x
  • Country ranking ?

    63
  • Producer ranking ?

    35
  • Decanting time

    4h
  • When to drink

    from 2020
  • Food Pairing

    Lamb

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Penfolds G3: Making Grange, Already One Of The World’s Greatest Wines, Even Better!

Penfolds, unquestionably Australia’s leading global wine brand, makes one of the world’s finest and most collectible wines: Grange. Predominantly Shiraz – even sometimes 100 percent – from a range of regions in South Australia, it is on every wine lover’s bucket list.

And Grange is a wine with a history that most fantasy novelists could not conjure.

Originally made as an experiment in 1951 by Penfolds’ chef winemaker, Max Schubert, and commercially available from 1952, it was his attempt to duplicate the great Bordeaux to which he had been exposed on a trip to Europe to research fortified wines. A bottle of the exceedingly rare ’51 Grange vintage will bring in excess of AUD$50,000/US$40,000 these days.

Schubert faced a couple of small problems upon his return to Australia: there simply was not enough Cabernet Sauvignon available to him to replicate the Bordeaux style, so he was forced to use Shiraz (it is often forgotten that even Australia’s most famous Cabernet region, Coonawarra, was once almost entirely planted with Shiraz and whites).

Next, when it came to oak the requisite French oak was simply not available in Australia. He was forced to make do with American oak.

When the Grange was first exhibited around five years after first being laid down in Penfolds’ cellars, the response was so overwhelmingly negative – a “very good, dry port, which no one in their right mind will buy let alone drink” and “crushed ants” were two comments – that the board immediately ceased production. Schubert was devastated, but he decided to continue production in secret despite knowing that it would mean instant dismissal if he were discovered.

As a result, Grange vintages from the years of 1957, 1958, and 1959 were hidden in the cellars at Magill in Adelaide, 1,400 kilometers from the head office in Sydney.

Unfortunately, Schubert had to forego new oak for these three vintages, making them the only Granges not to have 100 percent new American oak. Eventually, some of the early vintages were re-tried, and only then did it become clear what a gem had blossomed.

Chairman of the board Gladys Penfold-Hyland instructed Schubert to recommence production. One would love to have been the proverbial fly on the wall when he revealed to the board that he had never stopped.

Grange was heavily awarded when it was shown, though Penfolds has stopped the practice for many years now. Great years like 1953, 1955, 1962, 1971, 1976, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2010, and the last couple of releases all still drink beautifully and many have time ahead.

 

Penfolds G3

A surprising new Penfolds Grange blend for 2017

This year, when releasing the exquisitely elegant 2013 vintage, the current chief winemaker, Peter Gago, had a surprise: a new wine.

Not quite a one-off, as it will be repeated at some unknown time in the future, it is very close to a unicorn wine. Simply called “G3,” it is a blend of three vintages of past Granges.

Hence, like Vega-Sicilia’s Único Reserva Especial or Chapoutier’s le Pavillon as it once was, and the many examples from Champagne – perhaps Laurent Perrier’s Grand Siecle, a blend of three vintages, even if the company will no longer tell us which ones, is the closest – this is a non-vintage wine, or perhaps as Krug would prefer, a multi-vintage wine.

Only 1,200 bottles of the G3 have been made for the entire world, and it may be the best part of a decade before Penfolds releases the next one (yes, there are others in the system). Even if you manage to find one, the cost is AUD$3,000/€2,995 a bottle.

Gago conducted production much as Schubert had so many years ago, in secrecy from the board, as a “behind closed doors” project.

Even the winemaking team had not seen the finished product when Gago opened it for the tasting – though one doubts that had he been discovered, he would have faced immediate termination. The board turned out to be wonderfully supportive.

 

Penfolds G3

For this first release of G3 vintages, the three Granges are 2008, 2012 and 2014.  The 2008 and 2012 vintages are highly regarded, while 2014, which will be released next year, is already attracting plenty of hype, suggesting it should be a great Grange. Percentages are a closely guarded secret, though Gago will concede that there are significant contributions made by each of the vintages, “at least double figures.” So at the very least, ten percent of each.

The contribution of the latter two years was from barrel, while that from the 2008 vintage came from bottles, with all three then matured together. Gago’s aim was for something “completely different,” which would reflect, first and foremost, a house style. He has undoubtedly achieved that.

The Penfolds G3 undoubtedly does show the Grange style, but not as “Grange” and not as any specific vintage. Perhaps a little oaky at this stage? Currently, it is exhibiting black fruits, licorice, spices, and olives.

Rich, complex and supple, there are very fine tannins and it is a wine that should age well. Though whether it will be a wine enjoyed over time or it simply becomes a commodity, time will tell.

Hopefully the former.

by Ken Gargett

 

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The Story

Penfolds has released a special wine blended from three Grange vintages spanning seven years – 2008, 2012 and 2014 (a vintage to be globally released in 2018). Aptly named Penfolds g3, this unique blend expertly entwines the three Grange vintages to create a completely unique Penfolds expression. A first for Penfolds.

 

With only 1200 bottles available on this Planet, this is a very special and rare release. Penfolds g3 represents the true essence of Grange; where pioneering spirit meets time-honoured Fortified & Champagne philosophies & winemaking techniques. 

The result is a stunning Penfolds wine innovation intrinsically linked to the winemaking philosophy which stretches back to 1951.

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Wine Information

"A blend of blends. Why not? An expression spanning vineyards and vintages, retaining 100% Grange DNA. This Penfolds g3 release celebrates both the past and the future."

Peter Gago

 

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

<10 tasting notes

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Written Notes

The new, not quite one-off release from Penfold's, which combines three vintages of Grange – this one, the 2014, 2012 and 2008. Only 1,200 bottles made and at three grand a pop. There may be future releases but little was being given away. It is a rich and complex wine, with noticeable Grange DNA and it should age brilliantly. It does show the Grange style, but does not quite have the same impact a great Grange does. As a curiosity, top marks. As a wine, certainly very impressive but perhaps not in the class of an individual Grange.

Score: 93/100

Best drinking: at this price, one wonders if anyone will ever open a bottle, but any time in the next few decades will work, if you are so inclined.

  • 93p

The very first release of this new, somewhat iconoclastic and yet intrinsically delicious concept, this NV G3 is a blend of Grange 2008, 2012 and 2014, although fans of Grange should not expect it to taste like any of these; G3 possesses a style all its own. Very deep garnet-black colored, it has a full-throttle, up-front nose of incense, fruit cake, chocolate-covered cherries and preserved plums with touches of cinnamon stick, cloves, cigar box and Chinese five spice, plus a waft of potpourri. Full-bodied, velvety, rich and oh-so-decadent, this is true hedonist’s wine, with a very, very long spice-layered finish. To quote Homer Simpson, “Sacrilicious!” It is actually open for business and drinking deliciously right now, though should cellar for a good 20+ years. Only 1,200 bottles were made.

  • 97p

A blend of 2008, 2012 and 2014 Granges. Milder than the 2013 Grange tasted immediately beforehand, maybe with less obvious acidity. Very voluptuous with just one whiff. Creamy texture. Racy and sublimely confident. Really rather majestic. Coming along nicely and sublimely. Very much the essence of South Australian Shiraz. Quite a production!

  • 96p
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Information

Origin

Magill, South Australia

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Highlights

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