The Bin 311 Chardonnay is a multi-regional blend—all cool areas—and over time, the style has evolved from staunchly no new oak, to now a proportion of new oak (in 2021, 38%). The 2021 Bin 311 Chardonnay is toasty and creamy—a confluence of crushed cashew, pink grapefruit, yellow peach, red apple skins and apricot kernel. This is balanced and complete, a wine resplendent with polished phenolics, bright fruit and texture that starts from the very first and lingers through the long finish. Excellent.
Drink 2022 - 2032
Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate (Jul 2022)
Smells really quite leesy. Very pale. This from the vintage with the fires in Adelaide Hills but there is not a smidgeon of smoke taint in this crystalline wine that's so pure and lean it almost smells like a Riesling! Once you get past the lees… Light and fresh and very much in the current idiom of crisper Australian Chardonnays. Tight and contained with a hint of lime. I'd be inclined to wait until next year before enjoying this.
Jancis Robinson MW, jancisrobinson.com (Jun 2022)
Very attractive, fresh white peaches and yellow citrus fruit, coupled with assertive but well-married oak influence adding grilled-hazelnut and spicy elements. The palate holds an intense core of fresh peach fruit and a gently creamy build into the long, well-composed finish. Drink or hold. Screw cap.
James Suckling, jamessuckling.com (Jun 2022)
Bright, pale colour, fresh and creamy nose, yeast lees, lemony touches. The palate is very restrained and delicate, refined, subtle; it seems to lack a bit of stuffing at this stage but will certainly build with time. Good, but it seems to fade a bit towards the back. (Adelaide Hills & Tasmania)
Huon Hooke, The Real Review (Jun 2022)
About this WINE
Penfolds enjoys an iconic status that few New World producers have achieved. Established in 1844 at the Magill Estate near Adelaide, it laid the foundation for fine wine production in Australia.
The winemaking team is led by the masterful Peter Gago; it has the herculean task of blending the best wines from a multitude of different plots, vineyards and regions to create a consistent and outstanding range of wines. Its flagship wine, Grange, is firmly established as one of the finest red wines in the world.
Under Gago’s stewardship, the Penfolds range has evolved over time. Winemaking has moved away from New World heat and the sort of larger-than-life style that can mask individuality; the contemporary wines instead favour fine balance and typicity for the region or grape.
Australia has come to represent the most 'successful' New World producer to date, the benchmark by which competitor winemaking nations have come to judge themselves. However it’s been achieved not without significant cost to an industry that has been forced to consolidate in ever-decreasing circles, in order to keep the wheels from falling off the Brand Australia juggernaut. In 2003-2004, 20 businesses accounted for 86 percent of all production. The prize has been a 24 percent share of the UK market (as well as a rapidly-improving one in the USA), ironically a position it held 'before the Wars' as a supplier of fortified 'Empire wine'.
Commercial viticulture was established during the early part of the 19th century, with South Australia the last to plant in the 1840s before quickly establishing itself as the major source of fortified wine. A post-WWII move towards consumption of still dry table wine, encouraged by the steady stream of immigrants, was accelerated by the introduction of German pressured fermentation vats, stainless-steel and refrigeration units during the 1970s, enabling winemakers to ferment to dryness. At the same time, French barrels made their debut, adding complexity and a premium allure, while fruit from new, cooler areas such as Coonawarra and Padthaway permitted lighter styles to be made.
These seismic improvements were not lost on the UK market, itself in near revolution during the early 1980s as Thatcher's government bounced the economy back to life. With Neighbours dominating the airwaves, supermarkets were given carte blanche to spread far and wide, immediately creating a demand for a new style of wine, namely a ‘brand’, with consumers only too willing to move from Bulgarian table wine to an Aussie fruit bomb – especially one with an Emu on the label.
The Australians grasped the opportunity, only too willing to supply the right product at the right price, supported by aggressive pricing and discounts. On the supply side, the structure of their industry allowed them to cross-border blend and so maximise production. Corporate consolidation further improved their effectiveness to compete on volume yet has not hitherto allowed them to grow sales value.
Only the ramifications of a current chronic seven-year drought, with saline levels at unprecedentedly high levels and the evaporation of the Murray Darling River (South Australia's only real source of irrigation since viticulture began) to a virtual trickle has prompted the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (AWBC) to finally enforce water quotas. Yet even when an oversupply still exists, key Australian brands are now being obliged to import wine from the likes of Chile to meet demand; 40 percent of wineries are running at a loss, largely as a result of over-capitalisation.
Meanwhile there's a significant minority of winegrowers making regionally expressive, terroir wines of real distinction clamouring to make themselves heard; unfortunately it is the corporates that control how the marketing budget is spent, the ‘big five’ comprising Fosters Wine Estates (Wolf Blass, Penfolds, Rosemount Estate, Lindemans), Hardys Wine Co. (Banrock Station, Leasingham), Orlando Wines (Jacob's Creek), Australian Vintage Ltd (McGuigan Wines, Tempus Two, Miranda), and Casella (Yellow Tail). Maybe global warming will have the final say.
Though blending away regional differences has essentially been key to Australia's brands competing, there is a range of regional styles that’s clearly defined and demanding recognition, notably Barossa Valley Shiraz, Eden Valley Riesling, McLaren Vale Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Wrattonbully Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley Riesling, Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, Hunter Valley Semillon, and Margaret River and Great Southern Cabernet Sauvignon.
Climatically the continent could be divided into two: a tropical weather pattern affecting New South Wales and the north, while the southern half of the country – covering the key viticultural states of Western and Southern Australia, Victoria and Tasmania – enjoys a less extreme band of warm to hot weather oscillating between 25 and 35 Celsius. Yet without the cool oceans enjoyed by California or the mountain ranges of Italy, the climate does not benefit from significant diurnal shifts in temperature, between day and night. There are, however, notable cooler spots such as Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills, Macedon Ranges, Yarra Valley and Tasmania. Relatively high humidity (around 55 percent) seems to be a prerequisite for successful photosynthesis in these climes.
Of the 167,000 ha producing 14.3hl of wine in 2005, the state of South Australia accounts for 43 percent of the vineyard area (ie Riverland, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale); New South Wales, 24 percent (Riverina, Murray Darling, Hunter Valley); Victoria, 23 percent (Heathcote, Swan Hill, Yarra Valley); and Western Australia just 8 percent (Margaret River, Great Southern).
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.