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Parker: Production: 2,530 cases Blend: 100% Shiraz
This wine, which I have tasted twice and given approximately the same rating, is drying out, with the astringent tannin taking the upper hand. The color is a garnet/ruby with considerable orange/brown at the edge. The wine exhibits an attractive spicy, herbal sweetness and some jammy fruit, but the acidity and tannin dominate. While still alive, the 1955 Grange Hermitage is largely of academic interest, although there is enough joy and complexity in its aromatics to merit its very good rating.
Grange is arguably Australia’s most celebrated wine and is officially listed as a Heritage Icon of South Australia. Grange boasts an unbroken line of vintages from the experimental 1951 and clearly demonstrates the synergy between Shiraz and the soils and climates of South Australia. Grange utilises fully-ripe, intensely-flavoured and textured Shiraz grapes. The result is a unique Australian style that is now recognised as one of the most consistent of the world’s great wines. The Grange style is the original and most powerful expression of Penfolds multi-vineyard, multi-district, blending philosophy.
Penfolds was founded by a young English doctor who migrated to one of his country's most distant colonies over a century and a half ago. Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold was born in 1811, the youngest of 11 children. He studied medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, graduating in 1838.
In 1844 Dr Penfold and his wife Mary purchased the Mackgill estate, “comprising 500 acres of the choicest land.” By all accounts it was Mary Penfold who was responsible for the management and early winemaking responsibilities of the fledgling wine estate. Initially the wines - made from grenache – were prescribed as tonic wines for anaemic patients and the famous Penfolds slogan ‘1844 to evermore’ harks back to its origins as a prescribed tonic.
By 1870 the Grange vineyard comprised over 60 acres with several different grape varieties including grenache, verdelho, mataro (mourvèdre), frontignac and pedro ximenez. The estate was producing both sweet and dry red wine and white table wines, with a growing market in the eastern Australian colonies of Victoria and New South Wales. A catalogue from 1889 lists wines from the Grange and Magill vineyards as Mataro, Grenache, Constantia, Grange Port, Frontignac, Grange Tawny, Pedro Ximenes, Tokay, Madeira, Grange Sherry and Muscadine. The catalogue adds: “We have also light red and white dinner wines of claret and riesling types, suitable for use in Clubs.”
Penfolds and Co. – the newly formed partnership of Mary Penfold and her son-in-law Thomas Hyland and her cellar manager Joseph Gillard – now claimed to be producing over one-third of South Australia’s wine. Mary Penfold passed away in 1896 after a remarkable contribution to Australia’s wine industry.
Australia 1955 VINTAGE REPORT
Growing season rainfall was above average but frosts in late September and early October resulted in crop losses of 10 to 15%. Vintage was warm and dry, providing ideal conditions for ripe grapes and good wines.
In 1955 there were 7,538 hectares of vineyards in Barossa and 28,764 tonnes of wine grapes were crushed in that vintage.
A horizontal Vaslin batch press was used for the first time at Orlando. The company also took their new winemaking technology one step further by undertaking the first controlled pressure refrigerated fermentation of red wines on skins.
Kaiser Stuhl installed the Barossa’s first pasteurisation plant in the quest for cleaner wines.
Meanwhile, industry innovation received a significant boost with the formation of The Australian Wine Research Institute in June 1955, with funding coming from the Australian Wine Board. John Fornachon was appointed the first Director of Research.
Grange Hermitage gained its first industry acknowledgement winning gold medals at major Australian wine shows. Penfolds also invests in an early air-conditioned and insulated cellar – for flor sherry production.
Post-war immigrant Rolf Binder Senior followed a New World dream and opened Veritas Wines at Langmeil.