2014 has been a significant year for Penfolds. It is its 170th anniversary, the 60th year of consecutive releases of Grange, and the inaugural year of the Penfolds Collection. Founded in 1884, Penfolds is only a few months younger than Krug, Peter’s favourite Champagne house. Therefore it is with some justification that Peter argues Penfolds is not New World.
The grapes for Grange are sourced from a number of vineyards. Peter considers that in this way he can have the best fruit every year rather than being at the mercy of mother nature, although he admits that 2010 was a particularly difficult year with only one quarter of the normal production—about 9,000 12-bottles cases, were made. He further points out that champagnes and ports are all made from grapes from multi-vineyard sites so as to maintain the house style and consistency, and he sees Grange as no different.
The three wines are definitely different. Using the analogy of sport, I would say Grange is a rugby player, sturdy but not clumsy, while RWT is a tennis player, graceful yet full of strength and St Henri is a marathon runner, elegant and enduring. Well, Penfolds is blessed with both the resources and the vision to make different wine styles to suit most people’s palate.
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Probably some wine lovers, like myself, are confused with Penfolds’ Bin numbers. Peter clarified that the bin numbers originally simply identified where the wines were stored in the cellars. It was an internal reference that somehow made it to the label. He reckons naming the wine after bin numbers is not a bad thing in Penfolds’ case as there are so many wines in the portfolio. It is easy to name one’s first or second child but it gets harder after the third of fourth. Anyway, alongside each bin number is always the region (if the wine is a single-region wine) and grape variety so it is not as confusing as it seems.
Peter Gago was a mathematics and chemistry high school teacher before passion brought him to study winemaking. He thinks his training as a teacher helps in his role at Penfolds, especially the communications skills that help him to build the team. Probably that’s why Peter is truly an ambassador of the brand. Apart from January to May, which is harvest time and a no-fly period, he is on the road most of the year, conveying the Penfolds message to wine lovers the world over. Peter welcomes everyone to visit him in Adelaide—just make sure you go when he’s not travelling!
Penfolds is available from Jebsen.