Penfolds Collection Preview Tasting 2018

Penfolds Collection Preview Tasting 2018

Embargoed until 4th October

 All wines available from the following merchants and the prices noted are the RRPs from Penfolds –,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Author’s note – These tasting notes were written in haste on my iPad in under an hour due to a very packed tasting schedule on the day of the Penfolds Collection Press Preview Tasting, so please forgive any typos or incomplete sentences.


2018 Penfolds, Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 12% £31

Super-lean and laser-focussed, with little flesh and more sinew and rasp, this is a classic Penfolds EV Riesling with pith and perfume and little flesh and juiciness. Lovely and enticing and also brutally adroit and cleansing, this is a terrific wine with great attack and verve. 18.5+/20 (now to 2025)

2017 Penfolds, Bin 311 Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills / Tasmania / Tumbarumba 12.5% £32

Rather more related to its tri-regional make-up than its purist Tumbarumba past, this is a more expressive and more sensual wine than the in years gone by, but it still retains tension and it is a very different wine to the other Chardonnays in the portfolio. The oak seems nuttier and patisserie-marked and this allows the fruit to grow a little more in the glass. 18/20 (now to 2023)

2017 Penfolds, Reserve Bin 17A, Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 13.5% £79

The nose is so classically Bin A it is incredible. This wine has blazed a trail of its own and it balances insanely delicious and incredibly attractive fruit with elevated match-stick sulphides which meld perfectly with the whole. Heroic and also stunningly beautiful, this is every bit a world-class white wine and it has truly earned its Grand Cru status. Every serious Chardonnay fiend should fight for stock. 19.5+/20 (2020 – 2030)

2016 Penfolds, Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay, Tasmania / Henty / Adelaide Hills, Tumbarumba 13.5% £149

Structured, hugely powerful and statesmanlike, this is a Yattarna which grips the palate and doesn’t let go. The tannins and sour acidity seem thoroughly red wine like and it drinks like a mighty wine, too.  Dense and solid and nowhere near drinking, this will take an age to unravel and relax, but this is a very impressive Chardonnay. 19++/20 (2025 – 2035)


2016 Penfolds, Bin 138 Barossa Valley, Shiraz / Grenache / Mataro 14.5% £35

Gentle and violet-scented, this is a smooth, creamy, rhubarb stalk and raspberry-tinged wine with some give already on the palate. Not a long-lived wine but a bottle which is already up and running, it is a kindly, open red with charm and balance. 17/20 (now – 2025)

2016 Penfolds, Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 14.5% £35

Dark and fruit-sweet, this is a minty, blackberry and plum-soaked wine with some squashy fruit and squelchy tannins and it is another example of a red which is already into its stride. The fruit is rounded and tame and while there is enough acid to give it a crisp finish, the tannins are already melted into the core. 17.5/20 (now – 2028)

2016 Penfolds, Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Upper Adelaide, Wrattonbully 14.5% £32

Delicious and with more density and depth than Bin 128, this is a classic Penfolds-shaped wine with serious depth and it involves all of the South Australian Shiraz flavours in perfect harmony. Another wine with immediate appeal, it is richer and heavier than Bin 128 but it is another finely tuned wine. 18/20 (now – 2028)

2016 Penfolds, Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully, Padthaway 14.5% £61

Unusually pure and focussed in spite of its multi-regional origins, this is a Bin 407 which feels like the fruit has all passed through the same flavour-silhouette so that it layers effortlessly in the glass. Well made and harmonious this is another wine which is polished on release but, this time, it has the energy and tension to age well. 18+/20 (2020 – 2030)

2016 Penfolds, Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz, Barossa Valley 14.5% £61

Delicious. There is a superb lushness and depth of fruit here which is decadent and also controlled and it is this counterpoint between exuberance and complicity which will give the drinker so much pleasure over many years. There are chocolate, coffee, Turkish Delight and also cherry liqueur notes here which make my palate go into overdrive. There is the trademark 2016 velvetiness here and also a trace of coolness which refreshes the finish, but overall, this is a moreish and alluring Bin 150 and it nails the Marananga theme perfectly. 18.5+/20 (2020 – 2035)

2016 Penfolds, Bin 389 Cabernet / Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully 14.5% £61

Seamlessly welded together, which is becoming an increasingly common trait of Bin 389 in recent years, this is a wine which passes from Cabernet to Shiraz on the palate and there is no crossover whatsoever. The first half, fifty-point-something-percent Cabernet, steps into the second half with no return. It is like an unshaken bottle of vinaigrette with the oil and vinegar beautifully laying one on the other, in no need of agitation because they are perfectly joined along a common boundary. 18.5+/20 (2022 – 2040)

2015 Penfolds, St Henri Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Robe, The Peninsulas, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills, Mt Benson 14.5% £95

With more grip and tannin and also more dryness and tang, St Henri is a beauty in 2015 and it looks back to its history with butcher’s apron meatiness and smoke as well as looking forward with pristine redcurrant and prune tones reflecting the freshness and depth of this wine in equal measure. Superb and also impressively regal, this is a St Henri worthy of a reverential bow before you take a sip. 19+/20 (2022 – 2040)

2016 Penfolds, Magill Estate Shiraz 14.5% £139

A somewhat quiet and introverted Magill with more muscle and less obvious flesh than I was hoping for at this age. Wine Lord Peter Gago points out that these wines are all evolving fast and in six months’ time this will be a very different beast but I don’t expect as much change in Magill as in many of the others. Monotonal and rather unresponsive this is a difficult wine to converse with and so my score is also somewhat muted. 17.5+?/20 (not sure about the drinking window)

2016 Penfolds, RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz 14.5% £132

There is a lot of power here, hidden in the depths of this flavour. Packed with glycerine and juiciness but not overly expressive in terms of obvious fruit tones, this is a very youthful wine and yet it is easy to see that when the windows open, and the light floods in, there is every chance that this will be a classic. Texturally this is a velvety creature and it will retain this shimmering appeal. The tannins are firm and statuesque and they are in no hurry to soften. 19++/20 (2028 – 2040)

2016 Penfolds, Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 14.5% £199

A great Bin 169 and while the ticket price is vertiginous this wine has a masterful flavour and, once again, it is the control and infinitesimal flavour delivery which makes it so gripping. The tannins are delicious, lip-smacking and finely wrought and I love the size and shape of the fruit not least because it is fitter and more tailored than most Super-Tuscans and nearly all Californian Cabs. Brilliant. 19++/20 (2025 – 2040)

2016 Penfolds, Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills 14.5% £365

Insanely serious and awesomely long, this is a stupendous Bin 707 a while it looks a little like the 2010 in its deportment (one of my favourite Bin 707 vintages) it is also a globally serious Cabernet and whether you like Left Bank claret, Napa, Bolgheri or indeed Margaret River.  This wine is a work of rare art and it could only come from Australia. The nose alone is worth the money. The tannins make me want to weep with joy. In between the flavour opens gradually revealing every single facet of this grape’s spectacular charms. It is a perfect wine and it is also a perfect Cabernet. It is also more forward than you would believe for a wine of this calibre and this is testament to the epic quality of the fruit. 20+/20 (2025 – 2065)

2014 Penfolds, Grange, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Wrattonbully, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Magill Estate 14.5% £589

There is an extraordinary chypre and warm earth note about this wine which leads the way and the fruit follows on minutes behind dutifully allowing the vine and its wood and earth to take centre stage. Like Bin 707, this is a phenomenal wine and it opens so slowly and relentlessly it is amazing. Like a silent, slow-motion, ballet troupe showing power, poise, grace and movement, this is an elite wine and it parades its anti-fruit notes as much as it does its grape-derived flavours. This points to a massive ageing potential and also the patience required to appreciate this wine at its peak which I feel might be in thirty or more years’ time. A difficult wine to assess in a score, I am tempted to give it a near perfect score because there is still the question of whether it will complete its flavour-quest before it starts to tire, but I am confident that there are enough pointers here already to reward it with another perfect score. This means that Penfolds is the first winery in the world to get two 20/20s in one single release. 20++/20 (2040 – 2070)

Notes on my scores –

The absence of a ‘+’ indicates a wine which is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm.  One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance to the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.  A ‘?’ means that there is an issue with the wine (something is not quite right or confusing) which is explained in the notes.  I would not advise buying a wine with a ‘?’ unless you have checked the wine personally or I have tasted it again and either the issue has been resolved or has been compounded in which case it is a dud anyway.


As a wine taster and writer, I prefer you to read my words rather than focus on my scores.  This is why I rarely score wines unless I am writing a preview report like this one or similar style of article.  I believe that scores, taken out of context of tasting notes, are largely meaningless.  I try to describe my featured wines fully such that you can imagine the aroma, shape and flavour of each one.  Scores don’t help with this.  You will be aware that there are a few different scoring methods used in the global wine trade.  Some of my wine writing colleagues have been tempted over to the dark side and they use the 100-point rating system.  There are a few, usually older types, who cling onto the venerable five-star rating – admittedly, I use this for the Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification.  As you know, I favour the 20-point score.  It’s how I was taught and it dovetails nicely with the way in which I judge wines, too.  For those of you who are not familiar with the 20-point scoring system then here is a table which translates it into the various other formats.


20-point score100-point scoremedal5 star
20100perfect gold5
1893high silver4
16.588high bronze3
1583no medal1
14.581no medal1
1480no medal1