David O’Leary & Nick Walker – 100 Years of Winemaking

 

Barbarians and Real Champs

David O’Leary is most likely the best winemaker in Australia you’ve never heard of. He has worked with many great winemakers such as Brian Barry, Mick Knappstein, John Vickery, Bryan Dolan, Jeff Merrill, Brian Croser, Tony Jordan, Chris Hatcher, Wolf Blass and John Glaetzer who won all those Jimmy Watson trophies for his master.

At the turn of the millennium, David and Nick Walker joined forces and set up their own wine company – O’Leary Walker.

They had been good friends ever since they met at Roseworthy in the mid-seventies.  Between them, David tells me, they have 93 vitages under their belts.

Both worked for several big wine companies, winning some 300 gold medals and 60 trophies for them. It was time to stand out on their own.

The Clare Valley is famous for its Rieslings, which overshadow the great reds made in the area. At my age, I’m reluctant to buy green bananas, let along reds that will hit their drinking sweet spot a decade from now. I made an exception when I tasted a red last year that showed just how underrated Clare reds have been: O’Leary Walker Polish Hill River Armagh Shiraz 2018.

2018 was a warm, low yielding vintage that produced rich, ripe reds of great power.  The fruit came from Polish Hill River and Armagh just north of Clare, and David took full advantage of its quality, storing the wine in French oak (25% new) for 2 years. The result is a perfect Clare red that sold for pennies – $20 a bottle.

That’s the genius of David O’Leary: making stunning reds we can afford. Penfolds would charge $100 for a wine of this caliber. It scored 97 points with several reviewers, which is a close to perfect score.

A Wild Time

When I talked with David, he mentioned that he’d been working nightshift during the last few weeks. Years ago, winemakers learnt that the fruit was in better condition when harvested in the cool of the night, but it had to be crushed and processed straight away – therefore the nightshift.

‘Don’t you get tired of working nightshift?’ I asked him, ‘and don’t you have young guys on your team to do that?’

‘Yes we do,’ he answered, ‘but they’re still learning so Nick and I are there to support them.’ He chuckled. ‘Anyway, I quite enjoy nightshift. Had some lunch today, then a quick snooze, and I’m ready to go again.’

David must be on the wrong side of sixty, so you’ve got to admire his energy, and his enthusiasm. He lived through a tumultuous time in Australia’s wine industry: a time when corporate Apex predators ruled the land, gobbling up everything in their way, and sometimes each other.

The story begins with Walter Reynell & Sons falling into the smoke-stained hands of Rothmans of Pall Mall in the 1970s.

In this decade, David O’Leary started work at the Stanley Wine Company, as a lab assistant to Brian Barry. Barry had come from the Riverland co-op Berri-Renmano, where he had raised the quality of the wines to stellar levels. While working with Brian Barry and Mick Knappstein at Stanley, David fell in love with Clare Valley Rieslings, but it was to take many years before the Clare Valley became his home.

The Big Time

David went on to work for Petaluma, where Tony Jordan had set up a contract winemaking service. David did short stints at Heemskerk in Tasmania, then at Lindemans in Coonawarra. Riesling Meister John Vickery had been sent there in 1980 to take charge of the reds – the Rouge Homme range and the Coonawarra trio – the St George twins and Pyrus, the Bordeaux blend.

1982 was David’s practice year for his graduation from Roseworthy Agricultural College. Vickery was famous for his obsession with cleanliness in the winery, and David tells the story of a Miller Drainer he was told to clean. ‘When John inspected it,’ David recalls, ‘he wasn’t happy because he found a couple of pips that I’d missed.’

John Vickery was just one of many great winemakers David O’Leary learnt from. He joined Chateau Reynella just before Hardy’s bought the winery in 1982 – Thomas Hardy had worked there 130 years earlier.

Over the following years, David worked his way up to chief red winemaker, while Hardy’s grew into the largest wine company down under. It owned long established brands such as Tintara, Leasingham and Houghton, and was busy planting new vineyards from Padthaway to Canberra.

Tomorrow The World

This was the time when Australian wine exports boomed, and when the Brits and the Yanks learnt to love the ‘sunshine in a bottle’ wines from down under. These wines never made any money for their makers, but they put Australia on the map.

David worked both ends of the quality spectrum, making Eileen Hardy Shiraz and Reynella Cabernet at the top end, and some high volume reds at the bottom end. I suggested that he was one of the last great blenders, and he said: ‘at Hardy’s we had a huge choice of fruit from different regions, and from new vineyards coming on stream, and we used open fermenters and small oak – you couldn’t go wrong!’

David is nothing if not self effacing, I discovered, always giving others credit for his achievements. Chris Shanahan was surprised by the quality of the Nottage Hill Cabernet, ‘a product of the great Padthaway vineyard combined with O’Leary’s genius and enhanced by the open fermenters and oak barrels available only because he also makes the likes of Eileen Hardy and the Chateau Reynella reds.’

By the end of the eighties, David was at the top of his game, and became chief winemaker at Hardy’s. He said, ‘They were the biggest wine company at the time, but their biggest sellers were white wines – Siegersdorf Riesling, Old Castle Riesling, Hardy collection Chardonnay and more.

‘The reds weren’t doing as well,’ David added, ‘but winning the Jimmy Watson trophy in 1988 changed that. It was big win for Hardy’s, and they had the sales and marketing people to take advantage of it, people like David Woods who took sales to another level.’

By the start of the new millennium, BRL Hardy was making one in every 5 bottles of wine down under. Back in the nineties, David was named ‘international red winemaker of the year’ by the International Wine Challenge (IWC).

Sturm Und Drang

Selling Aussie wines oversees was an exciting adventure, but soon some of our movers and shakers fell for the idea of buying a chateau or two in France. Len Evans was at the forefront of this trend, and the late Jim Hardy followed, collecting vineyards in Tuscany, Sicily, France and Chile. North America was to be next but the debts began to pile up and put a stop to Hardy’s hubris.

‘The deregulation of our banking system in the 1980s led to a period of speculative madness by bankers and borrowers,’ industry veteran David Farmer wrote, ‘… a few poor business decisions by the Hardy’s board heralded the end …’

Hardy’s was a wine company with 125 year history, and now it needed a partner to bail it out. The huge Berri-Renmano co-op (nickname: the oil refinery) was the successful suitor, so a shotgun marriage followed. ‘Blue bloods trying to be nice to farmers from the Murray,’ David Farmer wrote, ‘and how humiliating this must have been for the sailing hero Jim Hardy.’

The new entity was called BRL Hardy, and David O’Leary became senior winemaker for the group. He kept his head down and made lots more great reds at Hardy’s Tintara winery in McLaren Vale, despite the post-merger upheaval. More here from Chris Shanahan.

Briefly he also became one of our many flying winemakers, making wine for Hardy’s in France and California. David was philosophical about the outfall from the merger. ‘It’s sad to see good people pushed out of companies,’ he said, ‘good people who’ve worked for them all their lives. We saw it at Penfolds too, in the late nineties, lots of good people laid off.’

David also made the point that you never left a good job in those days, but in 1994 he turned his back on Hardy’s and joined Mildara Blass. Once again, David harbours no ill feelings, and just talked about all the great people he had worked with at Hardy’s: ‘Geoff Weaver, Tim James, Tom Newton, Wayne Jackson, Brian Dolan, Mark Tummel and of course Sir James Hardy and all the Hardys.’

Constellation Brands bought BRL Hardy’s a few years later for $1.3 billion, followed by Southcorp paying $1.5 billion for Rosemount. Aussie wine had been fully corporatised.

Black Opal

Mildara Blass was run by Ray King, one of the few CEOs who generated handsome profits for shareholders of an Aussie wine company at that time. King’s focus was on producing good reds at sharp prices, and David had proven that he was as good as they come in that genre.

Ray King had acquired a bunch of wineries over the years that included Wolf Blass, Maglieri, Yellowglen, Rothbury Estate, Saltram, Bailey’s, Ingoldby and St Huberts. Years earlier, Wolf Blass had bought the big, beautiful Quelltaler property in the Clare Valley from Cognac maker Remy Martin and renamed it Eaglehawk, and later on Black Opal.

King changed the name to Annie’s Lane, and the new focus was on a range of $15 wines. David O’Leary was the guiding light once again, and I remember how good the reds and Rieslings were for the money in the late nineties.

‘Annie’s Lane was a terrific experience,’ says David. ‘After 14 years with Hardy’s, I met and worked with great people from the Barossa to the Riverland. Ray King was on top of his game, Mike Press was chief winemaker and had talented people in the Group like Chris Hatcher and John Glaetzer, You could see why Wolf Blass was a juggernaut with these guys directing the winemaking.’

David O’Leary still relished the chance to make some great whites, and Annie’s Lane was a place where many great Rieslings had come from. ‘I would always check with Nick Walker on making Riesling,’ David stressed, ‘as he was part of the group and ran the Krondorf winery pretty much since we graduated from Roseworthy.

Nick said David should talk to Chris Hatcher, so he did. ‘During vintage I would annoy Chris and Wendy Stuckey on how they went about making Riesling,’ David recalled, and one of his Annie Lane Rieslings soon won a gold medal at the Adelaide show – he was making Rieslings under 4 different labels at Annie’s Lane.

Chris Hatcher accepting yet another Best Winemakerr Award.

David’s new talent with Riesling didn‘t go unnoticed. ‘As I passed Chris Hatcher at work one day,’ David recalls, ‘he said “did you soak the label off a Wolf Blass Riesling?” ‘I was lucky to work with Chris,’ he concedes. Hatcher has won over 200 gold medals and trophies.

Good Bye Barbarians

In 1998, David was dispatched to Coonawarra to run Mildara’s operation there after Gavin Hogg resigned. A year later David O’Leary resigned and joined forces with Nick Walker in their new venture  – O’Leary Walker Wines. ‘Everyone told us we were mad,’ David recalled, ‘to give up our well-paid jobs and go out on our own.’

One thing the two weren’t short of was experience: Together, they had worked in the wine industry for over half a century. Nick’s father Norm Walker once made sparkling wine for Romalo and Seaview. His father Hurtle worked with Frenchman Leon Mazure, making sparkling wine at Auldana and Romalo. In memory of his dad, Nick Walker has been making a ‘Hurtle’ Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay.

Nick spent over 14 years with Mildara Blass making wine for Yellowglen, Yarra Ridge, Baileys and St Huberts labels. He had cut his winemaking teeth at Krondorf in the early 1980s, where he made Eden Valley Rieslings that won a ton of bling on the show circuit.

3 generations of the Walker family

Grant Burge bought the Krondorf winery in 1978, sold it to Mildara Blass in the eighties, bought it back in the nineties and sold it to Accolade in 1999. He bought the winery for a third time in 2022, from Accolade Wines after they closed it down – a perfect example of the madness that is the wine business down under.

‘We had planned to set up shop in the Adelaide Hills,’ David told me, ‘but the council only approved a dozen licences and we missed out.’ David grew up in the Hills, and his family owns several vineyards there, but he and Nick ended up in the Clare Valley where they leased the mothballed Quelltaler winery for $50,000 a year.

That was a blessing in the first few years, but then the owners kept raising the rent, so David and Nick decided to build their own winery which was completed in 2010. They didn’t plant a vineyard in Clare since they knew the best growers in the valley to buy fruit from. They made wines from the traditional varieties – Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet. The model was to make small batch, high quality wines from the best sites in South Australia.

The Hills are Alive

In the nineties, David planted lots of vines at Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills, some on the original ‘Wyebo’ property that his grandfather bought in 1912. The varieties they planted here were Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec and Shiraz..

That meant David and Nick had 2 styles of wines for sale: the traditional Clare styles, and the more modern, cool climate Adelaide Hills styles.

In 2015 they bought the old Johnston family brewery and cordial factory beside the Oakbank racecourse, and turned it into a cellar door and restaurant.

‘These days you need to offer tourists a lot more than just wine,’ David explains. ‘They want a more complete experience, and you want them to come back for more.’ That’s why their winery in the Clare Valley employs a full-time chef today.

Business was flourishing until Covid reared its ugly head. We all know about the damage the pandemic did to restaurants and coffee shops, but we didn’t hear about the damage the virus did to wineries that relied on supplying restaurants or on their cellar door trade. Covid even impacted on their exports.

‘Covid was very tough and I feel for a lot of businesses especially in Victoria,’ David recalls. ‘Our Sales were mainly to on premise restaurants and independent retail, which was closed down. Our sales domestically were down 75%, which was really tough.’

Early in 2021, they had to close their cellar door at Oakbank in the Hills, and sell the historic brewery site. ‘The only good thing Covid did,’ David summed up, ‘was make us really have a critical look at our business and how we can improve the running across the board.’

Export wasn’t a high priority until now, and O’Leary Walker was among 10 South Australian wineries selected in the Wine Australia USA Market Entry Program in 2020. Nick Walker’s son Jack has been learning the ropes in the winery for several years now, so perhaps the need for David to work nightshifts will reduce.

Footnote

This was a big story, covering the working lives of two winemakers, and I needed a lot of help with the details. David O’Leary was always happy to answer question by email or phone, was always helpful and showed endless patience.

As I said earlier, he was more than generous in his praise for the many people he worked with. That includes Wolf Blass, the great self promoter – David expressed nothing but admiration for Blass’s achievements. When you search for Wolf’s interview with Richard Fidler on ABC radio in 2011, this is what the entry in the search results says: ‘Wolf Blass has played a major role in transforming Australia into one of the world’s most respected winemaking countries.’

According to Wolf, Australia was the vinous equivalent of Terra Nullius. Everyone drank beer, he said. The red wines we made were awful. He told Richard about his many achievements, about how smart a winemaker he was, and about his marketing genius.

He rarely talked about anyone else. Forget Max Schubert, Maurice O’Shea, Jack Mann, Ron Haselgrove, Roger Warren, Colin Preece or John Vickery. When you listen to Wolf in his radio interviews, these guys simply didn’t exist.

Yes, the German Genius came to this backward land and civilised it all by himself. More here: Wolf Blass Wunderkind?

 

PENFOLDS – Young Reds go Diving

 

This is Penfolds marketing doing what they do best: finding more silly ways to promote their overpriced wines. Hot on the heels of the hottest month ever recorded, and with ‘boiling’ seas in many parts of the world, Grange and its siblings are taking to the oceans.

One the last day of July, an email from Penfolds floated into my inbox announcing the ONE BY PENFOLDS GLOBAL LAUNCH.

‘We recently celebrated the global launch of One by Penfolds,’ it said. ‘The launch coincided with the announcement that NIGO, the Founder of Human Made and Artistic Director of KENZO, has been named Penfolds first-ever Creative Partner.’

What will his first job be? Bringing those expensive bottles back to the surface and put them somewhere cool? Fire the creative marketing team? Blow up the tacky stand they built for the launch in Hong Kong?

‘One by Penfolds is a collection of wines that celebrates what makes us all different and unique,’ the media release says, ‘but also the things that bring us together – as represented by the winemaking regions from where the One by Penfolds range is made around the world.

Here’s the launch video

Using his signature style, Human Made founder NIGO designed three animal motifs which feature on the wine labels – a crocodile, rooster and bear. The designs represent the winemaking regions where One by Penfolds wines are sourced – Australia, France and America.

The Aussie wines get the croc – I reckon that’ll bring more tourists down under than ‘where the bloody hell are you?’

That leads us to another question: ‘where the bloody hell are you going, Penfolds?

Sadly I missed this event in May: Citrique’s Exquisite Penfolds Degustation at the JW Marriott Gold Coast Unleash Your Inner Foodie. ‘Food enthusiasts and wine connoisseurs alike are invited to indulge in a gastronomic extravaganza featuring a delightful degustation dinner in collaboration with the prestigious Penfolds Wines. Priced at $189 per person, this exclusive event promises an unforgettable evening of culinary bliss.

We can only wonder how the prestigious Penfolds wines collaborate – do they unscrew their Stelvin caps and poor some wine into the glasses of the assembled punters? Do they amuse them with tasting notes or jokes? Do they have a message attached to their labels, with wise words on life like fortune cookies? Do they dance on the table, or sing for your supper?

One more thing: the price of Grange has hit 1000 dollars. And Penfolds offer a 6-pack for $6000. Now that’s marketing.

And here’s a video on the serious reds

And finally, here’s Grange – right up there with Beethoven’s 5th

Kim

BEST WINES UNDER $7 – the Philip Lowe Edition

 

Had lunch with my kids on the weekend, and they asked me for some advice about good wines around 5 – 7 dollars. They’re all professionals in their fields, but the rising interest rates have caused them serious mortgage stress, and the rising cost of everything else has added to that. They all have teenage kids.

Finding great wines under $20 is hard enough but under $7 is a very different ballgame. For one, we have to include cask wines. Few wine scribes review these kinds of wines, and I don’t really feel like tasting a bunch of wines that could leave splinters in my taste buds. Over the years, I’ve found that user riews at Dan Murphy’s are fairly reliable – there are many of them, and the average ratings are is a pretty good guide. I’ve also learnt to read between the lines.

These wines are mostly sold by the big chains, who can’t bothered to show us us the wines’ vintage. That’s not so important at this end of the market, and most cask wines don’t carry vintage years anyway. The top of the line 2-litre casks are the exception. So here goes.

CASKS

In this area, it pays to stick with known brands since they rarely make bad wines these days.

Banrock Station Chardonnay2L – $12 at DM’s. This is a well-established winery, and the wine gets great reviews from the punters.

De Bortoli Premium Pinot Grigio 4L cask – $21 at DM’s. These guys rarely make bad wine, even at this price – around $4 a bottle. The cask holds over five 750ml bottles. Here’s the full range

Brown Brothers Milawa Dry Red Cask 10L – $60 at DM’s. hey, that’s a big one, and it gets rave reviews that suggest it’s more than worth $6 a bottle. Just the ticket for a big party or massive picnic.

Winesmiths Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2L – $13 at Vintage Cellars. This is a range of quality casks made by Hill-Smith-Estates, which owns Yalumba among many other brands. Both winemaking and packaging aim for a low carbon footprint, and many of the wines suit vegans.  There’s a line of quality organic wines as well, with $20+ price tags. Check my reviews of the 2021s.

BEST WINES UNDER $7

Whites

Soft White Clean Skin$4 at DM’s. Serious rave reviews. Note to me: Must check this out.

Cleanskin Semillon Sauvignon Blanc – $5 at DM’s. More big raves

Cleanskin Rosé – $6 at DM’s. Huge raves from the punters

De Bortoli Sacred Hill Chardonnay 2022 – $5 at DM’s. The surprise is that it’s drinkable, and well-made. 86 points.

 

Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay – $6 at LL. I bought this for cooking, and discovered it was pleasant enough drinking. Used to drink this on occasion in the 1980s years, when it was really popular. They must’ve kept the recipe, because it rings a bell in the archive of my wine memories. Ripe fruit and some oak chips make , but well done. 88 points.

Wolf Blass Red Label Chardonnay 2022 – $7 at DM’s. It doesn’t have a lot of character, but it’s a smooth all-rounder with more polish than you’d expect for the price. 88 points.

Queen Snapper Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2020 – $7 at DM’s. An inoffensive SSB blend from Margaret River. Crisp and clean. The straight savvy has more flavour but they seem to have run out of that one. 87 points

Wolf Blass Red Label Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2022 – $7 at LL. Haven’t tried this but it gets tons of raves from customers.

Wolf Blass Red Label Chardonnay 2022 – $7 at LL. Clever winemaking here, smooth polish rather than contrived flavours. More than drinkable, and certainly good enough for cooking. 88 points.

Houghton White Classic 2022 – $7.50 at Kemenys. It’s changed over the years but it’s still a good drink, and a bargain at this price. 90 points.

Rewild Sustainably Made Chardonnay 2022 – $8 at DM’s. Newish brand from the Riverland, better than average wines, pretty labels, what’s not to like? 89 points.

Yalumba Y series Chardonnay 2022 – $10 at Our CellarUnwooded Chardonnay, mostly from Riverland material. Fruity as you’d expect – pineapple, peach, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of herbs. Well-made, nothing overdone. 90 points.

Paul Mas Marsanne 2020 – $10 at DM’s. A lovely crisp white from the Languedoc in the south of France, savoury with good line and length. 92 points.

Reds

Cleanskin Big & Bold SEA Shiraz$5.50 at LL. Lots of serious raves from the punters. Check it out.

Jamiesons Run Grazier Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 – $ 6 at LL (2 for $12). A smooth 6 dollar red that’s actually pleasant drinking. No rough edges, perfect for pasta, pizza and simple barbies. 88 points.
I bought these samples recently, so I know the vintage. I give spare samples to my neighbours who’re not serious wine drinkers, and they said this was one of the best reds I’d given them.

Jamiesons Run Grazier Shiraz 2021 – $6 at LL (2 for $12). Same comments apply. What’s impressive here is that the 2 wines are noticeably different, the Cabernet cooler and more restrained, the Shiraz warmer and spicy. That’s unusual at this price point. 88 points.

CleanskinNo 49 Soft Merlot – $7 at DM’s. Plush and velvety, easy on the gums, well-done in the soft Merlot style.

Rabo De Gala Tinto 2020 – $8 at DM’s, member offer. I find a bit too much ripe fruit in this Portuguese red, but there’s no denying the attraction if you like the plush, soft and juicy style of red. 90 points.

Houghton Red Classic – $8.50 at 1st Choice. You won’t find many better reds at this price point. I haven’t tasted the latest crop, but the wines have been winning gold medals against much more expensive competition for years. I don’t know how the guys at Houghton do it at this price.
Much of the fruit comes from Frankland River in the west, where Houghton has extensive vineyards that produce vibrant, highly aromatic fruit in the cherry / blueberry spectrum.

Houghton Cabernet Sauvignon – $8.50 at 1st Choice. As above.

2017 Ryder Cabernet Sauvignon – $10 at Nicks. Big, rich Clare Valley Shiraz. High alcohol. Just the ticket for a cold winter’s night.

OTHER WINES

No 10 Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Cuvee NV – $7 at DM’s. Surprising bubbly for the money, no rough edges, easy-on-the gums. 88 points

Wolf Blass Red Label Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV- $7 at Liquorland or $6 in a 6-pack at 1st Choice. This has been Tyson (Mr Bubbles) Stelzer’s top recommendation for a cheapie for years. I haven’t tried it recently.

Buller Wines Premium Fine Muscat 375ml – $10.50 at DM’s. Great with traditional puddings, sweet minced pies, Pavlovas and chocolate cake. Or give it a chill and pour it over your special ice cream. 94 points. Bargain!

Penfolds Flagships – The Philip Lowe Edition

 

Penfolds has given us some wonderful marketing moments over the years. Who could forget the most audacious of them all – the $168,000 Penfolds Ampoule. The press release said it was ‘not only a compelling work of wine art; it also provides a truly memorable experiential and sensory engagement.’

Big words for a monumental bottle of wine, but the equally monumental price included a Penfolds winemaker flying anywhere in the world for the opening ceremony. More gobsmacking details in our post Gago Gone Gaga?

It won’t surprise you that Penfolds has struggled to surpass this Everest of wine marketing ever since, or even equal it. There was a £1.2 million, never-to-be-repeated Penfolds Collection: a flight of Granges from 1951 through to 2007 signed by their winemakers. Bigger, yes; more expensive, yes far more expensive but it didn’t make the same impact.

The World is Not Enough

Then there was a Methuselah of Grange in a special box crafted by a famous artisan, as forgettable as the lame stunts that followed, until the recent space odyssey signalled a dramatic change of direction .

‘Since the beginning, Penfolds has been looking to the stars,’ says the landing page for this red rocket. ‘Dreaming of what could be beyond. Our new limited edition rocket tin celebrates this pioneering spirit of going beyond, rather than accepting the status quo.’

Get the Penfolds side of the story HERE, and make sure you scroll down to the video. You’ll ask yourself: Is it a Space X rocket? Is it a new NASA space shuttle? Is it Superman? No, it’s a bottle of Penfolds red. What’s it doing in a tin rocket?

Back to Glass

Back on planet earth, Penfolds announced a new special: ‘One Superblend. Two Interpretations. Superblend 802.A and Superblend 802.B represent two unique interpretations of the iconic Australian blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. These wines are made from A-Grade cabernet sauvignon and A-Grade shiraz from a wonderful harvest; new French and American oak barrels of the highest quality …and that much-coveted ingredient, time.’

There’s more: ‘Two limited releases, made from parcels destined for our flagships. This powerful pair were (sic) released sequentially, but are (sic) designed to be collected together.’

Given the money Penfolds charges for these special blends, we can but wonder why they can’t find a copywriter with some knowledge of basic English grammar. They do come up with some tantalising tasting notes though:

‘A grated texture with gritty tannins … acidity – more than likely aligned to the fruit descriptors noted: cumquat, pomegranate and persimmon. A grated texture with gritty tannins … and its savoury demeanour also contributing to a “textural dryness”. Dusty, shaved dark-chocolate flavours (unlike nose) and a sprinkle of chocolate dust and sweet paprika.’

The Reserve Bank Edition

‘For this gift set,’ a note on the landing page says, ‘we commissioned glass artist Nick Mount to create a custom-made decanter to honour this extraordinary blend.’ It’s a lovely design that surprises with its modest dimensions, and the price for the wine and decanter package is modest as well: a mere $1500.

I think Peter Gago has shown real sensitivity to the difficult times we live in, compounded by Philip Lowe’s insistence on punishing us with ever higher interest rates. Gago could’ve gone for the super deluxe King’s Coronation Memorial Edition, but he read the mood of the Brits right, and ours too.

The punters who want something more special can always go for the Penfolds g5, a 5-vintage blend of Granges stretching back to 2010 that sells for $5000 a single 750 ml bottle. Or they could buy pitch-perfect Granges such as the 1976, 1986, 1990, 1991 or 1996 at auction for a total of $3500. Yes, 5 bottles not 1. With $1500 left over for the gift set with decanter.

Big Time Rip-Offs at Woolworth’s Bottle Shops

 

Best Wines Under $20 is about finding good wine at the lowest prices. We explore the outer reaches of the internet to find the sharpest prices, and we buy most of our wine online.

The worst places for buying wine are the bottle shops attached to Woolworths and Coles. Most of their sales are to people grabbing a bottle on their way home, after they’ve done their shopping. It’s the convenient thing to do. The supermarkets know that, and exploit that scenario. Just look at the simple table we’ve compiled:

WINE BWS DM’s Other
Franklin Tate Estates Chardonnay $19 $12
Domaines Astruc Chardonnay $17 $24
Petaluma White Label Chardonnay $30 $27 $20 at WSD
Pikes Traditionale Riesling $29 $24 $22 at Nicks
Heggies Eden Valley Riesling $27 $19
Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2022 n.a. $35 $27 at Winestar
Squealing Pig Rosé $15 $20 $14 at 1st Choice
Ninth Island Sparkling Rosé $28 $25 $22 at Get Wines Direct, $17 at DM’s Carnes Hill
Seppelt Original Sparkling Shiraz NV $25 $20 $18 at VC
Sieur d’Arques Cremant de Limoux $27 $18
Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut $85 $70 $65 at WSD
Cow Bombie Shiraz $18 $12
Borsao Selección Grenache Blend $22 $17
Louis Latour Bourgogne Pinot Noir $40 $31
McWilliam’s 10 Year Old Grand Tawny $34 $28 $25 at Coles

As you can see, Woolworths screws us without mercy. It owns Dan Murphy’s and BWS. The cost of convenience is around 25 to 40%, as you can see. That’s 5 – 7 bucks for a bottle under $20, 10 bucks for under $40 bottles, and 20 bucks for fancy bubblies.

It’s outrageous, it’s daylight robbery. Al you have to is to drive around a few blocks and buy the same wines at Dan Murphy’s, and save a bundle.

And Dan Murphy’s doesn’t have the sharpest prices out there either, as it claims. And if we remove the wines above that are direct imports or made for DM’s, that becomes even more obvious.

To disguise this, Dan Murphy’s has been busy buying wineries and having wines made exclusively for them. The list is growing rapidly, and you can check it here: https://www.therealreview.com/who-makes-my-wine/.

The list is put together and updated by Huon Hooke and his team at The Real Review, a wonderful website that delivers on its promise: straight talk on wine.

The list starts with labels owned or imported by Coles, who owns 1st Choice Liquor, Vintage Cellars and LiquorLand. We’ll do a comparison of their prices in the near future.

If you don’t want to pay through the nose for your wine, grab 4 weeks of our BEST BUYS WEEKLY mailer for free here

Essential Reading: Online – The Smart Way to Buy Wine

 

YOUR CHRISTMAS WINES SORTED – Without Breaking the Bank

 

It’s the time for generosity, so we’re giving you the best Festive Season Wine List Down Under, for free. Terrific hand-picked wines at hard-to-believe prices. No dodgy cancelled orders from overseas, no obscure brands you can’t track down for love or money, no hot air and hype. And there’s plenty of time for delivery before Christmas, even in the country.

Whites

Rapaura Springs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2022 – $11 at First Choice. Great savvy for the money, and much better quality than the pop stars from Marlborough. 92 points.

Hidden Label Eden Valley Riesling 2022 – $13 at Kemenys. The label hides Mountadam Eden Valley Riesling.  Lemons and limes, chalk and talc, lean and elegant. Crisp and fresh as the morning dew. Bargain. 92 points

Belardent Picpoul de Pinet 2021 – $16 at DM’s. An old variety from the south of France that’s going through a renaissance.  Citrus and sea spray, green apples and wet stones. The crunchy acidity reminds me of young Semillon. Perfect with oysters and white fish. 93 points.

Robert Mondavi Buttery Chardonnay 2020 – $18 at Dan Murphy’s. When all you want for Christmas is a rich, peachy, buttery Chardonnay. OK, it’s not the most subtle of chardies, but it’ll go with most foods on the Christmas table.

Penny’s Hill The Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz – $17 at 1st Choice. Voluptuous, seductive, rich and spicy (and a touch sweet), Christmas pudding in a bottle. Will please large crowds. 93 points

Deutz Marlborough Blanc de Blancs 2018 – $25 at Boozebud or $142 for a 6-pack. Plus 10% off your first order. Made from Chardonnay, fresh and crisp, notes of citrus and warm bread, fine line of acid. You won’t find better bubbles anywhere near this price. 95 points

Deep Woods Harmony Rose 2022 – $9 at DM’s. This Rosie is a tremendous bargain at its usual price ($13 – 15). At this price, it’s an absolute steal.

Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2022 – $30 at Summer Hill Wine. Masterful, as you’d expect from Charlie Melton who resurrected the almost forgotten Aussie Rosé style 3 decades ago. The whole package is a class act. 96 points.

Reds

Elefante Primero Tempranillo 2019 – $12 at Our Cellar. A big outfit that turns out quality reds at bargain prices. This wine comes from the high and dry plains of Castilla la Mancha in the north of Spain; it combines opulently ripe red berries with pepper, hints of cola and sweet spices, plus the merest hint of Vanilla from oak. Elegant crowd pleaser. 92 points.

Elefante Tempranillo Shiraz 2019 – $11 at Vintage Cellars. An ingenious blend – Tempranillo has more exotic flavours than Shiraz but less substance / body. Another winner from the big elephant. 92 points.

Hidden Label Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 – $13 at Kemenys. This is Robert Oatley Signature Cabernet, made by the very talented Mr Cherubino. Perfect balance between flavour and finesse – cassis and pencil shavings oak, gravel dust and a whiff of black olives. Great line and length, and fine tannins on the finish. Great drinking already but will improve some more. 95 points.  It’s a steal.

Secret Label Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2021 – $14 at Kemenys. Made by a winemaker who likes fencing, and used to make wine in the Clare Valley. It’s a decent Pinot at a more than decent price, and that’s a rare event. I’m not sure it deserves a rave review and 95 points that Jeni Port bestows on it, but you can’t argue with the value proposition. 92 points.

Hidden Label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 – $17 at Kemenys. This is the best young Coonawarra Cabernet I’ve tasted in years, and the price would make Californian winemakers weep. It’s rich and generous, with ripe black currant fruit leading the profound impact on the palate. Fine acid and ripe tannins add some pucker, with pencil shavings oak and dried herbs in the background. The tannin grip is firm but provides perfect balance.

The wine is seamless and the balance pitch-perfect, so you can enjoy it now with a char-grilled steak, but it will grow with time in a dark place. The label hides Leconfield. 95 points, heading for 96. Buy some before it’s all gone.

Secret Label Barossa Grenache 2021 – $19 at Kemenys. ). Made from 50-year old bush vines. The strong colour and seductive nose of raspberries and cherries are a great start. The velvet texture is continues the seduction, adding herbs and spices, a savoury, slightly stalky edge, and fine, ripe tannins on the finish. Perfect pitch, gorgeous drinking already, will get more gorgeous in a year or two. Made by two mates who like to leave their purple finger prints on the label.  96 points. Back up the Ute!

Christmas Pudding Wines

Buller Wines Premium Fine Muscat 375ml – $10.50 at DM’s. Great with traditional puddings, sweet minced pies, Pavlovas and chocolate cake. Or give it a chill and pour it over your special ice cream. 94 points. Bargain!

Campbells Rutherglen Topaque 375mL – $20 at Summer Hill Wine. Same deal, just a more subtle flavour, and real style. 95 points.

I wish you all a peaceful and joyful Christmas Break

Kim

Bargain Rosés – September 2022

 

From our Best Buys Weekly Spring Selection 

Barton & Guestier AOC Rose d’Anjou 2021 – $9.50 at 1st Choice. It’s the best bargain French Rosé out there, fresh, soft and fruity, and easy drinking. 91 points.

Deep Woods Harmony Rose 2021 – $11 at DM’s (member offer). An old favourite from Margaret River that’s hard to go past at this price. A blend of Shiraz, Merlot and Tempranillo. Vibrant raspberries and strawberries, good length, great balance and a long, dry finish. Gold Medal & 95 Points at the 2021 Margaret River Show. 93 points. Terrific bargain

Bouchard Aine & Fils Rosé  NV – $13 at Our Cellar. The non-vintage option gives this shipper more flexibility with the final blend, which is seamless, elegant and seductive. 93 points.

Chapel Hill The Parson Sangiovese Rosé 2021 – $14 at DM’s as a member offer. I don’t know this wine but the winery is tops, and the winemaker who raised it there is Pam Dunsford who won the coveted Maurice O’Shea award this year. Better late than ever.

La Vieille Ferme Rose 2021 – $15 at Our Cellar. A blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah made by the Perrin Family in the Provence who also owns the famous Chateau de Beaucastel. Lovely aromas of ripe fruits, with a touch of sweetness balancing the fresh line of acid. Long and balanced. 92 points

The Penfolds Collection 2022 – More is Better

 

I so look forward to the release of the Penfolds Collection. It’s a high point in my wine year. Have you noticed that most of the wines in this release are just 2 years old these days? And have you noticed how bored Penfold’s Wein Meister Peter Gago is with the whole thing? He doesn’t look happy, does her? He looks like he’s ready to retire.

For a winemaker, Gago has made huge profits for his masters. We have to give him  credit for getting people to spend mega dollars on seriously silly Penfolds Follies. Like the $167,000 ampoule, and the $100,000 music cabinet. Check my last post on this subject for more details – The World is Not Enough

However, Gago’s master stroke was the g series, those blends of different vintages. The g5 is the latest, a five-vintage blend of Granges stretching back to 2010 that sells for $3500 a single 750 ml bottle. They pour bottles from 5 vintages into a vat, stir the blend and bottle it under a fancy new label. Then they sell it at 4 times the price of the current vintage Grange.

Hang on, you actually have to express interest in writing to Penfolds. You can’t just rock into your local Dan Murphy’s and grab a case. Keep in mind that, for the $3500 asking price of single bottle of g5, you can buy 5 pitch-perfect Granges such as the 1976, 1986, 1990, 1991 or 1996 at auction.

That’s right: 5 bottles of the best Granges made in the last 50 years for the same money as a single bottle of g5. That’s money for jam; that’s sheer genius. Yes I know, some would call Penfolds greedy. I only hope they give Peter Gago a Rolex for his retirement celebs, not a citizen as they did for Max Schubert.

At Last, the $1000 Grange

I guess it was only a matter of time before they broke the sound barrier with Grange, since special bottlings of other reds have done that many times, leaving the Grand Icon down there scratching with the chooks.

A couple of years ago, Penfolds got together with champagne maker Thiénot, and launched a champagne under a label that carried the names of both wineries. ‘We have re-ignited our love affair with France,’ Peter Gago told the media, ‘a special place for Penfolds where our winemaker Max Schubert was inspired to create Grange.’ This is a long bow to draw, even for Gago, since Max fell in love with Bordeaux, where he observed how they made red wines. He never went to champagne to the best of my knowledge.

Gago Goes Global 

You could argue that it makes more sense for Penfolds to sell blends of Napa Valley and Bordeaux reds. It’s hardly logical, but clearly the big wine company’s 100-odd labels don’t offer nearly enough choice for its loyal customers.

‘As expected,’ writes Huon Hooke, ‘the wines are of very high quality; what is perhaps less anticipated is their lofty pricing.’ That comment took me by surprise, given Penfold’s track record of charging ludicrous piles of money for reds of no great distinction. The pinnacle of the international offerings is Penfolds x Dourthe II Cabernet Shiraz Merlot (AUD $500) – Bordeaux and Barossa Valley.

Jamie Goode was at the launch, taking photos.

‘This is the start of our French winemaking journey,’ Peter Gago told the wine media. ‘Our main objective? To remain true to the winemaking ethos of both wineries, to deliver the best blend possible, to ideally make Bordeaux and South Australia proud. This wine is not about bigness or boldness or assertion. It is blended to convey an ethereal lightness, subtlety on the palate – sensitively binding two hemispheres, Old World and New.’

Ethereal lightness? From Penfolds? The home of over-ripe, over-worked blockbuster reds? I’m choking on a glass of 1996 Bin 389 as I read this. I’m lost for words, or maybe just lost?

‘It’s about curiosity and experimentation,’ says Penfolds chief winemaker Emma Wood. ‘We’re not about competing with French wines – it’s about making a “Penfolds wine” from France.’ Are you confused yet? I’m lost AND confused.

More Space Travel

In a unique move,’ the Robb Report tells us, ‘Penfolds will enable the public to celebrate the 2022 Collection through an innovative three-day event platform – “Venture Beyond By Penfolds” – to be held at Sydney’s Carriageworks.

‘The nightly live show will include wines from the new collection, a space-themed menu by chef Nelly Robinson (delivered in a red rocket?), live entertainment and music from Client Liaison and DJ Dan Lywood as well as an immersive experience by BabeKuhl and masterclasses led by a Penfolds winemaker.’

I can hardly wait for Gago’s next move – what will it be? A Rosé from the dark side of the moon?

The Awful Truth

Guess what – someone finally spotted that the name Kalimna has disappeared from the Bin 28 label. Philip White shared that important detail as long ago as 2015 in a piece he wrote for Adelaide’s InDaily.  Kalimna isn’t just any vineyard in the Northern Barossa. It headed Max Schubert’s list of favourite sources for Grange for many years.

‘Instead of revering that special place,’ says Philip, ‘some marketing genius decided to make Kalimna a registered brand name in a more generic sense, so the grapes in this wine come, as the label vaguely admits, from South Australia, which is a fair bit bigger than little ol’ Kalimna. Not to mention quite a lot cheaper, as far as buying grapes goes.’

Philip adds a parting salvo: ‘Maybe the buyer of Penfolds red at these prices is expected to be so breathlessly aspirant that they won’t notice such polish from the propaganda division which somehow lives on in the ruins of Foster’s old Melbourne ramparts. I seriously doubt whether these people actually drink wine.’

Wait, there’s more

Just for fun, I checked the back label of a 1996 Bin 28, and it says ‘the wine is named after Penfolds’ famous vineyard in South Australia.’ It doesn’t say it’s made from Kalimna grapes. It also says South Australia in big letters on both front and back labels. So did Bin 28 ever come from the famous Kalimna vineyard?

When asked by the nosy wine media about Kalimna’s vanishing act, Gago assured them that ‘The importance of the vineyard to the Penfolds story remains as strong as it ever was. With Kalimna we can’t forget where we came from, and we can’t forget that those grapes go into the very best of our very best wine.’

But we can simply forget to mention that the fruit from Kalimna hasn’t gone near the wine once labelled as Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz in years. ‘We attach a lot of emotional energy to it,’ says Gago. ‘And we are doing everything we can in the vineyard to preserve its legacy. It is very Penfolds in every sense, and I don’t think we would ever walk away from Kalimna.’

No, you just didn’t tell us that the wine once called Kalimna Shiraz walked away from us mug punters years ago. I guess this is the final act in Peter Gago’s transformation from wine meister to marketing meister, spinning vacuous fairy floss for his masters.

Footnote 

If you’re one of those rare people who buy exalted Penfolds wines to drink, rather than collect them in the hope of impressing their friends, Huon says the 2020 RWT Bin 798 Barossa Shiraz is his pick of the new collection at a modest $200. He also likes Bin 389, St Henri and Bin 150 Maranaga. All cost less than $200.

And there you have the short story.

Red Wine — Fountain of Youth?

 

For Wine Lovers, it’s the Best News in Years

We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine. Eduardo Galeano

Plastic Surgeon Richard Baxter’s book ‘Age Gets Better with Wine’ tells the story of Jeanne Calment who died in her sleep in Arles in the south of France in 1997, at close to 123 years of age.

‘Her birth predated the telephone,’ writes Baxter, ‘and her death was announced via the internet.’ As a young woman she sold art supplies to van Gogh and other impressionists who came to the Provence to catch the light. When she reached the age of 90, she made an agreement with her lawyer to subsidise her stay in her apartment until her death when it would pass to him. He died years before her, and his heirs had to continue paying the rent.

Apparently Calment followed a Mediterranean diet, loved rich foods, chocolate and red wine (not at the same time perhaps). A few years after her death, researchers discovered resveratrol, a compound that Baxter calls the most potent antioxidant of all. The best source, as luck would have it, is red wine because the process of making it extracts large amounts of resveratrol from the grape skins.

Source: The Independent

More >>

The World is Not Enough – Penfolds Follies Blast Off into Space

 

‘Max Schubert was a man of the people, an unpretentious, even humble man, who was bemused by the success of his most famous creation, Penfolds Grange Hermitage, and even more so by the prices paid for it, and the way it was captured by collectors and speculators.’ Huon Hooke.

‘Since the beginning, Penfolds has been looking to the stars,’ says the landing page for this red rocket. ‘Dreaming of what could be beyond. Our new limited edition rocket tin celebrates this pioneering spirit of going beyond, rather than accepting the status quo.’

Get the Penfolds side of the story HERE, and make sure you scroll down to the video. You’ll ask yourself: Is it a Space X rocket? Is it a NASA space shuttle? No, it’s a bottle of Penfolds red. What’s it doing in a tin rocket?

Remember when Penfolds released its 2004 Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet 10 years ago in a hand-blown glass ampoule, suspended by a bespoke glass plumb-bob in a wooden Jarrah cabinet? Only 12 were made of this ‘beautiful, thoughtful, unique objet d’art, designed to store wine in an ideal environment.’

‘The ampoule also provides a truly memorable experiential and sensory engagement,’ the press release added. ‘When a decision is made to open the [$168,000] ampoule, a senior member of the Penfolds winemaking team will travel to the destination of choice, where it will be ceremoniously removed from its glass plumb-bob casing and opened using a specially designed, tungsten-tipped, sterling silver scribe-snap.

The winemaker will then prepare the wine using a beautifully crafted sterling silver tastevin.’

We assume that the Penfolds winemaker will also blow your nose and wipe your bottom after the event, most likely with a handkerchief made from spun gold.

Marketing at Penfolds is a disaster area of long standing

‘Wine becomes just another vacuous totem of wealth,’ Decanter’s Andrew Jefford wrote, and compared creations like the Penfolds ampoule to ‘pointlessly complicated watches, tank-sized vehicles for urban use, houses which are never lived in and boats which spend the year bobbing about on their moorings.’

He added that he takes no issue with market forces that make rare wine unaffordable to many drinkers, but takes exception at marketing initiatives that ‘look so obviously like the fantasy of pale people who have spent too much time locked up in a room with glossy magazines.’

He also makes the point that ‘they [the pale people] are hilariously alien to the great Aussie traditions of piss-taking and pretension-popping,’ (which is what we’re doing here) and adds that turning fine wine into artificially exclusive luxury goods damages the brand.

‘No First Growth in Bordeaux or top Burgundy domain would contemplate anything this silly,’ he argues, ‘they leave that kind of ludicrous marketing excess to the bubble-brained Champenois, where form regularly eclipses content.’ Read the full post here. 

Marketing Genius or End-of-Empire Insanity?

How do you top a $168,000 extravaganza? With a £1.2 million, never-to-be-repeated Penfolds Collection: a flight of Granges from 1951 through to 2007.

Each of the Grange bottles comes signed by either Max Schubert, John Duval or Peter Gago (the current custodian of the Holy Grail). But wait, there’s more: a set of 13 magnums that includes the rare 2004 Bin 60A and the 2008 Bin 620 special bottlings. In addition, Penfolds will throw in one case of its icon and luxury wines every year for the next 10.

‘Gago believes this is probably the finest set of Penfolds wines ever to be assembled and sold,’ Decanter reports. ‘It is certainly the most expensive … Treasury Wine Estates have been aggressively re-positioning Penfolds icon range as a global luxury brand to capitalise on opportunities in newer markets such as China.’

   

Yes, China, and haven’t those pale people worked hard to make Penfolds’ reds attractive to Chinese folk down under and in China. What would Max think about his wines being wrapped in such chintzy, truly awful labels?

Max Schubert, the Renegade

Somewhere along the line, the pale people came up with a new angle: to paint Max Schubert as a renegade. What a shame they were too lazy to check a dictionary, which would have told them that renegade means ‘a person who deserts and betrays an organization, country, or set of principles.’

Max Schubert was unerringly loyal to Penfolds all his life – he worked for the firm for all of it – and always stuck to his principles. I suspect the word they were looking for is Maverick, which my dictionary describes as ‘an unorthodox or independent-minded person.’

The Blending Obvious

In 2017 Penfolds released the g3, a blend of 3 Grange vintages. Had Penfolds’ marketing minions run out of ideas for special bins? In the last couple of decades, Penfolds added a bunch of these, along with over 100 new labels.

‘Blending across vintages is part of Penfolds winemaking philosophy,’ Peter Gago told the media and referred to Penfolds’ Tawny ports, ‘famous in the mid-1800’s (they’re out by 100 years, but the lifestyle magazines didn’t pick that up) made by blending multiple vintages. ‘A natural progression was to apply this venerated technique to create a new Penfolds red style,’ said Gago.

This claim is fanciful at best, and cynical at worst as Gago well knows: Unlike vintage ports, tawny ports are blends of multiple vintages, and so are most champagnes. However, in both cases the single vintage wines fetch much higher prices than the blends because they’re only made in great vintages, in limited quantities.

I don’t know of any great reds in the wine universe that are blends of several vintages (although someone is bound to correct me). That said, the faithful snapped the up g3, and the g4 that followed in 2020. And then came the g5, an obvious move by Penfolds since it’s all money for jam.

Where do you get it? You can’t just walk into your local Dan Murphy’s and buy a 6-pack. Oh No, you have to go through an expression of interest process with Penfolds, where you might score a bottle or 2 if you’re fast enough. As John McEnroy yelled at the umpire: ‘You cannot be serious!’

The g5 is a five-vintage blend of Granges stretching back to 2010 that sells for $3500 a single 750 ml bottle. Is that it? YUP, that’s it. They pour bottles from 5 vintages into a vat, stir the blend and bottle it under a fancy new label. Then they sell it at 4 times the price of the current vintage Grange. Or 6 times the average auction price of the 2008 Grange, which scored 100 perfect points with Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

Is the blend of 5 recent vintages worth so much more than older vintages of Grange? And I’m talking about pitch-perfect Granges here such as the 1976, 1986, 1990, 1991 or 1996. Do you know that you can buy these FIVE vintages at auction for a total of $3500?

That’s right: 5 bottles of the best Granges made in the last 50 years for the same money as a single bottle of g5, or the same money as FOUR bottles of the current Grange 2017.

Sheer Genius

Perhaps I overlooked something here: the folks who buy Grange and the special Penfolds bottlings are a different breed from you and me: they don’t buy these wines to drink, they buy them as investments and to impress their friends.

Penfolds produced just 2,200 bottles of the g5 to make it a rare collector’s item, underscored by the expression of interest nonsense and the announcement that the g5 was the last ever rendition of multiple Grange blends. You and I might laugh at this nonsense, but the investors lapped it all up and coughed up the money.

Some wine merchants did as well, and now sell the g5 for $5,000. The package they come in provides the buyer with the most elaborate unboxing experience I’ve ever seen – check this video and listen to Peter Gago go into raptures about the packaging, with James Suckling watching his every move, trying hard not to break into raucous laughter https://youtu.be/Jd6tGhddG_o.

When these multi-vintage blends were snapped up by the faithful, Gago made more blends – and why wouldn’t he? Penfolds launched ‘Superblend’ 802-A Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2018 on an unsuspecting world in 2021, for the same price as the current Grange.

This was a double release – 802-A had a twin called Superblend 802-B. One was matured in American oak, the other in French. The labels don’t look like Penfolds labels; instead they suggest a split personality dressed in bleak medieval garb. Have the pale people lost their branding template?

Grange, the Musical

How do you top these bold marketing moves? There’s only one option: a $100,000 bespoke music cabinet with a valve amplifier and a Penfolds-branded turntable. Apparently Max was a music lover. Oh really? He’s been dead almost 30 years, and now someone remembers that he loved music?

What’s the Occasion? Ah yes, we’re celebrating 70 years of Grange. ‘Only seven individually crafted pieces have been produced globally (I think they mean in toto),’ says Penfolds, ‘paying homage to the “all in one” console design from the 1950s – the same decade Grange was first created by Max Schubert.’ More Here, and here’s the video

Postscript

I want to express my gratitude to Peter Gago, Penfolds and TWE for supplying us with so much fabulous material for piss-taking and pretension-popping. Most of the ideas made no sense to this marketing brain, but they clearly found a ready audience among the Penfolds faithful and other investors with money to burn.

Kim