Penfolds Grange…The crescendo of our “Ultimate Penfolds Experience”
Nestled in the foothills of Adelaide with views over looking the city, Magill Estate is one of the world’s few urban single vineyards only fifteen minutes drive from Adelaide, capital of South Australia. Here lie historic vineyards of the iconic wine Penfolds Grange. With sturdy and gnarly Shiraz vines that date back over sixty years. They thrive in rich chocolatey red-brown soils over limestone bearing exceptional fruit for both Grange and Magill Estate Shiraz.
Penfolds Grange, a remarkable wine with a remarkable story. This wine is sought after and relished by wine collectors and aficionados around the world, paralleled to the First Growths of Bordeaux and Grand Cru of Burgundy. This is Australia’s most celebrated wine, officially listed as a Heritage Icon of South Australia. A vinous star that has been described by Robert Parker’s wine Advocate as “the leading candidate for the richest, most concentrated dry red wine on planet earth”.
It all began with British physician Doctor Christopher Ralston Penfolds and wife Mary.
In 1844 the couple settled in Adelaide on a vast parcel of land and the inaugural Penfolds wine was created. Recently we had the opportunity to take a step back in time and tour the Magill Estate Cottage, the Penfolds’ home. And learned a little about the family and the history of these storied precious vineyards. We were honoured with a personalized tasting of several Penfolds wines. A suburb afternoon, punctuated by the tasting of the great Grange.
Old age is much respected in this world, the world of wine.
“It all starts in the vineyards” they say. Our visit which began with our tour guide, the truly eloquent Danielle Flower guiding us throughout the grounds and introducing us to the estate’s old vine Shiraz. Old age is much respected in this world, the world of wine. These smaller concentrated fruit will deliver little in yield yet intense and concentrated flavours in the glass. Where one may drink history. The estate was once comprised of over 500 acres but over time has been diminished to just 12. These grapes, we learn will contribute to the iconic Penfolds Grange. Grange, Penfolds flagship wine, the most collectible wine on the continent is a multi-vineyard, multi district blend, yet it has a unique personality, flavour, structure, experience coveted by wine lovers the world over.
The good Doctor, perhaps ahead of his time…
The Penfolds, Christopher and Mary, immigrated to Australia at the ages of 33 and 24 and were supported by their family members on what was approximately 500 acres of land. Doctor Penfolds a believer in the medicinal properties of wine cultivated a portion of the land with plantings of French grape vine cuttings brought over from England. Initially fortified wines were the choice prescription but in time, responding to increased demand the winery expanded in output and selection of varietals planted until 1844 when the winery was officially established. Over the years, under the direction of Christopher up until his passing at age 59 and then under that of wife Mary Penfolds the winery continued to grow and prosper. By 1903 Penfolds was the largest winery in Adelaide.
It is Max Schubert, Chief Winemaker for Penfolds in the forties and fifties who must be greatly credited to the development of the iconic wine, Grange, originally called “Grange Hermitage”. It was he, after travelling to Europe and spending time in Bordeaux who created and ultimately became responsible for the development of this iconic wine.
To the tasting room!
And an extraordinary experience featuring a perfect blend of Penfolds offerings.
Penfolds produces a range of wines that come from a variety of regions, whether they are blends, or singular varietal. They also produce estate wines of single vineyard. All the wines however showcase the Australian heritage including the diversity and the great history.
Our tasting included a blend of all of the above.
One of our personal standouts on this day was the 2008
St Henri Shiraz.
A multi district blend including fruit from the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. St Henri Shiraz differentiates itself from high quality Australian reds by not relying on any new oak.
Maturing instead in large old 1460 litre vats the wine’s character develops with little impression of oak. We comment on the seductive nose of intense blueberry and blackberry layered with dark chocolate. With a deep rich flavour of more dark fruit and chocolatey notes, it is rich and opulent with a long lasting finish! Drinking window suggestion is 2016-2035. Available on occasion at the LCBO and/or featured at Winemaker’s dinner as recently as October 26th of this year.
We tasted the 2011 Cellar Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the Coonawarra, exceptional! And to start the 2008 Yattarna Chardonnay, also multi regional.
The crescendo of our “Ultimate Penfolds Experience” was of course Grange.
Suffice to say an ethereal taste experience. Where wine is not simply a drink, it is history, it is place, it is magical, on this day it is Grange.
Of this wine says Chief Winemaker Gago, “Aromatically captivating/convincing— similar to the 1987 in its formtive years, stronger than the 1997!”
At the conclusion of our tasting, as we sipped on what little treasure remained in our glasses. Danielle shared with us Penfolds’ latest unique and extraordinary offering to its most devoted fans.
This most recent project allows one to purchase their own personal barrel of Penfolds wine for $198,000. Magill Estate will house your barrel under 24 hour/day security. Your wine will be available for you to check in on at any time from anywhere in the world. The custodian of this barrel is invited at any time to taste, assess the wine and determine when and how it should be bottled under the guidance of course of Chief Winemaker Peter Gago.
Gago who started at Penfolds in 1989, is himself a celebrity winemaker, in high demand internationally, only the fourth custodian of iconic Grange. Peter succumbed to his love of wine and as he puts it “the grip of the grape” … we guess was just too great!
For those of whom we have whet your appetite, the 2008 Grange is available here at the Tasting Room in the Olde Oakville location. Here we ponder the purchase of one of three remaining bottles priced at $499.00.
Finally, there are a number of Penfolds wines available at varying price points, something for everyone. Note to Heather, one of our favorite consultants, we’ll be back!
Georgia and Susanne
The Wine Ladies
We also had the opportunity to meet Peter Gago in 2008 at an exclusive media tasting in Toronto. Check it out here.