Penfolds Collection 2023
The 2023 Penfolds Collection release comes with a particularly high level of anticipation this year, thanks to the exemplary 2021 and 2022 harvests across south-eastern Australia, hailed by Peter Gago as the two best back-to-back vintages for reds in Coonawarra since 1990 and 1991. On the basis of my own tastings to date, I would not hesitate to go so far as to suggest that the same could well apply more widely across South Australian and Victorian reds and whites.
I love the cool elegance of the 2021 vintage, but in analysing the figures in the Barossa, for instance, the key months of January through March recorded temperatures in line with long-term averages. Hence, perhaps this season would be better considered ‘classic’ rather than ‘cool’ per se. Though certainly a cool vintage by modern standards!
Gago qualifies his superlatives by pointing out that 2021 was highly site dependant. It is here that Penfolds plays its trump card of an ever-expanding, cascading classification regime built around tremendous depth of sourcing across a vast spectrum of top estate and grower vineyards spanning every worthy region in South Australia.
As the climate continues to evolve, so too does the company’s sourcing. Gago points out that Angle Vale in the Adelaide Plains was wonderful in 1974 and Bordertown north of Coonawarra was a key component in Bin 707 when the company purchased vineyards in the 1990s, but neither is performing well today. In an ongoing program of vine renewal, poorly performing parts of Penfolds’ famed Kalimna vineyard are being replanted with the best clones and varieties, with grenache featuring strongly.
The stars of this year’s release are cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and grenache. Such is the brilliance of the 2021 and 2022 vintages that all else pales by comparison – including the company’s Californian and French offerings, the highlight of which is a non-vintage blend built around (you guessed it) 2021 Coonawarra cabernet. The exception is Grange 2019, which makes a tremendous declaration of the power of blending in carefully cherry picking the very finest sites to produce a wine of incredible poise and purity, even in such a hot and dry season.
Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2023
$40 | Screw cap
2023 makes a grand statement for Bin 51, a season that captures the full depth of intensity and the grand expanse of exoticism of riesling, all the while delivering accentuated floral lift and a shard of pure freshness that proclaim a cool season. A core of lemon and lime is generously embellished with star fruit, golden kiwi, persimmon and fig. It closes out with both succulent body and taut acid line, projecting outstanding line and length in the presence of impressive concentration.
Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2022
$50 | Tasmania, Tumbarumba, Adelaide Hills | 12.5% | Screw cap
Matured 8 months in 34% new French oak barriques
There is another dimension of presence and concentration to this release that transcends the typically elegant and taut style of Bin 311. Oak plays a stronger role accordingly, with a subtle accent of roast nut and biscuit notes that assimilate with time beautifully in the glass into its core of white peach and grapefruit. It will appreciate another year to integrate, and fine-grained, mineral acidity charges it with the energy to mature for the medium-term.
Penfolds Reserve Bin 22A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2022
$125 | Screw cap | 12.5%
Matured 8 months in 75% new French oak barriques
The purity, precision and confidence of Bin A are on pinpoint form in the great 2022 season, set to a tune of exacting white peach, grapefruit and fig. Toasty, biscuity French oak rises to the occasion, falling in neatly behind the fruit, entangling seamlessly on a finish of outstanding line and length, impeccably framed in vibrant lemon juice acidity that promises great things in the cellar.
Penfolds Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay 2021
$175 | Screw cap | 13%
Tasmania, Tumbarumba, Adelaide Hills; matured 9 months in 70% new French oak barriques
The confidence with which Yattarna delivers incredible concentration in the presence of profound tension, heightened fruit definition with outstanding oak support and grand endurance yet immediately enticing allure is reminiscent of the inimitable grand cru set of Montrachet itself. Pristine white fruits are set to a scintillating and mineral-fine acid line of profound energy that sets off a brilliant, glittering finish of pinpoint accuracy and enduring drive. It is again one of the finest Australian chardonnays of the year.
Penfolds Bin 23 Pinot Noir 2022
$50 | Tasmania | Screw cap | 13.5%
Matured in 35% new French oak barriques
Juicy, fruity and friendly, this is a Bin 23 that revels in layers of fresh strawberries and raspberries, beautifully enlivened with the bright acidity of 2022 and set to an impeccable mesh of super-fine tannins. This is a label that is increasingly distancing itself from the Penfolds red winemaking stereotype as it more articulately captures the compelling voice of Tasmanian pinot. A noble evolution indeed!
Penfolds Bin 21 Barossa Valley Grenache 2022
$60 | Inaugural release | Cork | 14.5%
Sourced from vines dating as far back as the 1930s; made like pinot noir, fermented with a small proportion of whole bunches; matured in 6% new French oak barrels
‘A bit like Bin 23 Pinot Noir, our new Bin 21 is an extension of our Cellar Reserve program. I’m still pouring our inaugural Cellar Reserve Grenache 2002 all the time around the world! A straight grenache was an obvious addition to our core range. I love what this variety can do with perfume and florals! Grenache is the new pinot noir and we’ve aligned this wine more with Bin 23 than we have with Bin 138. The blend of Bin 138 varies every year and I’ve always preferred it when it’s grenache predominant. We make Bin 21 like we would make a pinot. It’s a project of Winemaker Shavaughn Wells and Viticulturist and Grower Liaison Officer Justin Willoughby. We have more access to better grenache vineyards now. There was once a time when we were sourcing almost only from Seppeltsfield, but we have added lots of growers now. This gives us the opportunity to cherry pick the many vineyards from which we source across the Barossa. And in our ongoing program of replanting, Covid and the crash in the Chinese market provided opportunity for us to replant sections of the Kalimna vineyard to grenache, to supplement our other vineyards and growers into the future.’ – Peter Gago
Capturing all of the fruit flamboyance of grenache and marrying it seamlessly to the signature confidence of Penfolds tannin structure is no easy task in the absence of the support of shiraz, mataro and any meaningful level of new oak, and this is not only a decent first attempt, it’s a downright outstanding Barossa grenache. Alluring fruit purity with the bright radiance of the great 2022 season meets masterfully executed, super fine-grained tannins that carry a long and linear finish. A worthy newcomer to the distinguished Penfolds lineage.
Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2021
$60 | Cork | 14.5%
50% grenache, 44% shiraz, 6% mataro; matured 12 months in 10% new French and 2% new American oak barrels
Penfolds blends Bin 138 just before bottling rather than maturing in barrel ‘as grenache can either rise of fall in barrel!’
The cool 2021 season has set off Barossa grenache with delightful fragrance and exciting, vibrant acid drive, wonderfully enlarged with the depth, structure and black fruit presence of shiraz and mataro. Dark chocolate oak provides well-executed support, setting off a frame of firm, fine-grained tannins for the long-haul. One of the greatest Bin 138s yet.
Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2021
$65 – up $5 on last year’s release price | Cork | 14.5%
Matured 12 months in 21% new French oak hogsheads
A core of blueberry fruit sits confidently in the bright acid sphere of the outstanding 2021 season, furnishing the space and the elegance for Coonawarra to articulately express its fine chalk mineral texture. The result is a shiraz of particularly medium-bodied refinement, a notably refreshing take on the Penfolds style, with a long and compelling future stretching before it.
Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz 2021
$50 | Screw cap | 14.5%
McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Wrattonbully and Clare Valley; matured 12 months in 7% new American oak hogsheads
Dark berry fruits and black plums find better definition in the magnificent 2021 season than they have for some years, set to a fine-grained tannin frame. However, the ever-expanding cascading classification regime that is Penfolds means that this is yet to regain the glory and definition that Bin 28 exemplified a generation ago.
Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2021
$100 | Cork | 14.5%
Matured 18 months in 29% new French and 29% new American hogsheads and large puncheons
The supple, glossy allure of Marananga basks in the brightness and definition of 2021, set off confidently with fine-grained French and American oak that build a brittle tannin frame that screams out for longer than ever to fully integrate. It holds outstanding persistence of black fruits and liquorice. This is set to go down among the greatest and most enduring vintages of Bin 150.
Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2021
$120 | Cork | 14.5%
Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills; matured 12 months in 25% new French and 12% new American oak hogsheads
Peter Gago says 2021 and 2022 were two of the best vintages in Coonawarra since 1990 and 1991, and Bin 407 has risen to the occasion with a combination of definition, structure and concentration that immediately establish it among the greatest and most enduring in the grand history of this label. This is a textbook assemblage of all of cabernet’s classic hallmarks, with an incredible core of blackcurrant purity, set to a brilliant display of pronounced chalk mineral tannin finesse and vibrant cool season acid drive. It will live a very long time indeed.
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2021
$110 – up $10 on last year’s release price | South Australia | Cork | 14.5%
53% cabernet sauvignon and 47% shiraz from McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Barossa Valley Wrattonbully and Padthaway; matured 12 months in 37% new American oak hogsheads
Winemaker Andrew Baldwin observes that in a vintage as strong as 2021, parcels that might otherwise have been reserved for Grange and Bin 707 have found their way into Bin 389. The result is a monumental Bin 389 that unites all of the enduring structure and potential that underline the pedigree of this fabled label with the definition and precision of the fantastic 2021 season. It unites a core of pristine blackcurrant cabernet fruit with the plum skin of shiraz and a backdrop of fine-grained American oak that will see it through effortless decades in the cellar. Strictly for the long-term.
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2020
$135 | Screw cap | 14.5%
McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley and Clare Valley; matured 12 months in large, seasoned oak vats
St Henri presents all the depth and magnitude of the warm and dry 2020 season, which is especially stark in the context of the 2021 vintages of the other Penfolds labels released around it. Deep, spicy berries and plums are well set off by a splay of fine, dusty, dry season tannins. It holds good length and integrity, albeit without the brightness or the definition of the greatest seasons. Personally, I’m holding out for the 2021.
Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2021
$165 – up $15 on last year’s release price | Cork | 14.5%
Matured 19 months in 90% new French and 10% new American oak hogsheads
The supple, juicy dark berry mood, slippery milk chocolate accents and fine tannin splay that denote this unique site in its own region find an exciting definition in the brightness of the 2021 vintage. Plum and blackberry fruit of impressive crunch and depth carry a long finish, with fantastic support from firm, fine tannins. A great Magill for the long-haul.
Penfolds Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2021
$300 | Cork | 14.5%
Matured 16 months in 51% new French oak hogsheads
A grand exemplar of all there is to love of Coonawarra cabernet: heightened floral fragrance, textbook, crunchy black- and redcurrant fruit and a purity, lift and definition set off in the brilliant 2021 vintage. Vibrant acid drive lifts the precision of its chalk mineral tannins. The true marvel here is the way in which it captures depth, fragrance and structure, each of larger-than-life proportions and yet integrates them impeccably and seamlessly with grace and elegance. It’s little wonder Peter Gago harks all the way back to 1990 and 1991 for vintages as profound as 2021 and 2022 in Coonawarra.
Penfolds RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz 2021
$200 | Cork | 14.5%
Aged 14 months in 80% new French oak hogsheads
The full splay of depth and impact of the northern and central Barossa are on grand parade here, brimming with succulent berry/cherry/plum fruit, layers of milk and dark chocolate, all set off with a firm, fine fanfare of super-fine, enduring Penfolds tannins. For all the bright definition of the season, this is an opulent, powerful and brooding Bin 798 of strong proportions and potential.
Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2021
$800 – up $150 on 2019 | 14.5% | Cork
Coonawarra, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully; aged 16 months in 100% new American oak hogsheads
Peter Gago now describes Bin 707 as ‘the Grange of cabernet’ and its price is certainly heading this way (2019 was $650 and there was no 2020, so a jump to $800 represents the only significant price rise in the Penfolds release this year). But there’s no doubt this is a vintage with the stature and endurance to support his association, with more than 50% sourced from Coonawarra in what he rightly considers one of the greatest seasons since 1991. The core of blackcurrant fruit exudes a purity and violet lift that belie its profound depth and concentration, carrying effortlessly with pinpoint clarity and yet staggering impact. The explosion of chalk mineral tannins, the brightness of acidity and the mesmerising confidence with which it holds its line and length in suspended animation make this one of the greatest and most enduring Bin 707s in the long lineage of this fabled label.
Penfolds Grange Bin 95 2019
$1,000 | 14.5% | Cork
97% shiraz, 3% cabernet; Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and Clare Valley; aged 19 months in 100% new American oak hogsheads
2019 was a pronounced drought season, and in the 12 months to March, the Barossa Valley had only 61% of its long-term average rainfall. In such a warm and dry season, the risk of Grange becoming looming and foreboding was very real indeed. While the inimitable presence and magnitude of Grange are here in full measure, what I love about this release is that the personality of Barossa, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and Clare shiraz leap from the glass in all of their spicy, glossy, black-fruited glory. All the layers of dark chocolate, liquorice and dark fruit cake that we love of Grange are here in bountiful exuberance, filling a palate with a sense of perfect polish and full completeness from start to long finish. For all of its structural confidence, there is an intricately crafted, fine-grained seamlessness to the tannins that carries a tail of uninterrupted drive and carry. This is a brilliant Grange which makes a tremendous declaration of the power of blending in carefully singling out the very finest sites to produce a wine of incredible poise and purity even in a season as hot and dry as this.
Penfolds Grange Bin 95 2009
There is a sweet-fruited beauty to this Grange that epitomises its season, becoming faintly exotic in its spice-laden allure a decade after its release. It holds a supple core of red berry fruit and a confident framework of firm, fine-grained tannins that promise decades of potential still.
Penfolds Grange Bin 95 1999
A Grange now confidently at the prime of its life at almost a quarter century of age, upholding memories of berry/cherry/plum fruit and liquorice in the midst of all of the complexity of charcuterie, pan juices and rising spice. Tannins are now beautifully supple and integrated.
Penfolds Grange Bin 95 1989
Tracing the decades back to mark the release of Grange 2019, the great 1989 has today attained that captivating place where primary and secondary character unite to profound effect. Even at a grand 34 years of age, the theme here is still a wonderful core of glossy blueberry, black pastille and liquorice fruit still very much alive, with subtle rising complexity of exotic spice and pan juices forming an eloquent backdrop. Tannins are impeccably entwined, holding a finish of profound line and length. One of the greatest 1989s I’ve tasted from anywhere, and a luminous beacon for the eternal longevity that is Grange. It will effortlessly live many more years yet.
Penfolds FWT 585 Vin de France Cabernet Merlot Petit Verdot 2020
$120 | 13.5% | Cork
‘French Winemaking Trial’; South Australia cabernet sauvignon, Dourthe Bordeaux merlot; matured 12 months in 20% new French and 19% new American oak barriques
The sheer beauty and vibrancy of 2021 cabernet in South Australia in the current Penfolds release makes this 2020 blend pale into insignificance. It’s got berry fruits, herbal complexity, earthy structure and medium-term potential but sadly lacks brightness, vibrancy and pizzaz in this context. I wonder whether ‘French Winemaking Trial’ will stick for decades, as it did for RWT as the ‘Red Winemaking Trial’ in the Barossa!
Penfolds II Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot MV
$500 | Cork | 14.0%
Matured in new and seasoned French oak barriques and hogsheads. The inaugural release was 2019 and a blend of cabernet, shiraz and merlot.
This is the star of Penfolds’ international release this year, thanks to a core of heroic 2021 Coonawarra cabernet. Peter Gago describes 2020 Bordeaux merlot as ‘wonderful’ and 2021 Coonawarra cabernet as ‘awesome’ so he scrapped the tradition of a single vintage wine and blended the two! The result is a tightly-entwined blend that captures the vibrant, crunchy blackcurrant definition of cabernet and builds mid-palate with the presence of Bordeaux merlot – not with the rounded, plush feel of South Australian merlot, but with the poise and tension of Bordeaux. I love this effect! Firm, fine-grained French oak unites with confident fruit tannins to infuse grand potential.
Penfolds Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
$450 | Cork | 14.5%
Single vineyard, Block 13A; matured 16 months in 100% new French oak barriques
The glossy blackcurrant density and sweet-fruited mood of Napa Cabernet is well structured with the firm, fine tannin scaffold of Penfolds. The result is at once deep and powerful, with a bright and ripe fruit purity that carries lingering character.
Penfolds Bin 600 California Cabernet Shiraz 2020
$90 | Cork | 14.5%
Napa Valley and Paso Robles; matured 16 months in 40% new American oak barriques
A sweet-fruited style presents the ripe fruit mood of California in supple berry/cherry/plum fruits framed in soft, fine-grained tannins. A sweet and ripe fruit style, true to California, if not to my taste.
Penfolds Bin 704 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
$125 – up $5 on last year’s release price | Cork | 14.5%
Matured 16 months in 40% new French oak barriques
Napa cabernet stands alone with impressive fullness, completeness and confidence that does not call for blending support in the manner of Bordeaux or, to a lesser extent, Australian cabernet. This wine epitomises this, with a core of fantastic blackcurrant and cassis fruit at once deep and lively. Firm, fine tannins promise a strong future in the cellar.
Penfolds Bin 149 Wine of the World Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
$250 – up $25 on last year’s release price | Cork | 14.5%
92% Napa Valley, 8% South Australian cabernet (cf 14.9% in the inaugural release) matured 16 months in 80% new French oak barriques and 20% new American oak barriques
The concentration and ripe, deep black fruit presence of Napa cabernet is impressively presented here, framed in the grand structure of enduring, fine-grained tannins and tremendous drive and persistence. Acidity is well played to uphold dynamic brightness and purity on a driving finish of great potential.
Penfolds Quantum Bin 98 Wine of the World Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
$1,000 – up $50 on the 2018 release price in 2021 | Cork | 14.5%
92% Napa Valley, 8% South Australian cabernet; matured 16 months in 80% new American and 20% new French oak barriques
The accumulation of Penfolds master craftsmanship in creating Bin 707 across the generations is apparent here, translated into the deep and ripe fruit core that is Napa cabernet. The result unites a core of cassis and sweet blackcurrant with the dark chocolate of French oak and an impenetrable cage of super fine, enduring Penfolds tannins that will confidently hold their own for decades. An impressive Quantum of brooding power and presence.
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