The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2017

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50  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2017 L.A. SIPS I t sounds trite, but it's true: Penfolds literally has something for everyone. Their "Bins" encompass wines ranging from $30 (the deeply-textured Bin 128 Coonawarra and the lighter, candied Bin 28 Kalimna are two dramatically different Shiraz styles) to the collectable $850 Grange, the wine that elevated South Australia into the realm of French Bordeaux. During a stopover in Los Angeles on his whirlwind global tour to promote the newest Penfolds Collection, Chief Winemaker Peter Gago paused long enough to meet me at the Avec Nous restaurant in the Viceroy L'Ermitage Beverly Hills. There, we sat down for an in-depth tasting and exclusive Tasting Panel interview: Richard Carleton Hacker: Overall, how do this year's vintages compare with the previous one? Peter Gago: You always have to be wary of winemakers who rave about the current vintage, saying it's the best of the century and all that. But I can honestly say the '15, across the board, is significantly stronger than the '14. But in this current collection we do have one 2014, and that is the St. Henri. Plus, we have one 2013—the Grange— so we get a mix of all those vintages. You once told me you call that "stag- gering the vintages." Yes. Our 2015 Yattarna Chardonnay ($130) is the same vintage as the Bin 311 Chardonnay ($40), but we keep Yattarna in the bottle for an extra year of aging. The 2014 St. Henri Shiraz ($99) is bottled for four years and 2015 Bin 707 Cabernet ($500) is bottled for three years. The cur- rent 2013 Grange has been aged in new American oak hogsheads for five years. That way, you get a lovely staggering of releases, although the 2015 vintages remain our core wines. I realize all of these are top-of-the- line favorites for you, but what are a few standouts? They very rarely change: Bin 389 ($69), because the quality is always there, year after year. It's been given the nickname of Baby Grange for a reason. Then, some years I hesitate between St. Henri, 707, and for that matter, Grange. This year 707 is giving Grange a bit of a run for its money. But I still think Grange will beat it at the finishing line—by a whisker. Grange is, of course, your flagship wine. But recently you've been making headlines with the announcement of Penfolds g3, an unprecedented, one- time blend of Penfolds 2008 Grange with the current 2013 Grange and the 2014 Grange, which technically won't be out until next year. With only 1,200 individually-numbered bottles of g3—24 of which have been allocated to the U.S. and priced at $2,300 each—do you think g3 will take some of the spotlight away from Grange? No, but it's interesting you ask. It's analogous with what we do with special Bin wines. For example, we did a 1962 Kalimna Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet Bin 60A and a special Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz in 1966. These are sparks that arise every now and then in a year when we've already selected the wines for Grange, Bin 707, and St. Henri, yet we've still got wines with that "wow" factor—something different and of extremely high quality. Those special Bins didn't compromise Grange, nor do I think g3 will, because in effect g3 is all Grange DNA; it's just not a single-vintage Grange. Grange and g3 aside, I notice you have a new bottle design for your other wines with an embossed Penfolds crest and "1844," the year Penfolds began. Is anything else new? Yes, we've given RWT a Bin number for the first time—789, which are the numbers you get when you punch R-W-T on your phone. Plus, in two more years we'll be celebrating our 175th anniversary, so of course we'll be planning something special. The Newest Pourings from Penfolds AN INTERVIEW WITH PETER GAGO story and photo by Richard Carleton Hacker Penfolds Chief Winemaker Peter Gago (left) and Tasting Panel Contributing Editor Richard Carleton Hacker (right) toast with the 2013 Grange during their tasting of the launch of Penfolds' new wines for this year.

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