Penfolds Reserve Bin A Chardonnay has become a distinctive wine with a particular identity. The Adelaide Hills fruit is hand picked and whole bunch pressed, imbuing the wine with a sense of place. The style is characterised by an elevated mouth feel, achieved by fermenting on solids, and is fast becoming a default selection for many premium Chardonnay lovers.
Bin 15, bottle no. AF 308. Over the past 10 years this wine has (I suspect) won more gold medals than any other Australian chardonnay (Yattarna isn't entered in shows). Apart from maturation in French oak at 10 degrees C or less, the magic lies in the fruit and ultimately barrel selection, and I can see no reason why this thrilling wine won't add to its medal collection. It has a diamond-like intensity and purity to the fruit flavours, natural acidity and new French oak observers from the wings.
ADELAIDE HILLSLocated to the east of Adelaide,the Adelaide Hills is part of the Mount Lofty Ranges. Considered a cool-climate region, most vineyards are situated at elevations between 450 to 550 metres. Rainfall is relatively high and spring frosts often pose problems. Hot northerly winds also make bush fires a real threat in the region. Adelaide Hills is a jigsaw of meso-climates, with the best vineyards centred around Piccadilly Valley and Lenswood in protected sites facing north or north-east. Soils are derived from schistic and sedimentary rock; typically well-drained sandy loams over red clay interspersed with schistic gravels. A premium wine-growing region, Adelaide Hills is best known for crisp, lively Sauvignon Blanc and elegant cool climates styles of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.
Penfolds is probably the most extraordinary of the world’s wine brands with an enviable reputation for quality at every price level. The original Penfold was an English doctor who, in 1844, planted grapes at Magill, now a suburb of Adelaide. However, it was not until the late 1940s that Penfolds began to forge a reputation for red wine.
The Penfolds house style emerged from a fortified wine producing culture and evolved as a winemaking philosophy which has had a profound effect on the entire Australian wine industry. Many of the techniques initially adopted to make Penfolds Grange would become part of the wider Penfolds winemaking culture. The number of techniques employed in the research and development of Penfolds wines is astonishing. Max Schubert and his team pioneered: major advances in yeast technology and paper chromatography; the understanding and use of pH in controlling bacterial spoilage; the use of headed down/submerged cap fermentation and the technique of rack and return; cold fermentation practices; the use of American oak as a maturation vessel and perhaps most critically, partial barrel fermentation. Nowadays, the use of American oak and barrel fermentation for instance is considered traditional Barossa winemaking practice!
Today, Penfolds house style embraces the concept of multi-regional blending, optimum fruit quality, the use of fine-grained American or French oak, barrel fermentation and maturation. Overall, the Penfolds style is about highly-defined fruit aromas, fruit sweetness, ripe tannins, richness, power and concentration. The number of iconic wines that have emerged from the Penfolds stable over the years is remarkable. Bin 389 a Cabernet Shiraz blend released in 1960 is now considered the quintessential Australian wine blend. Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz and Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz released in 1962 pre-empted the contemporary enthusiasm for regional definition by about 25 years. Improved vineyard management, site selection and winemaking brought about subsequent releases of Bin 707 and Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Penfolds Wine Making Philosophy is the accumulation of more than half-a-century of knowledge and winemaking practice initiated by Max Schubert and subsequently refined by Don Ditter, John Duval and Peter Gago. Their collective commitment to multi-regional and vineyard blending contributed to a consistency of style and quality that has cemented Penfolds reputation as the foremost producer of premium age-worthy red wines in Australia.