The Penfolds Collection 2022 – full notes and scores

Peter Gago launches The Penfolds Collection 2022

Embargoed until 21st July

I was delighted to taste these wines with Peter Gago and also Jancis Robinson.

The prices shown are Australian RRPs

AUSTRALIA

WHITE

2021 Penfolds, Bin 311 Chardonnay, Australia (AUD50)

100% Chardonnay

12.5% alc.

Nine months in French oak barriques (38% new and 28% one-year-old)

Source – 82% Adelaide Hills, 15% Tasmania, 3% Tumbarumba

Refined, restrained, pure and pristinely clean, this is a precision-cut Chardonnay, and it is zingy and exceptionally dynamic.  This is not a grand wine, nor is it particularly layered, but it is tremendously invigorating and deliciously lip-smacking, and these twin traits are rewarded with a mighty score.  18.5/20 (Drink now – 2028)

2020 Penfolds, Bin 144 Yattarna Chardonnay, Australia (AUD175)

100% Chardonnay

12.5% alc.

Eight months in French oak barriques (86% new and 14% one-year-old)

Source – 68% Tasmania, 32% Adelaide Hills

Moving from the beautiful Bin 311 to Yattarna, it is clear that the upgrade in stature and precision here is stark.  I could spend an age drinking Bin 311 because it is so downright enjoyable, but one sniff of Yattarna makes you never want to look back!  More dense and introverted, this Chardonnay is not a ‘bigger’ wine than Bin 311, but it wears slightly more width and is also massively longer on the finish.  It is this bafflingly long flavour and intricate marquetry of flavour that means it earns the Yattarna label.  The citrus freshness and silkiness of texture coupled with the white almond oak notes are nothing short of jaw-dropping.  19/20 (Drink 2028 – 2038)

NV Penfolds V, Australia (AUD?)

I  have not received any information on label design (aside from the sticker above), and I do not have a price tag either.  I am not sure that this wine should appear in this piece, given that no mention of it appears in any Penfolds press releases, so I may have to delete this entry moments after publishing it.  V stands for five vintages of Chardonnay (Yattarna in this case).  The recipe is 20% of each of these five vintages – 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2021 and 2200 bottles exist, and they were bottled only two months ago.  There is a seashell theme here with classical almondy Yattarna hallmarks, yet I can sense the joins in this wine, like five distinct train carriages linked with rather obvious couplings.  The Penfolds g-series reds managed, successfully, to hide the welds, and this was part of their mesmeric appeal.  Penfolds V seems a little more like a construct, which of course, it is, and this is why I struggle to see the appeal.  If I were to taste this wine blind, I might be tempted into a five varietal white blend instead of five vintages of the same, admittedly in isolation, admirable creation!  If I was presented with this challenge, I might have plumped for Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Arneis and Clairette!  Perhaps this explains more about my wine brain than it does about V. Either way, this is a fascinating flavour that earns a half-decent score and a question mark because I have no idea why it was made, but I am grateful that it was because it seems to me, that aged white blends are not what my palate is searching for.  18?/20 (Drink now – 2030)

RED

2021 Penfolds, Bin 23 Pinot Noir, Tasmania (AUD50)

100% Pinot Noir

13.5% alc.

Eight months in French oak (40% new)

This is the first Bin 23 that is made from 100% Tasmanian fruit. Floral and spicy with a touch of oak over a sous bois nose, the palate is nice and sleek, and the balance seems spot on already. Surprisingly forward and juicy, while at the same time possessing hints of meatiness and fresh tobacco with some darker fruit tones beneath the surface, this is a well-made wine and one that will provide decent early drinking. The Penfolds notes suggest a drinking window that runs up to 2030, but I would not wait that long as the fruit is the star here, and I would not want to see it fade.  17.5/20 (Drink now – 2026)

2020 Penfolds, Bin 138, Barossa Valley, South Australia (AUD60)

65% Shiraz, 29% Grenache, 6% Mataro (Mourvèdre)

14.5% alc.

12 months in French oak hogsheads (12.5% new)

This is often a ‘space-filler’ wine in the Penfolds line-up, but the 2020 vintage is worthy of a closer look, and I like what I see. The nose kicks off with a whoosh of pastrami, fresh leather, dried mixed spices and ripe redcurrants, and the palate underneath is darker and more intense with delicious balance and savoury tones throughout. It seems that each grape is pulling its weight in this wine, and they are all communicating with each other, too. Teamwork makes SGMs hang together, and Bin 138 is one of the most harmonious releases in recent years. Forward, accurate and rewarding, this is a cute entry-level wine to the greater SA red portfolio.  17.5/20 (Drink now – 2030)

2020 Penfolds, Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz, South Australia (AUD60)

100% Shiraz

14.5% alc.

12 months in French oak hogsheads (20% new)

It is worth noting that even though there were extensive and well-documented wildfires in 2020, none of the Penfolds wines show traces of smoke taint. Bin 128 is always a leaner and more challenging wine than Bin 28, and it needs a little flesh around the middle to really sing. In 2020, it gets just that, and the result is a deliciously spicy volley of aromatics that includes some perky minty notes, followed by a rather gentler and smoother palate than usual. This silky texture is alluring and immediately pleasing, making this a welcoming and surprisingly generous Bin 128. Without this mid-palate amplitude, it would feel too pinched, but with it, this wine is expressive and intriguing, making it a worthy counterpart to the excellent, cross-regional blend Bin 28.  17.5/20 (Drink 2023 – 2035)

2020 Penfolds, Bin 28 Shiraz, South Australia (AUD50)

100% Shiraz

14.5% alc.

12 months in American oak hogsheads (16% new)

Drawn from McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Padthaway and Clare Valley, this is a ‘warmer’, juicier, more intense and sweetly oaky, and these lush, broad brush traits make it a thoroughly enjoyable Bin 28.  The American oak adds gloss and exoticism, and it looks suave and a little wild in the same breath.  This is a classic Bin 28, bringing a rather daring precocity to proceedings while retaining a superbly classy finish, too.  This is a very impressive wine.  18/20 (Drink now to 2038)

2020 Penfolds, Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia (AUD100)

100% Shiraz

14.5% alc.

12 months in American oak hogsheads (24% new) and French oak hogsheads and puncheons (23% new)

Taut, firm and poised with a serious oak portcullis holding back the inevitable avalanche of fruit, this is a thrilling wine, and there is a noticeable link to Grange quality here, given that it is made from ‘relegated Grange fruit’.  While it is rigid and upright, there is lovely definition here, and while it is a formal Bin 150, yet to relax and unwind, there is amazing potential here, and I feel it is yet another superstar wine containing epic fruit from this single hamlet address.  There is no doubting that this will be a long-lived Bin 150.  18.5+/20 (Drink 2028 – 2045)

2020 Penfolds, Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia (AUD120)

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

14.5% alc.

15 months in French (24% new) and American (12% new) oak hogsheads

Drawn from McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Padthaway and Wrattonbully, this is a seriously focussed and complete Bin 407 with impressive length, and it manages to retain control to the very end.  There was no Bin 169 or Bin 707 made in 2020, so this wine (and Bin 389 below) has scooped up the very best Cabernet from the estate, and there is no doubt it is a very special creature indeed.  Delicious and savoury, the tannins pinch the palate, and it remains reassuringly dry and firm while on the finish, allowing the palate to open up beautifully on the nose.  This is a huge success in 2020.  18.5+/20 (Drink 2025 – 2045)

2020 Penfolds, Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, South Australia (AUD100)

51% Cabernet Sauvignon & 49% Shiraz

14.5% alc.

12 months in American hogsheads (33% new)

Drawn from McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley and Padthaway, this is nothing short of an awesome Bin 389 and the Cabernet fruit that would have made it into both Bin 707 and Bin 169 had it been imperceptibly finer is shining like a beacon in this wine.  The glorious flavours are so perfect and balanced, and there is spectacular refinement here.  I have long since stopped looking for the weld between these two noble red grapes in this legendary The Great Australian Red blend because it is second nature for these two varieties to fuse perfectly in this wine.  19/20 (Drink 2026 – 2050)

2019 Penfolds, St Henri Shiraz, South Australia (AUD135)

100% Shiraz

14.5% alc.

12 months in large seasoned oak vats.

Source – 25% McLaren Vale, 21% Barossa Valley, 20% Padthaway, 19% Wrattonbully, 15% Port Lincoln

With impeccable balance along the entire length of the prodigious flavour, this is a connoisseurs’ St Henri with an upright, stern and no-nonsense feel.  There is no trace of flirty fruit, nor is there any sense of excess ripeness, just mannerly, bookish order with toned, not over-worked muscle and little overt opulence.  With fascinating anti-fruit notes of spice, earth, dried leaves and chypre, this will be a slow-moving St Henri, and the grippy finish will allow it the time to mature slowly and with the utmost focus and determination towards being an admirably classic St Henri.  19+/20 (Drink 2030 – 2050)

2020 Penfolds, Magill Estate Shiraz (AUD150)

100% Shiraz

14.5% alc.

15 months in French oak (30% new and 40% one-year-old)

I have a tough time with Magill Estate, occasionally loving this wine and then wondering what precisely this vineyard wants to be.  Undoubtedly, it responds to each vintage’s specific condition acutely, augmenting its flavours accordingly, and in 2020 I sense Italianate tendencies (again).   With blueberry notes and a sweet-fruited, cinnamon-tinged core, there is a Sangiovese tang here that is unusual and curiously fascinating.  This small, single vineyard performs its one-person show each year and the character changes, evolves and often confuses, but it is a singular expression, and it is part of the Penfolds legend, and so while this is a fascinating creation, I am always left a little baffled.  17.5/20 (drink 2025 – 2040)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia (AUD300)

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

14.5% alc.

17 months in French oak hogsheads (56% new and 44% one-year-old)

While I have just mentioned the word ‘Italianate’ regarding Magill, I was referring to the shape and size of the wine – a Tuscan demeanour.  I want to use the word Italian here with a totally different meaning – this time spellbinding bitterness.  Bin 169 is a magnificent creation and while it is reassuringly costly and usually takes much longer to soften than one might like, the tannins, acid, epic fruit and heroic length make this a staggeringly serious Cabernet.  In fact, it is the finest and most acutely balanced Cab in this review (which says a lot).  Bin 169 sits on a world stage with its refinement and sensationally fresh and active tannins, and this is a truly delicious vintage.  19+/20 (Drink 2030 – 2050)

2020 Penfolds, RWT Bin 798, Barossa Valley Shiraz, South Australia (AUD200)

100% Shiraz

14.5% alc.

16 months in French oak hogsheads (49% new, 51% one-year-old)

Peter Gago explained that on 20th December, the temperature peaked at 45.6C, yet these vines dealt perfectly with this extreme challenge.  In fact, I think it emboldened these vines, giving them a serious depth of flavour and darkness that opens onto a phenomenal array of black fruit and density, and it is packed with awesome power, and yet it is so refreshing and lifted on the finish it defies belief!  Compact yet massive, overwhelmingly grand and delicately perfumed, this is an incredible RWT with a very long life ahead of it.  This is an unmissable wine for serious collectors in this release.  19.5+/20 (Drink 2030 – 2055)

2018 Penfolds, Bin 95 Grange (AUD1000)

97% Shiraz and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon

Sourced from 69% Barossa Valley, 18% McLaren Vale, 13% Clare Valley

14.5% alc.

18 months in American oak hogsheads (100% new)

Hedonism and eroticism in the same glass and, guess what, this is Grange, not some fantasy creation, but the bedrock wine that underpins all Aussie reds at home and abroad.  This is a magnificently expressive Grange and one with so much focussed attack and splendour countered by exquisite tension and grandeur it is amazing.  Pure, densely packed and splendidly oaky, the fruit notes are truly kaleidoscopic, covering blue, red, black and purple layers with serious plushness. Yet it never loses its pedigree nor its historical touch points and time-honoured reliability.  This is another amazing Grange vintage, and while it will start to drink relatively early, in the greater scheme of things, it will hold for a further fifty years with ease.  While I have not deployed a perfect score here, this wine is knocking on the door and I reserve judgement to tweak, if necessary, next time I taste it!  19.5++/20 (Drink 2030 – 2070)

FRANCE

2019 Penfolds II, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Bordeaux / Barossa Valley, Wine of the World (AUD500)

59% Cabernet Sauvignon (France), 29% Shiraz (Australia), 12% Merlot (France)

14.0% alc.

18 months in French (70% new) and American oak (30% new) barriques and hogsheads

I remain somewhat confused about this wine, and the price is nothing short of colossal.  I admire the intention, the aspiration and the amount of effort that has gone into its construction.  It was bottled in Australia after having been transported back in 1m square steel cubes.  This is ambition on a global scale, and the French partners in this project, Dourthe, have stepped up to the mark and joined forces with Penfolds for a truly fascinating project, and I am told that there is a 2000 vintage in the pipeline, too.  As we all know, 2019 is a firm, tannic vintage and the component parts here are stern, square cut and youthful while the 29% Shiraz adds gloss, it does not yet soften the whole.  This may well come in time, but at the moment, this is a wine with Aussie gloss over a stalwart Bordelais core.  Given time, as with all structured 2019s, it is likely to come around, but what will result from this experiment?  I am intrigued to find out.  17.5+/20 (Drink 2030 – 2040)

2019 Penfolds, FWT 585, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (AUD120)

53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot

14% alc.

14 months in French (44% new) and American oak (14% new) barriques

Nicely put together and showing some interesting Penfolds spice, this is a Left Bank-flavoured wine with an understandably different outlook.  Like the wine above, I find the pricing here rather too challenging, and while this is a sideways glance at the most well-known wine region in the world, it falls somewhat short of the mark if you consider legions of notable wines in this vintage that command a vastly more affordable price point and offer a more composed and more complete flavour.  17.5/20 (Drink 2025 – 2035)

CALIFORNIA

2019 Penfolds, Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz, California (AUD90)

83% Cabernet (Sauvignon), 17% Shiraz

Source – Napa Valley for the Cabernet and Paso Robles for the Shiraz

14.5% alc.

17 months in American oak (40% new)

Nicely balanced with a delicious synergy between the two varieties and the two respective regions.  This recipe is set in stone, and it is second nature for winemaker Andrew Baldwin to assemble this wine with precision and experience.  It is almost drinking from a fruit purity point of view, but the oak and tannins are certainly bold and make themselves heard and so I would urge you to stand back for a couple of years and allow them to sink into the wine.  18/20 (Drink 2025 – 2035)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (AUD120)

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

14.5% alc.

17 months in French oak (40% new)

When you take the Shiraz out of the picture, the wine lines up on the palate and becomes much more linear and controlled.  This is a very rewarding wine with plum and cassis notes and a lovely, savoury, mint and herb-spiked finish.  I like the balance of ripe fruit and freshness, and while it lacks super-fine detail, it is effortless to enjoy, and it has an unmistakable Aussie shape but with Napa purity and brightness.  Interestingly, Quantum was made in 2019, but it will have a delayed release when it has another year or two under its belt.  18/20 (Drink 2025 – 2038)

2019 Penfolds, Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine of the World (AUD225)

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

14.5% alc.

89.1% Napa Valley, 10.9% South Australia

17 months in French (80% new) and American oak (20% new)

I rather baulk at the prices of many of these wines because I know of so many other bottles that provide equal joy for half of the money, but this is not the point.  Penfolds is pushing the boundary, and this is not only in Australia but, as you will have read, in France and Australia.  I take my hat off to them.  These wines sell out fast because they are glossy, super-alluring, smooth, creamy and luxurious, and the cool edge, courtesy of Coonawarra, lifts the whole and makes it into something unique.  Is this style of wine going to take off?  I have no idea what the future holds, but I am delighted that Penfolds has taken the initiative and made wine of this quality to show that it can be done if you have a dream.   18.5/20 (Drink 2025 – 2040)

FIN