Tags: Penfolds wine. Australian wines. How to age wine
THE BRIBIE WINELANDER
In the early 1950’s Penfolds sent Max Schubert, their chief winemaker, to France to observe how the French made the magnificent wines of Bordeaux with the aim of replicating this feat and producing an iconic Australian red.
Upon his return, Max started to play around with several blends with the prime grape variety being Shiraz as this variety better suits the Australian climate. When his first effort was submitted to the wine critics the comments were so disappointing Penfolds immediately ordered Max to stop making this wine and concentrate on the normal everyday wines.
However, Max continued to experiment with his new “baby” hiding away the resultant vintages at the rear of the warehouse. The critics revisited his original creation a few years later and their views were totally different announcing the wine to be the best ever produced in Australia.
Penfolds then asked Max to produce another batch of this wine and were delighted to find out he had continued to make it and Grange Hermitage was born. Because of this, it was then decided that the wine would only be released to the market no less than 5 years after vintage and that practice has remained to this day.
In the early 1980’s Grange had a retail price around $25 and the average price for good quality wines averaged around the $5.00 mark, now the current release of Grange is retailed for the mid $700 per bottle mark and the average price for good quality wines is probably around $20 or even less. I had the pleasure of having dinner with Mr. Schubert in about 1985 and asked him what he would eat with such a big wine as Grange, his answer Meat Pie and Chips, which he had regularly for Sunday lunch, it helps when you actually make the product and remember it retailed then for around $30 per bottle, not $750!
Because of our sunny warm climate the wines made in Australia tend to be more fruity than those of Europe and comparisons are very difficult, in fact, impossible, wines of France and Italy are often tasted after 100 years or more and still show amazing style and character whereas our wines should be drunk a lot younger, a good age for a top Australian red would be 10-15 years.
If you are considering cellaring wines, it should be noted over 95% of wines purchased in Australia are drunk within 24 hours, so here are a few tips. It is no good cellaring wines and only buying one bottle of each as you will never find out it’s true value to you as far as taste is concerned. Buy at least 6 bottles or even a dozen depending on what you can afford and open a bottle after 5 years and every couple of years thereafter and you be the judge when the wine is perfect for you, and wines that are in the lower price range are very rarely suitable for drinking after more than a couple of years.
Remember with the climate in Australia, heat, and light can be a killer of good wine so you will need an area that remains at a relatively constant temperature, around 7– 18 degrees centigrade, dry and dark. When you read on the label the cellaring potential is said to be 10 – 15 years or more remember this is the opinion of the winemaker based on everything being perfect.
Wine cellaring is not confined to red wines, there are several white varieties that evolve superbly, namely Chardonnay, Semillion, and Riesling. It is possible for any of these varieties to last ten years or more with the right cellaring conditions, and as most wine drinkers concentrate on cellaring older reds there are many bargains in white wines to be found if you look around.
Find a McWilliam’s Elizabeth Semillion with an older vintage of 6 or 7 years and you will notice all the medals on the label and a probable price tag of around $20. Clare and Eden Valley Rieslings, Chardonnays from The Hunter Valley, The Barossa, and Western Australia with a bit of bottle age can also be found at very competitive prices, just look around, liquor retailer Dan Murphy’s have a section of older vintages which are always worth checking out.
Amazingly the current vintage of Houghton’s White Classic can be bought now on special for around $7 and in 10 years you would probably pay $40 or more for the same wine that has been aged. Although I have mentioned medals as being an indication of the quality of the wine in the bottle please note that when the wine is submitted to the shows for judging the big wineries will go through many barrels to find the very best, which of course means that the wine you are buying is not necessarily up to the same standards of the medal winner, the smaller wineries will simply send a unlabelled bottle for judging from their stock.
If you have any queries on wines remember to drop me an email at [email protected]
Instead of buying your usual $5 dollar drop why not see what wine is on your shopping receipt from the supermarket, recently Woolworths and Coles have been doing a special buy where if you buy one bottle you get one bottle free so you can often buy a wine that normally retails at around $15 per bottle meaning with the free one it is costing $7.50 per bottle and compare the difference in quality to your regular favourite
Here are a few white wines and red wines I believe represent outstanding buying when on special, often close to half their recommended price.
- Houghton’s White Classic
- McWilliam’s Elizabeth Semillon
- Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay
- Wyndham Estate Bin 444 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz
- Jacobs Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
- Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz
Philip Arlidge Quote of the month:
“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.”