I tried Grange in the historic Adelaide winery where Penfolds began -- and you can too

SuppliedPenfolds Magill Estate

Funny how some things can be right in your metaphorical backyard but you never get around to utilising them.

For the best part of 20 years I’ve been fraternising with/married to an Adelaide girl whose family residence was just a seven minute drive from Penfolds Magill Estate.

Even from the heart of the Adelaide CBD, the Magill complex is only 17 minutes by car in off-peak traffic.

Somehow, notwithstanding all the visits to Adelaide over the years, I had never made the trip; until two weeks ago. Silly me. This truly urban vineyard produces the famous eponymous shiraz, and sits adjacent to the historic Auldana cellars, which dates from 1844.

The cellars and cellar door are a mightily impressive tourism and tasting experience, having been sensitively updated and refurbished about five years ago.

There are a range of wine and tour “experiences” available to cater to all interests and budgets. My recommendation is to take the “Ultimate Penfolds Experience” which incorporates a tour of the buildings and concludes with six wines presented at a sit-down tasting in the VIP tasting room.

The following wines are what were included with our tour. Note cellar door offers preferential “members” pricing so simply sign up for the newsletter before you go (or while you are there) and take advantage of the “friends of Penfolds” (FOP) pricing shown below.

SuppliedPenfolds Magill Estate Restaurant

And by the way, the Magill complex also includes the Magill Estate restaurant; our ensuing dinner there was as good as it gets and easily ranks as one of Australia’s best restaurant experiences.

2016 Penfolds Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay
FOP $100

Pale, light appearance. Complex assertive bouquet of sulphides/struck match characters, notes of citrus, and oak (40% new French).

Powerful, tightly-wound white stone fruit flavours driven by racy citrus acidity, medium bodied with excellent intensity, this finishes with great nervosité and persistent length and aromatics. Bloody good.

2007 Penfolds Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay
Back-vintage list price $125

Naturally far more developed in appearance, mid-lemon colour, now looking mature. The nose and palate are quite open-knit with characters of yellow stone fruit, lanolin and a back note of wood.

The palate is still lively, more middle-aged in shape than the toned shape of its younger sibling. The flavours are long, even and ready to go.

2016 Cellar Reserve Barossa Valley Grenache
FOP $68

Only the third time this wine has been made, the previous vintages being 1997 and 2002, from four different vineyards in the Valley and from very very old vines.

No oak character (thankfully as grenache hates new oak) as its 10-month stay was in previously used French oak.

Glorious medium deep raspberry/ruby red. The aromas are voluminous and unmistakably of very fine grenache with raspberries and cream leaping from the glass, with background hints of exotic spices. The palate is lissom and carries its 14.9% alcohol effortlessly.

There’s not a trace of heat to be found in the velvet-plush palate which has great energy and character, exhibiting flavours of red, black and blue fruits, herbs, spices, etc. and with silky fruit tannins closing out the long fragrant finish. A balanced beauty, that would run rings around so much grenache from the Southern Rhône.

SuppliedThe Penfolds Magill Estate cellar door tasting room

2011 Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz
Back-vintage list price $200

Medium dark red-crimson. Classically Penfolds bouquet of complex oak – all new, 65% French 35 % American – with aromas of milk chocolate, coconut, orange rind, icing sugar; lots going on. The challenges posed by the 2011 vintage are in no way obvious with this unexpectedly elegant rendition of Magill Shiraz.

Medium weight slinky palate, a melange of small red fruit characters with spice and sage in the background. Tighter in structure than some might expect, this is delightfully fresh and finishes with a crisp and fragrant farewell. Charming.

2014 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz
FOP $100

First released in the 1950’s, this is the Penfolds wine for those who have an aversion to new oak (irrespective of how expertly handled).

Matured for 12 months in large old (50+ years) oak vats, the oak imparts no flavour and acts merely as a form of controlled oxidation for softening.

Colour is dark black-garnet red. Nose is quintessentially South Australian shiraz – though there is 4% Cab Sav in it – and is a blend of fruit from across the state.

The aromas are like one big, dark-fruit Christmas pudding with characters of orange peel, cocoa, carrot and eastern spices. The palate has excellent drive and keeps the medium to full bodied flavours up and about, with the chocolate, zest and spice characters finishing long and very fragrant.

Lovely wine. Will age beautifully.

2011 Penfolds Grange
FOP $740

Usually made with a dollop of cabernet sauvignon, for just the sixth time in six decades, this Grange is 100% shiraz, being a blend of fruit from Barossa Valley, Mc Laren Vale and Magill Estate.

Grange is inimitable. Once you have experienced it a few times, you are unlikely in blind tastings to ever miss identifying it. Classically Grange on the nose, the usual aromatic panoply of crushed ants (formic acid), lightly toasted coconut, cola-type drinks, and savoury bouquet garni notes to which the chef has added some soy (it’s a multi-cultural world in which we live).

The palate has great energy on entry with its deep, plush dark black fruit flavours with complexing characters of oak, coffee, dried meats, and more of those savoury cross cultural oriental spice/ Bordelaise sauce characters. Marvellous texture, excellent length and lingering aromatic afternotes.

To paraphrase Peter Gago’s tasting notes, perhaps not one of the best ever Grange’s but certainly one of the finest reds from South Australia in 2011. Enjoy.

Frank Wilden is a retail food strategist and a “lapsed” restaurateur whose love of wine began nearly four decades ago.

Frank is writing this regular wine column for Business Insider Australia. Get in touch with him via @thefrankreport on Twitter

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