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Penfolds, one of Australia’s most celebrated wineries, raised eyebrows earlier this year with the launch of its premium California Collection, which includes blends of red wines made in Napa Valley and South Australia labelled as Wines of the World. The winery has long worked with grapes from multiple vineyards, regions and states in Australia to create its flagship Grange and other reds and whites each vintage.
Penfolds’ new releases were made in 2018. Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon and Bin 98 Quantum see Napa Valley cabernet blended with a small amount of top-quality Australian shiraz (Quantum) and cabernet (Bin 149). The other wines are a 100-per-cent Napa Valley cabernet and a blend of Napa cabernet with syrah grapes grown in Paso Robles at a vineyard Penfolds planted in 1998. (Penfolds used vines from its Magill and Kalimna vineyards in the Barossa to plant a portion of the Southern California site.)
Products that blend wines made in different countries are usually looking to be cost effective. In the case of so-called Cellared in Canada wines, bulk wine is purchased from South Africa, Spain or other parts of the world with surplus inventory and blended with domestic products. It’s a way for big brands to sell inexpensive bottles or bag-in-the-box wines that are competitively priced. Suggested retail pricing for the new Penfolds wines in Canada ranges from $80 for the California blend to $900 for Quantum.
“People say, you’ve got to be joking,” Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago says. “But for us, I think it’s almost, I’ll use this expression deliberately, a natural progression of what we do. It’s offering diversity, it’s offering choice. Wonderful thing. And if it sits on the shelf, gathering dust, guess what? It didn’t work.”
Penfolds has produced wine outside of Australia before. It launched Penfolds Champagne, a partnership with Champagne Thiénot, in 2019 and plans to produce wine in Bordeaux with Château Cambon la Pelouse in Margaux.
While uncommon, other vintners have taken a global approach to produce expensive and age-worthy wines. Based in the Napa Valley, Jean-Charles Boisset blends wines from his native Burgundy and California to produce Chardonnays and pinot noirs for his JCB label. The Boisset family controls 28 wineries in France and California. Jean-Charles tends toward a 50/50 approach for his Franco-American wines, seeking the two different styles to complement each other.
Penfolds’ new releases are currently available at liquor stores in British Columbia and Alberta. They are slated for released in Ontario and Quebec in the fall. Private order purchases can be arranged by contacting email@example.com.