There’s no question the annual Penfolds release is a major event in the wine calendar, but it has an additional attraction this year with multinational efforts co-opting California and Bordeaux. The brief incursion into Burgundy by Penfolds 10 years ago fell flat on its face for reasons unrelated to the quality of the wines, and it’s highly unlikely we will see a Burgundian face in the future due to sky high prices. But there’s no reason to rule shiraz of northern Rhône Valley out, and if price was to, wines in the style of Guigal’s Cotes du Rhône could be fascinating if Penfolds decides they have enough cachet.
The two French wines presented by Penfolds are very different to each other. First up is 2019 FWT (French Wine Trial) 585 ($120), a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot (53/34/13 per cent) matured for 14 months in French (44 per cent new) and America (14 per cent new) barriques. It’s sourced from exceptional vineyards across the Medoc region with "time-honoured Penfolds techniques." There is no information at all about these, which are numerous. I wasn't expecting to like this wine, but I do, particularly as one that doesn't demand any cellaring. The Penfolds’ stamp – finishing the fermentation in the barrels – may well be the secret to this and its Napa sibling.
The second wine, coming in at a lofty $500 (second only to 2018 Grange at $1000) is the hybrid 2019 Penfolds II Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz. We are told the French component was made at two of the Dourthe-owned Bordeaux wineries, the Australian components were made at Penfolds’ Nuriootpa winery. What we don’t know is the varietal break up (which also includes merlot). But – and this is the fascinating thing – the chemical analysis of the French wines is effectively identical: alcohol 14 per cent, acidity 5.6g/l, and pH 3.6. (There’s nothing amiss with these numbers per se.)
The 2019 Bin 704 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($120) is a fascinating wine; there’s an abundance of tannins, yet they are fine and soft, something you don’t often associate with the Napa. Perhaps it’s the modestly elevated pH that mediates the impact, and heightens the juicy fruit profile. It’s ready, willing and able. The 2019 Bin 600 California Cabernet Shiraz ($90) is an 83/17 per cent blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, sourced from Californian vineyards in Napa Valley, Sonoma and Paso Robles; matured for 17 months in American oak (40 per cent new). This brings back memories of all the time I spent researching and writing my Wine Atlas of California. It’s a pity Penfolds hasn’t given a regional percentage breakdown, but there’s a succulent, juicy mouthfeel and flavour, and a fanfare of blue and black berries.
The foreign contingent is brought to a finish with 2019 Wine of the World Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon ($225), the name chosen from the wines’ inaugural year when the Australian component was 14.9 per cent, in 2019 however it is 10 per cent. Matured for 17 months in French (80 per cent new) and American (20 per cent new) oak. This is a civilised Napa Valley cabernet, the tannin structure particularly well handled. Indeed, served blind, Napa wouldn’t have even occurred to me. The question is whether this is a good thing or not. Still, attractive drinking for a long time, thanks to its balance.
There is a continuous line of Penfolds style in these three Australian/Californian wines. Even with the 100 per cent Napa Valley 2019 Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon, the Australian imprint is obvious. The over-arching question is how will they age? Better than the French offerings, but on a par with their Australian counterparts.
The Penfolds Collection 2022 includes the following wines:
2019 Penfolds II Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz ($500, 94 points)
2019 FWT 585 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Petit Verdot ($120, 94 points)
2018 Grange Bin 95 ($1000, 95 points)
2020 Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay ($175, 98 points)
2020 RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz ($200, 97 points)
2019 Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon ($300, 97 points)
2020 Magill Estate Shiraz ($150, 97 points)
2019 St Henri Shiraz ($135, 91 points)
2021 Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay ($125, 97 points)
2020 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz ($100, 95 points)
2020 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon ($120, 96 points)
2020 Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz ($100, 95 points)
2020 Bin 28 Shiraz ($50, 94 points)
2020 Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz ($60, 93 points)
2020 Bin 138 Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache Mataro ($60, 90 points)
2021 Bin 23 Tasmania Pinot Noir ($50, 92 points)
2021 Bin 311 Adelaide Hills Tasmania Chardonnay ($50, 94 points)
2022 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling ($40, 94 points)
2019 Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon ($225, 95 points)
2019 Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon ($120, 95 points)
2019 Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz ($90, 94 points)