Penfolds Grange (until the 1989 vintage labelled Penfolds Grange Hermitage) is an Australian wine, made predominantly from the Shiraz (Syrah) grape and usually a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is widely considered Australia's "first growth" and its most collectable wine. The term "Hermitage", the name of a French wine appellation, was commonly used in Australia as another synonym for Shiraz or Syrah. Penfolds is owned by Treasury Wine Estates.
The first vintage of Penfolds Grange was made on an experimental basis in 1951 by winemaker Max Schubert, while he was employed by Penfolds Wines. Having toured Europe in 1950, Schubert implemented wine-making techniques observed in Bordeaux upon his return, aiming to create a red wine able to rival the finest Bordeaux wines both in terms of quality and ageing potential.
Individual bottles of the 1951 vintage are still held by collectors; one sold at auction in 2004 for just over A$50,000. The first vintage to be commercially released was the 1952. Penfolds Grange was styled as a powerful still wine in an age when fortified wines were in fashion. Negative reviews by wine critics and poor commercial prospects for the wine led Penfolds management in 1957 to forbid Schubert from producing Penfolds Grange, but Schubert persisted in secret through 1959. As the initial vintages aged, however, their true value came to be appreciated, and in 1960 the management instructed Schubert to restart production, oblivious to the fact that Schubert had never stopped production and had not missed a vintage.
The great 1955 vintage was submitted to competitions beginning in 1962, and over the years has won more than 50 gold medals. The vintage of 1971 won first prize in Shiraz at the Wine Olympics in Paris. The 1990 vintage was named 'Red Wine of the Year' by the Wine Spectator magazine in 1995, which later rated the 1998 vintage 99 points out of a possible 100.
Penfolds Grange also carries a "Bin" designation, referring to its storage location in Penfolds cellars while ageing. 1951 was Bin 1, 1952 was Bin 4, and later vintages carried various designations. By 1964 the designation was standardised as "Bin 95".
By the end of the 1980s the wine came to be regarded as a collectors' item. The name "Hermitage" was dropped from the label with the 1990 vintage, following objections by the European Union authorities to the use of a French place-name; no third-country wine entering EU may carry a geographical name recognized by European wine officials.
Unlike most expensive cult wines from the Old World which are from single vineyards or even small plots (called blocks) within vineyards, Grange is made from grapes harvested over a wide area. This means that the precise composition of the wine changes from year to year; it is the expertise of the winemakers which purchasers value, rather than the qualities of the specific places where the grapes are grown, or the particular vines. The quantity of Penfolds Grange produced varies from year to year and is a carefully guarded secret. (Although Penfolds have disclosed that 1,800 bottles of the original 1951 vintage were produced). Despite the vagaries of grape sourcing and vintage variation due to growing conditions, some[who?] believe that there is a consistent and recognisable "Penfolds Grange" style.
In the 1980s, Tooth & Co. (who were then part of the Adelaide Steamship Group) purchased a number of wineries, including Penfolds. AdSteam sold its wineries to SA Brewing Holdings in 1990, who then amalgamated all of its wine holdings into "The Penfolds Wines Group". In 1994 SA Brewing Holdings split into three companies: brewing into SA Brewing Company, wine in Southcorp Wines, and other activities into Southcorp. Upon its acquisition of Southcorp Wines in May 2005, ownership of the Penfolds brand, along with its museum collection of Penfolds Grange, passed to the Foster's Group.
- Pitcher, Steve, The Wine News (February/March 2002). "Proprietary Shiraz -Australia's Best of Show".
- winepros.com.au. The Oxford Companion to Wine. "Penfolds".
- ABC News (17 June 2004). "Grange fetches record price".
- Snow, Chris, Decanter.com (23 July 2008). "Complete sets of Grange up for auction".
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- Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine
- Langton's Classification of Australian Wine IV, Jancis Robinson
- Appellation Australia, An exploration of Australian wine
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- "Penfold Grange, a definitive guide". Langton. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
- "Penfolds Grange 1951 - Tasting Notes".
- Demerger, www.fostersgroup.com
- Johnson, Hugh (1994), The World Atlas of Wine (4th ed.), New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-671-88674-6
- Caillard, Andrew (2004). The Rewards of Patience (5th ed. ed.). Australia: Penfolds. ISBN 1-877082-37-6.