Matthew Jukes - Wine Notes

The Penfolds Collection 2021 – embargoed until 22nd July 2021  00:01 AEST

The Penfolds Collection 2021

‘A return of the word Hermitage’

To be released for sale from Thursday 5th August 2021 at

With notes and scores embargoed until 22nd July 2021  00:01 AEST

 Some or all of the wines will be available from the following merchants (they are the regular ports of call for Penfolds releases) and the prices noted below are Australian Dollar RRPs quoted from Penfolds official notes, so these will be translated into GBP by the various merchants –  www.bbr.com, www.biwine.com, www.igwines.com, www.laywheeler.com, www.frw.co.uk, www.justerinis.com, www.corneyandbarrow.com, www.harrods.com, www.hedonism.co.uk, www.majestic.co.uk, www.thewinesociety.com, www.laithwaites.co.uk, www.frazierswine.co.uk, www.cadmanfinewines.co.uk

Author’s note – Due to the continuing Coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on international flights winemaker Peter Gago was unable to come over to the UK to show these wines to me personally, so I tasted them with him over Zoom on 8th July.  In all, I tasted every wine four times over two days noting how each changed with aeration.  This is only the second time that I have been able to conduct this valuable exercise.  I understand that there are no price rises this year over last year’s price tags.

 White

2021 Penfolds, Bin 51, Eden Valley Riesling 12% (last year’s price AUD40)

Maturation was a brief period spent in stainless steel tanks.

There is no doubt that this is one of the most explosive and impactful Bin 51s for many years.  The perfume, palate and finish send a citrus and sea shell shiver down the spine and its purity and electricity is simply captivating.  Lean but also resonant, this icicle-shaped wine drinks perfectly already, but it will age well for a further 8-10 years.  As a post script, Peter mentioned that he has kept around 4000 cases-worth of scintillating Polish Hill River Riesling (Clare Valley) aside in this vintage for future release.   18.5+/20 (Drink now-2030)

2020 Penfolds, Bin 311 Chardonnay, Tasmania / Piccadilly in the Adelaide Hills / Henty 13% (last year’s price AUD50)

68% Tasmania / 25% Piccadilly in Adelaide Hills / 6% Henty

Oak regime – 8 months in French barriques (41% new)

Since Bin 311 broke away from being an exclusive Tumbarumba cuvée it has been searching for a personality in vain.  In 2020, this identity crisis has come to a conclusion.    Old Bin 311 had no new oak and it was a single region wine.  New Bin 311 has permission to draw on fruit from anywhere it likes, like Yattarna, and it now wears an ostentatious 41% new French oak cloak.  The transition from one definitive style to another is now complete.  Bin 311 is reborn as baby-Yattarna and it is now a genuine snapshot of the future of grand, multi-regional Australian Chardonnay.  Suave and balanced, this is a thrilling wine and the value here is extraordinary.  18.5/20 (Drink now – 2030)

2020 Penfolds, Reserve Bin 20A Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills 12.5% (last year’s price AUD125)

Oak regime – 8 months in French barriques (86% new)

This is a rather more controlled and muted offering for Reserve Bin A in 2020, the year of the horrific bush fires.  94% of the fruit came from Piccadilly and as Peter explained they managed to avoid the fires and also smoke taint, but presumably the select number of vineyards involved has not only dented the volume of production of this wine but it has inevitably also altered the overall fruit notes and density of its flavour.  It is not quite as fleshy as the marvellously louche wines of years gone by but this doesn’t make it any less engaging.  Elite, direct and focussed and while the ‘weight’ is slimmer and more linear this change in recipe has resulted in a longer and finer finish.  This is a fascinating and atypical Bin A with typical class and charm.  18.5+/20 (Drink 2024 – 2035)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 144 Yattarna Chardonnay 12.5% (last year’s price AUD175)

57% Tasmania / 32% Tumbarumba / 11% Adelaide Hills

Oak regime – 8 months in French barriques (55% new)

True to form, and with no template whatsoever, Yattarna has triumphed again in 2019.  Looking back – 1997 had 100% new oak and 2004 had none whatsoever.  In 2019, the combination of 55% new oak and the dominant Tassie fruit source has resulted in an extraordinarily calm and centred wine.  Neither rushed nor hectic, incredibly complex and layered and yet only 12.5% alcohol, this is a triumphant wine which shows awesomely grand fruit with a superbly smooth mid-palate and a shockingly taut finish.  While this wine might always sit in the shadow of the ‘great’ 2018, I happen to find the delivery and poise even more exciting than its predecessor and so I have awarded it a well-earned half point more than the showy 2018 vintage.  19.5+/20 (Drink 2021 – 2035)

Red

2020 Penfolds, Bin 23 Pinot Noir, 75% Tasmania / Henty / Adelaide Hills 13.5% (last year’s price AUD50)

Oak regime – 7 months in French barriques (24% new)

While this wine sits first in the red wine section, it probably ought to sit last in the white line-up, above.  I say this because the meaty, Morey-like Penfolds Pinots of years gone by have been consigned to the vinous dustbin of history, which is a bit of a shame because I rather liked their gusto.  These days, Aussie Pinot is all about lightness of touch and so it is no surprise to see that this wine is made from predominately Tasmanian fruit.  Pale, modern, clear and clean, this is a haunting wine with a lovely feel about it, but it is the least Penfolds-shaped wine in the entire portfolio.  17.5/20 (Drink 2023 – 2028)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 138 Shiraz / Grenache / Mataro, Barossa Valley 14.5% (last year’s price AUD60)

70% Shiraz, 17% Grenache, 13% Mataro

Oak regime – seasoned French (80%) and American (20%) hogsheads

I tend to prefer Bin 138 when it is Grenache dominant because it gives it a real point of difference, but the blend, above, is not truly reflected in the flavour of this wine.  While this is a classic Barossa Red, the Grenache can still be heard here, both on the nose and also in the slipperiness of the palate.  Spicy, chunky and meaty and packed with black fruit, this is a decent effort and a forward-drinking wine with enough Penfolds DNA to please acolytes.   17/20 (Drink now – 2030)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 128 Shiraz, Coonawarra 14.5% (last year’s price AUD60)

Oak regime – 12 months in 24% new, 33% one-year-old & 43% two-year-old French oak

This is yet another thrilling Bin 128 underlining the fact that Coonawarra is enjoying an extraordinary purple patch right now.  With an amazing perfume, deep, dark fruit, laser-sighted Coonawarra accuracy and even some tenderness and approachability, this is a must-buy in 2019.  Dark, spicy, high-quality and very long, you cannot avoid this wine given that it does what legions of more expensive creations do, only better and (I never write this about Penfolds) cheaper!  18.5+/20 (Drink 2024 – 2035)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 28 Shiraz 14.5% (last year’s price AUD50)

44% McLaren Vale / Barossa Valley / Padthaway, Wrattonbully

Oak regime – 12 months in seasoned American hogsheads.

There is a very important word missing from this wine’s label!  Kalimna has been taken off Bin 28’s label in order that the link between the most important vineyard in the Penfolds portfolio is severed from this previously-labelled ‘Kalimna-style’ wine.  To be honest, this is a smart move, not least because if there is a single vineyard Kalimna wine in the offing it protects its integrity!  It also means that I don’t have to spend ten minutes explaining to everyone who asks (and there are many more people than you can imagine who pose this question each year) why Kalimna used to sit on this wine’s label.  With regard to this release, it is a delicious wine with no new oak getting in the way of the terrifically juicy fruit.  Opulent, spicy, fleshy and forward-drinking, this is a great way to release this wine from its old label in order to herald a new lease of life for Bin 28.  18/20 (Drink now – 2035)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 14.5% (last year’s price AUD110)

26% Padthaway / Coonawarra / Wrattonbully / McLaren Vale

Oak regime – 12 months in French oak (27% new) and American oak (8% new) hogsheads.

Bin 407 is a rare weak link in this year’s releases.  While many 2019s show a savoury edge to their flavours, and this is welcome in richer Shiraz-based wines, in Cabernets it rather tends to expose their flaws.  Made almost exclusively from the South Eastern corner of the state, this is an earthy, herbal and dry wine and I cannot get too excited about its future.  16.5/20 (Drink 2025 – 2030)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz, Barossa Valley 14.5% (last year’s price AUD100)

Oak regime – 12 months in American oak (32% new and 29% one-year-old) and French oak (9% new and 30% one-year-old) hogsheads and puncheons.

By contrast to the Bin 407 above, Bin 150 benefits greatly from being a single hamlet, Barossan Shiraz in 2019.  The nose is gorgeous, welcoming and generous and then the palate is a lot darker and more brooding than expected.  While there is depth here, this does not come with an overly tannic finish and so this makes 2019 Bin 150 a thoroughly charming and gregarious wine.  18.5/20 (Drink 2025 – 2038)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 14.5% (last year’s price AUD100)

26% Padthaway / 25% McLaren Vale / 19% Coonawarra / 11% Wrattonbully / 10% Barossa Valley

53% Cabernet Sauvignon / 47% Shiraz

Oak regime – American oak hogsheads (25% new)

This is yet another dynamic and impressive Bin 389 and I would be tempted to remove the space on the label between the ‘T’ of Cabernet and the ‘S’ of Shiraz in this vintage because the link between these two grapes is invisible.  The oak has been scaled back and the savoury Cab manages to lean on the lush Shiraz and this makes the wine a medium-weight and gentlemanly style of Bin 389.  I find it absolutely captivating and this reduction in new oak allows the fruit to express itself with clarity and directness.  Remember this wine when you read about the Superblends later on in this article because I think that 2018 Bin 389 (last year’s release) will enjoy an enormous boost of interest this year when people look back to my old notes and see its score because it now looks like incredible value for money.  Back to this 2019 – this is a delightful wine and one which will drink early and while it lacks the grunt of the 2018 I like it enormously not least because of its undeniable class.  18.5/20 (Drink 2023 – 2045)

2019 Penfolds, Magill Estate Shiraz 14.5% (last year’s price AUD150)

Oak regime – 18 months in French (26% new) and American (6% new) oak hogsheads

While Penfolds is a few years off using the re-planted section of vines at Magill, which will no doubt boost the production by a factor of two, and also help to bring more complexity and depth to the flavour of this wine, in 2019, Magill continues its rather baffling, Italianate-flavoured theme of tasting like a cross between a zany Primitivo and a Super-Tuscan Sangiovese.  Perhaps it is the acid profile or maybe the violet tones.  Maybe its the lavender, the liquorice notes or the sweet plum nuances.  Either way, Magill is my Marmite (or should that be Vegemite) because I either love it or find myself hopelessly confused by its flavours and in 2019 it is the latter.  I wouldn’t buy it, but I would happily drink it out of curiosity.  For me, this is a silver medal-style wine, but for many, they love its uniqueness and quirkiness. 17/20 (Drink 2025 – 2035)

2018 Penfolds, St Henri Shiraz 14.5% (last year’s price AUD135)

28% Barossa Valley / McLaren Vale / Port Lincoln / Robe / Padthaway / Clare Valley / Adelaide Hills

100% Shiraz

Oak regime – 12 months in 50-year-old vats.

If there is only one wine (I know I have expressed a strong preference for a handful of releases this year) to track down and invest in in this year’s Penfolds Collection, it is 2018 St Henri.  This is a spectacular seductress of a wine which has seemingly polished its performance, been to an elite finishing school somewhere in the Alps (I know Australia has a set of Alps, too, but I am unsure as to whether they have any finishing schools) and not only are the nose, palate and finish utterly mesmerising it is after the finish where the sheer class is on display.  There is a mind-blowing rebound of juiciness and breeding which comes back to enthral the senses.  No other wine in this year’s line-up carries this degree of detail and persistence.  Neither forced not too heavy or ponderous, there is everything that you could possibly wish for in a St Henri right here in this wine.  This is a jaw-droppingly impressive wine and it earns joint top score in this year’s piece and it even nudges ahead of Grange for sheer class, accuracy and integrity.  19.5+/20 (Drink 2028 – 2050)

 

2019 Penfolds, RWT Bin 798, Barossa Valley Shiraz 14.5% (last year’s price AUD200)

Oak regime – 18 months in French oak hogsheads (57% new and 43% one-year-old)

While RWT can handle 70-80% new oak in certain vintages, in more challenging years the carpentry is rightfully scaled back.  This is a classically-dimensioned RWT as opposed to a T-Rex of a wine and so it does not pack the muscle, fruit-sweetness or punch of a so-called ‘great’ vintage.  But I very much like this wine with its smooth and hedonistic fruit notes.  If this were a sports car it would be one with an aluminium chassis and carbon fibre panels, in an effort to reduced weight and improve performance.  This adjustment in recipe has been successful and the result is a wine which is more forward than usual and while it is not as ridiculously ostentatious and showy as the cosmic 2018 it is still a wine to be admired.  18.5/20 (Drink 2025 – 2045)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 14.5% (last year’s price AUD650)

41% McLaren Vale / 36%  Coonawarra / 15% Barossa Valley / 6% Padthaway

Oak regime – 18 months in American oak hogsheads (100% new)

In 2019, the Barossa element of Bin 707 comes directly from Block 42, and it is clear that this is the foundation for this arresting wine.  Its presence can certainly be felt deep in its core.  This is not a massive, full-volume Bin 707.  If this was the style year in year out, I would surely tire of this wine.  Instead it is carefully balanced, extraordinarily long and amazingly complete.  The tannins are sensational and these will power this wine for many years to come, but this will always be a more sensitive and sensual Bin 707 and for that reason I am very keen on its deportment.  It is important to wait for the ‘ungravelling’ to commence.  I wrote this word instead of ‘unravelling’ without thinking in my notes and its oblique reference to soil and structure makes perfect sense.  This is a more soil-driven style of Bin 707 and it will require patience, but it is also a refined wine with undeniable breeding and I will be following its progress very closely.  It makes a perfect pair with its predecessor, the ridiculously decadent 2018.  With only half a point between them and completely contrasting characters, I wonder which wine I will prefer in 20 years time.  19+/20 (Drink 2030 – 2050)

2017 Penfolds, Grange Bin 95 14.5% (last year’s price AUD950)

86% Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale (the last vintage was made from Barossa and McLaren Vale fruit only was the 1991)  Grange has only been 100% Shiraz ten times in its 70 year history – 1951, 1952, 1963, 1999, 2000, 2011 & 2017.

100% Shiraz

Oak regime – 18 months in American hogsheads (100% new)

The very first word I wrote on my notepad when I took in a large sniff of this wine was ‘Hermitage’.  This is the first and only time that I have written what is ostensibly a Northern Rhône tasting note (albeit liberally dunked in American and not French oak) for this famous wine.   There is no Magill fruit in this wine. There is, however, beautiful filigree flavours here with detail and openness which is rarely seen in this wine (until it loses its first flush of energy, which can often take 20 years).  The pepper and iodine notes, coupled with the wild herbs and bloodiness, take me to a more elemental style of wine than I normally associate with Grange.  If only they could bring back the word Hermitage onto the label just one more time for this ethereal vintage.  There is amazing weightlessness here as well as uncommon tenderness and the resonance of fruit is just that – fruit not oak.  I expect that the blending exercises which went on behind the scenes in this vintage were amazingly studious.  Without the involvement of Cabernet, this wine needs specific Shiraz parcels to fill in the cracks and this work has been carried out with consummate skill.  A far cry from last year’s ‘perfect 20/20’, this is still a wonderfully evocative and thoughtful wine which true aficionados will treasure on account of its obvious points of difference and downright deliciousness.  19+/20 (Drink 2028 – 2060)

2018 Penfolds, Superblend Bin 802-A 14.5% (aiming for a price a few dollars cheaper than Grange, so AUD900?)

Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Robe, Clare Valley

68% Cabernet Sauvignon & 32% Shiraz

Oak regime – 22 months in American oak hogsheads (100% new)

Superblend A employs American oak (think A for American) and unlike the ‘B’ it was matured as individual varieties and then blended prior to bottling.  It was at this moment that the team decided to augment the Cabernet component in order to find true balance in this wine.  This says to me that the American oak was rather too happy with the Shiraz and it was beginning to lose its ‘Great Australian Red’ identity.  It also spent a few more months in oak, and this in turn suggests that the oak looked a little too heady on first inspection.  These theories are borne out by the flavour of this wine which is not dissimilar to taking Bin 389 and subjecting it to a course of steroids and protein shakes and then not allowing it out of the gym for approximately 22 months. Of course, this wine is made from what Penfolds decides is A1 level fruit and Bin 389 is made from A3, but the pumped up, rippling musculature and baby-oiled pecs are pretty much all I can see in this wine.  1400 cases (of 12 bottles) were made and while it is certainly very impressive and many will fall head over heels for its scale and proportions, it leaves me feeling a little out of puff.  Only time will tell if this wine will find balance and control in the future. 18.5++/20 (Drink 2030 – 2050)

 

 

2018 Penfolds, Superblend Bin 802-B 14.5% (aiming for a price a few dollars cheaper than Grange, so AUD900?)

Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Robe, Clare Valley

55% Cabernet Sauvignon & 45% Shiraz

Oak regime – 19 months in French oak  hogsheads (54% new and 46% one-year-old)

This time, Superblend B (think Bordeaux – it is exclusively made with French oak) is exactly what I was hoping for in this inaugural Superblend release.  I have known about these two wines for a long time now, given my involvement, with Tyson Stelzer, in The Great Australian Red initiative, and so I have had a long time to think about what this wine might taste like on release.  I had always imagined that French oak would be used (I did not realise that there would be two version though – one French and one American) and this wine lives up to all of my expectations.  For a start, the blend was decided upon on day one and then not changed, like Superblend A.  I think that this commitment and faith in the fruit has paid off not only from an absolute flavour point of view but from a standpoint of integration.  This is one of the most impressive and interesting TGAR blends I have ever tasted and it has instantly shot to the top echelons of the category on its debut release.  5000 cases were made of this wine and I imagine that everyone is pleased that the split is weighted in B’s favour.  This is an awful lot of money to pay for any wine and so the pool of prospective buyers might be rather restricted, but with only 5000 cases to go around, they will no doubt find homes.  There is no 2019 or 2020 on the horizon, but 2021 is rumoured to be a stellar vintage, so while we wait, more people will no doubt hear about this wine and its desirability will doubtless increase.  Take it from me – a 100% committed fan of TGAR – this is a wine that you do want in your cellar if you have the wherewithal.  If not, then please seek out 2018 Bin 389 and it will help you through the disappointment of not being able to spend the price of a decent second hand car (or in my case a phenomenal new motorbike) on a case of fine wine!  19.5+/20 (Drink 2030 – 2060)

Notes on my scores –

The absence of a ‘+’ indicates a wine that 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 with the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.

 MATTHEW JUKES SCORE CONVERSION CHART

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 a similar style of article.  I believe that scores, taken out of the context of tasting notes, are largely meaningless.  I try to describe my 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.  Most 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 to 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 how I judge wines, too.  For those of you who are not familiar with the 20-point scoring system here is a table that translates it into the various other formats.

 

20-point score100-point scoremedal5 star
20100perfect gold5
19.598gold5
1996gold5
18.595gold4
1893high silver4
17.591silver4
1789silver3
16.588high bronze3
1686bronze2
15.585bronze2
1583no medal1
14.581no medal1
1480no medal1