The Penfolds Collection 2018

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Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2016

Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2017

The Penfolds annual release is typically something to get (very) excited about. Somehow, Peter Gago (the Chief Winemaker, showman, ambassador and magnetic, charming personality) manages to translate Australia’s most iconic and recognisable luxury brand into something that is approachable, understandable and desirable. Naturally, the wines are always up to scratch, so it’s a morning that unfurls into a day of great wine, lively conversation and strangely, poetic prose.

Crisp morning in Melbourne

Crisp morning in Melbourne

 

2018 Bin 51

Riesling, Eden Valley

Lime blossom, Greek yoghurt, green apple skins, shaved cucumber and sweet pea florals. Talcy palate, fine minerality. Lovely line and length. The acidity is bright; the palate is plush and ripe. A soft, full and desperately pleasurable Bin 51. Purity is the key here, and it wears its Eden Valley regionality on its sleeve.

12.0%, $40 RRP

94/100

2017 Bin 311

Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, Tasmania, Tumbarumba

Fine matchstick complexity on the nose and palate – yellow peach, red apple skins. The impact of the small percentage of new oak is gentle and imparts pistachio, hints of saffron and layers of turmeric. Finger lime, dragon fruit and lemon curd. Lovley. Bin 311 spends 8 months in French oak (25% new).

12.5%, $50 RRP

93/100

2017 Reserve Bin A

Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills

After Schroeter’s mouth-watering 2016 rendition of the same wine, I was more than a little eager to look at this 2017. It was a cool and wet growing season in the Hills, but what that has produced is something truly lovely. Crushed graphite, red apple skin, oyster shell, white peach and cashew on the nose. The usual nashi pear, white pepper, stone fruit and saline lick on the palate; the wine retains purity and precision whilst being layered, complex, and very ‘solidsy’. This is an absolute cracker. Long. Concentrated. Nervy. Complex. Full. Reserve Bin A spends a relatively short time in oak – 8 months in French barriques (40% new); 100% malo, hand-picked, whole bunch pressed and all wild yeasts.

12.5%, $125 RRP

98/100

2016 Yattarna (Bin 144)

Chardonnay, Tasmania, Henty, Adelaide Hills, Tumbarumba

2016 experienced almost ideal growing conditions across the four regions and with good yields. Incredible restraint in the glass; fine and elegant, there is latent power here. The flavour and impact rests on the back of the palate – it is all stone fruit, brine, crushed quartz… this goes for an age. Very (very) long and powerful. Totally different to the Bin A – this is polished, glossy, restrained and with astounding persistence of flavour. 8 months French oak barriques (35% new).

13.5%, $175 RRP

98/100

2017 Bin 2

Shiraz Mataro, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Wrattonbully

Typically glossy Penfolds shiraz is bolstered by mulberry and earth from the mataro. The palate is succulent and delicious – the savoury and sweet of the two fruit profiles meet harmoniously on the mid-palate. If you’re a sucker for Mataro, you’re a sucker for Mataro. First vintage was 1960 – a classic wine. 8 months in French (10% new) and American oak. There’s enough fruit, structure and acidity to cellar this, but it is in such a great place right now. This is the bargain of the release.

14.5%, $40 RRP

94/100

2017 Bin 8

Shiraz Cabernet, Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Wrattonbully

The cabernet sits atop the shiraz here – black currant, black pepper, leather/cigar box and bay leaf. The palate could almost be described as succulent – the concentrated core of fruit unfurls out across the finish. Closed at this early stage, but a polished rendition of the classic Aussie blend. 10 months in French and American oak..

14.5%, $50 RRP

92/100

2017 Bin 23

Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills

Red cherry, cola, sarsaparilla. Pretty. Silky and fine. 9 months in French oak (30% new), 15% wholebunch, hand-picked.

13.5%, $50 RRP

90/100

2016 Bin 138

72% Shiraz, 16% Grenache, 12% Mataro, Barossa Valley

Supple and juicy, a lovely wine with berries and black jube. The palate is medium weighted with a soft swoosh of acidity. It is kind of mouth-watering in a juicy/ moreish way. Pleasure and satisfaction in this glass. 12 months in French and American oak.

14.5%, $60 RRP

91/100

2016 Bin 128

Shiraz, Coonawarra

It sounds obvious… but a wonderful shade of red – really ruby and bright. Gah! Delicious. Supple, chewy, vibrant. Totally wonderful. What more could you want from a drink. The cool climate fruit lending bucketloads of spice – we’re talking sweet paprika, white pepper, pink peppercorns… the fruit is red berry, summer raspberry, black currant pastille. The tannins are grippy and chewy. Everything about this is delicious. 12 months in French oak (30% new). This will cellar (10-15+?) but why would you?

14.5%, $60 RRP

95/100

2016 Kalimna Bin 28

Shiraz, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Upper Adelaide, Wrattonbully

Darker in fruit spectrum than anything that has come before it today. The fruit here is powerful, tannic and rich. This is crushed black pepper, game, tobacco leaf, blackberries. The tannins are grippy and pervasive. Where the Bin 128 is elegant and subtle, this is black hearted, meaty, brooding and very serious. 12 months in American oak hogshead.

14.5%, $50 RRP

94/100

2016 Bin 150

Shiraz, Marananga, Barossa Valley

Mulberry, summer raspberry, fresh and beautiful. The palate, while full, is vibrant and plush – there is plenty to love here. There is a real savoury character to the fruit – like red dirt, tomato leaf, saltbush. This is just gorgeous! Bin 150 holds the Barossa flag high and proud – from nowhere else in the world does Shiraz taste like this. It’s hedonistic really… unapologetic. Totally old-school – if you yearn for that ‘Barossa feeling’… this is where you’re gonna get it. 12 months in American oak (25% new), and French (7% new) hogsheads and puncheons.

14.5%, $100 RRP

95/100

2016 Bin 407

Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa valley, Wrattonbully, Padthaway

Blackcurrant, but it is redder than that… crushed pink peppercorn, charred oak, tobacco leaf. The palate is all structure and tannin built around a solid, swirling core of black fruit. The aftertaste is wonderful. A blend of regions, vineyards, and a blend of French (25% new) and American (9% new) means this wine is so immediately identifiably Bin 407. Made in the image of Bin 707, this is drinkable far before its bigger brother.

14.5%, $100 RRP

95/100

2016 Bin 389

51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 49% Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully

Red fruits, crabapple florals, crushed peppercorn, Kalamata olive, poached strawberry – this is bloody delicious. Ripe raspberry, blackcurrant, red apple skins, hints of juniper, bay leaf… raw cocoa, chewy tannin. Oh boy do I love this. Plush. Lush. Plump. Structural. This. Is. Very. Good. The classically Australian cab/shiraz blend just makes so much sense: never more so than when you get 389 in the glass. The structure of the cabernet fruit marries perfectly to the plushness of the shiraz, making this a wonderful expression as a sum of its parts. 12 months in American (37% new) hogsheads. Glorious now, or well into the future.

14.5%, $100 RRP

96/100

2015 St Henri

93% Shiraz, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, Robe, The Peninsulas, Barossa valley, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills, Mt Benson

This is pure fruit on the nose: elegant and pretty. I always love this wine, this vintage is no exception. The palate has star anise, salted licorice, red licorice, jubes… ripe summer raspberry. The tannins are polished (like whipped egg white). Supple and gorgeous. The aftertaste has hints of black olive tapenade and green peppercorn. 12 months in 50 year old large oak vats. Confirming that this is one of the best premium red buys of the release, as per usual.

14.5%, $135 RRP

96/100

2016 Magill Estate

Shiraz, Magill Estate vineyard

Magill Estate Shiraz: the only single vineyard wine in the Penfolds release. On the nose there is lavender, geranium/nasturtium, blueberry. It is elegant and pretty, yet serious. Formidable structure through the finish. This is all about line, length and finesse. It is polished. Blue fruits, black pepper, there is a hint of something like crushed almond, rose petals and red licorice. 13 months in new French and American oak hand-picked, basket-pressed.

14.5%, $150 RRP

95/100

2016 Bin 169

Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra

13 months in 100% new French oak and the fruit gobbles it up completely. Pomegranate. Cassis. Black currant pastille. It is so closed I find it hard to read right now, but surely it will open up gracefully in time. There is aniseed and venison, graphite and bay leaf. Generally a warm and dry season in Coonawarra, although the Jan and Feb months were milder – perfect conditions for extended ripening. The wine is powerful and structured, a real force to be reckoned with. Typically challenging to track down a bottle of this…

14.5%, $360 RRP

95/100

2016 RWT (Bin 798)

Shiraz, Barossa Valley

Chinotto, blood orange, blood plum. A savoury palate, chewy tannins – there is restraint here – honestly I like this an awful lot! It is old school, unapologetic, balanced. It will be great in time, but it is great now, too. Now THAT is a mouthful. Tannins are pervasive but enjoyable. Crushed coffee, blackberry, tomato leaf, bay leaf… If I had to choose a most memorable red from this release, one that both surprised and delighted, it would be this – the RWT. 12 months in French oak (72% new). A muscular, firm and strangely alluring wine.

14.5%, $200 RRP

97/100

2016 Bin 707

Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills

A sweet nose. The oak is so boisterous right now – 20 months in new American hogsheads. This needs time to absorb and come together. Built for power, not speed. Powerful and structured. This is by no means made every years. Since 1964, it has skipped 10 vintages due to unfavourable conditions – this is made only in the best vintages, and made for the long haul. Older 707’s have been beguiling and luxurious, so I can only assume that this will be exactly the same in time.

14.5%, $600 RRP

95/100

2014 Grange

98% Shiraz, 2 % Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Wrattonbully, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Magill estate

Wowee… after much (much) swirling to bring out the nose… summer florals waft out of the glass. Sun warmed pink bud jasmine, alongside charry oak and abundant red fruits… this is powerful, dense, layered and long. There is saltbush, nasturtium, crushed slate, raspberry, mulberry, red liquorice and an umami rich back-palate of hoi sin and soy, which pulls me in for another sip, more than anything else – like a curled and beckoning finger. It is restrained and closed right now; the flavours are all locked up, although there are symphonic red fruits rising already. The tannins are glossy and chewy. Grange spends 20 months in new American oak hogsheads. As Australia’s most famous luxury item, it is becoming difficult to distinguish the wine from the legend. How can it be honestly and critically reviewed when we know so much about it before we even start? It’s infallible – constructed like a Rolls Royce and priced accordingly.

14.5%, $900 RRP

98/100

 

Available in good liquor retail outlets (such as Liquor Barons) from Thursday October 18th

The main event

South by South West, Viognier Chardonnay 2017

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South by South West, Viognier Chardonnay, Margaret River, 2017

“Green apricot, lemon, orange blossom.  Something good and tart like cream cheese frosting.  White pepper, white peach, green mango, kiwi fruit and green apple.  The palate has epic bright acidity from the chardonnay, and richness from the viognier (not that the Margs chard doesn’t contribute its own whack of weight, concentration and drive).  Here, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Thoroughly enjoyable and textural.  I can’t remember the last time I looked at a viog/chard.  Interesting that the less popular (but previously stated “cool”) viognier is listed first on the label before chardonnay: perhaps a pointed effort to set itself apart from the crowd – there is a lot of MR chardonnay on the shelves.  A good move.  Lovely low alc at 12.8%.  YES.” $48, and 94+ points

Relevant winemaking information summed up perfectly on their website:

“The Carbunup Chardonnay was de-stemmed, pressed, inoculated, and went through both a primary and secondary (malolactic) fermentation in charry toasted new French oak. This juice was matured on yeast lees and with regular bâttonage for 6-8 weeks to enhance mouth feel and complexity, then aged for 6 months.

The Wilyabrup Viognier was inoculated with the same Burgundian yeast strain in a stainless steel tank and, once the Chardonnay completed the secondary fermentation, blended together in equal portions into a barrel. With a naturally higher sulphur level present in the Viognier, blending the Chardonnay that underwent Malolactic fermentation was a perfect match.”

 

T A P A N A P P A

Funny how things come together sometimes.  I’ve been thinking recently (and fondly) of the Tiers chardonnay: it has always left an indelible impression on me when I’ve had it in the past, but it’s been at least a year (or more) since I had it in my glass. This morning, I attended a tasting of the Tapanappa range of chardonnays, the Piccadilly Valley, the 1.5m Tiers, and the Tiers.

Why I Like Them (The Winery That Is…)

In 2012 I opened a bottle of a the 2004 Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard – Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Shiraz (20%) and Cabernet Franc (10%).  I’ve never forgotten that bottle – it was soft and elegant, complex, spicy and wonderful. They say context is everything, and that bottle was drunk with great friends. In terms of vintages, 2003/2004 was tumultuous and varied, but the Whalebone Vineyard is on average, slightly cooler than the Coonawarra region, which in that season was slightly cooler than average.  So.  I’m sorry I didn’t buy more bottles, and open them over the following years.  From that night grew a great affection and wandering interest in Tapanappa.  Winemaker: Brian Croser.

 

2015 Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, South Australia

“Toasted cashew, almond meal, grilled white peach, poached summer pear, ripe pink grapefruit.  There is lovely chalky texture on the palate… rich and complex.  Good length of flavour.  Classy.”  18pts, and $39

2016 Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, South Australia

“This has a grilled pineapple, red apple skin, white peach character on the nose, bolstered by a lively, flinty minerality.  It is more intense (perhaps due to the very warm growing season) than the 2015 (cooler, average).  Incredibly, given the year, this has a nervous edge, a shale-y tension about it, and I like it very much.  Acidity is refreshing and bright.  Gorgeous.”  18.2pts and $39.

 

The Tiers Vineyard

A few things I keep in mind when thinking of this vineyard:  It has high elevation: 450m-600m above sea level, which affords its wines great natural acidity.  It was planted in 1979 by the Croser family, and is “in the centre of the Adelaide Hills in the middle of the Piccadilly Valley sub-region, the coolest and highest rainfall viticultural location in South Australia”.  The vineyard is divided by a road, a driveway.  On one side is the original 1979 block, which is responsible for the Tiers Chardonnay.  On the other side, the chardonnay vines were replanted to French Bernard 76 and 95 clones on own rootstocks, ‘close planted’ at 1.5m, with the fruiting wire strung 0.5m above the ground.  This side of the vineyard ripens earlier, and produces fuller flavoured chardonnay.  This was very clear in the wines tasted this morning.  The first vintage of the ‘1.5m’ chardonnay, was in 2015.

2015 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard ‘1.5m’ Chardonnay, South Australia

“First vintage of this wine.  Rich – there is a toasted brioche character that sits right on the mid palate.  Toasted tropical fruits and summer fig.  Lovely acidity due to the site elevation.” 17.9 pts and $55

2016 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard ‘1.5m’ Chardonnay, South Australia

“The vintage is so clear to see in this wine.  It is full of gardenia, soapstone, grilled pineapple, yellow peach, nutmeg and saffron.  The palate is magnificent.  All the richness and complexity that the site affords, but with a nimbleness and an edge that makes it so interesting.  Nervous tension again… overflowing with fresh pink pepper berries and a pebbly, schist-y finish. Yes.” 18.3pts and $55

2016 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay, South Australia

“All of the ’16 vintage hallmarks are present.  This is more restrained and longer than the ‘1.5m’.  This is a long term game.  The wine is tight and closed, the minerality and life is there, but all packed away right now.  The length of flavour is prodigious – latent power.  This is elegant and exciting… it absolutely satiates my thirst for the ‘Tiers’ experience.”  18.7pts, and $79

2015 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay, South Australia

“The cooler vintage sits so well here… this is ripe, full, warm, round… it has wonderful spice and fruit weight, the length allows the flavours to uncurl themselves and linger on the palate.  A wonderful wine.  Its restraint and gentleness is almost overwhelmed in the lineup.  It is quietly spoken… but sure.” 18.6pts and $79

2014 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay, South Australia

“Product of a cool vintage, not that you’d know it – the wines enjoy such typically high acidity that even warm years come off elegant and refined.  This is powerful, concentrated and packed to bursting with summer nectarine, yellow peach, hints of honeydew melon and those pink peppercorns.  Finishing with a flick of pink grapefruit.  What a morning.” 18.5pts