Penfolds to bring its ‘Luxury & Icon’ wines, including Grange, to La Place
Penfolds has announced it will bring all of its iconic ‘Luxury & Icon’ wines to La Place de Bordeaux from January in a surprising but logical and well-timed move.
We knew – or at least some of us did – that there was going to be a big announcement of a new release on La Place de Bordeaux before the end of the calendar year. The tension has been palpable, with the Chinese whispers surrounding the nature of the release becoming almost deafening.
But even so, Penfolds’ announcement today comes as something of a surprise – even if its logic and timing is impeccable. It makes perfect sense and, with hindsight, it seems perfectly predictable. But it wasn’t predicted and the fact that it wasn’t shows how well kept this secret was.
Indeed, there is something of a personal irony for me here too. For in October I concluded my review of Penfolds’ 2023 collection, with the following thought: “one wonders – somewhat mischievously, perhaps – whether, and if so when, Bin 169 might become one of a portfolio of Penfolds releases on La Place. Time will tell”.
We did not have to wait for long.
The details of the new release are, as ever, important. As a press release today makes clear, from January 2024, La Place de Bordeaux will become the official distributor partner for its ‘Luxury & Icon’ wines throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
The company goes on to explain, in its 180th year, Penfolds’ strategy is to leverage the Bordeaux négociants’ extensive networks in each region, helping to further strengthen its reputation and unlock the significant further potential the brand sees within the luxury segment of the category for prestige Australian wines.
The six-strong Luxury & Icon range – which includes Penfolds flagship wines, Grange, Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay, Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bin 789 RWT Shiraz, Bin 169 Cabernet Sauvignon and St Henri Shiraz – will be released on La Place on 30 January 2024.
Daevid Warren, sales director for Penfolds EMEA, said that while distribution gains the company had made to date with its trade partners across the EMEA region had been “exceptional” and were testament “not only to the quality of our wines, but also to their hard work and belief in Penfolds”, there remained “great potential for Penfolds in EMEA yet to be unlocked” in some of the most significant fine wine markets in the world.
“As Penfolds enters its 180th year, we are looking to take the brand to the next level by establishing new routes to market, as well as delivering exceptional marketing programmes to drive greater awareness of Penfolds as a global luxury icon of the wine world,” he said.
“We’re therefore delighted to be reinforcing our first-class team of distributors in the region for our Luxury & Icons range with a selected group of 11 negociants, partnering with Excellence Vin, the leading historical expert for the introduction of the iconic wines of the world on La Place de Bordeaux.”
Speaking for courtier Excellence Vin, who will represent Penfolds, its president Jeremy Quievre called it “an important step for Penfolds and for La Place”.
“By deciding to entrust the distribution of its iconic labels to the Place de Bordeaux for part of the world, Penfolds relies on the know-how and efficiency of the Bordeaux Open Market model, thus allowing connoisseurs and lovers of fine wines to gain access to its iconic cuvées,” he said.
“It is an important step for Penfolds and for La Place and we are grateful for their trust and the professionalism that has been brought to this project since the first day of our collaboration.”
As followers of La Place will know, Penfolds’ Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon has been distributed by a select group of Bordeaux négociants since the 2018 vintage. The initial allocation sold out within the first few months after release in September 2021.
Penfolds became a separate business entity within the Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) business in 2021, with dedicated Penfolds teams in regions around the world across various functions, including sales, finance and marketing. Penfolds EMEA is headquartered in Twickenham in the UK and has team members across Europe and the Middle East.
Penfolds will be present at Vinexpo Paris in February 2024 as it commences its 180th anniversary celebrations across the world.
After a difficult set of September releases and in market conditions that remain as difficult as they have been for perhaps a decade, Penfolds decision to bring its Luxury & Icon portfolio to La Place is a major vote of confidence in its distributional efficacy.
It is also very logical. And it is crucial to recall that, with Bin 169 having come to La Place in 2021, it is also confirmation of the success of an experiment conducted over the past two hors Bordeaux campaigns. Penfolds are not taking any risk here in that their decision is based on the success of already having brought Bin 169 to La Place.
But that decision is also a timely shot in the arm for those of Bordeaux’s leading négociants who have specialised in the hors Bordeaux market – above all, and most directly, the 11 négociants entrusted to selling the Luxury & Icon portfolio throughout the EMEA region. It will help them access new markets and, above all, to acquire yet greater capillarity in established markets.
And that, in turn, will help them sell other parts of their offering (hors Bordeaux and Bordeaux alike). It is difficult not to see in this decision evidence of the continued gravitation of global iconic brands towards La Place. In goods time, as in bad, La Place is demonstrating its comparative advantage as a global distribution system.
Two questions, however, remain. Will Penfolds now seek to bring its non-Australian premium releases to La Place (above all Quantum Bin 98, Penfolds II and the fruits of its French and Chinese Wine Trial projects)? And who will be next to follow Penfolds’ lead in bringing a major global brand to La Place?
I suspect we will not have to wait long to find out.
Tasting notes for the January releases
All tasted in Paris in October 2023.
Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay 2021 (100% Chardonnay, sourced as follows: Tasmania, 81%; Tumbarumba, 10%; and Adelaide Hills, 9%; pH 3.1; aged for 9 months in French oak barrels, 70% of which were new; 13% alcohol). The name ‘Yattarna’, Peter Gago tells me, means essentially ‘little by little’. It’s come a long way and this, alongside the 2018, is the finest vintage to date. It is also perhaps the finest southern hemisphere Chardonnay that I have ever tasted. Very beautiful. Very stylish. Very sleek but fabulously rich at the same time – and with all the tension that implies. Green-hued. Very youthful and nascent but with such great potential. Wet stone minerality. Very lifted and aerial, pure, intense and sensuous. Yuzu. Saffron. Candlewax. Lime zest. Pink grapefruit. Oyster shell. Lime cordial. Almond. This is spot-light bright and window-shatteringly crisp. Laser-like in both its intensity and its freshness. Redcurrant leaf. Poised and coiled, tense and energetic. Super-pure. Rich but with no impression of richness so direct, linear and focussed is it. I love it. So much potential and the precision and clarity as the 2018 shows will only be enhanced by bottle-aging. The prospect is salivating. 98 (RRP: £147).
RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz 2021 (100% Barossa Valley Shiraz; aged for 14 months in French oak, 80% of which is new; pH 3.69; 14.5% alcohol). Hyper-pure and more open and expressive aromatically than the 2020 was this time last year. Fluid. Crystalline – impressively so. So well-delineated in and through the mid-palate and nicely layered too; a serious and accomplished wine. Pure, precise, engaging and dynamic. Chiselled and shapely. Sapid on the finish and with a lovely touch of saline liquorice to herald the finale. Cloves. Green peppercorns. The oak use and incorporation is impeccable. 96+ (RRP: £141).
Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon; sourced from Coonawarra, Barossa Valley and Wrattonbully; pH 3.65; aged for 16 months in new American oak hogsheads; 14.5% alcohol). An incredibly pure, precise and focussed wine, charged with bright, crisp, crunchy fresh berry fruit and fifty shades of Cabernet cassis. Tensile tannins, with grain but exquisite finesse. This is vivid, vibrant, energetic and dynamic in its clarity and luminosity. A tidal wave of fresh berries. The fruit is tightly coiled and strapped to the well-defined, chiselled backbone. It glides over the palate, glistening as it does so and releasing little eddies and undercurrents of fresh fruit and juicy sapidity. The oak is almost imperceptible and this is remarkably accessible already. Great indeed. 98 (RRP: £475)
Grange 2019 (97% Shiraz and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon; sourced from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and Clare Valley; pH: 3.62; aged for 19 months in new American oak hogsheads; 14.5% alcohol). More classical than the 2018 and a tad more austere – but I rather like that. Glorious. Cordite. Incense. Embers. A hint of truffle. Mulberry and mulberry compote, a little blueberry, bramble and Kalamata tapenade. A gamey note; venison Bresaola perhaps. Gorgeous. Radiant and glistening in its mid-palate limpidity and luminosity. Chocolate. Hoisin. Chinese five spice. Szechuan peppercorns, freshly crushed. This has great clarity, precision and focus. There’s beautiful integrity and harmony here too. The early integration of the fruit in this is so important for that sense of holism here – everything here is as one. Seamless, with plunge pool coolness in the mid-palate. Salinity and sapidity combine on the sensuous finish. The tannins are incredibly fine-grained. Wondrous with so much composure and refinement. 98+ (RRP: £670).
* Bin 169 Cabernet Sauvignon and St Henri Shiraz – not yet tasted.