For the first time in the winery’s history, it is unveiling its new Penfolds Collection of fine wines at a spectacular gala event in Shanghai.
The launch is designed to mark the release of the new vintage release of Penfolds Grange, the 2011. And the new release of Penfolds Grange - Australia's most famous red wine – is usually greeted with great expectations.
This year the excitement surrounding Grange was more muted than usual given that year was the vintage from hell in South Australia.
There was even some conjecture that Penfolds would not release a Grange in 2011, ending an unbroken run dating back to 1951.
The ability to blend fruit from a number of regions meant Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago and his team was able to produce a very creditable Grange even in the most challenging of years.
“The fact we are able to source fruit from several different regions helped us significantly,” said Gago.
The new Grange is, for only the sixth time, comprised of 100 per cent shiraz. The blend usually contains a small percentage of cabernet sauvignon. And this year the overall production of Grange is half what it is in normal years (around 4,500 cases), making it attractive to collectors.
“Is this one of the best Granges ever? No,” Gago said honestly. “Is this one of the finest reds from the South Australian 2011 vintage? Yes.”
The good news for wine lovers is that the new Grange is released alongside some absolute crackers among the new Penfolds Collection releases, including some for a fraction of the $785 a bottle that Grange now commands.
Among the stand-outs for me are two whites; the oaky, characterful 2014 Reserve Bin A Chardonnay ($100) and beautifully poised 2013 Yattarna Chardonnay (made almost entirely of Tasmanian fruit and $150).
Other stars include the beguiling Bin 28 2013 Kalimna Shiraz, a steal at $40, a long and spicy Bin 150 2013 Marananga Shiraz ($80) and a gorgeous Magill Estate 2013 Shiraz ($135), a wine that combines intensity and restraint. But for me the 2012 St Henri ($100 steals the show).
Here is my take on what I considered the star new-release wines from notes taken at a tasting at Magill Estate on August 28. I have given points to the wines that were my favourites.
Penfolds 2015 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling: fresh, intense and complex with herbal hints. $30.
Penfolds 2014 Bin 211 Tumbarumba Chardonnay: classic, elegant cool-climate chardonnay. 94 points. $40.
Penfolds 2014 Reserve Bin Adelaide Hills Chardonnay: a bigger, oakier style for traditionalists. 95 points. $100.
Penfolds 2013 Yattarna Chardonnay: Beautifully balanced with citrus and stone fruit characters and mineral intensity. 96 points. $150.
Penfolds 2014 Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir: Deliciously forward with bright red and black fruits.$40.
Penfolds 2013 Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro: Dark, inky and savoury with black olive notes. $30.
Penfolds 2013 Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz: A beguiling combination of dark fruit and mushroomy/undergrowth characters. A major bargain. 95.5 points. $40.
Penfolds 2013 Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz: Medium bodied; lovely balance with pepper and spice. 95 points. $80.
Penfolds 2013 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon: Composed, with a palate like liquid dark chocolate ganache. $80.
Penfolds St Henri 2012 Shiraz: The star of the show. Fruit-forward, vital and exciting wine. 97.5 points. $100.
Penfolds Magill Estate 2013 Shiraz: A wine of intensity and restraint with gorgeous fruit. 96 points. $130.
Penfolds 2013 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon: Formidable length and drive. Drinking beautifully when young. 96 points. $500.
Penfolds 2011 Grange: English country garden and spice factory on the nose; leading to date/plum pudding with black olive savouriness. 93 points. $785.