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The secret experiment that lead to Australia's top fine wine

Alice Longhurst-Jones speaks to fine wine investment company OenoFuture to find out about Penfolds’ secret experiment, which put Australian fine wine on the map

WHAT COMES TO mind when you think of Australian wine? Probably you’re thinking of the country’s big and beefy shiraz-based reds, the lovable rogues of the wine world.

These days, the country also has a cult following for its world-class fine wines thanks to a secret experiment conducted in the 1950s.

After travelling to Europe in 1950, Penfolds winemaker Max Schubert had ambitious dreams of making a magnificent Australian wine to rival even the finest Bordeauxs.

Unfortunately, his now-iconic Grange Hermitage received a frosty reception from the wine world, forcing him to shelve the project. At the time, tastes were rather different, with fortified wines making up 80%
of all wine sold in Australia.

Although ahead of his time, Schubert fortunately had both the vision to realise that tastes were changing and the bloody-mindedness to persevere.

He continued making Grange in a hidden corner of the Penfolds winery. Over the next few years, news slowly leaked out about Schubert’s secret experiment and the wine was officially released by Penfolds in 1960 to unequivocal critical acclaim.

In recent years, Grange has picked up perfect 100-point scores from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate for the 2008 vintage, Wine Spectator’s Red Wine of the Year 1995 for the 1990 vintage, and another 100 Points from Lisa Perrotti-Brown of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate for Grange 2013. Not a bad haul by anyone’s standards.

Today, Penfolds sets the benchmark for Australian fine wine as the country’s most famous winery. Grange has even been listed as a Heritage Icon of South Australia and the winery’s annual release is eagerly anticipated by collectors from Asia to America. Its 2020 Collection was officially announced in August and this year includes the much-awaited Penfolds g4, a brand-new release composed of four different vintages of Grange.

“These four Grange vintages are among our favourites of the last two decades,” explained Penfolds’ current chief winemaker Peter Gago. “All so different – in every sense, not just climatically. The synergistic blending of these vintages worked perfectly from a quality, structural and style perspective.”

Eyes are also on this year’s Grange release, the 2016 vintage. “The Penfolds release this year features the wonderful 2016 Grange, a wine with such a fabulous pedigree of quality that a 99 point score is almost nothing more than expected,” comments Justin Knock, OenoFuture’s Chief Wine Analyst and native-born Australian who is one of just a few hundred people to hold the coveted Master of Wine title. “It continues Grange’s incredible record of another ‘6’ vintage being counted amongst the best of the decade, following the traditions of ’66, ’76, ’86, ’96 and ’06.

In recent years, Grange has picked up perfect 100-point scores from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

“Grange has a steady yet solid track-record of improving in value as well and it’s absolutely ideal for long-term buy-and-hold style portfolios. While it is often possible to pick up the odd case of Grange on the secondary market, only on release can you secure significant quantities that are ideal for long-term investors.”

“Elsewhere in the range,” Knock continues, “we are overjoyed to see the 2018s in such great shape. A rich and flavoursome year thanks to warm and dry growing conditions, the wines have trademark power, flavour and flair but what surprises is the freshness and balance, which gives them great shape and drinking appeal. This confers on them the great prospect of being sensational to drink both young and old.”

“Returning for the first time in two years is Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon (not made in 2017) and it will surely be highly sought after.

“Penfolds also celebrates the 60th anniversary of Bin 389, the mercurial cabernet-shiraz blend that is affectionately called ‘Baby Grange’ and is Australia’s most collected and cellared wine.”

OenoFuture is offering a handful of exclusive Penfolds collections including three cases of the coveted Grange 2016, three Grange 2016 magnums, and two cases of Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 for £12,300 in total. Global demand for these wines remains extremely high with very limited production meaning they are expected to perform well on the secondary market in coming years. There are also a very limited number of individual Grange 2016 cases available for £2,230. For more info about Penfolds and fine wine investment, please contact OenoFuture. See oenogroup.com

 

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