With warmer weather on the way, one of the more refreshing and delightful white wines I’ve tasted recently comes from a producer long known for its reds — Penfolds, the venerable Australian brand most famous for its Grange, a wine coveted by collectors with a luxury price to match. But for the taste of spring in a bottle, Penfolds offers something more modest but also highly appealing, the 2008 “Bin 51” Riesling.
With its light and lively character, delicious fruit and attractive $15 price, Bin 51 would make a lovely choice to serve as a prelude to your Easter brunch or dinner. At the table, you could offer it easily with either fresh or smoked ham.
When I unscrewed the cap of the just-released Bin 51 the other night and took a first sip, I was quickly hooked and enjoyed a glass in the kitchen, my favorite venue for sampling new wines.
As I’ve noted here many times before, riesling is nothing to be afraid of, although there are those who still wince at the word, mindful of some unpleasant experience with sweeter rieslings — a category still largely misunderstood and underappreciated by many wine drinkers.
In any event, Penfolds’ Bin 51 is fruity, but dry and shows why Australia has a well-deserved reputation as a riesling producer, even if the variety remains far behind chardonnay and even sauvignon blanc in the country’s white-wine hierarchy. The grapes for Bin 51 are sourced from South Australia’s Eden Valley, which, along with the Clare Valley to the northwest, makes up the country’s two main areas of riesling production.
Bin 51 is instantly refreshing and mouthwatering, an elegant wine with pronounced minerality that coats the back of the mouth and leaves you anticipating the next sip. The fruit impressions are of white peach, apricot and lemon.
With its dry character and crisp acidity, it went superbly with a plate of clam sauce over pasta, slicing through the oil in the sauce and holding up to considerable garlic. It would, in fact, be an excellent choice for all shellfish and most simply broiled or sautéed fish dishes.
This is also a wine to whet the appetite as an aperitif on warm evenings. It’s both easy to drink and interesting, the perfect wine combination.
Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at