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Thursday 20 July 2023

Unravelling the mysteries of Penfolds Grange

So you are splashing out a tidy $1000 on the new release of Australia's most collectible wine, the 2019 vintage Penfolds Grange.

You are buying it to enjoy on a special occasion and will be cellaring it properly until that time.

But when should that time be? Next year? In 10 years' time? 20 years? 30 years?

To help with this conundrum, a pre-release media tasting in Melbourne ahead of next month's release of the 69th consecutive release of Grange, a group of leading wine writers (I somehow snuck in) was presented with the chance to taste the 2019 alongside three "sleeper" vintages: 1989, 1999 and 2009.

These wines did not enjoy universal acclaim on their release but offer some clues as to the best time to enjoy a Grange.

The '89, for me, was teetering on the brink and just a little rasined. If you have any in your cellar I'd advise drinking now. 

The '99 and 09 were, however, both superb.

The 2009 has lovely ripe fruit, retains bright colours and is a stunning drink in its optimal drinking window, while the 1999 offers a panoply of complex flavours and is absolutely at its peak right now at 24 years of age.     

The 2019 impressed, too, earning 98 points from me, but it clearly, as is the case with nearly all Grange releases, needs some time to show its full potential. Right now it is beautifully black and composed and is a lovely drink in its youth with both blue/ black fruit and seamless complexity. A harmonious wine for one so young and well worth buying if your budget permits. 

It is 97% shiraz, 3% cabernet blend with fruit from the Barossa, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and the Clare Valley that spent 19 months in new American oak hogsheads  

"Reassuringly, an overtly worthy new 2019 example befitting the Grange lineage,” said chief winemaker Peter Gago (below).

 The new Grange will be released as part of the ever-growing 2023 Penfolds Collection that spans grape varieties, vineyards, countries and vintages.

Gago says the new releases "embrace the freedom to explore the best viticultural regions across Australia, and now the world, with a distinctive and time-honoured approach to winemaking.

“The Penfolds winemaking team relishes the opportunity to work across two hemispheres and numerous time-zones - with like-minded people and unique winemaking cultures - redefining what ‘pushing the boundaries’ now means.”

Among the Penfolds Collection 2023 highlights are a stunning Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 from an outstanding Limestone Coast vintage, and the inaugural release of Bin 21 Barossa Valley Grenache 2022.

The Australian wines sit among releases from China (currently only available in that market), as well as from Bordeaux; led by the flagship, 2019 Quantum blend and a single-vineyard wine, Penfolds Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 from the famous Gamble Ranch Vineyard.

Here are my top six buys from the new Australian releases: 

Penfolds Bin 707 2021 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon: A dark, rich and complex wine that will reward a minimum 2-3 years of cellaring and opens up impressively in the glass. 97 points. $800.

Penfolds 2021 RWT Bin 789 Barossa Shiraz: Impressive aromas lead on to a palate with power and elegance. A superb drink.  97 points. $200. 

Penfolds Bin 407 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon: This one is an absolute stunner that blends fruit from six different regions of South Australia. Brambly nose, velvety fruit, appealing intensity and extremely varietal. 97 points. $120.

Penfolds Bin 128 2021 Coonawarra Shiraz: A thrilling example of cooler climate shiraz. Dark fruits, Asian spice notes and immediately accessible. The bargain buy of the collection. 97 points.  $65.

Penfolds Bin 21 2022 Grenache: Juicy, brambly fruit and with immediate drinking appeal. A different wine to the house style but delicious and a great choice for a gourmet barbecue. 96 points. $60.

Penfolds Bin 311 2022 Chardonnay: A blend from three states, on the day this edged out even the Yattarna - almost triple the price - with its impressive line and length. Delightful balance between citrus and stone fruit and astutely judged oak. Brilliant. 97 points. $60. 

The wines of the Penfolds Collection 2023 are globally available from Thursday, August 3. 

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