   Yet here was something dressed in an ‘artsy’ composite coating, the inaugural release it states, of a line dedicated to the memory of Max Schubert, Penfold’s historic winemaker who would have been 100 years old in 2015.

Even the most creative of corporate spin doctors would be challenged to generate a viable yarn about how a (literally) red bottle that sells for under $20 commemorates the guy that created Grange and put Penfolds on the map. But we have seen some pretty far-fetched approaches over the years for ‘stimulating’ interest in a new line of wines.  We were ready to bag on this one as yet another soulless corporate effort in a gimmicky package trying to push its way into the market…that is until we tasted it.

The Penfolds Max’s Shiraz Cabernet South Australia 2015 is legit juice, boysenberry and black cherry with flecks of spice, iron and vanilla, engaging supple texture, well tucked away acidity and ripe tannins.  It brought back memories of some of our early experience with their now coveted (and priced at nearly $60) Bin 389.  The blend on the ‘Max’ is 77% Shiraz and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon (there’s more Cab in the Bin 389) and mostly neutral oak in the process.  The fruit feels a little ‘redder’, but this is a delicious drink that offers quite the pleasing tipple both texturally and flavor-wise for its modest fare, serving much the same purpose as those early Bin 389s.

Sure there are a lot of questions, not the least of which is how will this wine play moving forward over future vintages (‘corporates’ are notorious for over-delivering on brand rollouts, and slacking off later).  As to this wine specifically, there are no concerns thus far.  This wine is one of the tasty surprises of the year thus far. It was good enough to overcome our doubts and then some, even bringing us to endorsing it.  Max Shiraz/Cabernet 2015 is a perfectly engaging and honest red. James Suckling seems to agree with a 92 point review and comments, “Perfumed and delicious with blackberry, blueberry and orange peel character. Medium to full body, firm and silky tannins and a flavorful finish. I like the acid energy to this that gives the wine clarity and tension…”   As to the next vintage, we’ll worry about that when the time comes.