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Tuesday 3 July 2018

Penfolds to make Californian wines and a Champagne

Australia’s flagship wine brand Penfolds is bringing its winemaking techniques to California to produce commercial Napa Valley wines from Californian grapes harvested during the next vintage.

Penfolds winemakers Andrew Baldwin and Stephanie Dutton (below) will start production of the wines during the 2018 Californian vintage, which traditionally runs from August to November.

The South Australian winery, which produces world-renowned Grange, is part of the Treasury Wine Estate (TWE) group. The group also includes brands such as Wolf Blass, Wynns and Lindemans.

TWE owns several wineries in California, some of which are being retrofitted to allow for Penfolds specific winemaking techniques such as heading-down boards.

Other techniques Penfolds will likely bring to California is reduced time on skins and an increased focus on barrel fermentation.

The premium Californian offerings are expected to be a cabernet sauvignon and syrah/shiraz and will be released globally - but not until at least late 2020.

Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago said the wine would pay respect to the Californian terroir but be made in the “Penfolds house style”.

“We’ll have the Californian sun above and soil beneath but everything in between will be Penfolds – the AP John barrels, open fermenters, perhaps, and all of the techniques that have worked here (in South Australia) to craft and create Californian styles,” he said.

“Being global isn’t just selling wine in 100-plus countries, being global is working there, doing things offshore and broadening that base.”

The move into California has been more than two decades in the making for Penfolds. The winery took shiraz cuttings from its Magill Estate in Adelaide and Kalimna vineyards in the Barossa Valley and planted them in Camatta Hills, California, in the mid-1990s.

The grapes were then used by Penfolds to make experimental wines from 2006-2008 but the wines were never commercially released.

Baldwin, who has been on the Penfolds winemaking team for 34 years, has travelled to California five times in the past two years in preparation for this year's vintage.

Penfolds has also announced a new Special Bottlings range.

The first release is Lot 1990, a pot distilled 28-year-old single-batch brandy, which is available from today at the cellar door and through selected global retail outlets. It is the first brandy Penfolds has released since the 1970s and will retail for $425.

In September, Penfolds will release a spirited wine – a premium fortified Barossa Shiraz infused with 6% Baijiu, a grain spirit made from sorghum.

Baijiu is a clear spirit that is the most widely consumed hard liquor in the world and is an important part of Chinese culture.

The third Special Bottlings release will be a Champagne, which is expected to be released in 2019 and will build on Penfolds credentials as a multi-country sourced brand, the press release says.

All a little strange, in my view, but Penfolds has clearly embraced globalisation. 

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