Strongly marked—as always—by its 100% American oak elevage, the 2017 Grange backs up the cedar and vanilla notes with ample blackberry and cassis fruit. Full-bodied, ripe and almost decadently creamy in the mouth, it's loaded with substance, concentrated and rich, yet—in the context of Grange—relatively light and elegant-seeming on the finish. Only the seventh-ever Grange to be exclusively Shiraz, it originates from Barossa Valley (86%) and McLaren Vale (14%); Shiraz from other growing regions in South Australia failed to make the grade this year.
Drink 2023 - 2040
Joe Czerwinski, Wine Advocate (Jul 2021)
James Suckling, jamessuckling.com (Aug 2021)
Drink 2025 - 2060
David Sly, Decanter.com (Jun 2021)
Carefully sourced fruit from Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in the relatively cool vintage of 2017. 100% Shiraz (for only the seventh time after 1951, 1952, 1963, 1999, 2000 and 2011). Aged for 18 months in new American oak hogsheads.
Blackish garnet – very concentrated colour. Here we are verging on port country! Though it harks back to RWT. It's not one of the most dramatic Granges and is a little tight on the palate at the moment. It desperately needs time in bottle to show its mettle. Still very muscular and introvert, with some aromatic herbs but not much flesh for the moment. Wait! But for more immediate pleasure, head for RWT 2019.
Drink 2027 - 2047
Jancis Robinson, jancisrobinson.com (Jul 2021)
Drink 2028 - 2046
Josh Raynolds, vinous.com (Jul 2021)
About this WINE
Penfolds enjoys an iconic status that few New World producers have achieved. Established in 1844 at the Magill Estate near Adelaide, it laid the foundation for fine wine production in Australia.
The winemaking team is led by the masterful Peter Gago; it has the herculean task of blending the best wines from a multitude of different plots, vineyards and regions to create a consistent and outstanding range of wines. Its flagship wine, Grange, is firmly established as one of the finest red wines in the world.
Under Gago’s stewardship, the Penfolds range has evolved over time. Winemaking has moved away from New World heat and the sort of larger-than-life style that can mask individuality; the contemporary wines instead favour fine balance and typicity for the region or grape.
Australia has come to represent the most 'successful' New World producer to date, the benchmark by which competitor winemaking nations have come to judge themselves. However it’s been achieved not without significant cost to an industry that has been forced to consolidate in ever-decreasing circles, in order to keep the wheels from falling off the Brand Australia juggernaut. In 2003-2004, 20 businesses accounted for 86 percent of all production. The prize has been a 24 percent share of the UK market (as well as a rapidly-improving one in the USA), ironically a position it held 'before the Wars' as a supplier of fortified 'Empire wine'.
Commercial viticulture was established during the early part of the 19th century, with South Australia the last to plant in the 1840s before quickly establishing itself as the major source of fortified wine. A post-WWII move towards consumption of still dry table wine, encouraged by the steady stream of immigrants, was accelerated by the introduction of German pressured fermentation vats, stainless-steel and refrigeration units during the 1970s, enabling winemakers to ferment to dryness. At the same time, French barrels made their debut, adding complexity and a premium allure, while fruit from new, cooler areas such as Coonawarra and Padthaway permitted lighter styles to be made.
These seismic improvements were not lost on the UK market, itself in near revolution during the early 1980s as Thatcher's government bounced the economy back to life. With Neighbours dominating the airwaves, supermarkets were given carte blanche to spread far and wide, immediately creating a demand for a new style of wine, namely a ‘brand’, with consumers only too willing to move from Bulgarian table wine to an Aussie fruit bomb – especially one with an Emu on the label.
The Australians grasped the opportunity, only too willing to supply the right product at the right price, supported by aggressive pricing and discounts. On the supply side, the structure of their industry allowed them to cross-border blend and so maximise production. Corporate consolidation further improved their effectiveness to compete on volume yet has not hitherto allowed them to grow sales value.
Only the ramifications of a current chronic seven-year drought, with saline levels at unprecedentedly high levels and the evaporation of the Murray Darling River (South Australia's only real source of irrigation since viticulture began) to a virtual trickle has prompted the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (AWBC) to finally enforce water quotas. Yet even when an oversupply still exists, key Australian brands are now being obliged to import wine from the likes of Chile to meet demand; 40 percent of wineries are running at a loss, largely as a result of over-capitalisation.
Meanwhile there's a significant minority of winegrowers making regionally expressive, terroir wines of real distinction clamouring to make themselves heard; unfortunately it is the corporates that control how the marketing budget is spent, the ‘big five’ comprising Fosters Wine Estates (Wolf Blass, Penfolds, Rosemount Estate, Lindemans), Hardys Wine Co. (Banrock Station, Leasingham), Orlando Wines (Jacob's Creek), Australian Vintage Ltd (McGuigan Wines, Tempus Two, Miranda), and Casella (Yellow Tail). Maybe global warming will have the final say.
Though blending away regional differences has essentially been key to Australia's brands competing, there is a range of regional styles that’s clearly defined and demanding recognition, notably Barossa Valley Shiraz, Eden Valley Riesling, McLaren Vale Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Wrattonbully Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley Riesling, Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, Hunter Valley Semillon, and Margaret River and Great Southern Cabernet Sauvignon.
Climatically the continent could be divided into two: a tropical weather pattern affecting New South Wales and the north, while the southern half of the country – covering the key viticultural states of Western and Southern Australia, Victoria and Tasmania – enjoys a less extreme band of warm to hot weather oscillating between 25 and 35 Celsius. Yet without the cool oceans enjoyed by California or the mountain ranges of Italy, the climate does not benefit from significant diurnal shifts in temperature, between day and night. There are, however, notable cooler spots such as Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills, Macedon Ranges, Yarra Valley and Tasmania. Relatively high humidity (around 55 percent) seems to be a prerequisite for successful photosynthesis in these climes.
Of the 167,000 ha producing 14.3hl of wine in 2005, the state of South Australia accounts for 43 percent of the vineyard area (ie Riverland, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale); New South Wales, 24 percent (Riverina, Murray Darling, Hunter Valley); Victoria, 23 percent (Heathcote, Swan Hill, Yarra Valley); and Western Australia just 8 percent (Margaret River, Great Southern).
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.