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Wednesday 1 October 2014

So is the new Penfolds Grange as good as you've heard?

Sometimes I love my job. 

Once a year the Penfolds team invites wine writers and critics from around Australia and New Zealand to sample its new-release premium wines – including the iconic Grange.

It is invariably a swish affair. meticulously organised and attended by the great and good of wine writing (somehow I managed to snag an invite). 

So there we all were last week, sitting in reverent silence at a very swish Melbourne function space, tasting wines that most people would dream of having access to. It was an exercise in extreme indulgence - and a privilege.  

This year, for reasons I will explain, there were two Grange releases; the 2009 earlier this year and the much-vaunted 2010 – which will hit the stores on October 16.

And to help us tune our palates there were three Granges for us to taste on this occasion, the 2008, 2009 and 2010. 

The Grange is the undoubted star of the new Penfolds Collection, which is the umbrella name for the Bin Series, previously released each March, and the Luxury Collection, which used to be released each May. 

The date change, says Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago, frees up winemakers during what was a clash between vintage and the previous release dates, means the wines are more readily available to be shipped in cooler weather and will be available to consumers in the run-up to key festive periods including Christmas. And winemakers will not be diverted away from making wine to host launches around the world. 

“It is a better calendar from both a winemaking point of view and for commercial reasons, so we are delighted,” Gago says.

Leading the release is the 60th release of Grange, along with eight red wines from the stellar 2012 vintage – noted for its concentrated flavours – which is very welcome after some key wines were not released from the disappointing 2011 South Australian vintage.

Gago describes the new Grange, with his customary hyperbole, as “a kaleidoscopic sensorial unfolding” from a year “in which absolutely nothing went wrong”.

And it is undoubtedly a star: 

Penfolds 2010 Grange $785

If you've ever been tempted to splash out on a bottle of Grange as a present for someone special, or wanted to get a few mates together in a syndicate then you won't go wrong with the stunning 2010 – a wine that is quite simply spectacular, even in its youth. It is intense but marvellously balanced with a stylish dark flavour profile with blue and black fruits to the fore, beautifully integrated American oak and that superb track record for cellaring. A blend of 96 per cent shiraz and 4 per cent cabernet from five different regions in South Australia. I scored it 99/100. or maybe 99.5 on a good day.

But there are plenty of other shining light among the Bin releases – including a stunning new Yattarna Chardonnay from 2012. 

Many underline the mastery of Gago and his team in blending components from many different regions and multiple vineyards; and not all are expensive; the 2014 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling ($30) is perfumed and has lime juice and lemon curd notes, while the Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz ($40) is a big, brooding beast, meaty, oaky and chocolatey.

The 2012 Yattarna, a blend of Tasmanian, Henty and Adelaide Hills fruit, is certainly a thing of beauty; immaculately composed with great length and depth and pristine cool-climate fruit, as you'd expect for $150.
Also check out the 2010 Bin 389 Shiraz Cabernet ($95), one that shows immense promise but needs decanting and cellaring for a decade or more. 

Other red highlights include a juicy, blackberry fruity but complex 2012 Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz ($80), a dark, intense 2012 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon ($80) and the chic and elegant 30th vintage of Magill Estate, which is a single vineyard wine made from just 5.2 hectares of shiraz vines and is eminently cellar worthy ($150). “If only we could make more!” says Gago. 

A very special collection, then, although there was one wine that disappointed me; the Penfolds 2011 St Henri Shiraz ($80), a rather thin and weedy wine that was a reflection of its very difficult vintage. 

Concentrate on the 10s and 12s and you won't go wrong. 

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