Top Drops

May 2008

I went to an event a couple of weeks ago organised by Penfolds to debut the release of new vintages of their Luxury & Icon Wines — in other words, to have a sip of some wines that I personally can’t afford. What did we try? There was the 2003 Grange whose price, we were told, would be “set by the market”. A quick Google shows the market has spoken: between $462 and $495 a bottle. What was it like? I know this is heresy, but I’ve never been much of Grange lover — but it was a very pleasant drop. Would I pay $500 a bottle for it? No.

At a vertical tasting (meaning lots of different vintages) I went to a few years ago, my preference was for the 1982 which, at the time, was seen as one of the worst years. Now? Well, that guru of the grape, American wine writer Robert Parker, gushes: “One of my favourite vintages of Grange to actually drink at present is the 1982. The wine is gorgeously opulent and impossible to resist.” That’ll also set you back around $500 a bottle.

There were other wines presented on the night, my favourite being the 2004 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz, which tipped the scale at a paltry $90 a bottle. It’s a big, brooding, dark and spicy monster that I would have loved to share with a slow-roasted shoulder of lamb littered with garlic. My least favourite was the 2005 Yattarna Chardonnay ($130), which my untrained palate felt was flabby and thin. But then I’m not much of a Chardonnay hound. Do any of you buy wines at these prices? I certainly can’t afford it. My plumber collects Grange, but doesn’t drink it. He sells it at auction after sitting on it for a couple of years. I don’t know. Wine is for drinking, I reckon. Some years ago, I went to a Penfolds function and present was Don Ditter, the second winemaker to make Grange after its creator, Max Schubert. Someone asked him what he was drinking. “Koonunga Hill,” he said (the Shiraz Cabernet now selling at around $15 a bottle by the dozen), but, he added, “I do lay it down for a few years.” There’s a lesson there for us poor folk

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