Wine News 

Penley Estate's Helios 2015 Shows Coonawarra Can Challenge Bordeaux

July 24, 2018

Penley Estate, a 30-year-old vineyard in South Australia's Coonawarra region, has rebranded  its range over the past couple of years to coincide with the arrival of winemaker Kate Goodman, and a London tasting today showed it's fully capable of challenging similarly-priced Bordeaux.   

Kate Goodman, Penley Estate Winemaker. Photo: Guy Collins 

Goodman was taken on in 2016 to challenge established practices in the region, and said in an interview she took the position because of that freedom. ``The directive I was given was push boundaries, experiment, try new things,'' she said.

The vineyard, owned by the Tolley and planted in 1988, consists of vines ranging between 25 and 30 years in age, covering 110 hectares (272 acres) of land and producing around 35,000 12-bottle cases, or 420,000 bottles a year. 

She said that since her arrival in 2016, she has bought a small wine press and smaller fermentation vessels, and is using less oak, maturing the Pheonix brand wines in 2,000 liter casks and the Griffin and Helios wines in smaller, more Bordeaux-style 225 liter or 300 liter barrels.

``I'm picking much earlier,'' she said. ``I want the wines to have energy, vitality and life. My brief was to reinvent.''

Penley Estate Helios 2015. Photo: Guy Collins

The Penley Estate Helios, a 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 40 percent new oak and produced in limited quantities, retails in the U.K. for 41.70 pounds ($55) a bottle, comparable to a Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux but with a New World twist. 

Its cheaper Bordeaux-blend Penley Estate Gryphon, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, retails for 13.30 pounds a bottle and compares favorably with any Bordeaux avaialable at that level. 

Goodman was in London promoting the wines prior to flying on to Poland, a new market for the company but one which shows the export potential of a brand with international credentials.

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