Who says you can not blend fine wines from two continents? Aussie winemakers have always cast aside unwritten stuffy traditions in wine. Penfolds have combined the outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley with Australian Shiraz to create an international blend called Penfolds with a wine designation they call “Wine of the World.” The latest project is called the Penfolds California Wine Collection: four California-based wines from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles, with prices ranging from $50 to $700.
“This is not us marching into California to show people how to make wine,” Penfolds Winemaker Peter Gago told Wine Spectator. “It’s made with respect.”
According to their AVA, fine California wines tend to be strictly produced—not to mention consumed and collected—but the Penfolds philosophy does not work this way. It’s a radical approach to blending wine, but cross-regional blending is a perfectly normal way of doing things in Australia. Particularly for Penfolds.
Founded in 1844, Penfolds is a historical treasure in Australia. Penfolds Grange holds almost mythical wine status in the country. Considered one of the world’s great wines, Grange has always been a blend of Shiraz sites. It is highly collectible worldwide and is one of the world’s top wines: The 2015 vintage is currently available for $900 for wine connoisseurs with deep pockets.
It’s not the first time Penfolds has crossed continental borders, nor is it the first wine behemoth to do so. The remarkable history of this expansion, as well as Penfolds’ new-world willingness to buck the rules and go its own way, is what makes the Penfolds California Collection stand out.
Do you feel skeptical about a premium blended wine? In France, multi-country varieties are far from premium wines. Peter Gago pointed out to Wine Spectator Magazine when Penfolds launched Penfolds Grange in 1951, it was deemed radical at the time and was not critically acclaimed until 1962. Gago laughs, “I’m hoping it takes 11 days for these.”
Penfolds California Wine Collection
Much like the Penfolds range, The California Collection wines are defined by bin numbers and work up the quality ladder. All of the new releases are from the 2018 vintage:
- Bin 600 Cabernet-Shiraz ($50)
- Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon ($70)
- Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon ($149)
- Quantum Bin 98 Cabernet Sauvignon ($700 a bottle)
What is unusual is the Quantum Bin 98. The Bin 149 carries the moniker “Wine of the World” on the label, as the Quantum includes Australian Shiraz, and the Bin 149 has some Australian Cabernet blended in. This a designation created by Penfolds and is unique in the world of wine. The “wine of the world” is contained in the bin with the label that reads, “Australia,” and includes a blended Australian Cabernet.
According to Wine Spectator, Gago says the Aussie wine blend developed naturally. He tasted the Australian benchmark wines with his team, bringing California wines along for comparison. They added a bit of Australian wine and the overall blend became better.
The experiments started in the late 1980s when Penfolds planted cuttings of grapes from revered sites in South Australia, including Kalimna and Magill Properties, grown in California soil. Now that Penfolds is part of the Treasury Wine Estates portfolio, the winemaking team also has links to prime grapes in Napa and Sonoma, operated by sister wineries such as Beringer Sterling.
Peter Gago explained to The Drinks Business the specific vinification and vitrification approach in California:
“We use a Burgundian approach in California – we went in quietly and started making wines from small blocks in premium sites, whether it be Rutherford or Oakville. Our goal is to communicate Penfold’s signature style from premium raw materials. For decades, we’ve been known for multi-regional Australian wine styles. So producing a wine that spanned two continents was the logical next step in our brand’s history.”
The South Australian Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings thrive under the Californian sun. Cabernet Sauvignon is a key grape variety in fine wines from California, particularly in Napa Valley and Northern California.
Photo by Julian Myles on Unsplash
Also published on Newsbreak.