Although highly sought Australian producer Penfolds has been involved in the Californian wine industry since the 1990s, when they famously bought their way into the US market with Geyser Peak Winery, the premium label has never done something like this before. That is, prepare the release of a bonafide Penfolds California Collection, delivering in March with new wines that blend high quality Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley with Australian Shiraz.
Penfolds’ chief winemaker, Peter Gago, and his team have overseen this series of international blends, which consist of four reds from the 2018 vintage. It comes after years of Penfolds having access to a growing number of the Napa’s most acclaimed vineyards, with inklings of a Californian collaboration floating around since the mid-2000s.
It seems better late than never for the acclaimed Australian wine label, who have dabbled in international collaborations before – most recently in 2019, when they released a joint venture with Champagne House Thienot, the same year that their parent company Treasury Wine Estates reportedly purchased a chateau in Bordeaux with apparent plans to eventually release Penfolds-branded wines made over there.
Some may see this as a response to Penfolds being hit hard by China’s excessively harsh hit on the Australian wine industry’s lucrative export market. Although as Australian Financial Review has reported, plans for this Penfolds California Collection have been in place for a long time.
According to senior winemaker Stephanie Dutton, the goal of this new California Collection is to offer wines that balance Penfolds’ house style with the distinctive characteristics of the Californian terrior from which they came.
The flagship of the collection is a $950 2018 Penfolds Quantum Bin 98, described as a “true wine of the world” with 87% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oakville / Diamond Mountain district of Napa Valley, blended with 13% South Australian Shiraz. It has been described as very layered and intense, with Australian Financial Review noting coffee, roasted meats, cigar and blackberry through the body. The wine spent 16 months in new American oak hogsheads and new French oak barriques.
The least expensive wine in the Penfolds California Collection include a 2018 Penfolds Bin 704, priced at $120, which is essentially just a Californian wine seeing as it’s 100% a Cabernet expression, made to mirror the Penfolds Bin 407 – so expect a lot of blackcurrant and great length.
Then you’ve got the $220 2018 Penfolds Bin 149, reportedly blended with just under 15% South Australian cabernet.