Ned Goodwin MW and Langton’s Head of Domestic Buying Ramon Gunasekara discuss the newly released Icons, including Grange and St. Henri, from the Penfolds Collection 2020.
Deep crimson. Classic blackberry dark cherry praline aromas with roasted chestnut, espresso herb garden notes. Supple and compact with deep set blackberry, dark cherry dark chocolate hazelnut paneforte flavours, fine plentiful dense graphite slightly al dente/ chewy tannins and roasted chestnut espresso oak notes. Finishes chocolaty firm and minerally long. The archetypal Penfolds Style with superb fruit power and complexity, generosity and structure. It will slowly unpack over the next ten years and more.
98 points (2020)
A deep vivid crimson, verging on opaque. Glossy, to be sure, with the telltale carapace of vanillin American oak saturated with dark fruit allusions from bing cherry and satsuma plum. Yet the wine is lifted and floral, brimming with violet scents giving a sense of lightness despite the sheer heft and power. Asian five spice, lacquer and Hoisin sauce, too, with the oak reverberating across the back end as mocha, bitter chocolate and coffee grind. A riff on nori-umami warms the mid-drift. The meld of fruit and structural elements, seamless. The finish, long. Very. As always, this will make exceptional old bones.
97 points (July 2020)
2016 represents another standout in the fabled lineage of Grange, a season in which unbridled power meets consummate polish, an exemplar of the impeccable balance that defines modern Grange, yet infused with all of the enduring potential that its legacy embodies. The bombastic concentration and deeply characterful personality of Grange is something to behold, set apart from the outset by its potent and impenetrable black robe, intense even by Penfolds standards. The depth of fruit showcased here is profound, with spicy, glossy black fruits of all kinds rightfully holding prime position. Dark chocolate and coffee American oak is as confident as ever, yet holds its place impeccably at every moment, always just behind the fruit. All the complexity that we expect of Grange is bundled into its folds in coal dust, black olives and crushed ants – though these, too, sit eloquently under the surface. Exquisite tannins of fine-grained, mouth-consuming presence are never assertive, promising longevity of true Grange proportions. A monumental and worthy benchmark of South Australian shiraz.
98 points (July 2020)
Very deep, concentrated red/purple hue, the aromas coconutty at first, with traces of graphite and espresso coffee. The bouquet is a mixture of ironstone and graphite mineral nuances allied with charred oak and richly-concentrated almond and chocolate shiraz fruit. There are concentrated fruitcake, dried-fruit and bitter dark chocolate flavours that are very intense and hugely concentrated. Formidable density and persistence, with a touch of elegance - within the Grange paradigm. It's big and powerful but relatively light on its feet for a Grange. It needs several years before broaching. A superb Grange. (Includes 3% cabernet sauvignon)
97 points, The Real Review (July 2020)
A blend of 97% shiraz and 3% cabernet sauvignon from Barossa, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Magill Estate. This is a very intense Grange with such rich black-fruit, tar and coal-smoke aromas together with iodine and black-olive notes and an array of wild dark herbs. Almost impenetrable dark plums and licorice, as well as bacon fat. The palate has such seamless delivery of intense blackberry and plum flavors with some redder tones emerging, too. The power here is countered by such freshness and an almost elegant feel. This has such impressive, vibrant, long and seamless fruit power. Really is exceptionally complete, but tight, needs time to open. Very enjoyable now, but better after 2023.
98 points, JamesSuckling.com (July 2020)
The 2016 Grange includes 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and was sourced from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Clare Valley, with a little bit from Magill Estate, in the suburbs of Adelaide. Aged in 100% new American oak (as always), it offers up trademark lifted aromas plus scents of vanilla, toasted coconut, cedar, raspberries and blackberries. Impressively concentrated and full-bodied, with an extraordinarily long, velvety finish, it's nevertheless reasonably fresh and tight, with decades of cellaring potential if properly stored. Certainly at least on a par with such vintages as 2010 and 2012, the big question is whether it will ultimately reach triple digits.
99 points, Wine Advocate (July 2020)
Oh my; Oh my. Here is a Grange that is almost ready to drink now - but it will also be ready to drink in another 50 years, at which point I will be looking down, or more like up with envy. It is made true to style with 100% new American oak maturation for 18 months. Such an engaging aroma to delve into with smoked meats, roasted beets, and licorice. A little coffee grinds but less of the mocha than is usual. The palate is a deep concentrated colossus. Yet there is energy here and it emerges to take the wine to a very long finish. Perhaps some of the younger drinkers can bring their tasting notes up to me and the big guy outside the Pearly Gates in another 50 years.
96 points, The West Australian (July 2020)
So much going on in the glass; it’s a tempestuous opera with a big cast. On the nose, there’s high lift from a big, generous swirl of fruity aromas that carry a hint of fermented fig among the blackberry, dark plum and aniseed. Investigate further on the palate and there’s a lot going on within its dense hedge of dark berries and secondary flavours of mocha and liquorice. Ultimately, it’s the heavy black notes that win out and persist, but there is so much to ponder, even after the event has concluded. A Grange worth mulling over.
98 points, David Sly, Decanter (July 2020)
After the blunderbuss which was the 2015 vintage, we have finally arrived at another (there are a good few) slice of sheer perfection. This is such a controlled wine by comparison to its 2015 pal and over a few days and multiple tastes I made recurring flavour notes regarding the remarkable Special Bin 111A while writing about this wine. I hadn’t considered, of course, that this wine might share very similar parts, but it does! What I love about how 2016 Grange deploys its flavours is that it does it with so much grace and control for such a commanding wine. The tannins are dry and masterful, but not astringent in any way and this allows this wine to stand to attention on the palate. 2016 is an awesome vintage for Penfolds and I believe that this label is its greatest wine made in this year – as it should be. This vintage shows more intent and dynamism than I saw in the 2010 vintage, which is another of my favourites and also another of my 20/20 wines, and so there is no doubt in my mind that this vintage deserves a perfect score, too.
20+ points (July 2020)
Classic Grange. Absolute classic. Aflame with fruit, tempered by oak, no bumps whatsoever but ample grind to the tannin. Grange has remained true to this style since the start of the 1950s and so every release now tends to evoke a previous one; this release has 1996 written all over it. Those long unmistakable chains of tannin melted so effortlessly into the wine; fruit that has ridden straight over the oak as if it was barely there; a finish that stares next week in the eye. It’s a brilliant release in anyone’s language.
98 points, The Wine Front (August 2020)
Very, very dark, concentrated, blackish purple. Almost more of a decongestant than a wine. Goes straight up the nose rather than offering a complex array of different aromas. Very sweet, round and gently textured initially so that only after a while do you become aware of the massive tannins underneath – really massive! But clearly a great deal of work has been done on smoothing the tannins. Concentrated but not exaggerated. Sweet and smooth with a hint of camphor. Salt and spice, and drier than some Granges at this early stage. But such a baby!!! Though if you were really in a hurry, you could decant this into a young-wine decanter and leave it overnight. It is too strong to harm.
18.5++ points, JancisRobinson.com (June 2020)
100 points, Ken Gargett, World of Fine Wine (2020)
South Australia is the driest state on the world’s driest continent. Covering almost 1 million (984 377km) square kilomteres, it represents 12.8% of the Australian land mass. Sweeping plains are intersected by a spine of relatively low lying ranges, the Mount Lofty/Flinders Ranges which extend through the heart of the State. Over 50% of the state is elevated at under 150 metres. The Great Artesian basin covers almost one-third of the State. The major river is the River Murray which lethargically makes its way into the Southern Ocean. This water mass has a moderating effect on climate, particularly in the southern regions of South Australia where most vines are planted.
Summers are generally hot and dry with relatively mild nights. Winters are cool. Rainfall occurs mostly during late autumn/winter (May, June, July, August). Drought and salinity are major concerns.
The principle wine regions in South Australia are; the Adelaide Hills, Barossa (comprising the Barossa and Eden Valleys), Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Coonawarra and the Riverland. Vineyard expansion has also extended to Wrattonbully, Mount Benson, Bordertown, Robe, Southern Fleurieu and the Flinders Ranges.
It is a tradition for many wine companies to make multi-district blends from South Australian fruit – the idea of house style taking precedence over regional definition. Penfolds pioneered this concept. The vagaries of vintage variation can be evened out by fruit selection, ensuring quality at a high level. However there is debate that this concept comes at the expense of the ‘soul’ of the wine. Penfolds Grange is probably the most famous multi-district blend and is an excellent counter-argument.Andrew Caillard MW, Langton's
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.