Category Archives: Penfolds Grange

Sep 09 2015

1971 Penfolds Grange named best wine of the 1970s

Posted on September 09, 2015 | By

Have you noticed how many of the things we used to hate about the 1970s are making a comeback? Flared jeans, checked shirts and bright orange kitchens (yes, we had one of those!) no longer seem uncool!

And if you thought people only drank cheap cask wine back in the 1970s, a recent international competition has reminded everyone that some very fine wines of exceptional longevity were also made back then!

European luxury magazine publisher FINE and website assembled wine judges from nine different countries to blind taste the top drops of the 1970s. As one would expect, French wines dominated, taking out eight of the top 10 positions. But the Penfolds Grange 1971 (98.5 points) snagged the top spot and three other Grange vintages from the 1970s made it into the top 40: the 1976 Grange came 14th (96.5 points), the 1972 Grange 25th (95.5 points) and the 1970 Grange came 36th (94.5 points)

Some of the greatest vintages for Bordeaux and Champagne were in the ’70s, so the fact that the 1971 Grange just beat the 1975 Chateau d’ Y’quem from Sauternes (98 points) is perhaps even more remarkable. The Guigal Côtes Rotie La Mouline 1976 came in third with a score of 97.5 points.

The late Max Schubert, the architect of Grange, confidently predicted that the 1971 vintage would prove to be his greatest. “If you had to point to a wine which fulfilled the ambitions of Grange it would have to be the 1971,” Schubert remarked in 1993, just months before he passed away.

This most recent competition is not the first time that top accolades have been awarded to the 1971 vintage. The AFR’s Mark Hawthorne reminded readers that “in 1979 Penfolds caused a sensation in France when the upstart Australian winery topped … Read the rest

Aug 08 2015

Long Live Penfolds Bin 389: Notes from a Vertical Tasting

Posted on August 08, 2015 | By

Penfolds Bin 389 is sometimes referred to as ‘Baby Grange’ or ‘Poor Man’s Grange’. Like the iconic Penfolds Grange, Bin 389 shares the same legendary creator, Max Schubert, who first produced the wine in 1960, nine years after unveiling his experimental 1951 Grange.

In fact, a significant portion of the wine that goes into the Bin 389 is aged in the same American oak hogsheads used for the previous vintage of Grange. Twenty to 30 percent of the wine sees new oak treatment.

The fruit for both wines is sourced from different vineyards and regions – the goal always to secure the best fruit available. Fruit that doesn’t quite make the cut for Grange will often find its way into the Bin 389.

Some critics have argued that the ‘Baby Grange’ moniker is not an accurate descriptor of Bin 389 because the blend is quite different to the shiraz-dominant Grange. Bin 389 has a much higher percentage of cabernet sauvignon, a feature that according to wine critic Julia Harding MW gives the wine “those cedary-fresh Cabernet characteristics” that are absent from the fuller bodied Grange. (Penfolds’ Bin 389 vs Grange by Julia Harding MW, 26 June 2009).

One hallmark quality that Bin 389 definitely shares with Grange is its ability to age. My husband’s wine group recently enjoyed a vertical tasting of Bin 389, covering a good selection of vintages dating back to 1986. Below are their tasting notes. A very impressive lineup indeed:

Penfolds Bin 389 2012

Concentrated, dark, young and full bodied. Already pleasant to drink. Great prospects.

Penfolds Bin 389 2010

Still dumb but plush fruit and good acid balance bode very well for the future. Exceptional.

Penfolds Bin 389 2008

Starting to drink well, slightly varnishy nose but good depth of flavour and long Read the rest

Feb 02 2015

The delights of drinking aged Penfolds Grange

Posted on February 02, 2015 | By

Over the past couple of months I’ve had the good fortune to try two bottles of aged Penfolds Grange, the 2003 and the 1982. Both were opened (as they should be!) to celebrate two very special occasions – first a memorable birthday and then a farewell retirement party for our warehouseman Joe.

The 2003 had an absolutely beguiling bouquet. Cedar, Asian spices, and an assortment of dark berries – the fruit was so fresh!

If I find the aroma of a wine really enticing, I’m sometimes nervous to actually drink the wine, lest it disappoints. But the voluptuous, intricately layered palate of the 2003 lived up to my expectations. Every mouthful was sublime!

The bouquet on the 1982 was less enveloping but equally inviting. The fruit, while not as fresh as the 2003, was still very vibrant. As you would expect, the tannins had seamlessly integrated into the body of the wine. But the lack of overt tannins hadn’t diminished the wine’s structure. It still displayed remarkable depth and opulence – both signature characteristics of the Grange style.

An article by the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown shed some excellent light on why Grange needs to age.

When Grange’s creator Max Schubert designed Grange, he decided to finish off the fermentation off-skins in new American oak barrels. Apparently he had witnessed the practice of finishing the fermentation process in barrel on a trip to Bordeaux in 1950.But as Perrotti-Brown notes, most great Bordeaux wines typically finish fermenting in vats on skins and remain on skins for a total of 2 – 4 weeks prior to racking, primarily to extract more skin tannins. Schubert probably witnessed an unusual practice.

In any event, the technique worked well for his main fruit of choice – beautifully ripened warm climate shiraz, which is naturally high … Read the rest

Oct 10 2014

What’s Making Wine News: Penfolds’ Peter Gago is named GTW Winemaker of the Year

Posted on October 10, 2014 | By

2014 is shaping up as a big year for Penfolds. Not only does 2014 mark the winery’s 170th anniversary, but for the first time the company released two vintages of Penfolds Grange – the 2009 and the 2010 – in the same year.

The 2010 Penfolds Grange is winning wide acclaim as one of the best vintages ever, and it comes hot on the heels of the 2008, which was given a rare 100 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

No wonder Peter Gago, Penfolds’ chief winemaker for the past 12 years, has just won Australian Gourmet Traveller’s Wine prestigious Winemaker of the Year award. He also picked up the Len Evans Award for Leadership – marking the first time both awards have been given to the same person in one year!

While the media spotlight inevitably falls on the release of the Grange, wine critic Huon Hooke observes that in 2014 Penfolds also released two of the greatest wines it has ever produced: The 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Block 3C Limited Edition Shiraz and the 50-Year-Old Rare Tawny.  (Peter Gago named GWT Winemaker of the Year 2014 by Huon Hooke, Hooked on Wine, 18 October 2014)

The recommended retail prices for these two wines, $1,800 and $3,550 a bottle respectively, is audacious, but no-one disputes their calibre. They represent winemaking at its pinnacle and are truly a sign that Penfolds, under Gago’s inspiring leadership, has definitely come of age!

Merrill Witt New Yorkby Merrill Witt, Editor


Photo Credit: Drinkster

The 2010 Penfolds Grange and the 2008 Penfolds Grange are available on the Cellarit Wine Market

Read the rest

Jun 06 2014

Dates announced for Penfolds Recorking Clinics 2014

Posted on June 06, 2014 | By

Penfolds recently released the dates for its 2014 Recorking Clinics around Australia. The company is also holding clinics in Beijing, New Zealand and North America.

Here are the Australian dates:

Brisbane, 5 – 6 August, Hilton Hotel

Sydney, 19 – 21 August, Shangri-La Hotel

Melbourne, 2 – 4 September, Crown Metropol Melbourne

Perth, 17 – 18 September, Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club

Adelaide, 30 September – 1 October, National Wine Centre.

To visit the Clinic you need to register your interest through the Penfold’s website Contact Form or call their Customer Service line on 1300 651 650 during June.

Penfolds Grange 1970, Clinic Label 2012Clinics are useful for people who want a “health check” on their older bottles. To be eligible for appraisal, the wine must be 15 years or older, ie. 1999 vintage or earlier.

Here’s a brief recap on what happens at a Penfolds recorking clinic:

  • Your bottle is assessed by a Penfolds winemaker to see whether it’a a good candidate for recorking. You may be asked questions about when the bottle was acquired and how it’s been cellared.
  • If necessary, the bottle is opened, tasted and assessed.
  • If the bottle is deemed to be in good condition (ie. the wine tastes fine), it will be topped up with a recent vintage of the same wine and recorked. A Penfolds Recorking Clinic label, certified and dated by the winemaker who assessed your bottle, is adhered to the back of the bottle.
  • If the bottle fails the taste test, it will receive a white dot.

Recorking is not without its Critics

In a recent article, wine critic Huon Hooke noted that the concept of recorking is not without its critics. He cites anecdotal evidence that ‘cliniced’ bottles of Grange are fresher and more youthful than un-cliniced bottles, and mentions that he has heard … Read the rest

May 05 2014

Penfolds Grange 2009: Reviews are Impressive!

Posted on May 05, 2014 | By

Today the Penfolds Grange 2009 was officially released to the public. Most of the reviews have already been written and after last year’s fanfare over the 2008, response to 2009 has been pretty muted. You may recall that the 2008 Grange garnered a 100 point review from the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, precipitating a controversial, hefty price hike! (Penfolds Grange 2008 and the 100 point review, Cellarit Wine Blog, 2 June 2013)

Not that reviews for the 2009 aren’t generally impressive. Perrotti-Brown scored the 2009 97 points:

The 2009 Grange Shiraz is a comprised of 84% Barossa, 8% McLaren, and a little Clare Valley and a little Magill fruit with a small 2% of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. At this youthful stage, this deep garnet-purple colored wine puts forward a vivid expression of blackberry preserve aromas amid underlying cassis, black cherry, spice box, char-grilled meat and chocolate box notes. Surprisingly medium to full-bodied (it smells much fuller!) with taut flavors that are very closed in the mouth, it has firm, chewy tannins to structure through the long and earthy finish. ( #211, February 2014)’s Julia Harding MW gave the 2009 Grange 18.5 out of 20, only half a point lower than her score for the 2008:

Inky core with blackcurrant rim. Gorgeously seductive perfume: sweetly spiced – Christmas spice – fruit with the sweetness of oak but all so well entwined. There’s a hint of tar and savoury character. On the palate, creamy, vanilla, rich and so gentle and polite – or so it seems, though there is plenty of muscle underneath. 100% new oak. ‘No other way to make Grange’, says Gago. Lots of sweet US oak flavour on the finish. Sweet baking spice too and some liquorice. Vanilla sweetness. Concentrated and Read the rest

May 05 2012

Reviews for Penfolds Grange 2007

Posted on May 05, 2012 | By

Reviews for the Penfolds Grange 2007 are starting to trickle in. As you may recall, the 2006 Grange was a stellar vintage. Andrew Caillard MW of Langton’s gave the wine a perfect score of 100 points, rating the 2006 Grange as the best vintage since 2004.

2006 was always going to be a hard act to follow, especially since the 2007 vintage was plagued by drought, high summer temperatures and severe frosts early in the growing season. Of course, only the best quality fruit is used for the Grange, and Penfolds has the luxury of being able to source prime material from different sites and regions. The 2007 is a blend of 97 per cent shiraz and 3 per cent cabernet sauvignon.

Grange is definitely not a wine designed to be imbibed upon release, and early reviews and scores are often revised as the wine ages. As the influential American wine critic Robert Parker commented, Grange is a wine that ages at a “glacial pace.” His Wine Advocate regularly re-tastes the wine at 3-7 year intervals, updating reviews and, most importantly, the crucial point scores.

Usually point scores and reviews for Grange tend to improve as the wine ages, but sometimes they dip and then come up again. Like a great Bordeaux, some vintages of Grange have a propensity to ‘close down’ and then ‘re-emerge’ after several more years of cellaring.

The Wine Advocate’s reviews of the celebrated 1990 Grange, for example, are a case in point. (Incidentally, this was the vintage that was named ‘Red Wine of the Year’ by the Wine Spectator magazine in 1995 – the first time it chose a wine outside of France or California!)

In his 1995 review of the 1990 vintage, Parker remarked that “The 1990 is the greatest, most complete and richest … Read the rest

Jun 06 2011

Aussie Wine Icons: Reviews for Penfolds Grange 2006

Posted on June 06, 2011 | By

The annual release in May of the latest vintage of Penfolds Grange is always greeted with a great deal of anticipation. Most retailers’ allocations are sold out even before the reviews are written!

Now the reviews are beginning to trickle in and by all accounts the 2006 vintage is one of the best to date. Andrew Caillard MW of Langton’s gave the wine a perfect score of 100 points, rating the 2006 Grange as the best vintage since 2004. (2011 Penfolds Grange “luxury & icon” wine release Andrew Caillard MW)

James Halliday, who scored the wine 98 points, pronounced 2006 as best vintage in the past 10 years, giving it a drinking window to 2050! (Sweet Release by James Halliday, The Australian, 30 April 2010).

Campbell Mattinson of The Wine Front scored the 2006 Grange 97 points. Here’s a brief excerpt from his review:

It’s not a particularly heralded vintage, in general terms, but the way this release presents in the glass is, to me, what Grange is all about. Impeccable winemaking, pure fruit, clasps of uncompromising tannin, smokin’ barrels, and thrust. It will live for a very long time, because it’s so well designed, and because it does its thing so well. (The Wine Front, 26 April 2011)

Respected British wine critic and Daily Mail wine correspondent Matthew Jukes has published an annual list of the best 100 Australian wines available in the UK market since 2004. He declared the 2006 Grange “a 20/20, perfect wine.” It is only the third wine to receive a perfect score since his 100 Best began. Here’s a brief excerpt from his glowing review:

2006 Grange is perfect in every way – density, tannins, balance, energy, volume, aroma, weight, control, oak and length. It also has style and Read the rest