Penfolds pops cork on 'perfect' 2008 Grange
A man pours red wine from a Penfolds bottle at a special clinic in Sydney on July 12, 2006. Nestled in Australia's Adelaide hills, Penfolds Magill Estate opens the double cellar doors on Thursday morning to launch global sales of one of the most hyped "new world" wines in recent history.
Since the 2008 Penfolds Grange Shiraz earned a perfect 100 score from Robert Parker's US wine magazine Wine Advocate on March 1 the wine world has been fizzing in anticipation.
However, you will need deep pockets, with a hefty recommended retail price of Aus$784.99 (US$814) per bottle.
Penfolds global brand business director Sandy Mayo says global demand is outstripping supply after unprecedented pre-release interest ignited by the perfect 100-point review, the first Grange to attract the accolade in 40 years.
The historic South Australia winery, owned by Treasury Wine Estates, swiftly jacked up prices by $160 a bottle from the original release estimate.
Despite the cost, Mayo said Grange was flowing to Asia and Europe, where demand was greatest.
"There is particularly strong demand from Hong Kong, China, Singapore, the UK, Germany and Switzerland," she said.
Wine Advocate reviewer Lisa Perotti-Brown started the frenzy with her description of the 2008 as "wonderfully opulent and a magic vintage for this label".
"Deep purple-black in colour, the 2008 Grange puts forward a very complex nose packed with aromas of mulberries, layers of baking spices, cloves and cinnamon with nuances of minced meat, anise, potpourri and whiffs of dried mint and chocolate.
"It is framed by firm, grainy tannins and a refreshing acid line before finishing very long with aniseed and lingering blackberry preserves notes," said the master of wine.
Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker, offered a lighter approach.
"Somewhat intimidating? Yes. Brazen? Never," he wrote.
"Power and density naturally respectful of balance and structure. No DNA check required -- an immediate familial link to the 1998 Grange.
"Ration carefully. Resist temptation. Or, failing that, forget the budget and buy accordingly!"
Experts say the Grange will be at its best between 2018 and 2035 and thereafter. Buyers are advised to look online where retailers are slashing prices in the race for customers.
Penfolds Grange Shiraz began as an experimental vintage in 1951. The 1955 drew attention locally and internationally and went on to become an Australian National Trust heritage-listed wine, which the company claims changed the face of the Australian wine industry.
It has certainly set the tills ringing.
Treasury Wine Estates has raised the release price of Grange wine by 57 per cent since 2007 when its 2002 vintage was $499 a bottle. The 2007 went for $625.
Penfolds promotes the vintage on its website as a classic: "Rigorous harvesting and meticulous classification resulted in a swag of pristine fruit from Penfolds prime vineyards in the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra.
"The deep colours, superb aromatics and dense ripe tannins all point to a classic Penfolds vintage."
However, not everyone has imbibed the hype.
Western Australia's biggest independent retailer of Grange is snubbing this year's release.
Perth's Grand Cru Wineshop manager Vince Salpietro said someone had to take a stand against the huge price hike.
"If that is not blatant profiteering, I do not know what is," Salpietro told the Australian Financial Review.
"We are Perth's oldest family-owned liquor retailer and we will turn our backs on Penfolds entirely."
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