A Taste of 
The Vinorium

Issue: 44 / Sunday 21 October, 2018


Penfolds 2018 Collection:
Cracks are Appearing

Written by Stuart McCloskey

I purchased my first bottle of Penfolds wine approximately twenty-eight years ago, from the brilliant NoBody Inn, near Exeter. I was eighteen (granted a little young to be collecting Penfolds wines) but there you are! I have been a long admirer of their wines – They’re polished and beautifully crafted however, I fear my childhood wine brand has lost direction, certainly put all their eggs into one basket, which is ultimately going to bite them on their Aussie bottom. 

Before The Vinorium, I was and I suppose I still am, a Bordeaux specialist cutting my teeth with the 2000 En-Primeur vintage and not missing a vintage since. The fine wine market suffered terribly during the global recession of 2009 with many of Bordeaux ‘top’ Châteaux values tumbling hard. During this great recession, Bordeaux listened to the market’s call for sensible En-Primeur pricing (the 2008 vintage) and released to an enthusiastic audience. Lynch Bages @ £375, Pichon Lalande @ £465, Vieux Château Certan @ £455, Pontet Canet @ £540, L’Eglise Clinet @ £850 and Mouton Rothschild @ £1,750 found favour with many buyers. In fact, the 2008 En-Primeur campaign was one of my most successful with one private client spending a healthy one million pounds sterling. 

I keep important release communications which is great for nostalgia of sensible pricing and a place for historical reference. February 28, 2008, I sent an email to my wine investment clients informing them of the news that the Hong Kong government abolished import duties on wine and beer on February 27. This was a huge move as Hong Kong had one of the highest wine duties in the world. From a staggering 80 percent in early 2007, to 40 percent by March 2007 and then to zero. The rationale was simple as the government wanted to position Hong Kong as the world hub of fine- and rare-wine sales.

The following email was sent to my investment clients dated November 2010: Much of the growth can be attributed to Asia's insatiable appetite for the top Bordeaux. Consequently, we are now witnessing weekly new-highs particularly for the much-beloved Château Lafite Rothschild (or any wine from the "Lafite" stable - Duhart Milon, Carruades de Lafite etcetera). As a further endorsement (if we needed one!) was last month's Sotheby's Lafite (Ex-Cellar) auction, which was held in Hong Kong. Interestingly, it was the first time in which an auction house offered wine "En-Primeur" however, as the stock was coming direct from the Château, provenance and supply wasn't going to be an issue.

 The 2009, for example, which we offered last month @ £12,250 IB per case sold for a staggering £43,124. The 2008 sold for £21,562 (our price £9,000). The 100 point 2003 sold for £31,363 (our price £12,000). Other jaw-dropping prices included a whopping £45,085 for the 2000, which was more than double the market value however, this looked relatively cheap compared to £84,289 paid for a case of the demoted 1982

(NB: All auction prices quoted are for cases of 12x75cl, including buyer's premium)

On a slightly sour note, it's important to communicate that these auction prices do not reflect "true" and current market values however, it was inevitable that Lafite's prices would surge on the back of these extraordinary results. Moreover, Lafite declared (a few days prior to the auction) that all bottles and Magnums from the highly rated 2008 vintage will feature the powerful Chinese symbol for the figure eight. The word for "eight" ( Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means "prosper" or "wealth" The number 8 is viewed as such an auspicious number that even being assigned a number with several eights is considered very lucky. Some may say that Lafite has produced an ingenious PR coup however, others may see the Lafite / Asian obsession as rather vulgar. Whichever your view, you cannot argue (particularly if you are an investor) with the immediate impact on the 2008 price. Today, we are seeing cases selling for £14,000+. A £5,000+ rise (per case) in a few weeks is quite frankly extraordinary!

Bordeaux wouldn't be Bordeaux without other Châteaux trying to find the next / new Asian angle. Step up, Château Mouton Rothschild who is expected to commission a Chinese artist for the upper proportion of their 2008 label. However, Mouton has declined to dampen this speculation until later this year or even into January 2011. Nonetheless, It didn't take long for Mouton's 2008 to follow Lafite's path in terms of huge demand and price highs... We were offering the 2008 (15 October 2010) for £4,300. Today, we are completely sold out as prices swiftly rose to and above £6,000 IB per case. In the end, we advised clients to sell everything at £13,500 per case, which is a spectacular return on their original investment of £1,750…

The price went higher and hit £15,000 in June 2011. Today, 2008 Château Lafite Rothschild can be purchased for £7,300.

Château Lafite was adored by the Asian market. The ultimate gift to give and to receive and of course, seen to be consuming however, Asia’s darling fell through the floor like a grand piano. The 2008, which peaked in January 2011 at £15,000 fell to £8,000 (December 2011). The majority of Lafite vintages followed suit.

Bordeaux were praised for their sensibility during the 2008 En-Primeur campaign however, they were vilified, and rightly so, for their 2010 release prices, which were stratospheric and unquestionably arrogant.  China simply said, ‘enough is enough’ and moved away from the market, which ultimately led to the price correction and some very tough years ahead. I remember one negociant (who I have been dealing with for almost twenty years) having to absorb a fifty+-million Euro cancellation from one single buyer in China.

What went wrong? Many things, which would make for a great Master of Wine dissertation however, and in short, Bordeaux could be blamed for their ignorance, their greed, disregarding the traditional market which has supported them for a century and more and ultimately, for commercial suicide – Placing all your eggs in one, volatile basket!

Act II: Penfolds déjà vu…

My childhood brand is, in my opinion, making the exact same, greedy mistake and I for one (and for the record) will put my neck on the line and declare that Penfolds (for clarity – Treasury Wine Estates owns the iconic Australian producer) will sadly receive the same severe bolt of reality dished out to Château Lafite and many other leading Bordeaux Châteaux. China is saturated with Penfolds wines. May 2018, Treasury Wine Estates share price plummeted more than 11% after revealing that Chinese distributors have up to 800,000 cases of cheap Treasury Wines Estates products sitting unsold in warehouses. This is somewhat offset with their 2018 Annual Results - Reported Net Profit After Tax up 34% to $360.3m and Earnings Per Share up 36% to 49.7 cents per share. 

The 2018 Collection was released globally on Thursday 18 October and our allocation of circa £250,000 was rejected. Commercially, this is no longer a viable option unless you are happy to ship the stock off to Hong Kong / China and be happy with an 8-10% gross margin which many brokers are. Moreover, trade customers in Asia no longer desire the iconic Grange (released at £2,070 for six bottles) which is a clear indication Penfolds has hit their ceiling and are treading on thin ice. Grange is often sold-off with little margin and parcelled with large quantities of more desirable wines however, allocations of Bin 707 (released £1,265 for six bottles) and Magill Estate (£468) were negligible.

I am all too familiar with ‘parcelling’ wines together which is an old trick the Bordeaux negociants used a decade back. The majority of merchants cannot abide by this outdated approach, but I am seeing it again with Penfolds. The global theatre which surrounds the annual Penfolds collection release is impressive but when you sit back, strip it back for what exactly it is, weakness of a big company (Treasury Wine Estates) with many brands under its control comes to the fore. This year’s collection was parcelled together with a whole host of undesirable and highly expensive wines. We rejected them and our Penfolds allocation was reduced by half, save Grange which was reduced by 25% which speaks volumes. Our new parcel was offered with the addition of one hundred cases of a well-known and very good wine from Coonawarra. I would happily support the latter wine, but I am too long in the tooth to be played like a new kid on the block who effectively hasn’t spent twenty-years working in the wine trade. 

Sadly, Penfolds has forgotten the majority of their loyal customers in favour of new and exciting opportunities in Asia. Penfolds Lot. 518 Spirited Wine with Baijiu (China's national drink) is a case in point. European allocations have dwindled in favour of increased allocations for the Asian market, which makes complete sense and the vast majority of the UK allocations are immediately shipped to Hong Kong, Singapore and China! Prices are rising year-on-year and are far higher than wines of equal or better quality. The cracks have appeared and the demand has certainly softened…

What happens to Penfolds wines when Asia stops buying to the extent at which they are now? Can this great Australian wine brand cope with a similar fallout which Château Lafite Rothschild and many other Bordeaux greats endured? Furthermore, will traditional markets ever come back…? 


2018 Penfolds Collection
A better proposition


Penfolds Grange 2014 

98 Points, Joe Czerwinski (erobertparker.com)

RRP £589.00

The Standish Shiraz 2016

99 Points, Joe Czerwinski (robertparker.com)



Bin 707
Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

98 Points, Joe Czerwinski (robertparker.com)

RRP £365.00

 Elderton Ashmead Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

95 Points, Jay Miller 


Yarra Yering
Dry Red No 1 2011

98 Points,
James Halliday



Yattarna Chardonnay 2016

96 Points, Joe Czerwinski (erobertparker.com)

RRP £130.00

UK Exclusivity - Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2015

Steven Spurrier
“Eileen Hardy Chardonnay is, in my view, the Grange of Australian white wines”.


Watershed Awakening Single Block Chardonnay 2016

Halliday Wine
Companion Awards:

'The Best of the Best':
Varietal Winners - Best Chardonnay



Magill Estate Shiraz 2016

96 Points, Joe Czerwinski (erobertparker.com)

RRP £120.00

Hobbs 1905 Shiraz 2015

98 Points, Joe Czerwinski (erobertparker.com)



St Henri Shiraz 2015

93 Points, Joe Czerwinski (erobertparker.com)

RRP £95.00

Hobbs of Barossa Ranges Shiraz 2004

97 Points, Jay Miller (robertparker.com)



Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2016

93 Points, Joe Czerwinski (robertparker.com)

RRP £61.00

Hobbs Tin Lids Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2016  
Special Value

96 Points, Joe Czerwinski (robertparker.com)


Hentley Farm The Quintessential Shiraz Cabernet 2015

97 Points, James Halliday



Bin 407
Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

90 Points, Joe Czerwinski (erobertparker.com)

RRP £61.00

Flowstone Queen of the Earth Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

97 Points, James Halliday


Flowstone Queen of the Earth Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

96 Points, James Halliday



Bin 128 Shiraz 2016

92 Points, Joe Czerwinski (robertparker.com)

RRP £35.00

UK Exclusivity - Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2015

Decanter World Wine Awards: Platinum 2018

97 Points, Decanter


Deep Woods Reserve Block 7 Shiraz 2015

Decanter World Wine Awards: Silver 2018

Margaret River
Wine Show 2016: Gold

96 Points, James Halliday



Bin 311 Chardonnay 2017

92 Points, Joe Czerwinski (robertparker.com)

RRP £32.00

Flowstone Queen
of the Earth
Chardonnay 2015

97 Points, James Halliday


Watershed Senses Chardonnay 2016 
Special Value

Gold Medal - 2018 Melbourne International Wine Competition

Gold Medal – 2017 Wine Show of Western Australia

96 Points – James Halliday Wine Companion 2016



Better Than Baby Grange

Penfolds Bin 389 is also known as ‘Baby Grange’. How about Oliver’s Taranga’s HJ Reserve as fruit from this producer and block has gone into Penfolds Grange for 14 vintages since 1996…

In 1996, Penfolds introduced the Grange Growers Club for the elite group of growers who supply grapes for this iconic wine. Don Oliver from Oliver's Taranga was one of the founding members. Other growers from McLaren Vale have contributed to Grange, but Oliver's Taranga has been the most consistent with 14 years inclusion since records were started in 1996 and it is highly likely to have been part of the blend before then too. Penfolds pays the Grange Growers Club on the hectares they dedicate to planting for Grange, rather than the quantity produced, encouraging a higher emphasis on quality.  Oliver's Taranga has five blocks in the Club and as winemaker Corinna Wright says, “they've been very creative with the names!” There are Old Block, North and South Blocks, Top Block and Rayments Block. Sometimes one block gets in, sometimes none and sometimes all.



95 Point - Jay Miller "The 2004 Shiraz “H.J. Reserve” was aged for two years in 100% new French oak. It was sourced from the estate’s 65-year-old vineyard with a minuscule yield of 1 ton per acre. Opaque purple, it has an enticing bouquet of toasty oak, smoke, saddle leather, espresso, mocha, blueberry, and blackberry liqueur. Medium to full-bodied and opulent, the wine has super-succulent black and blue fruit flavors, well-concealed tannins, and a very long, 60-second finish. Because of its superb balance, it will evolve for at least a decade and provide pleasure through 2030. However, for those unable to delay gratification, it will make a great companion to a giant slab of prime rib."

Was £49.95 per bottle

Now £39.95


This is the fourth release of an Oliver's Taranga Reserve Shiraz, selected from the best parcels of old vine Shiraz, which were planted in 1948.  The Australian wine critic James Halliday awards it 93 Points which is incredible given our price tag!

James Halliday "Good colour; a powerful but supple array of black fruits, dark chocolate and mocha; firm but fine tannins; good oak. Vines planted 1948."

Was £32.00 per bottle

Now £25.00


1945 Romanée Conti
sets new record at wine auction

The world record for the most expensive bottle of wine sold at auction (Sotheby’s New York) was smashed twice on Saturday 13th October when two bottles of 1945 Romanée Conti fetched $496,000 (£377,000) and $558,000 (£424,000) respectively.

Our own in-house record was achieved back in May 2011 when we sold 2 x Cases (12 bottles in total) 2005 Domaine Romanée Conti for £144,000. Today,  we would comfortably achieve £240,000 and most certainly more. A few months later (July 2011) we sold a case (6 bottles) of the perfect, 100-point 1999 for £48,000. Today we would achieve £200,000…


Photo of the Week:
The River Steading.

One of our customers in Beijing will be short by some 840 bottles of Torbreck, The Steading after our careless UK Bond over-stacked the pallet which snapped in half under the sheer weight of 1,400 kg. Honestly, the mind boggles at such
thoughtless stupidity…


Geoff Hardy and his family descended from South Australian wine pioneer Thomas Hardy, who first planted vines in the 1850s. Indeed, the original Thomas was Geoff’s great great grandfather.

In 1980, Geoff left the family company, Thomas Hardy & Sons, to make his own way in the wine world. Subsequently, Geoff established Pertaringa in the foothills of McLaren Vale. The soils are enriched from the hills above and the cooler climate, further tempered by the sea breezes off St Vincent’s Gulf, set the scene for high quality wine. Ever since, Pertaringa have produced some outstanding wines, recognised by some of the greatest names in the Australian press. Winestate Magazine awarded Pertaringa the title of Winery of the Year twice (in 2012 and 2014) and James Halliday repeatedly awarded Geoff’s wines the heights of 95-97 points and trophies for Outstanding Value.

Many of you enjoyed wines from another stunning producer from McLaren Vale, Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards. The success of their stunning Estate Shiraz 2002, 2004 and 2005 is unquestionable with all vintages entirely sold out (over 1,600 bottles!). The best plot of the Taranga Vineyards is the HJ Block - it is the fruit from this specific block of old vines which made a part of Grange for many years. Bottles of 2003 and 2004 HJ Reserve Block Shiraz are still available, as well as Cabernet / Shiraz blend Corrina’s Red although, be quick as we don’t expect them to last long!

For those of you who miss Oliver’s Taranga Shiraz, Pertaringa wines come highly recommended for their complexity and equally stunning value – especially with a wee-little offer…




Pertaringa’s flagship wines, this classic Shiraz from McLaren vale is deeply coloured, exhibiting beautiful aromas of new leather, spice and a hint of freshly roasted coffee. The palate is dense with layers of black fruit, dark cherries, plum, star anise and peppered game supported by a length of ripe tannins and aromatic French oak. Over The Top Shiraz goes far too well with braised beef brisket and grilled peppered steak.

Was £13.95 per bottle

Now £12.50



A deep, dark almost opaque black plum red with purple tinges. From one of the most outstanding vintages, the 2002 Undercover Shiraz offers stunning concentration of black fruit and ripe plums enriched with a vast array of spices. Black olives tapenade and cloves lead to lenghty finish. Perfect pairing with autumnal game, venison and rich beef stews.

James Halliday – “Archetypal yet restrained McLaren Vale style; a melange of black fruits and dark chocolate; silky tannins, good mouthfeel.”

Was £13.95 per bottle

Now £12.50


Wine of the Week 43


Paul Lato Il Padrino Syrah 2014

£85.95 per bottle

99 points Stuart McCloskey "A wine which offers a special level of purity from the outset and riveting from beginning to end. The nose is flamboyant, intensely perfumed and layered beautifully with plum, liquorice, asphalt, turning to roasted coffee with more aeration. The palate is seamless and washes sweet fruit across every facet with effortless grace. Sweet raspberry, cassis and violets with a touch of background spice. The tannins are fine with perfectly judged acidity, neither of which interrupts the super-long finish. This wine highlights Paul’s natural skill to understand the correlation between vineyard, grape and wine, which is often amiss. A captivating wine of ethereal grace and magical beauty opposed to a dense powerhouse. A US Syrah masterpiece for sure which will only get better over the next decade (sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glass)"