1996 penfolds grange release
The Grange story is an interesting tale. In 1949 when fortified wine was in vogue, Max Schubert, Penfold’s winemaker & creator of Grange, was sent to Jerez in Spain to learn about sherry. Afterwards he stopped in Bordeaux as the guest of Christian Cruse, one of the most respected winemakers in France at the time. This experience changed his life. He tasted 60-70 year old wines which still had so much life in them. He arrived back in Australia & decided to make wines with the character & longevity of those he had tasted in France. This certainly was a challenge because of the local preference for fortified wines.
There was plenty of shiraz grapes & American oak available in South Australia at the time. He experimented with fermentation & maturation techniques. Cooler & longer fermentation with more skin contact produced a richer wine. He used small new oak barrels instead of the conventional 4000 litre old casks. The results were amazing: wine far richer in bouquet, flavour & balance. Schubert said: “It was as if the new wood had acted as a catalyst to release previously unsuspected flavours & aromas from the hermitage grape”.
However, Schubert’s enthusiasm for Grange was not shared by the wine trade. The result was disastrous no one liked Grange Hermitage. He was ordered to discontinue production but he quietly continued eventhough he was denied the all important new oak. By 1960 the mood had swung & the quality of the wine was recognised. In 1960 the board approved production to recommence & the rest is history.