Penfolds serves a dose of audacity and innovation in its 2022 Collection

Nimmi Malhotra

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For the first time, the iconic Australian label launches two French wines from Bordeaux, in addition to the full spectrum of 16 Australian wines and the second vintage of the California collection.

2022 will be remembered as the year the Penfolds Collection turned international.

Last year, we witnessed the birth of the California collection – the brand’s first steps out of its turf in Australia – with the launch of four American wines bearing the Penfolds name.

penfolds collection 2022 French Australia California Peter Gago, Penfolds serves a dose of audacity and innovation in its 2022 Collection

This year, Penfolds went to France – specifically to the king of terroirs, Bordeaux – and boldly produced French wines under the iconic red and white label.

The 2022 Penfolds Collection revealed the first vintage of their French Collection, the second vintage of their California collection, and 16 from the quintessential Australian range, including flagships Grange 2018 and Yattarna 2020.

Peter Gago, the chief winemaker at Penfolds, was in town to showcase a large selection of 21 wines portfolio which ranged from three countries and five vintages (2018 to 2021).

penfolds collection 2022 French Australia California Peter Gago, Penfolds serves a dose of audacity and innovation in its 2022 CollectionThe French range

In France, Penfolds partnered with wine producer and negociant, Dourthe, to create Penfolds II Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2019. The name refers to the coming together of Penfolds and Dourthe’s chief winemakers, Peter Gago and Frédéric Bonnaffous, who were equally excited to work with each other.

The share of cabernet and merlot fruit comes from Bordeaux. In true maverick boundary-breaking fashion, the shiraz – which is not a traditional grape of the modern Bordeaux blends – comes from Barossa.

The Penfolds fandom will remember a similar injection of Australian juice in the inaugural California collection in 2021 when the Californian Penfolds Bin 149 featured 14.9 percent cabernet sauvignon from Australia. Also, it was labelled under the new moniker, Wines of the World, coined by Penfolds, as it couldn’t adhere to some of the AVA rules.

Continuing the trend, Penfolds II boldly circumvents the French AOC conventions of Bordeaux-only grapes and produces yet another ‘Wine of the  World’. As the French laws prevented such a bottling in France, Penfolds II was blended and bottled in South Australia. The steep price of AU$500 (S$485) reflects this logistical effort.

The second wine, FWT 585 from the 2019 vintage, refers to the Penfolds French Winemaking Trial.

Gago says, “Many great Penfolds wines were born from experimentation and trial: RWT 798 (Red Winemaking Trial) Barossa Valley Shiraz, Yattarna Bin 144 (144 winemaking trials) 1951 (experimental) Grange – and now FWT 585. The wines made in France pay respect to French terroir, yet one thing remains overly consistent – the Penfolds stamp. Just like our California wines, we have the French sun above and soil beneath, but everything in between is Penfolds!”

Penfolds’ senior winemaker Emma Wood (who has since left) was charged with this blend at the parent company, Treasury Wine’s latest acquisition in Bordeaux, Cambon la Pelouse winery. It will be released in August. (Interestingly though, the French Collection does not get BIN numbers.)

Of the two, we favoured the FWT585 with spice and dark fruit on the palate and an earthy herbal signature.

penfolds collection 2022 French Australia California Peter Gago, Penfolds serves a dose of audacity and innovation in its 2022 Collection

The Californians

The California range is notably missing Quantum Bin 98 this year. Gago shared the wine needs further bottle maturation. Leading the Collection is the lovely 2019 Bin 149, which sports a minor contribution of Barossa cabernet sauvignon this year at 10.9 per cent and is matured in French and American casks. The 2019 Bin 704 and 2019 Bin 600 are both made with Californian fruit: the former a cabernet sauvignon varietal and the latter a blend of cabernet shiraz.

penfolds collection 2022 French Australia California Peter Gago, Penfolds serves a dose of audacity and innovation in its 2022 Collection

The Australians

The Australian portfolio constitutes 15 wines, led by Grange 2018 at AU$1000, a significant price point for the Aussie market. From the whites, Yattarna 2020 Chardonnay is mighty impressive. The wine balances the crisp, delicious acid and citrus fruit with finesse. The creamy texture points to high-quality French oak, and the underlying flint note adds dimension. At just 12.5 percent alcohol, Yattarna is the indisputable star of the Collection.

Other notables include St Henri Shiraz 2019 and Bin 389. The former shows complex dark fruit and concentration. The tannins are evolved and remind you of cocoa goodness. The latter, the Bin 389, is savoury and delicious with resolved tannins and a silky texture.

The lone pinot noir of the stable, the Bin 23 sourced its fruit entirely from Tasmania this year (no Henty or Adelaide Hills fruit made the cut), but wasn’t available to taste.

In the 2021 Collection,  we noticed an increasing share of Tasmania fruit in both Yattarna, Bin 23 and Bin 311 and pondered if we might see a single vineyard Tasmanian chardonnay in the future. While it wasn’t listed in the 2022 collection, Gago has dropped some hints in our previous conversations about “a special BIN for white.” Perhaps we can look out for it in Collection 2023?

With news of Penfolds developing a Chinese wine out of Ningxia, we can only expect this portfolio to turn another shade of global in the coming years.

Penfolds wines are available for sale from 4 Aug. Visit www.penfolds.com.au for more information.

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