It does not take a scholar or an expert able to discern all the smells, flavors and textures of wine to recognize an outstanding product. Such is the case of an exquisite wine called Grange. Produced by the Australian winery Penfolds since the 1950s, Penfolds Grange is an emblem of the company founded in 1844 by Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife, Mary Penfold.
The history of Grange is closely tied to winemaker Max Schubert. It began in 1949 when Schubert was sent by Penfolds to Jerez de la Frontera in Spain, and Bordeaux, France, to research and learn how the best wines were produced. Back in Adelaide, Australia, Schubert sought the best grapes of the varieties Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and combined the traditional Australian winemaking techniques with what he learned on his trip to Europe and the oenological practices developed by the Penfolds winery.
Schubert produced his first batch in 1951, with the idea of creating an excellent wine, but unsure of its success. A year later, in 1952, the Grange Hermitage—as it was known then—was launched. By 1957, a wine tasting organized by the managers of Penfolds concluded that the Grange had failed–in its laudable attempt–to become the great Australian wine. Read more about wined produced in Australia.
But at the end of the 1950s— without informing the board of Penfolds—Schubert and his team decided to conduct a tasting of the experimental Grange from 1957-1959, which had been stored in underground cellars. The winemakers were amazed and surprised at the effects the underground aging had on the wine. They organized a second official tasting for the members of the board, with wines from 1951 and 1959 vintages.
That second tasting was so enthralling and successful that the company decided to restart the production of Penfolds Grange Hermitage in 1960. Since then, the Grange has confirmed its position as the most distinguished and most expensive of all the wines produced in Australia. Review our curated selection of great international vintages.
The philosophy of Grange winemaking has not changed in the last sixty years. Today, the iconic status of Grange in the history of Australian wine is indisputable. It was declared a World Heritage by the South Australian National Trust and has been classified as one of the world’s most traded wines by Liv-Ex from London—the global market for exclusive wines. Even The Wall Street Journal published a Grange Dow Jones index, with text that read: “Wine lovers remember their first Grange in the same way they remember their first kiss”.
At present, a bottle of Penfolds Grange—it no longer uses the Hermitage surname on its label— costs $800 for recent vintages. But one of the rare bottles from 1957 can easily command $25,000. ■