Penfolds new $1500 'Special Bin 111A 2016' is a once-in-a-decade red

Wine lovers have been waiting over 10 years for the latest release of Penfolds rarest red, which is arguably even better than the legendary Grange.

The wine brand popped the cork on its latest Special Bin range, the 111A from the 2016 vintage, at a gala dinner to celebrate the storied wine brand's 175th birthday. "We have no problems saying the Special Bin can be at a higher level than Grange," says Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago.

The Special Bin wines are the top shelf when it comes to Australian wine, and have a price tag to match – the 111A is available from specialty wine stores for $1500 a bottle.

"The last time we had a special bin was 11 years ago – the 2008 Bin 620 that we launched at the Waldorf Astoria in Shanghai – but we thought this time we would launch at Magill Estate," says Gago. "Robert Parker's Wine Advocate has already given it 100 points!"

Gago says they would ideally produce one every year, "but the stars have to align."

"Wineries often have a show wine that will get a high score, but we don't play that game," he says. "We've got to tick the boxes (of Penfolds' flagship releases) – Grange, 707, RWT, St Henri – but then if there's material that's altogether different, at that level or better still … we can then create a Special Bin."

Vine time

The 111A is is a luxuriously rich shiraz blended from two South Australian vineyards, the Botanic Vineyard in Clare Valley and the Gersch Vineyard in Barossa. "I put these two blends together and something altogether different revealed itself … where did that come from? You didn't have to go to Harvard Business School or Roseworthy Agricultural College to make this happen."

In 2020, the Gersch Vineyard will commemorate 100 consecutive year supplying grapes to Penfolds and has been included in four of the last 10 Grange blends. "We're talking about the Crown Jewels here."

Future drops

The gala dinner, which featured Magill Estate's restaurant turned into a slinky jazz bar and fireworks exploding over the vineyard, is the latest in a host of 175th birthday celebrations taking the Aussie wine to the world.

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After the successful launch of a Penfolds Champagne in May, Penfolds' highly anticipated Californian wines made in the Napa Valley are expected to drop in 2021.

It's a continuation of the brand's "house style", championed by the iconic Grange."I can't talk about the 2016 Grange yet, which is released in August next year, but we're incredibly pleased with it," says Gago.