The List




The List


Penfolds Grange

New World. Old World. Ostensibly, two diametrically opposed viewpoints on how wine should taste, be produced and even how it should be labelled.

France, as the Captain of the Old World, emphasises, not surprisingly, the importance of terroir – the individual plots of land upon which grapes are grown – and the wine’s pedigree and its ability to age into something graceful and complex.

Australia, leading the New World, champions upfront, approachable fruitiness, and criticises the Old World’s lack of flexibility and its continued production of what it may term ‘stuffy’ styles of wine.

To divide the world of wine into such binary oppositions is, of course, to oversimplify, and nowhere is this more evident than in Penfolds Grange, a wine that successfully bridges the gap between old and new worlds by combining the age-worthiness of the former with the modern techniques and consistency of the latter.

To the uninitiated, the brand Penfolds may conjure up images of relatively inexpensive, easy drinking reds and whites from large geographical areas down under. Like many Australian producers, Penfolds does not concentrate on a single market; instead, its wines run the whole gamut from entry level to top line. And top line is certainly what Grange is, having won over fifty gold medals at international wine competitions in the last forty years, and, perhaps more importantly, having been rated in the high nineties by many leading wine critics.

Originally called Grange Hermitage, it is a wine that wears its influences from the famous Rhone appellation firmly on its sleeve (and its label until 1989), being composed primarily of the shiraz grape (albeit usually with a small proportion of cabernet sauvignon). Unlike Hermitage, though, grapes are drawn from a number of different vineyards, and the composition varies year on year. This is anathema to many French wine aficionados, especially Burgundians, as it negates the effect of terroir, but Penfolds have, in Grange, consistently produced a wine that is of a quality high enough to trouble any of France’s finest wines.

A great Grange, such as our recommended vintage of 1990, exhibits flavours of coffee, chocolate and mint, held together with a firm structure that would have, in the wine’s youth, discouraged early drinking. There is none of the excessive smokiness of a cheap Australian Shiraz, but neither is there the reluctant quality of a Rhone wine. Any smokiness is in the form of a grilled meats flavour that does not overwhelm the more subtle notes and the overall earthiness of the wine. Ultimately, this is an Australian that can never be accused of lacking sophistication.