Penfolds Collection Release 2020

Penfolds Release 2020 Collection


Each year, the Penfolds collection is released to a selection of media from across the country. It’s usually in Melbourne, sometimes at Magill. It is an eagerly anticipated day on most people’s card for a number of reasons: the wines, the chance to discuss and compare thoughts, and the opportunity to catch up face to face, as so much of the year is spent discussing thoughts via phone or email.  This year, thanks to COVID, that was not possible, so Penfolds sent a collection of the wines to each person instead.  Whilst this technique did not allow for the usual sharing of drinks, thoughts and time, it did afford a unique opportunity to look at the wines over a couple of days and in a variety of contexts, which is ordinarily not possible.

This worked absolutely in the favour of a number of wines, Grange included, as it provided me with the chance to look at it in a number of contexts.

  • In the Penfolds Collection context – it shed light on the 389 and created a very clear pinnacle of flavour, quality and intensity.
  • In a Great Australian Shiraz context – it occurred to me that the wine was very very good, but how good? I lined it up with some of its peers to pinpoint the expression of each wine and see them alongside each other.  An invaluable experience.
  • Over a number of days. Because Grange is so often consumed as an older wine, it was fascinating to see it opening up within the context of its youth.
  • John Jens and I collated a selection of vintages of the Yattarnas and Reserve Bin A’s. We shot a video of that tasting, and an accompanying article will be released alongside, imminently.

So there you have it.  An incredibly strong release in general, and COVID didn’t ruin it after all.



2019 Bin 311

Chardonnay: Tasmania, Adelaide Hills, Tumbarumba

Golden straw in the glass, lightly toasted cashew, grilled pineapple, yellow peach skin and hints of Greek yoghurt.  The palate is glossy and polished, the acidity is almost hard/lean here.  The fruit is slippery and mouth-watering, the structure is firm.  Very good length of flavour.  A very definite Penfolds DNA folded into the makeup of this wine.  Perhaps the greatest Bin 311 to be produced so far – there is a flinty, matchsticky sort of vibe that takes this into a new space.

RRP $50

Drinking window: 2020-2030



2018 Bin 28

Kalimna Shiraz: Fruit sourced from 9 regions in South Australia

12 months in seasoned American oak.

Dense purple and black fruits on the nose – the oak choice gives this a polish and body that makes it instantly recognisable as both Penfolds and South Australia.  You can almost smell the hot breeze wafting over sundrenched fields of grass here.  Condensed mulberry and raspberry flirt with liquorice root and resin.  This is deep dark dense and concentrated, almost svelte.  Very good length of flavour.  The fruit has a sweet edge to it, the palate morphs from front to back and through the length.  This is high class.  Savoury and gamey too.  It’s a style.

I spoke with Peter Gago about these wines, and the discussion we had around the Bin 28 was incredibly illuminating.  Essentially, the fruit sourcing for this wine is one of the broadest spread of regions so far.  Of the 2018 vintage Peter said, ‘it was defined by uniformity, north to south.’  He also mentioned ‘intentional classification’ of each of the regions, with emphasis on them each bringing something specific to the final blend.

RRP $50

Drinking window: 2020-2035


2018 Bin 389

57% cabernet sauvignon, 43% shiraz: McLaren, Barossa, Padthaway, Coonawarra, Robe Wrattonbully

American oak 38% new (12mo?)

The blend pulls this into an almost restrained space – there isn’t a louder voice between the cabernet and the shiraz on the nose, both varietals humming their own, yet harmonious, tunes.  Upon opening, the oak stands apart, not yet invited to partake, its role coming further down the track… the fruit on the nose is red and black – both mulberry, strawberry and blueberry.  Black spice and texture that is both slippery and fine.  After it is given a chance to breathe, the oak plays a more supporting role to the fruit… elevating the impression overall. Remaining unchanged and unwavering, the length of flavour is prodigious, the structure forming the space in which the fruit is flourishing.  This has a structural integrity, coupled with a glistening fruit profile, ensuring this will have a long future ahead of it.  Very long.

RRP$ 100

Drinking window: 2022-2045


2017 St Henri

97% shiraz, 3% cabernet sauvignon: Barossa, McLaren, Eden Valley, Port Lincoln

12 month in 50+yo vats

Savoury and spiced – this leads with chalky and exotic spice on the front of the nose, moving into undulating fruit beyond.  Red liquorice, succulence and elegance on the palate… this is refined, elegant, classy and resplendent with effortless red berry expression.  The acidity is balanced and perfectly couched within the fruit.  A beauty.  Satsuma plum, freshly crushed cocoa and ripe blueberries.  Time will tell how this will age against the backdrop of a cooler, finer expression of shiraz, but it is gloriously elegant and svelte now.  Yes yes and yes. 

A cooler year in 2017, which produced a beautifully classic St Henri.  ‘Mesh’ and ‘texture’ are two words that came up and resonated in the discussion with Peter Gago, with reference to this wine.  

RRP $135

Drinking window: 2020-2050


2016 Grange

97% shiraz, 3% cabernet sauvignon: Barossa, McLaren, Clare and Magill Estate.

18 months in American oak 100% new

The power on the palate here is something to behold.  It is expansive and richly textured with a fete of flavour and layers.  The oak lends an almost sweet hand to the fruit, which in contrast doesn’t assert itself like I expected that it would. Prodigious length of flavour.  The palate rejects any suggestion of ‘lightness’ and ‘featherweight’, this thunders along like a tropical storm front.  The flavours occupy the eye of that storm, in a space of relative zen and calm.  It is silky and succulent, and it could be nothing other than Grange.  Black pepper, liquorice, clove bud, nutmeg.  This is svelte and complex, inundating my palate with intense fruit and spice.  The oak still retains a coconut calypso sort of character to it, but it’s more toned down and integrated into the plush fruit.  Mulberry, raspberry, blueberry… lashings of spice and luscious texture.  A very classy, very high-quality shiraz.  One of the greats.

Two great and defining quotes to mention in relation to this vintage of Grange:

Peter Gago: “There are no hard edges in this wine, yet you come out all bruised, such is the power of the 2016.”

Ken Gargett: “If you’re not giving this Grange 100 points you’re stingy.  I don’t know what more you could possibly want!”

RRP: $950

Drinking window: 2022-2050+