26 September 2023

Penfolds 2021 Release

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By Christine Salins.


Penfolds 2021 Australia Collection

In June 2021, a bottle of 1951 Grange signed by Penfolds’ first chief winemaker, the late Max Schubert, sold for a world record price of $142,000.

The first vintage of what has become one of the world’s iconic wines, it was born out of a desire to create a red wine “capable of staying alive for a minimum of 20 years”. Well, it has certainly achieved that.

Grange is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and those early vintages are still being collected, still changing hands, and even occasionally being drunk – for what’s the point, if it is never drunk?

I was privileged to meet Schubert in 1988, six years before he died at the age of 79. During our meeting, he reflected on the fact that when he created the wine, it was such a different style from what Australians were used to, that people didn’t think it had a future. How wrong they were.

Today, Grange is in the very capable hands of chief winemaker Peter Gago, who says vintages such as 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1962 are still “stunningly drinkable” in 2021.

The just-released 2017 Grange carries an eye-watering $950 price tag and is only the seventh Grange to proclaim 100% Shiraz. It’s the flagship of the Penfolds Australia Collection 2021, a family of 16 fine wines that are a testament to Penfolds’ enduring house style.

Among them are distinctive reds with long cellaring potential, including the highly collectible Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz, Magill Estate Shiraz, and St Henri Shiraz, and fine whites that deliver on complexity and flavour, including Adelaide Hills Chardonnay and an Eden Valley Riesling.

Penfolds has also announced the upcoming release of two limited-edition wines, representing two different interpretations of Cabernet Shiraz, an iconic Australian blend. Superblend 802.A will be available next month while Superblend 802.B will be launched in August 2022. The price is an equally eye-watering $900.

2019 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, $100:

I haven’t had an opportunity to taste the latest release of Grange; frankly, only the very rich could afford it. The rest of us can console ourselves with Bin 389, often referred to as “Baby Grange”. (Part of the reason for the nickname is that components of the wine are matured in the same barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange.) It’s big, bold, fleshy and juicy, but at the same time quite elegant, fragrant and polished. Combining the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon with the richness of Shiraz, it’s a beautiful example of how harmoniously fruit and oak can be balanced.

2019 Bin 28 Shiraz, $50:

Since the first vintage in 1959, this robust, generously flavoured wine has been a perfect expression of South Australian Shiraz – it really packs a punch. Matured for a year in American oak, it is dark and brooding with hints of chocolate and tobacco, along with generous plum and spice notes.

2020 Bin 311 Chardonnay, $50:

If Bin 389 is “Baby Grange”, you could probably say that Bin 311 is “Baby Yattarna” – in other words, the more affordable sibling of Penfolds’ flagship white. Winemaker Peter Gago thinks this might be one of the finest Bin 311’s yet, and it’s certainly a beauty – bright and flavoursome yet elegant with subtle oak. Sourced from three cool-climate regions, it has peach and nectarine notes complemented by a little citrus and creamy nuttiness. Simply a joy to drink.

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