Today Penfold’s launches its new 2021 Collection. I was invited to 67 Pall Mall to taste it with the charismatic Peter Gago, the brand’s Chief Winemaker, via zoom. But before I get to the tasting notes, a spot of history.
Penfolds began in 1844 when Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold planted the fledgling vines, which they had brought with them on their voyage, over to Australia at the Magill Estate. Upon Christopher’s death, Mary grew the company steadily and by the time her daughter Georgina took over, Penfolds was producing one third of all South Australia’s wine.
Max Schubert is the visionary winemaker credited with the success of Penfolds Grange wines. Joining as a messenger boy he became the first Chief winemaker at the age of 33 in 1948 and he never looked back. In 1950, inspired by the vines of Europe he decided he wanted to create a new style of wine for Penfolds, a red that could age for 20 years or more.
Selecting Shiraz as his grape of choice Max began to experiment but after showing his wine to a fleet of experts, it was greeted with universal dislike, and he was ordered to throw it out. Even more determined to succeed Max continued with the Grange range in secret, hiding vintages ’57, ’58, ’59 in the cellars.
Thank goodness he persisted because in 1962, at the Sydney Wine Show, Grange blitzed the field and from then on awards have continued to rain down upon Penfolds. In 2001, on its 50th birthday, Grange was listed as an Australian heritage icon.
Gago, Penfold’s fourth Chief Winemaker, has created a collection with terrific and diverse depth of character. I was also treated to something extra special: a taste of Penfold’s new Superblend 802-A.
A quintessentially Australian blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, Superblend 802-A and 802-B will both launch in the coming months; time will tell which one, A or B, retains a spot on Penfold’s established roster.
Here are my top picks from the new release:
BIN 150 – £60.99
A young Shiraz from Marananga, Barossa Valley this wine is defined, flavourful and has a distinct sense of place. Able to cellar for well over a decade, over the years this bin has developed a cult following.
BIN 407 – £64.99
Described by Gago as “a friendly bin and a friendly cabernet” this shouts Cabernet Sauvignon with its green pepper, tomato leaf and eucalyptus nose. Some Cabs are best left to develop, and you could keep this for years, but why would you? Drink this happily and greedily now.
MAGILL – £139
The original and spiritual home of Penfolds. The Shiraz grapes are from a single vineyard, hand picked over 2 to 3 days and basket-pressed. Juicy, moreish with the notable New World Shiraz spice.
RWT 798 – £132
100% Barossa Valley Shiraz and matured in French Oak, this is a forceful, opulent wine. Not for the faint of heart, this is t31§he kind of wine Patrick Bateman would order over a business lunch in the city while making a power play.
Next month the new vintages will be launching in Oeno House who will also be pouring their monumental and impressive Grange 2017 by the glass. A bottle that retails for over £500, this will be one of the only places in London you can enjoy a small tipple without breaking the bank.
As for their Superblends… watch this space.
Libby Zietsman-Brodie is the Founder of Bacchus & Brodie, an independent wine consultant and co-creator and presenter of Boozy & The Beast: How To Drink Better – an irreverent series on wine, without the snobbery and can be found pairing and pouring at No.9 Supper Club. Instagram: @a_little_sip_of_me_time