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Penfolds launches Californian wines

Nimmi Malhotra 17 February 2021
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Australia’s iconic wine brand, Penfolds, releases four new wines crafted using premium grapes sourced from vineyards in California and Australia.

Penfolds California Range

Treasury Wine Estate’s (TWE) flagship wine label, Penfolds, known for the iconic Grange, unveiled four new wines made in California. The wines hail from 2018 vintage and are available for sale next month.

Quantum Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 –  a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz – leads the lineup, followed by  Bin149 Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Bin704 Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and  Bin600 Cabernet Shiraz 2018. Prices range from US$50 to US$700 (Singapore market prices to be released in March).

Peter Gago, Penfolds’s chief winemaker, walked us through his latest project via a zoom masterclass. Travel restrictions meant we clinked our glasses virtually in Singapore while Gago was stationed at the headquarters in South Australia.

Penfolds California Project has been in the making since the 1980s. Over the last 30 years parent firm, TWE amassed significant vineyard holdings in Napa, California thereby gaining access to more established and mature cabernet vineyards and the ability to pick a choice of premium grapes for their first vintage.

Senior winemaker Stephanie Dutton and winemaker Andrew Baldwin were sent a few years ago to their sunny Paso Robles vineyards in California to craft wines from California while staying true to the Penfolds house style. As Gago puts it, “We have the Californian sun above, Californian soil below but everything between is Penfolds.”

Interestingly, the two flagship wines, Quantum and Bin149 used 13-15% of top-grade South Australian grapes in their blend. It wasn’t a planned move but rather serendipitous. Gago is first to admit they are courting a little controversy with this transpacific grape blend. “I don’t think it has been done before. It is quite new, quite provocative and it will be controversial…but no more controversial than when we created the first Grange in 1951.”

The Epicure team was one of the first to taste the wines in early February. Key critics across the world have rated wines in high 90’s with Quantum 2018 picking up a perfect 100 points by Meridith May of Somm Journal. Bin 149 scored 98 points from Andrew Caillard and Bin 704 picking 95 points from James Suckling.

As the wines evolved in the glass, we asked about drinking windows. Peter was hesitant to put down a number as it is unknown territory, and later, conservatively and yet, very confidently, estimated over 20 plus year for the Bin 149 alone and Quantum – that’s going to be a keeper.

Penfolds’ California Collection will be available from Thursday, 4 March 2021 on  KrisShop and ishopChangi.

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