This morning we are delighted to offer, two world beating, continent defining juggernauts, Penfolds St Henri 2015 and Penfolds Grange 2014. Together they form the acme of the Penfolds range and Australian wine. This year is the first we have decided to release them in unison; one ying, one yang. The history of Penfolds Grange and St Henri present two competing styles, designed to complement each other. In the 1950s the Australian wine industry was largely trying to make dry red wine out of very raw materials, using grapes cultivated for Port style wine production. Penfolds embarked on a project to create world class wines, engaging their winemakers to do something different; two winemakers broke the mould, Max Schubert and John Davoren. In 1951 Schubert created an experimental wine by bottling Shiraz after fermenting in American oak, he called it Grange Hermitage. However, at the same time Davoren was tasked with fashioning St Henri, created deliberately to challenge and juxtapose Penfolds Grange (then Hermitage Grange). Where Grange was viewed as polemical, St Henri was designed to use conventional winemaking techniques. Davoren worked painstakingly throughout the 1950s and in 1957 ordained the first vintage.
Penfolds Grange is the prestige, yet St Henri is the most sought after Penfolds wine and it is easy to understand why. We view it in the top five best value fine wines in the world, it is a perennial buy. St Henri vies with Grange for pole position on the points scale, the only divergence is the price. St Henri tends to release at 1/6 of the price of the Grange which is remarkable. St Henri diverges stylistically, Grange embodies the masculine, more Bach or Beethoven, while St Henri personifies more elegance and subtlety, more Mozart to continue the analogy, but like Mozart, it retains classical power and precision. The price differentiation between St Henri and Grange, or the leading Northern Rhone wines for that matter such as the Guigal’s La Las or Jaboulet’s La Chapelle is startling.
Our release price today of £324 per case of six allows access to what we believe to be one of the world’s finest Syrah dominant wines for under £60 a bottle. The wine has the potential to improve for 30 years in bottle with high notes of eucalyptus, lavender and mint. Its layers unfold to express dried fig, mocha, coffee and delightful notes of soya sauce and sweet spice. All this is wrapped up in toast, cedar, leather, smoke and finishes with an incredible praline note. St Henri synthesises the Old and New World, offering an almost Neolithic minerality, combined with gorgeous purity of fruit and elegance.
Penfolds Grange has never come second before, considered one of the finest wines in the world needing no introduction; it is the flagship New World wine. The 2014 Grange releases today at £2,070 per case of six and has been awarded 98 points from Joe Czerwinski of The Wine Advocate, a triumph, though production is down as are allocations.
Penfolds Grange is selected from the very best grapes taken from the best parcels and blocks in Penfold’s vast empire, each is blind tasted removing all vineyard bias, letting the wine itself do the talking. As such it is a multi-vineyard, multi-district wine. Grange gets the full treatment, with Penfolds and Peter Gago throwing all of their skills and vast resources into creating something special. It undergoes nearly two years in 100% new American oak hogshead. It is hardly surprising therefore, that it forms one of the pillars of the pantheon of the world’s finest wines.
In 1956 Schubert unveiled Grange, he polemic new wine, but was immediately instructed to stop making it, fortunately, he continued in secret. In 1962, after realising its then clandestine quality Penfolds entered their Grange Hermitage into international competitions and since then it has won 50 Gold medals, today it is just known as Grange. Penfolds Grange is hugely popular in Asia which is its biggest market, benefiting from geographical proximity. In fact, Grange boasts 51 unbroken vintages and is officially listed as a Heritage Icon of South Australia. It displays extraordinary complexity, concentration and the potential to age for 40 years. It is considered among the very best wines in the world and it is the First Growth of Australia, where it reigns head and shoulders above its peers.
This week, National Geographic show a documentary on Australian wine, its terminus is Penfolds, their central fine wine body. Please note many of the other Penfolds releases are only sold on request, please find our recent blog documenting these further here.
To buy any of these wines please click here