A post I wrote back in September 2010, What Happens at a Penfolds Red Wine Clinic, is still very popular with readers and the number two search result if you type “Penfolds Red Wine Clinic” into Google search. As Penfolds recently announced the dates for its re-corking clinics in Australia and the United States, I thought I would provide an update with this year’s clinic dates and some new information I discovered about what happens at these very popular clinics. Here’s a brief recap:

Re-corking clinics are for customers with bottles aged 15 or older.

The bottles don’t have to be Grange. They can be any Penfolds red wine bottle.

Penfolds winemakers perform the ‘health check’ on the bottles.Before the bottles are opened, collectors are asked a series of questions about how they acquired the wine and how well it has been looked after.

The bottle is assessed to see whether it is a good candidate for re-corking. The ullage or the level of the wine in the neck of the bottle is usually a good indicator as to whether the cork should be changed. If the level is too low, the original cork is typically removed

The bottle is opened and the wine is tasted and assessed.

If the wine is deemed to be a good example of the style and vintage, it will be topped up with a recent vintage of the same wine, re-corked, provided with a new Penfolds capsule, and then certified by the winemaker.

If it fails the taste test, the wine receives a white dot.

Penfolds states that the art of re-corking is a delicate process. Every precaution is taken to insure that the wine is only briefly exposed to oxygen during tasting and re-corking. Decanter, for example, reported that Penfolds uses Winesave’s argon dispenser to preserve the wine after the cork is temporarily removed. Argon is a pure, inert and odourless gas that is totally resistant to bonding with other elements. Being two and half times heavier than air, it simply falls down, displacing the oxygen in the bottle and forming a barrier between the wine and air. (Finally, a Way to Save Wine by Curtis Marsh, Decanter.com)

Interestingly, bottles of vintage Grange certified at the Red Wine Clinic generally command higher prices in the secondary market than their non-certified counterparts. I’m not completely sure why this is the case. Perhaps buyers of older bottles feel re-assured that the wine is still drinking well because it has been recently tasted and given a new cork? Cork-taint (a wine fault that occurs when the cork comes into contact with some sort of contaminant that causes it to produce trichloroanisole) is impossible to detect without opening the bottle, but the risk of cork-taint is very low. Typically, non-certified bottles of the same vintage that are in good condition are travelling just as well as bottles that have been certified.

As well as a wine “health check” the Penfolds Re-corking Clinics allow Penfolds enthusiasts to receive a market appraisal of their wines from Penfolds experienced team.

Here are the 2012 dates:

Sydney – 7th, 8th, 9th August

Melbourne – 14th, 15th, 16th August

Adelaide – 22nd, 23rd August

Perth – 29th, 30th August

Brisbane – 4th, 5th September

Go to the Penfolds website to register your interest

New York – 19th September

Houston TX – 24th September

Registration details for USA Re-corking Clinics are to be announced

Merrill Witt, Editor


Photo Credit: Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago (left), using Winesave at a Penfolds Red Wine Clinic in Canada, Decanter.com