The king of Australian Shiraz: Penfolds
On his recent visit to Singapore to introduce luxury and iconic Penfolds wines to local consumers Kym Schroeter, senior winemaker currently responsible for the entire range of highly promising white wines, shared his insights about Australian wine production and specifically at Penfolds with me.
Do you think that Syrah is the most popular grape variety in Australia now?
Certainly it is the most widely planted red grape variety in Australia and Chardonnay is the white wine variety. I think what Barossa does really well is Shiraz. We are famous for it. I guess Shiraz is probably a big focus for imports. It grows there so well, it is suited to our climate in Barossa and I think that we produce some of the best Shiraz on the world.
How would you describe the soil and climate in Barossa Valley?
We have lot of sandy top soils lot of good free draining soils – it seems to be the best for Shiraz. The climate is more Meditteranean but we have very hot summers. Shiraz likes hot weather, most of our best vineyards are not irrigated and we do not have lot of rain so the grapes struggle a lot – Shiraz likes to struggle, to stress water a little bit and especially in very hot years it produces very concentrated vines.
Have you been considering planting any other grape varieties there?
Yes, we found that Tempranillo and Sangiovese does grow extremely well in Barossa. Penfolds has actually several reserves of Sangiovese. We have done it for a number of years now, but they are still relatively new vines (10-15 years). Tempranillo is very new as we have been growing most of it for about two years.
There is a bit of niche market in Australia for them. It seems that Spanish and Italian grape varieties do very well in Australia. We are very traditional but we also try to experiment and try new grapes. We also do a bit of Pinot Gris (Italian Pinot Griggio) so we are not that old school.
Do you accustom your wines to Australian market or do you think more globally?
For example in Europe you can see more tannins in wines. Is it because Australians do not like tannins?
Yes and no. We add a lot of tannin, it is not all natural tannins. Particularly in Cabernet. It is a fine line with tannins, we try to find a balance so we take of the skins from the wine before it gets too bitter (in Grange) and then add it to achieve great balance. We know that tannins are necessary for good ageing. We add them as a powder or dissolve them in a hot water as a liquid and we add it into the fermenting wine.
Do you try to achieve consistency or variety?
Definitely consistency in quality. We are multi-region sourced vineyard and that is advantage as we can achieve consistency year after year. We can choose grapes from a vineyard which does well in that particular year. That is why I think the French are a bit locked as there is inconsistency in various vintages.
Which Penfolds vineyard is your favourite?
I have three regions which I think are the best in Australia. They are Adelaide Hills, Tasmania and Tumbarumba. With probably with Tasmania producing the best Chardonnay as in our Yattarna.
What do you think about the cork versus screw cap issue?
We use screw caps, especially in white wines it is better. As soon as you put cork into bottle it becomes to change. We put some of our wines into a corked bottle and others into a screw-capped and after several weeks we could see a difference, the wine enclosed by the screw cap was much fresher.
In some very good corked bottle you will see a good slow maturation but screw cap keeps it fresh so it depends what you want. The other think is that if you buy a case of wine with a cork you can have some bed wines, with a screw cap that is not the case.