THE DAY OF THE TASTING
Burnt Ends had acquired a full range of Penfolds Grange Magnums from a Singaporean private collector. When Penfolds found out about it, they were keen to be involved to hail such a collection.
1979 was the first vintage that Grange was bottled in Magnum format. Penfolds only bottle around 600 Magnums each year.
The Chief Winemaker of Penfolds, Peter Gago was coming up to Singapore to present the Grange Magnums at the lunches on both days. There were about 40 guests in total, so the ratio of wine-to-guest and guests-to-Peter Gago was fantastic. It was an opportunity too good to pass up.
When Peter Gago, Chief Winemaker since 2002, and a Winemaker with Penfolds for 28 years, says “This is a world’s first for Penfolds”, it is a pinch-yourself-type-of-moment. I was so grateful to be there.
I attended Day 1 only, which meant I got to taste all the wines from the odd years –(eg 1979, 1981, 1983 etc to 2011) over a 6-hour lunch. The following day all the even years were to be tasted. Over the course of the lunch, we were presented with 4 brackets of 4 vintages of Grange. The first bracket consisted of 1979, 1981, 1983 and 1985 and the second bracket 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993, and so on.
My goal for this tasting was to savour each vintage: to try to taste the subtleties and understand the nuances between them all. As with all wines, vintages from year to year are never the same because the seasons are never the same. From the amount of rainfall, summer heat, frost or storms and wind and hail: all play factors in the development of the vineyards and the grapes.
Penfolds Grange is predominantly Shiraz but Cabernet Sauvignon is added in varying percentages from year to year depending on the choices made by the viticulture and winemaking teams.
In Australia, wine labeling rules allow you to name a single variety on the label, provided it has a minimum of 85% of that variety. The other 15% can be made up of whatever the winemakers deems (for example, the 1983 Grange is made up of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon). These minor variations in each vintage form part of the very detailed process Penfolds goes through to continue its excellence in the production of Grange. There is a lot of expectation and anticipation from the global market with Grange’s reputation the way it is. The stakes are very high!
Without going into all the wine description terminology that people roll their eyes over, I must say that the older Grange wines were powerful, balanced and elegant and still had time to shine. Deep intense colour in the glass all the way to the rim, each with their own unique aroma and a beautiful, long lingering finish. I had to sit silently for a minute or two each time (something that is not so easy for me!) to really experience each wine.
As I progressed through to the younger wines, it was very clear how much potential these younger Grange wines still had! The only threat to waiting for the optimum cellaring time is well – us, the consumers!
So if you can wait to open your Grange, your patience will be rewarded. Sometimes though, we can’t! Drinking young Penfolds is equally as enjoyable to share with those you love (or better yet, with those you love who love wine!!)
So how to pick a favourite…? Could I actually do that in one sitting and 17 Granges? 😊