July 21: Penfolds Grange, the iconic wine from Australia, usually accepted as the best Australian wine, was sold last week at an Auction for an astronomical amount of A$142,000 (US $ 105,000) for the first, un-commercialised 1951 vintage with the label signed by Max Schubert, the Chief Winemaker at the time, writes Subhash Arora who feels that even a regular vintage competes extremely well with the top wines in the world
I was inspired for the Heading of this Article by a song in the late 1960’s by a group called the 5th Dimension and later by Nancy Sinatra and a few other Artists. It was also the highlight of the Broadway Musical ‘Hair’. Up, Up and Away in my beautiful balloon-is what the late Max Schubert who created the iconic GRANGE in 1951 would be singing in his cocoon (grave) right now.
The prices of the 1951 Grange have been steadily touching new heights with a rare bottle of Penfolds Grange that had the signature of this then Chief Winemaker, fetching a record A$142,000 (including the buyer’s premium) at the Langton’s Penfolds Rewards of Patience Auction on 18 July, thus becoming the most expensive Australian wine ever to be auctioned. It has become practically a national symbol of pride and reckoning in the World of Wine for Australia.
Also Read : Grange- Grand Wine King of Australia
This bottle was re-corked in 1988 as the original cork had vanished and consequently listed with minor label damage. In lieu of the white foil capsule on top it had in the original version, a wax stamped seal has been incorporated. During the online event organised last weekend, there were over 75 spectators; only two bids and the hammer went down!
The sale smashed the previous record set by a bottle of Grange which was sold at an auction last year by a Melbourne buyer who paid $103,000. In 2018, a bottle of the Penfolds Grange 1951 vintage sold for $80,386 with two bottles fetching $81,000 each the following year.
Also Read : Penfolds Grange has a Story in Every Bottle
So how would this priciest Oz wine taste? One may never find out because it is doubtful it would ever be opened-unless the buyer decided to take a trip to the outer space with Branson or Bezos, and decided to make it even more memorable and unique by opening the bottle in space in which case any faults could be attributed to the space interaction making it rather undrinkable, if it performed poorly in the tactile test.
Grange has been considered an unparalleled Aussie wine for decades and is a symbol of high quality, competing and compared with the best in the world. Even at around Rs. 40-50,000 for a regular vintage, it is considered a good value for collectors- 2011 was the only exception. You can never buy a wine like 1951 grange at a regular or even specialty wine shop but only at such auctions where collectibles command record prices at times.
Only about 35 bottles of the original 1951 vintage are estimated to be in circulation, out of which15 are part of complete sets, and are not likely to have been ever sold individually. Interestingly, this was an experimental wine project conducted by Max Schubert in 1951and the wines were not sold but mainly gifted to family and friends. The owners were not happy with the product initially and Max was explicitly asked to abandon the project but he kept on making them clandestinely in his personal time as he believed in the class of this wine. He has been proved more than right on several occasions.
Also Read : Penfold Grange 2011 dethroned as Top Oz Wine
Today, Penfolds Grange is aptly known as the King of Australian Wines. Thanks to perhaps the iconic Grange, Penfolds was chosen as World’s leading Brand in 2016. Peter Gago, chief winemaker of Penfolds, whose name is synonymous with Grange, was thrilled and reportedly exclaimed, "after 172 years in the wine business, we’re still hungry, still excited and still eager to make better wine and champion new followers.,”
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