Splurging with Penfold's Bin 389 and Oxtail Stew (#WorldWineTravel)

Sometimes you just have to go ahead and create a reason to enjoy a special bottle - or the bottle is reason enough on its own! Here we pair a bottle of Penfold's Bin 389 Cabernet - Shiraz with Braised Oxtail Stew.

We’ve been having one of those weeks, and sometimes when you’re having one of those weeks, it helps to make yourself something comforting and delicious and open up something good. 

Moreover, this weekend is ‘Open that Bottle Night.’ This is an annual occasion celebrated on the last Saturday in February created by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher in the year 2000. Gaiter and Brecher are a wife/husband journalist team, then working at the Wall Street Journal, who decided to create the day with the goal of motivating people to reconnect over a special bottle and create good memories. Many of us have bottles that are languishing away because we’ve been saving them for some special occasion. Their goal was to give us an occasion. 

I admit that I have a lot of these bottles. Earlier this week I was looking through my wine racks,  saw this bottle of Penfold’s Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz South Australia 2013, and thought “WTF not?” A friend who used to work for the company gave us the bottle a few years ago, and I’ve been waiting for a reason to open it. In the spirit of OTBN, I decided to just go ahead and make the occasion. 

The Wine: Penfold’s Bin 389 Cabernet - Shiraz South Australia 2013

Penfold’s is one of Australia’s oldest wineries and potentially its most iconic. It was founded in 1844 by Dr. Christopher Penfold and his wife Mary, shortly after they arrived in Australia.  With the help of family, they purchased the Magill Estate at the foot of the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia, not far from Adelaide. As part of the development and cultivation of their estate, they planted vine cuttings that they’d acquired on their voyage from England on a stop-off in South Africa. Dr. Penfold believed in the medicinal benefits of wine, and the first wines were prescribed as tonics to patients and were seen as particularly beneficial in the treatment of anemia. The Penfolds started with fortified wines, they then went on to have success with Clarets and Rieslings, finding that they were both popular with customers and fairly easy to produce. 

Dr. Penfold’s reputation as a doctor grew, leaving him little time to work in the winery. Mary began to take on more responsibilities, gradually taking over the running of the winery. She continued to manage things even after her husband died in 1870, all the way until she decided to retire in 1884. At that point, she passed on management to her daughter Georgina and her husband Thomas Hyland. The winery remained in the family for many decades, and even after the company became public in 1962, the Penfold family retained a controlling interest until 1976. It is now owned by Treasury Wine Estates.

In 1948, Max Schubert became the company’s first Chief Winemaker and would take the winery in a new direction that put the focus of production on long-aging table wines. After World War II, Max was sent to Europe to learn about sherry production. However, he also spent time in Bordeaux and it left a major impression, inspiring him to experiment extensively. Through the next couple of decades, he would create many of the winery’s most famous wines, including Grange, their most iconic wine. 


While I don’t have a bottle of Grange to share with you today, Bin 389 does also trace its origins to Max Schubert, who first created this wine in 1960. It’s been often been considered the “Baby Grange” in part because the various components of the wine are matured in barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange. The aim of this wine is to blend the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon with the richness of Shiraz. It has been very popular over time, and key in establishing the winery’s reputation for quality red wines.

The 2013 vintage of the Bin 389 was almost evenly split between its two component varieties – 51% Cabernet and 49% Shiraz. The grapes came from vineyards in Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, and Coonawarra. In short, from many of the best areas of South Australia, the country’s most productive state when it comes to winemaking. 

I decanted this wine about an hour before we intended to drink it, so as to separate it from sediment, as well as to allow it to open up, and I do think it benefited from the time. On the day we opened this wine it showed notes of currants and blackberries on the nose, along with hints of eucalyptus, tobacco, and some light signs of age in notes of age forest floor and slightly dry/cooked fruits. These largely added interest and complexity to the wine. Black cherries and dark plums joined in on the palate. The fruit quality was rich and plush, with touches of dark chocolate, licorice, earth, and graphite. It’s a big wine, but well structured with good acidity to balance the strong, but fine dusty tannins. The wine was in a great place, but could still age for a few more years. 

I should mention that while this wine is a delicious and age-worthy splurge in the $70-$80 range, Penfold's makes good wines at every price point. We've often enjoyed the Koonunga Hills range and those wines tend to run in the $10-$15 price point and I've generally found them to be a good value.

The Pairing: Good Braised Oxtail Stew

Having decided to just do it, I took to my cookbooks in search of inspiration for what to pair with our bottle. Greg and I spent a few months living in Australia while he did a study abroad program during business school. While there, I picked up a book entitled 200 Years of Australian Cooking: The Captain Cook Book by Babette Hayes at a used book shop–– I love old cookbooks! Given the long history of the winery, I thought it an appropriate place to look for a pairing.

This book attempts to take the reader through the history of Australian cuisine from its colonial period through to more modern times while taking into account influences Aboriginal influences, as well as those of groups that migrated to Australia later on. Quite a lot to cover! 

I found the recipe for “Good Braised Oxtail Stew” in a section entitled “Survival Cookery,” which looks at food from the early colonial period (from when the First Fleet landed in 1788 to the early 1800s) when settlers were struggling to figure out how to farm the land and feed the growing masses despite poor resources and lack of skilled farming labor among their population made up largely of transplanted convicts. Everyone was also missing a taste of home. The recipe that I’ve adapted feels very much in this vein – it’s a classic, comforting stew. (It’s also not all that different from the Braised Oxtails I shared in this post, but it’s amazing how just switching up a few things will change the character of the dish.) 

The stew and the wine paired beautifully together. The wine only grew more luxurious when paired with the food, and its intensity was an excellent match for the rich meatiness of the oxtails and broth. It was a soul-satisfying combo!

Geeky Details:

Average Price: $70 (across all vintages)
Blend: 51% Cabernet, 49% Shiraz
Vineyard regions:  Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Coonawarra
Maturation:  12 months in American oak hogsheads (28% new, 60% 1-year old, and 12% 2-years old)
ABV: 14.5%
Additional details here.

The winery also recommends pairing this wine with lamb with roasted vegetables. Their website shares a set of recipes, including that one, that can be found here



For additional wines from South Australia and pairings, check out these posts:


The rest of the World Wine Travel (#WorldWineTravel) blogging group is exploring wines from South Australia. Check out the rest of their posts and join our Twitter chat on Sat. 2/26/28.

Additional Sources:
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, from which I might earn a commission at no cost to you. 



  1. Hard to find an Aussie producer more iconic than Penfolds--we actually mentioned Bin 389 as well though we didn't get to have it this week. That pairing looks absolutely sensational!

  2. I love all the background information on Penfolds. I knew a bit but this deep dive was enlightening. My wine came from great (great?) grandaughters of Mary's, and they had referred to her story but I did not know the details!

    1. This part of the story was new to me as well, and I loved seeing how Mary kept the winery going. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well. I also loved reading how the story continues in your post.

  3. I haven't splurged on this bottle yet but I am a big Penfolds fan and your pairing looks fantastic.

  4. Wow! That's an awesome and stylish way to brighten up a challenging week!

  5. Yum! I can totally see this pairing. Love that you connected with Open That Bottle Night!

  6. Yum! I can totally see this pairing. Love that you connected with Open That Bottle Night!

  7. Yum! I can totally see this pairing. Love that you connected with Open That Bottle Night!


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