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Record price for legendary Penfolds Bin 60A
A record price was set for a single bottle of the legendary Penfolds 1962 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet & Kalimna Shiraz at the recent live Barossa Wine Auction. It brought AUD $21,552 (including buyer’s premium) – three times the estimate. This was also substantially above the price for a bottle of the same wine at the last Barossa auction in 2017, which was AUD $14,562.
Total sales from the 35 lots came to $243,901, with a 100% clearance rate.
The 1962 Bin 60A has often been said to be the greatest wine ever made in Australia.
Other big prices were:
- An imperial (six litres) of Penfolds Grange Shiraz 2013 sold for AUD $58,250 (including buyer’s premium) to a bidder from Beijing who was in the Barossa for the auction.
- Langmeil Freedom Shiraz, a 12-bottle vertical collection sold for three times its catalogue estimate, at AUD $6,291 (including buyer’s premium)
- Pewsey Vale The Contours six-bottle vertical collection plus Contours Vineyard tour sold for AUD $5,242 (including buyer’s premium), which equates to AUD $874 per bottle, an Australian auction record for riesling.
The auction was a great success, with 350 people in the room and 40% of registered bidders female – well above average participation rates in other auctions.
Total sales from the 35 lots came to AUD $243,901 (inclusive of buyer’s premium), with a 100% clearance rate.
A total of AUD $12,000 of the net proceeds has been pledged to the event’s national charity partner, The McGrath Foundation. The remainder of the charitable contributions will be distributed in the local community, supporting the Barossa Vintage Festival and local charities Foundation Barossa and Barossa Enterprises.
By HUON HOOKE
No Penfolds wine has enjoyed more triumphs than Bin 60A, winning a total of 19 trophies.
In a country where success at professional wine shows counts for a great deal, wineries from the 1950s onwards sometimes released special bin bottlings of wines that were essentially experimental, so as to test the reaction of the senior winemakers who dominated the judging at Australian wine shows.
Andre Tchelistcheff, the most famous winemaker in California at the time, was among those to hail the classic quality of this wine. Over 40 years would go by before Penfolds ventured to produce another version of this blend in 2004, one that has not been repeated since.
Max Schubert, who created Australia’s most famous wine, Grange, in the early 1950s in the teeth of opposition from the company bosses, was then the presiding genius at Penfolds. By the late 1950s, Grange was accepted and established, but Schubert had not finished with experimentation and new styles.
Then as now, the Australian show system was a way to test whether a particular style or blend could achieve a chorus of approval from a panel of judges mostly composed of rival winemakers. Curiously, Penfolds entered a similar wine called Bin 60 (with more Shiraz than Cabernet) into shows at this time, but it was the Bin 60A that walked away with the gold medals and the trophies.
The 1962 growing season in the Barossa Valley was ideal, with mostly dry weather and warm dry conditions at vintage. Michael Broadbent gives the vintage for Australia as a whole his top five-star rating.
Like so many top Australian wines, this is a cross-regional blend, uniting cool-climate Cabernet Sauvignon from Sharams’ Block and Block 20 in Coonawarra (planted on the famous terra rossa soils) with the decidedly warm-climate, original Shiraz blocks from the Kalimna Vineyard in the Barossa Valley, which lies on sandy soils in the western part of the valley. Kalimna has long been an important component in the Grange blend.
The wine was produced at Penfolds’ Magill Estate, outside Adelaide in South Australia. It was foot-crushed, say some witnesses, and then fermented in wax-lined concrete vats equipped with wooden boards that would keep the cap submerged to assist extraction.
The average fermentation temperature was 22°C, and there was a daily délestage (the ‘rack and return’ method of emptying the tank and then returning the aerated fermenting must). As the wine was completing its fermentation, it was pressed in a basket press before being transferred to new American 300-litre barrels, where it stayed for around 15 months.
Michael Broadbent, sampling the wine in 1999, succinctly noted that it was ‘delicious’. It was the only New World wine to make the top 10 when Decanter listed its greatest wines of all time, in August 2004.
In 2012, Andrew Jefford adored the perfume: ‘Mushrooms, incense and leather, finessing the ripe fruit… It stayed generous and articulate to the last drop, sweet-fruited yet refined and spicy.’
In the same year, Australian wine auctioneer Andrew Caillard MW, who claims to have tasted the wine almost 100 times, noted: ‘Supple and fine-grained, with generous developed fried fruits, espresso, apricot and herb flavours, fine, loose-knit chalky tannins and gentle acidity. Finishes lacy, firm and long.’
1962 Penfolds Bin 60A Kalimna Shiraz, Coonawarra Cabernet is a legendary Australian wine. In a world where egos readily clashed, it unified wine critics and show judges. 1962 Bin 60A is Penfolds most successful show wine winning 19 trophies and 33 gold medal. It was a profound oenological, physical and philosophical achievement for its time. Still fresh and alive, it is a lasting model of Max Schubert’s groundbreaking winemaking practices and ideas of multi-regional, and cross varietal blending.
James Halliday, Australia’s leading wine author, gave 1962 Bin 60A the ultimate tasting note; “an utterly superb wine, a glorious freak of nature and Man; ethereal and beguiling, yet the palate is virtually endless, with a peacock’s tail stolen from the greatest of Burgundies; the fruit sweetness perfectly offset by acidity rather than VA. The 100 point dry red? Why not!”
The grapes were foot-crushed. Max Schubert fermented the wine in the classical Penfolds winemaking style using header boards and rack & returns. Towards completion of fermentation the wine was basket pressed and barrel fermented.
The fame of Bin 60A reached all corners of the globe. Max Schubert’s direct contemporary Andre Tchelistcheff (1901-1994), the founding father of the modern Californian Wine industry, once demanded of a room of startled Napa Valley vignerons; “Gentlemen you will all stand in the presence of this wine! Len Evans (1930 – 2006), who apparently brought that bottle to California. once described the wine as “one of the great reds I cut my palate on, and proved forever that the two varieties can blend beautifully together.”
1962 Bin 60A is the only Australian wine to reach Decanter Magazine’s Top 10 ranking “wines to try before you die.” Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator’s veteran Editor-at-Large said it is “one of the greatest wines I have tasted anywhere”.
1962 2/3rd Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon – Sharam’s Block & Block 20, - 1/3rd Shiraz – Kalimna Vineyards – original Shiraz blocks.
Fermentation / Stainless steel tanks with wooden header boards to submerge cap. Temperature maintained at less than 22o C. Daily rack and returns. Vinification took place at Magill and Nuriootpa.
Maturation / Fermentation completed in new oak. Blending of components took place at Magill. Approximately 15 months maturation in American oak hogsheads (300 litres)
Comments / The legendary 1962 Bin 60A is the most famous wine ever produced by Penfolds. Similar vintage conditions inspired Penfolds to make 2004 Bin 60A, an homage wine.
Bin 60A Story / “Joy Lake and I used to taste the first vintages of Grange with Max Schubert and Geoffrey Penfold Hyland in the lab at Penfold’s central office ay Magill. I can’t clearly recall how the connection began, but it had something to do with the fact that I had started writing about wine, and they liked the independence of an articulate surgeon giving opinions on controversial wines they were making. There is no truth on the fable that I got a lot of those early treasures, tops at half a dozen bottles.
Anyhow the friendship flourished, what with rare fine wines and private medical advice to Max. Which is how one morning soon after my own vineyard was producing some pretty handy wines in the Lower Hunter Valley I sat at Max’s desk in Adelaide confronted by a row of new Penfold cleanskins, produced for an opinion free of any company influence. This was quite a privilege as I regarded the company as the best consistent maker of red wines in Australia. I still do.
One of the wines on the table was a standout. I asked what was the chance of getting some. He looked hesitantly at the assistant. I knew instantly the problem was with show quantities. The Australian wine show system specifies a minimum quantity of an entry to be available for sale in each class. Otherwise some genius would make a spoonful of an ambrosial drop never to be seen by anyone else.
Penfolds had had an inspection in the recent past and were rather particular about meeting these minimal requirements. When it looked as though I was going to miss out, I offered to refrain from opening a single bottle until they gave me permission, however long that might be. And thus their total count would remain intact, to be called on if necessary. As they hadn’t definitely decided to make this a show entry, and my guarantee covered all the bases, Max agreed to let me have some of the wine.
Somehow we managed to pack fourteen cases of 1962 Bin 60A Kalimna Cabernet/Coonawarra Shiraz into our car. There was just enough room for me to drive, but otherwise it was stacked to the gunnels. And that is how I drove slowly and cautiously by the shortest main road to Sydney, the vehicle flat on its springs, the wheels fortunately mostly clear.The wine remained coolly maturing in my excellent cellar at home until that wonderful day when Max notified me it was out of embargo and OK to drink.
Over the next few years Joy and I got through about five cases of this magical potion, usually feeling compelled to share the experience with others of whom Leonard Paul Evans was one. The wine just got better and quickly entered my pantheon, shared with the Maurice O’Shea/Roger Warren Kings Paddock B76 1945, Colin Preece’s J34 Cabernet blend [’53 or ‘57], 1945 Ch. Latour, and Penfold’s own 1930 Dalwood Cabernet/Petit Verdot. The 60A led the field.
In the early weeks of this first phase of ‘60A-dom’ I realised I had never paid for it, and after a few letters and phone calls from me, Max confessed they had no idea what to charge for it, and would a book entry [by their accountant] of $1.67 per bottle be satisfactory? There was never a speedier delivery of a cheque. Fortune’s child, that’s me. And thank you Max. Wherever you are.”
Australia / A year of below average precipitation due to a dry winter. However, summer rains in January and again in March made this an exceptional year producing exceptional red wines, despite the poor fruit set for Shiraz.
In 1962 there were 7,174 hectares of vines in the Barossa and 31,774 tonnes of wine grapes were crushed in that vintage.
The introduction of the first Barossa Spaetlese Riesling by Orlando in 1956 had ushered in a new era of late harvest and spaetlese styles which reached its peak in 1962.
This interest in Riesling also fueled cool climate viticulture in the Barossa, including the development of the Steingarten vineyard on the rolling slopes of the Eden Valley by Orlando and the redevelopment of Pewsey Vale by S. Smith & Co. The Barossa has continued to innovate in winemaking technology with the first use of atomic absorption spectrophotometry for wine analysis at Penfolds.
Using a SO2 vacuum method, Australia's first rosé wine was made at Kaiser Stuhl. The wine went on to win gold medals at Australian wine shows and became a popular new style of wine for consumers.
John Vickery introduced antioxidant manipulation of white wines at Leo Buring using an inert gas blanket of carbon dioxide and ascorbic acid as an "oxygen scavenger".
The 1962 was the first Grange Hermitage to be made primarily from fruit sourced from the Kalimna vineyard of Barossa - also one of the best! This year also marked a breakthrough in acceptance by wine judges and the wine drinking public of Grange.
The Australian Wine Research Institute has named its first winemaker, Dr CR Hale.
Recommended glass shape
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