Cellar notes #5: Is it worth it?

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Can £110 for a bottle of wine ever be good value? On the face of it, the current asking price for Penfolds 1998 Grange at Waitrose Kingston, Belgravia and Canary Wharf branches seems exorbitant. Yet since its release it has shot up in price with £172.50 a bottle paid at Sotheby's on 16 September. Why so much? The fact that Grange dates back to 1951 gives it a track record and pedigree of proven longevity which is rare among New World icons and unique to Australia.

Now, the influential American writer Robert Parker has given his own "an all-time classic" accolade to the 1998 vintage and scored it 99 out of 100. Hence the accelerating price. And what's it like? Far from the blackstrap, inky caricature it's sometimes made out to be, this blend of 97 per cent shiraz and 3 per cent cabernet sauvignon is an exceptional red, densely spicy, intensely aromatic, and full of black fruit flavours and textured finesse. It won't come into its own for five years but will go on drinking well for another 20.

Waitrose is limiting sales to a couple of bottles per customer so no one will make a fortune on it. A better bet for bargain hunters is the 2001 d'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz, £19.99, Oddbins. This brooding, smoky McLaren Vale Shiraz, is chock full of richly concentrated, spicy fruit with the backbone for a 10- to 20-year life. Helped by a 98-point score from Mr Parker, a few bottles of this might make a more sound investment, whether it stays in your own cellar or ends up in someone else's.