Leading Australian Wine into the Modern Era: Penfolds

Penfolds has been awarded perfect 100 rating scores for their iconic Grange series.

Jun. 2020Written by Kyle TrompeterPhotography provided by Penfolds

shrubbery covers a wall surrounding a staircase leading up to Penfolds' brick winery
grape vines protrude out from the ground at Penfold's historic Block 42 vineyard row
close up view of a grape vine with colorful foliage and ripening cabernet grapes
Penfold's original chief winemaker, Max Schubert, ganders at a bottle of his signature Grange wine
Penfold's original Chief Winemaker, Max Schubert, visually inspects wine quality from a row of snifters filled from a variety of bottles
multiple rows of wooden wine aging barrels stained by red wine
Penfold's Chief Winemaker, Peter Gago, leans one of many shelves lined with bottles of red wine
Penfold's Senior Winemaker, Steph Dutton, leans on a wooden vineyard post in front of a wall of grape vines and leafs
vineyard post label for Penfold's historic Block 42 vineyard row backed by grape vines and foliage

The legendary Magill Estate, where it all began for Penfolds back in 1844. The single vineyard is one of the world’s only urban vineyards, located a mere 15 minutes from Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia.

The Barossa Valley vineyard is home to many of Penfolds’ finest creations, all stemming from the Block 42 vines.

The Block 42 vines, originally planted in the 1880s, yields fruit used in the Grange, Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, and Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz expressions.

Max Schubert, Penfolds’ first Chief Winemaker, eyes his first passion project, the Grange Hermitage — now known as the Penfolds Grange, which eventually became known as one of the finest wines in the world.

The now-universally loved Grange was initially universally disliked. After a poor tasting with a panel of experts in 1957, Penfolds management shuttered the Grange operation. However, the initial flop made Schubert even more determined, and he worked for years in secret to make the necessary corrections to ultimately deliver one of the world’s most respected wines.

Here are the Grange barrels, always resting in the Magill Estate. Over the years, the Grange has been named Wine Spectator’s Red Wine of the Year in 1995 and achieved a perfect 100-point rating on multiple occasions.

Peter Gago, Penfolds’ current and fourth Chief Winemaker, joined the winery in 1989 and eventually worked his way to his current position in 2002. In 2017, the world of winemaking recognized Peter’s impact on the industry, bestowing him with the honor of becoming South Australia’s Great Wine Capitals Global Ambassador.

Steph Dutton, Penfolds Senior Red Winemaker, was born and raised in Melbourne, a city renowned for its love of wine. She first joined Penfolds in 2007 and worked at the Magill Estate Restaurant. After earning a Masters of Oenology degree, she joined the Penfolds red winemaking team, stationed in the Barossa Valley vineyards. Dutton embraces the unpredictable nature of winemaking and believes that is “what keeps the fascination for winemaking alive.”

The dream for any lover of fine wine would be to visit the prestigious winery in person. If you’re lucky enough to make that trip, you’ll be stepping on these hallowed grounds, home to many of the world’s best vineyards. Until then, pour a glass of Penfolds and savor the iconic flavors of Australian winemaking at its finest.

“1844 to evermore!”

It’s a catchphrase that isn’t just Penfolds’ slogan for its longstanding history as Australia’s premier producer of fine wine. It also captures the brand’s original purpose, which was administering wine as a tonic for anemic patients, giving new life and energy to those who needed it.

By the 1860s, the winery, founded by Christopher and Mary Penfolds, graduated from making medicinal wines to producing the finest wines in Australia, and when it comes to winemaking Down Under, Penfolds has been the ideal to strive towards ever since.

Penfolds is most famous for their iconic Grange series, first poured in 1951 by Max Schubert, the first Chief Winemaker in the history of Penfolds. In 2016, the current Penfolds Chief Winemaker, Peter Gago, told us, “No two Granges are the same.”

No two Granges are the same.
- Peter Gago, Chief Winemaker

Over the years, the Granges have landed the industry’s top honors, achieving a perfect score of 100 points by a variety of the most influential publications in wine.

Oddly enough, the story of the Grange nearly sank shortly after it launched in the ’50s. Penfolds’ management pressured Schubert to shut down his passion project after initial reviews of the grapes were subpar, so he did — or so they thought.

Schubert continued to make the wine in secret, and for years, hid his Grange barrels and bottled wines behind a fake wall at the winery until the juice was near perfect. The board of directors finally stumbled upon this venture in 1960, and upon realizing the quality of the wines was immaculate, they brought the Grange back into their regular rotation. And the rest is history.

Join us on a one-of-a-kind, virtual tour through the rich history of Penfolds and experience why they’ve set an unreachably high bar when it comes to fine wines from Australia.

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