The Tippler: Penfolds Grange

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The Independent Online

Fifty years old this year, Penfolds Grange has become the New World's first old master. To celebrate the anniversary of Australia's first icon wine, Christie's kicked off with an auction at South Kensington (020-7581 7611) last Monday, featuring 50 lots of Grange in vintages between 1964 and 1990.

Grange Hermitage, so-called originally in homage to the Rhône's syrah-based Hermitage, was first made from old, low-yielding shiraz (syrah) vines by Max Schubert in 1951. Undrinkably tough in its youth, it was initially so derided by the critics that Schubert was ordered by the Penfolds management to stop producing it. Among the more colourful descriptions: "a good dry port which no one in their right mind will buy, let alone drink" and "sundry berries with crushed ants".

Luckily, Schubert was a stubborn soul. Defying the Penfolds board, he persevered and had the last laugh as Grange became the most garlanded Australian red ever. Now, underlining the wine's longevity, Penfolds is offering an after-sales service.

John Duval, who has inherited the mantle after Schubert's death in 1994, will be one of the Penfolds winemakers, along with Peter Gago, on hand at the Australian company's first-ever re-corking clinic in the UK on 16 November. Free of charge, they will assess and, if necessary, top-up any 15-year plus Penfolds red from the bin range, re-cork it with a special label to certify the wine is sound and tell you when the best time to drink it is.

If you'd like more details, contact Samantha Hutchinson at the Penfolds Wine Club on 020-8917 4600.