These “amelioration techniques” were dishonest and fraudulent, as the producers tried to pass off their blends as Bordeaux or Burgundy.
Penfolds, of course, is doing nothing of the sort. It’s transparent with its marketing and “Wine of the World” labeling. And with suggested retail prices of $149 a bottle for the Bin 149 and $700 for the Quantum Bin 98, it places premium value on these wines. It even enlisted the N.B.A. star Ben Simmons, who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers but was born in Australia, as a celebrity endorser.
In a sense, Penfolds is sticking to its company ethos. While it does make single-vineyard wines, like its Magill Estate shiraz, which convey a sense of place, its flagship wine, Grange, is a blend of shiraz from multiple vineyards in different geographical areas. It sells for around $700 a bottle, too. Yattarna, its top chardonnay, which sells for around $120, is a blend from four different Australia states.
The art of blending, of putting together different grapes from different sites, has long been a crucial component of winemaking. Perhaps no place made a virtue of it like the big houses of Champagne, which through the 20th century played down the importance of vineyard site and terroir and instead celebrated the know-how of the cellar master, who would blend wines made from different grapes grown in different places and harvested in different vintages to create a seamless expression of the house style.
But even Champagne caught the terroir bug. Over the last 20 years, rising interest in small growers who produce their own Champagne has galvanized a close examination of the terroirs of Champagne. Even many of the big houses that emphasized blending have added single-vineyard and village-focused wines to their portfolios.
Nonetheless, some of the most prized Champagne brands, like Dom Pérignon and Krug, persist in emphasizing the blended style.
Penfolds, as the big Champagne producers once did, speaks more of its house style and cellar methods than of farming and vineyard dirt.