Aussie Wine Juggernaut Penfolds Releases First Vintage Champagne

There was a fantastic tweet some months ago poking fun at that snarky puristic ego which possesses the best of us when we feel superior in knowledge. “It’s actually only “Frankenstein” if it’s created in the Frankenstein region of France.”, it said.

“Otherwise, it’s a sparkling monster.”


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This is a very clever dig at the sort of person who would get it, lampooning folk who are quick to note that Frankenstein is, in fact, the name of the doctor in Mary Shelley’s 1823 opus, rather than the monster he creates; a commonly misheld view. It’s the same pedantic crowd that insists on referring to anything yellow and bubbly grown outside of a relatively small yet fertile patch of soil in the middle of Europe as Sparkling Wine.

Thanks to the international winemaking community’s strict adherence to France’s–and other nations’–appellation of origin rules, “champagne” must come from Champagne in north-eastern France. Though Australia produces some of the finest champa–sorry–sparkling wines–in the world, we’re not allowed to say that word, or fang it on the label, lest we get in trouble by the powers that be, or be told off by a stickler for inconvenient facts–Frankenstein n’est pas le monstre.

But what if we could have an Australian champagne? What if a wine, despite its Gallic origins, was so intrinsically Australian it deserved the monikers of both “Australian” and “champagne”? To celebrate their 175th Anniversary, Australian winemakers of repute Penfolds have gone ahead and done just that.

Produced in partnership with French maison Thiénot, the iconic antipodean company is releasing three vintage expressions, all from 2012, proving that just because a wine isn’t grown or made in Australia, doesn’t mean it can’t be classified as a top Aussie drop.

The wines: a Chardonnay Pinot Noir Cuvée, a Blanc de Blancs (Avize Grand Cru), and a Blanc de Noirs (Aÿ Grand Cru) represent the combined efforts of Penfolds Chief Winemaker Peter Gago and Thiénot Chef de Cave Nicolas Uriel, who worked together to craft a wine that reflected the house style of Penfolds. Liqueur d’expédition housed in Yattarna barriques from Australia added greater symbolism and connection.

“This is Step One of an inviting and compelling journey”, says Gago. “Some time back, we announced our intent to make a Champagne. We are now revealing a partnership with our friends at Thiénot – one which would not have been imaginable a decade or two ago. To now actually work alongside a Champagne House and ultimately craft Champagnes proudly, which co-bears the globally recognised red stamp of Penfolds, is both wonderful and the first collaboration of its kind for an Australian winery.”

Speaking of the liquid itself, he added: ““Whilst the singularly expressive and acutely defined siblings, 2012 Blanc de Blancs and 2012 Blanc de Noirs, play their role in this trio’s inaugural release, this first release – the 2012 Chardonnay Pinot Noir Cuvée (available June 2019) – synergistically creates its own stage, commanding its own space. What is so obvious from the first sip and sniff – time will be kind to this wine. A revelational journey awaits.”

Revelational indeed. Though this brave new product may draw the ire of many a purist, Penfolds has gone and done something incredibly Australian in slapping their unmissable red script over a bottle of French bubbles, and in doing so, we hope, has indeed created a monster.

The first of the Champagne releases, 2012 Champagne Thiénot x Penfolds Chardonnay Pinot Noir Cuvée will be available from June 2019. RRP AUD$280 for a 750ml bottle. Limited large formats (1.5L and 3L) are available in select countries around the world. Visit penfolds.com for stockist information. The 2012 Champagne Thiénot x Penfolds Blanc de Blancs (Avize Grand Cru) and 2012 Champagne Thiénot x Penfolds Blanc de Noirs (Aÿ Grand Cru) will be released in 2020.


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