Penfolds California Collection debuts world blends

The new Penfolds California Collection includes two wines that are blends of Napa Valley grapes with high quality South Australian fruit.

The Penfolds California Collection 2021 consists of the 2018 Quantum Bin 98 Cabernet Sauvignon ($950), the 2018 Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon ($220), the 2018 Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon ($120) and the 2018 Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz ($90).

The two flagship wines consist predominantly of Napa Valley cabernet that has been supplemented with a significant addition of shiraz (Quantum) and cabernet (Bin 149) from South Australia.

Penfolds Chief Winemaker Peter Gago said that while other winemakers have previously released world blends at the commercial level, these American-Australian blends are unprecedented in the arena of luxury wine.

“When Yattarna [Chardonnay] started, if we reflect back to the 1995, it was just Willunga and the Adelaide Hills,” he told journalists at a pre-release tasting.

“Now, we’re blending across four states and no-one has any issue.

“With this project we’re jumping an ocean… we’re going with two wines which are blends of Australia and California of the highest level.

“When you see these two top wines, you’ll see a completely different Wine of the World concept arise.”

Penfolds’ California venture started in 1998-99 when a selection of Magill Estate and Kalimna Heritage Selection vines were planted in Californian soil, at Block 30 of the newly purchased Camatta Hills Estate, Paso Robles.

Penfolds California Collection 2021
Penfolds California Collection 2021

Gago said Penfolds made Camatta Hills wines from the 2006 and 2007 vintages that were never commercially released.

“It was deemed at the time to be inappropriate,” he said.

That changed with the 2014 appointment of a new CEO, Mike Clarke, who was more in favour of diversification and spreading risk; strategies that have come into their own

“That’s what all this is about. It’s future proofing, it’s climate proofing,” Gago said.

Spreading risk post-China

‘Spreading risk’ is a strategy that has come into its own in recent times, with the new Chinese tariffs on Australian wine decimating the China market for TWE.

The company announced in November 2020 that the Chinese allocation for the Penfolds Bin and Icon range – which represent 25 per cent of TWE’s annual global Penfolds volumes – would be re-allocated to other growth markets where there was unsatisfied demand, including other Asian markets, the US, and Europe.

On the California Collection, Penfolds said it has sourced grapes over the last three years from some of the best Californian vineyards to supplemented its holdings in Pasa Robles.

“Winemakers spent time meticulously selecting fruit from Californian vineyards including Napa Valley AVAs: Oakville, Diamond Mountain District, Howell Mountain and Rutherford,” the winery said.

Penfolds is also investigating winemaking opportunities in Bordeaux, while it is soon expected to announce the next phase of its Champagne venture; a Penfolds NV Rose Champagne priced under $100.

Penfolds California Collection is available from Thursday 4th March 2021 at www.penfolds.com, Penfolds Cellar Doors (Magill Estate Winery and Barossa Valley Cellar Door) and select fine wine stores globally.

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Author: James Atkinson

Journalist specialising in the food, drink, travel and hospitality arenas. Australian International Beer Awards 2017 Media Award Winner and Certified Cicerone®.

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