The legendary Penfolds Grange

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From its first experimental vintage in 1951, Grange was always intended by its creator Max Schubert (1915–1994) to be an icon that would epitomise all that was finest about Australian Shiraz. It was made to be capable of ageing for decades, and many vintages, including this, have fulfilled that promise. Among which the 1955 Grange is listed as a ‘heritage wine’ by the Australian National Trust, and is the first wine from the New World to become an internationally acknowledged collectable.

Image: Penfolds, Barossa Valley, South Australia (left)
and Penfolds, Grange 1955 (right)

The 1950s was not a time when people had very high expectations of Australian wines. Schubert, in crafting Grange, was looking for fruit of exceptional ripeness, which is why he had no qualms about blending wines from different sources. This became standard Australian practice, but Schubert was aiming for a specific style, not just a multi-regional blend that would be commercially appealing. He gave Grange a stylistic consistency that was surprising given the range of vineyards used to make it. Ageing in new US oak contributed to the wine’s distinctive signature.

To Schubert’s dismay, many of his colleagues at Penfolds were critical of the style of the 1955 and preceding vintages, especially their high volatile acidity. He was ordered to cease production, and made the Granges of the late 1950s in secret. Another in-house tasting in 1960 led to Grange’s rehabilitation; volumes, initially tiny, began to increase. In 1962, the 1955 was acclaimed at the Royal Sydney Wine Show and continued to win praise internationally, even until today.

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