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Ric visits Penley Estate

August 17, 2016

Penley Estate in Coonawarra was set up in 1988 by Kym Tolley after he left Penfolds, having been the chief winemaker for its famous Bin 707 cabernet sauvignon. The name Penley combines the prefix of Penfolds with the suffix of Tolley. I like Penley’s cabernet, first bottled in 1989, which is made with a real feel for the terra rossa terroir of Coonawarra, never overly extracted, thoroughly age-worthy, fleshy with red fruits and dark currants that develops into a complex open wine with age. I first visited its cellar door in 2003 and I have been back several times since. On this occasion, 04 Aug 2016, Penley has arranged a tour of its vineyard and facilities, led by its winemaker Matt Tilby followed by a tasting of its 2014, 2015 and 2016 cabernet sauvignon from barrel and further tasting at the cellar door. Penley ages its cabernet in 100% new French oak, a great choice for elegance and complexity. Kym has retired and the labels now sport a new modern design featuring Greek mythology. I’m not sure whether the new labels are entirely necessary but, most importantly, I felt reassured that the wines I tasted were still excellent, a clear indication that Penley has remained on track. My sincere thanks goes to Matt and his cellar door team for their time and generosity.


2013 Penley Estate Heritage Tolmer Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted at the cellar door. Forward with characters of plums and dark berries, carrying good weight and concentration with fine tannins, though somewhat austere in demeanour.

2013 Penley Estate Steyning Cabernet Sauvignon Classic. The fruit quality here is truly excellent, fresh, exciting and aromatic, very harmonious with well-integrated acidity and good tannin structure.

2013 Penley Estate Chertsey Classic Red Blend #1. A blend roughly of a third each of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot, this wine sports a powerful sweet medicinal and herbal lift, rounded with fine acidity and some complexity but short.


2014 Penley Estate Rosebury Shiraz. Lovely deep nose with a hint of black pepper, spice and mocha, displaying good balance and linearity with great acidity and a creamy finish.

2000 Penley Estate Special Select Shiraz, plucked from its museum collection. Great bouquet of black pepper, licorice and dark plums, medium-bodied, savoury and satiny smooth on the palate, highly supple with subtle acidity leading up to a great complex finish. Quite superb.


1989 Penley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, plucked from its museum collection. Dark at its core with a vermillion rim, the very first vintage of this estate exudes powerful lifted sweet medicinal aromas that were almost port-like. On the palate, the wine is soft and rounded with a plummy tone, relaxed and open with a creamy complexity whilst maintaining a lovely tension from the subtle acidity. Caught at its absolute peak. This is great stuff and what a privilege it was to have had the opportunity to taste this.

2014 Penley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted from barrel. Subtly flavoured with earthy tones. Well-integrated with overtones of ash and incense amid slim and supple tannins, showing good presence, already taking shape very well.


2015 Penley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted from barrel. Lovely floral aromas with characters of violets, blueberries, raspberries and dark currants, displaying excellent concentration of cool ripe fruit, great balance and purity with very subtle use of wood. Already excellent at this stage, and I think this will be outstanding in time to come.

2016 Penley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted from barrel. Even at such an early stage, this year’s cabernet is already so good from barrel, forward with violets and cool ripe fruit, displaying excellent ripeness with some earthy tones, exuding great acidity and freshness. Excellent potential ahead.


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