Chief winemaker Peter Gago has unveiled the 2019 collection of historic Australian producer Penfolds.
He showed off the range at a recent tasting in London, where Imbibe was able to get a first look at what the producer has been working on.
The zenith of the tasting was the 2015 vintage of Grange, Penfolds’ iconic multi-regional blend made with 98% Shiraz and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and the winery’s Magill Estate, near Adelaide. The vintage is one to remember, with lower than anticipated yields but exceptional quality.
‘The other night we poured the 2008 alongside the ‘15 and they asked me why we were tasting a 100-point wine [the 2008] next to the latest release,’ commented Gago. ‘Actually, the 2015 is terrific,’ he said.
The 2015 Grange opens with a delicate, floral nose of lavender, soon revealing some spearmint and a broad range of dark fruits. Then, there’s chestnut honey, dried figs, soy and liquorice, all contributing to an enveloping, comforting nose.
The palate is structured and harmonious, with flavours of bramble, plum and blackberry, plus mineral stony notes, vanilla, dark chocolate and ground coffee. Despite the use of 100% new American hogsheads, the oak is beautifully integrated: ‘a compelling harmony instantly appealing, yet one that will still draw a crowd for many decades ahead,’ as Gago put it.
Beyond Grange, there were plenty of other standouts in the collection. From the restrained, vertical character of the single-estate Magill Shiraz 2017, with its fresh acidity and firm tannins, to Bin 128, Penfolds' elegant Coonawarra Shiraz showing classic eucalyptus aromas and After Eight mints on the palate.
The St Henri 2016, however, was truly exceptional. It’s a multi-regional 95% Shiraz and 5% Cab that, unusually for Penfolds, sees no new oak. According to the producer, it represents an ‘intriguing counterpoint to Grange’.
Gago argued that the St Henri 2016 vintage could be ‘another magical 1971 or 2010... ie a wafer-thin quality difference between Grange and St Henri’. We definitely agree: it’s extremely concentrated, beautifully textured and with a distinctive green bell pepper spiciness. It’s what Aussie Shiraz is all about.
The ‘baby Grange’ 2017 (so Bin 389 Cab/Shiraz is nicknamed, partly because it’s matured in the same hogsheads previously used for Grange) showed extremely well too. With its deliciously ripe tannins and fresh fruit character of cranberries, plums and sour cherries complemented by citrus rind and dried herbs, this wine’s strength lies in the balance of all its structural elements.
During the tasting, Gago announced that a new project is under way in California while presenting the fruits of his collaboration with champagne house Thiénot to celebrate Penfolds' 175th anniversary.
The partnership yielded three expressions, all from the 2012 vintage: a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir cuvée and two single-vineyard grand cru wines from Avize and Aÿ, made with 100% Chardonnay and 100% Pinot Noir, respectively.