Penfolds Max’s Shiraz Cabernet 2015, Australia
Cost: $24-26
I ’m a sucker for clever packaging. Sometimes the package turns out to be just a gimmick, but sometimes it is just a great invitation to the treat inside.
With the new Penfolds packaging on Max’s wines, it’s all anticipation of the treat inside. It is some of the coolest packaging I have seen in a while, but what’s inside is even better.
The shiraz cabernet blend is dark red with a touch of purple in the glass, with pleasant aromas of olive and oregano. On the palate you taste blackberries with some vegetable overtones. Like all good wines, everything is in balance, finishing with spice and licorice.
This is a powerful wine that drinks well now, but could easily be cellared for another 5-7 years.
The blend is 70 percent shiraz, 30 percent cab. Some of the complexity of this wine comes from the varied vineyards where the grapes were grown: Wrattonbully, Padthaway, McLaren Vale, Upper Adelaide and Barossa Valley.
After fermentation the wine spent 12 months in French and American oak barrels, with some new oak, but mostly seasoned barrels.
Penfolds has been one of the leading wineries in Australia for decades, and I have long enjoyed their wide variety of wines. They are known for powerful red wines. Their single vineyard wines showcase superb terroir. Their blends showcase the best of a region or pull grapes from several regions to be made into a distinctive house style.
It is fun to see a winery steeped in tradition like Penfolds create a new line of wine and special packaging. They can follow the best of their tradition while grabbing the attention of modern wine drinkers.
It’s easy to unzip the shiny red covering to reveal the Penfolds label inside.
Peel off the shiny red covering of these new bottles and you find the regular Penfolds label. The shiny red shrink-wrapped exterior is sure to catch your eye, and it’s fun to peel it off. These special wraps were created for the introduction of a new line for Penfolds, Max’s wines, named after the company’s first chief winemaker, Max Schubert.
He was an extraordinary person, as brave and daring as he was smart. He changed the way Australian wine was made, despite poor initial reviews from wine critics and Penfolds management.
When Schubert became chief winemaker in 1948, Australian wines usually were made in the sweeter port and sherry style. Convinced he could make a bolder, drier Australian red blend, Schubert created the original Grange Hermitage in 1951. The Grange has since gone on to be a legendary wine, selling for hundreds of dollars a bottle if you are lucky enough to find one. It is one of the most sought-after wines in the world.
I do have a bottle of 2002 Grange in my cellar that I need to drink before too long. It could easily last longer than I do.
Despite everyone telling him the wine was a flop, Schubert continued to make it and stored several vintages in a secret cellar behind a fake wall. After a few years of bottle aging management tried the wine again and raved about it. The aging also turned the critics around, and suddenly they were raving about it. The 1955 Grange went on to win multiple awards and put Australia on the world wine map.
The story is a testament to a person believing in his work, to the point of risking his reputation and his job on his vision. It also says a lot about Penfolds management being able to admit their mistake and now celebrating Schubert’s perseverance.
Besides the shiraz cabernet, Penfolds is introducing a cabernet sauvignon as part of Max’s wines. It is another outstanding wine. The 2015 is the initial release of both these wines, meant to honor Max Schubert in the year he would have turned 100.
For Max’s wines, Penfolds is using the practices Schubert perfected, namely, multi-regional and multi-varietal blending. The grapes come from some of the best growing regions in Australia, the Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale, and more.
Dennis loved this wine, too.
Winery: Penfolds was founded in 1844, just eight years after the founding of South Australia. It has been one of the leading wine companies in Australia ever since.
Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold planted a vineyard shortly after arriving in Australia with his wife Mary and their daughter Georgina. He bought 500 acres in Mackgill and began cultivating the French vine cuttings they brought with them. They planned to produce their own medicinal tonic wine.
Penfold died in 1870, but Mary took over the operation. She grew the business for 25 years until her death, when Georgina and her husband Thomas Hyland took over. By 1920 Penfolds accounted for half of all wine sales in Australia.
Many of their wines are known simply by the number of the bin where the wine is stored, such as bin 707 cabernet sauvignon, or bin 2, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and mourvedre.
Penfolds makes a wide range of varietals and blends, as well as some extraordinary fortified wines called tawnies.
Michael enjoyed the burgers and chips with the Cab/Shiraz.
Goes with: We had this with grilled cheeseburgers and homemade potato chips. I love to grill all year long, but everything seems to taste better during summer. Burgers, chicken and ribs are my favorites
I added a special treat this time with the chips. I use my mandolin to slice the potatoes as thin as I can. I half fill a frying pan with peanut oil and turn the heat up to medium high. Then I drop the potato slices in one by one.
I fry them until there is a slight brown on the edges, then flip each chip with a fork and continue frying until they become light brown all over. Take them out of the oil, drain on paper towels and keep them warm in a bowl in the oven. They are better than commercial chips and much less expensive. It takes a bit of work, so I don’t make them too often, but when I do everyone loves them.
This wine also would go well with grilled duck, ribs or pork chops, a savory beef stew, hearty soups and a variety of cheeses. This is a wine made for good food.
Potato chips frying in the pan.

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