In a history-making move on January 19, Penfolds released a limited-edition wine, its 2018 Penfolds Magill Cellar 3 South Australian Cabernet Shiraz, through BlockBar, the world’s first direct-to-consumer platform for sales of wine and spirits involving “non-fungible tokens” (NFTs). 

“This is of great value to add to your digital portfolio,” BlockBar co-founder Sam Falic told Forbes. “Aside from the digital art you own, you can now own a digital bottle and build your digital bar, which is also backed by physical assets.” 

Only 14 barrels (4200 bottles) were produced, although each barrel is unique. One barrel will be available exclusively through BlockBar for the princely sum of US$482 ($709) a bottle.

Is it worth it? Penfolds’ 2017 Grange, a better-known icon, can be purchased at the Fine Wine Delivery Company in Auckland for $849. Grange is made in far greater quantities than the Penfolds Magill Cellar 3, although Penfolds are understandably coy about revealing production figures. It remains to be seen how quickly the Penfolds Magill Cellar 3 will sell through the BlockBar platform, but the price seems reasonable to me.

The first three people to buy six bottles of the 2018 Magill Cellar 3 will be invited to attend a private virtual wine tasting with Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago, who will first share the history of Penfolds and the limited-edition wine. 

The first three buyers to “redeem” six bottles – by swapping the digital versions for the real thing –will receive a personalised plaque for their gift box. 

Since BlockBar started last October, it has allowed consumers to buy asset-backed NFTs from wine-brand owners to “burn”, redeem, or sell the physical product. (The actual bottles are stored in a secure facility in Singapore.) Now BlockBar also gives them the option to gift the physical product. 

Each NFT corresponds to a physical bottle. Consumers own the physical bottle, BlockBar stores it for them and the digital version (NFT) serves as verification of ownership. Clients can pay by credit card and redeem the bottle immediately. 

Getting your hands on the bottle seems fairly straightforward. Says the BlockBar website: “If you own a bottle on BlockBar, you can redeem it at any point from the My Collection page. Find the bottle in your collection and tap the Redeem button below it. When you Redeem your bottle, you will be ‘burning’ the digital version in order to receive the physical version (one is exchanged for the other), which means one less digital NFT will exist. 

“There is also no returning from this; you will not have access to the digital token anymore so make sure you are ready for this!

“When you redeem it you will be asked to enter your shipping address. You will need to be in full compliance of your jurisdiction to receive the bottle. We will ship your bottle safely using priority and insured mail.

“Redeemer will be required to pay shipping and duties. These fees are only triggered by redeeming the physical bottle.”

Falic says gifting a bottle of wine through “is as easy as sending an e-mail”.

Penfolds 2018 Magill Cellar 3 is a blend of old-vine cabernet sauvignon (53%) from Coonawarra and shiraz (47%) from the Barossa Valley. Both the Coonawarra and Barossa Valley regions enjoyed favourable conditions in the 2018 vintage. Penfolds recommends that the wine be enjoyed as early as 2025 or as late as 2045. 

The golden rule of wine buying is “try before you buy”, but if you don’t have the opportunity to do that, you can rest assured the Penfolds 2018 Magill Cellar 3 will not disappoint. 

Bob’s Top Picks for sipping and cellaring

Investment Wine

2019 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, $110

Padthaway, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Wrattonbully & Barossa Valley. I’m a card-carrying member of the Bin 389 lovers club. Known affectionately as “baby Grange”, Bin 389 has just celebrated its 60th birthday. This youthful example is one of the better vintages I have tried, but if you think it is good now, wait and see what it tastes like in another decade or two. 

Weekend Wines

Top White

Novum 2020 Chardonnay, Marlborough, $47

A rising star in the Marlborough region that hit the ground running. Rich, creamy, silken-textured chardonnay with white peach, citrus, hazelnut and spicy oak flavours supported by ripe, mouth-watering acidity. Intense wine with a pleasing texture and lengthy finish. Accessible now, but no rush. 

Top Red

Mount Michael 2020 Pinot Noir, Central Otago, $42

From one of Central Otago’s most innovative winemakers. Deep, rich, lush pinot noir with Black Doris plum, dark cherry and liquorice flavours and a seasoning of spicy oak. Seductive mouth-filling wine in a very fruit-forward and quite complex style. Irresistibly drinkable. 

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