Why Penfolds Is Simply Pitch Perfect When It Comes To Australian Wines
Of the elegant reds and captivating whites that span five Australian vintages and comprise the collection, the hero of the Penfolds Collection 2020 has to be the 2016 vintage of the lauded Grange. It’s the 66th consecutive release of this wine, which for decades has delighted drinkers far and wide, establishing itself as one of Australia’s most iconic wines. And the 2016 is a worthy addition to the Grange legacy. This energetic and sculptured vintage bursts with concentration, poise and finesse and is as muscular as it is polished, as solid as it is sleek. Layered and intense, it is a vintage that according to Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago “may politely nudge the classic 2004 and 2010”. Both Ken Gargett from The World of Fine Wine and Matthew Jukes agree on its potential as a first-class Grange vintage, each bestowing perfect scores upon this darling of the Collection 2020.
So covetable is Grange that in July 2020, a bottle of the 1951 first vintage was sold for more than AUD$103,000 (approximately HK$575,000) at auction—the highest price ever paid for a bottle of Australian wine.
But there is more to the new collection than simply the Grange. With multi-region and multi-vineyard blends as well as single-region wines and single-vineyard bottlings, there are refined reds with excellent cellaring potential and flavourful whites packed full of character and complexity.
Standouts include the 2017 St Henri, a distinctive and masterful shiraz that will prove as appealing to fans of this time-honoured wine as any other, since its first commercial vintage in 1957, if not more so. Succulent and rich, with silky, polished tannins when young, this is a wine that softens and gains complexity with age. The 2017 is an impeccable vintage, promising textural prowess, elegant tannins and exceptional structure.
Another highlight of the 2020 release is the 2018 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, awarded 98 points by Andrew Caillard MW and 97 points by James Halliday. This vintage is released to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the year it was first made by renowned Australian winemaker Max Schubert. The sweetness and structure of cabernet combine with shiraz’s savoury character and richness to form a focused and powerful blend where fruit and oak are rendered in perfect harmony. The Bin 389 is one of Australia’s most popular reds and is often referred to as Baby Grange, partly because components of the wine are matured in old Grange barrels. According to Gago the wine “manifests all that is Penfolds”. Balanced, generous and robust, it demonstrates Penfolds’ precision and pursuit of excellence, characteristics that have been passed down and valued across generations of its winemakers since its founding in 1844, and which continue to set the label—and its wines—apart.
The RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz was first released in 2000 with the 1997 vintage following five years of winemaking experimentation—its very name stands for Red Winemaking Trial—and the 2018, released this year, shows how far it’s come. Made exclusively from the finest Barossa Valley fruit, this vintage is opulent yet balanced, lively yet supple, showing precise, complex aromas and concentrated, rich flavours. Its depth of character impressed across the board with Andrew Caillard MW awarding it 99 points, and Ken Gargett, Joe Czerwinski of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, and Huon Hooke each bestowing 98 points upon it.