When Penfolds unveiled its 2018 Collection last month it was, understandably, the $900 Penfolds Bin 95 2014 Grange that attracted the most attention. And a very fine wine it is, too, as you’d expect from the high-profile red which is now regarded as global icon.
But it was the hugely impressive 2015 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz that stole the show for me. At $135 a bottle, you can buy six of these to a single Grange, which is often bought as an investment but seldom yields massive dividends.
So if you're buying to enjoy rather than invest, here are six to sample.
Penfolds St Henri 2015 Shiraz
The St Henri 2015 is a shiraz you can enjoy immediately, although it is also proven to cellar well. This is the serious-but-fun wine in the new-release line-up, a fruit-driven style that calls on grapes sourced from all over South Australia. A blend of 93% shiraz, 7% cabernet sauvignon which spends 12 months in older oak vats, many of them over 50 years of age, the St Henri 2015 is super smooth and complex with subtle damp undergrowth characters that are in harmony with rich berry favours. $135
Penfolds Bin 389 2016 Cabernet Shiraz
Australia's two classic red wine grapes are blended in almost equal proportions to produce this very impressive blend which has a meaty complexity. Bin 389 is sometimes called' Baby Grange' because the wine is matured in the same barrels used for the previous vintage of Grange. Fruit is sourced from five regions of South Australia and matured for 12 months in American oak hogsheads (37% new). One for the cellar. $100.
Penfolds Bin 311 2017 Chardonnay
Yes, Penfolds also make white wines, including three high-end chardonnays. This is a very classy fusion of fruit from the Adelaide Hills, Tasmania and Tumbarumba, three of the coolest wine producing regions in Australia. This has spent eight months in French oak (25% new) but retains its taut, tight fresh acid. Stone fruit and citrus flavours are to the fore here, along with chilled cucumber notes and this is drinking beautifully right now. $50.
Penfolds Bin 150 2016 Marananga Shiraz
Big, rich and voluptuous, this is one for those who enjoy traditional big Barossa reds. Inky and enticing, you’ll find luscious black and red fruit here, along with layers of flavours and textures. American and French oak is integrated and the wine has plenty of tannin 'bite'. I’d put his away for a decade or so, but if you are tempted it begs to be paired with a hearty steak. $100.
Penfolds Bin 51 2018 Eden Valley Riesling
A classic dry Australian riesling from the high-altitude Eden Valley, this unoaked wine offers freshness with lemon, lime and grapefruit flavours to the fore, along with brisk flinty minerality and vibrant acid that gives it great length. Brilliant in its youth, particularly with freshly shucked oysters, or can be cellared for 15 years. $40.
Penfolds Bin 407 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago describes this as “very cabernet, very 2016, very complete”. In truth, it is a very big cabernet, using fruit from five different regions, that is forward in style but has enough class to complement the ripe fruit. Think dark tannins and couple of bottles now, a couple for the cellar. $100.
Of course, you can't go past the $900 Penfolds Bin 95 2014 Grange. My tasting notes highlighted its texture, length, balance, structure and cohesion. It is, even in its youth, a complete package with traditional ripe fruit and intensity.
For the first time, fruit from Wrattonbully is included in the regional blend; alongside the Barossa, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Clare Valley and Magill Estate (in the suburbs of Adelaide). The figures are 98% shiraz, 2% cabernet.
The wine spent 20 months in new American oak hogsheads, but the fruit has soaked up the oak, reflecting crisp acid more than smoky wood. Aromas of charcuterie, Asian spice and herbs lead the way to run to some beautifully layered fruits, described by chief winemaker Peter Gago as "a tapestry" - and every mouthful is long and expressive.