Cool, classy, charming are just some of the ways to describe the different facets of white wines from Penfolds—from its Chardonnay’s long legs to Riesling’s racy side

Given our familiarity with Penfolds’ famed red wines over the past few decades, it’s no surprise that many wine drinkers would reach for the familiar Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz or Penfolds Grange for a special occasion. Yet there are so many reasons why you would be tempted to savour Penfolds Chardonnay or Riesling, whether you desire a light, fresh tipple at sunset or a more serious, mature match after dark.

Part of the reason why Penfolds’ white wines are so consistent and polished is that they have been securing top winegrowing sites across Australia. And while winemaking is anything but straightforward, as different factors such as weather conditions, soil types and ripeness of the grape that make up the final blend of each vintage have to be considered, the aim is to consistently produce white wines that are perfect for every mood, occasion and gathering. But how do you decide which of the different Chardonnays or Riesling to reach for?

Firstly, to enjoy a good Chardonnay, you need the right glassware on hand. That’s especially true as you’re having the oak-aged, fuller-bodied styles of the Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2018, and to a lesser extent the Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2019. Both are barrel fermented and aged eight months in large French oak barriques, giving them a structural, rich texture that will show up in long wine legs in your glass.

The type of stemware that works best for these two wines are those with a large bowl, which allows the wine to aerate better. This coaxes out the layers of aromas that are concentrated in the wine, as Chardonnay tend to be less forthcoming aromatically than Riesling. The larger rim of the glass will also deliver the wine across a broader part of your palate, allowing you to better appreciate the pleasant fruitiness, followed by persistent, mouthwatering citrus notes that mark these as cool-climate Chardonnay.  

Yattarna is Penfolds’ icon Chardonnay drawn from the top performing plots in Tasmania, Tumbarumba and Adelaide, and carefully crafted with the same care as a top Burgundy. If you are celebrating a special occasion with a younger Yattarna, such as the current 2018 release, you will want to use a decanter to draw out the wine’s voluminous dimensions. But don’t get too rigorous—you want to wake up the wine, but not agitate it completely. Swirl the wine smoothly in the decanter while checking its condition, and give it 10 to 15 minutes in the decanter before trying your first sip.

If the wine is too cold, decanting also helps bring it to the ideal drinking temperature of 11 to 13˚C, allowing for its white stone fruit and mineral notes to bloom. Conversely, if the wine is warming up too quickly, you can immerse the decanter in an ice bucket.

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Yattarna, though, was made to age for at least a decade or two, and can be safely tucked away in your wine chiller for years to develop its full potential. Those from 2010 and 2011, for example, are now beginning to drink really well. 

Of course, Chardonnay’s ability to adapt to all winemaking styles means that there’s also a fine example suited for effortless everyday drinking. Max’s Adelaide Hills Chardonnay comes from the Max’s range that pays tribute to the former chief winemaker at Penfolds, Max Schubert. This is a single region Chardonnay that shows off the Adelaide Hills’ typical high acid character. It also makes for a fresh, frisky sundowner, given its light to medium style and generous citrus notes. This you can enjoy in a universal wine glass and still enjoy all its straightforward yet elegant charisma.

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For fans of the Riesling, the Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2020 is one that satisfies all aficionados. Originally introduced in 1999 under a different name, the Bin 51 has always been an Eden Valley original that captures the wine’s high altitude and cool climate characters to stunning effect. The wine is fully aromatic from first sniff, showing its complex vibrancy in white florals, lemon sherbet and lime pith on the nose. To bring out its drinkability and fruitiness, it is best served nicely chilled—between 9˚C and 11˚C, if you want to be precise—in a universal white wine glass. It is so balanced and structurally generous, it works just a well on a dinner date or al fresco brunch with picnic food. You can drink it young, or cellar five to seven years to discover how it matures evocatively, showing tertiary notes that are more savoury, toasty and honeyed.

From flirty to serious, white wines like these are more than capable of holding their own the next time you tempted to reach for a bottle or two.

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