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Romancing with Penfolds
It will be a nice day. Sheep are bleating and birds are chirping across the golden fields. The bouquet of scents from the apple trees and fresh cut lawn follow the soothing breeze into the room. The sun is tenderly shining through the crystal clear blue sky. The comfort prevails while I, "little by little", sipped the pale color, crisp, refreshing and expressive "Bin 144 Yattarna Chardonnay". First introduced in 1995, this wine was evolved to bring out the essence and philosophy of Penfolds on the basis of cool-climate fruit. The intense limy citrus and blossoming chamomile notes complements and completes the fragrance in the room. The natural mineral acidities and the generous apple and white peach flavours are lingering and dreamful. Yet, the dream can hardly stay long, it is time for the visit to the heritage of Penfolds.
The history started when the Penfolds family arrived at the Grange Cottage of Makgill (later named Magill), a vast estate on the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges, Adelaide in 1844. Throughout the years, no matter how wine styles could alter, the philosophy to strive for perfection and the openmindness to revolutionary methods never change. Before 1948, wine production was mainly on tonic wines and fortified wines. The major turn for still wines was accidental and fateful and in turn modified Penfolds wine profiles and destiny. In 1948, Max Schubert, the father of "Penfolds Grange", was supposed to visit Europe on the main purpose of investigating Sherry production. The side visit to Bordeaux fired his imagination to make a wine that is "capable of staying alive for a minimum of twenty years". His will and passion laid the cornerstones to the first vintage of the iconic "Grange Shiraz" in 1951.
As I walk by the century - old Grange Cottage, pass through the underground tunnels and enter the heritage-listed bluestone cellars in Magill Estate with a glass of "Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz" - "Poor Man's Grange" in hand, I am fascinated, absorbed and taken away by this historic heritage. "Bin 389" had its first vintage in 1960, a perfect toasting wine to Penfolds history when the wine is at heart a heritage itself. It is a quintessential expression of Penfolds philosophy in exemplifying the benefits of cross-varietal and multi-regional blending. The standard qualities that carry across the past 54 vintages encompass freshness with succulent dark berry fruit, intense floral notes with fine grained tannins, good structure, complexity and great balance. It is an early approachable yet lasting wine that will never let you down.
I pamper myself further when I strolled down the vineyards, accompanied by a gorgeous "Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon" and a magnificent sunset. This multi regional blend are sourced from warm to hot climate fruit, coinciding the same warmth felt in the fields. It is deep and immensely concentrated with ripe and rich dark fruits and exotic aromas of chocolate, smoked nuts, liquorice and spices. The sunset kaleidoscopic colors echo and intensify the sensual and layered flavors of the wine. I close my eyes to carve this scene into my soul. When I reopen my eyes, the scarlet sky is gone and the orange ball has sunk behind the landscape.
Dinner starts just after dusk set in. It is a glamorous ballroom with uncountable crystal chandeliers that sparkle and beam up every smiling face in the room. The grand wine to match the unrivalled grandeur and luxuriousness have to be the iconic "Penfolds Grange Shiraz".
A bottle of Penfolds Bin 1 Grange Hermitage 1951 fetched a record high price AUD53,936 at Langton's Annual Penfolds Wine Auction in 2008. To me, drinking Grange is like drinking history as well as extravagance, feeling a bit guilty but excusable, I hope, at least for tonight.
Grange is grand in the ways that it is commenced by revolutionary vision, supported by undefeatable persistence and energized by unbreakable faith. This seductive, full-bodied and well-balanced Grange would not have existed at all if Max Schubert did not experiment in 1951; this fragrant, concentrated and rich Grange would have gone dead if Max Schubert did not secretly make Grange between 1957-1959 and keep all the past vintages (1951-1956) in the underground cellars of Magill when the Penfolds Board actually ordered to stop Grange making in 1957, after an unsuccessful tasting by the Board; this powerful, long lasting Grange would not have evolved and matured to become Penfolds' iconic wine if Max Schubert and his successors did not embrace the faith that the best reward is patience.
It is almost midnight, a clam and starry one. By the fireplace, my "princess" is resting on my lap gracefully, looking up to me innocently in her glistening, glassy - like golden brown eyes, and awaiting patiently my daily touching and tickling service. The flame is gentle and the air is sweetened by the amber brown color "Penfolds Grandfather Fine Old Liqueur Tawny N.V". The wine is as soft and silky as my furry calico. Flavors are superb and rich. The rancio, nutty, dried fruits and caramel aromas buoyantly float in the air and mingle harmoniously with the ever-lasting song playing from the radio..."when life was slow and oh so mellow"...
What a wonderful day!
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Text : Salina Fok, AIWS
23 Dec 2014
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