It is always a treat to taste Australia’s most famous wine, Penfolds’ Grange cuvee (the word Hermitage has been dropped because of legal issues). The 2001 Grange is one of the few vintages of this cuvee to be composed of 100% Shiraz (the others being 1951, 1952, 1963, 1999, and 2000). Aged 17 months in 100% American oak, and tipping the scales at 14.5% alcohol, the 2001 is undeniably one of the top examples of this wine. At this stage, it appears to eclipse the 1998 and 1996. Inky/blue/purple to the rim, with a stunning perfume of blueberries, blackberries, chocolate, graphite, and earth, it boasts good acidity, huge tannins, magnificent concentration, and a multilayered, textured mouthfeel. It is a big, but impeccably well-balanced Shiraz that should shed some of its structure and tannin over the next 4-5 years, and be at its best between 2010-2030+. Rating: 98+
Grange is often an explosion on release, and this '01 does not want for intensity. This vintage is unusual, as it's all from Barossa fruit; what's more unusual is that its subtlety and grace make it surprisingly approachable as a young wine. The power of old-vine fruit is there in the color, black and concentrated at the core, deep red at the edge. It's also there in the complex aromatics, layered in earthy tannins. Those beautiful tannins drive the wine, releasing a quiet blast of black fruit that evolves for over a minute as it lasts past each taste. The wine just doesn't let go, and is as mouthwatering as the sizzle on a steak. Grange will often thrive for 20 years from the vintage, the best vintages lasting longer.
Originally focused on making fortified wines, Penfolds has become one of the quintessential luxury wine brands in the world and arguably the only Australian cult wine. It was founded in 1844 by Doctor Christopher Penfold, who came to Australia with a suitcase full of French vines. In the beginning, fortified wines were made, believed by the Doctor and his patients to be medicinal. Upon realizing the opportunity for growth in the wine world, he began creating wines from many regions. The varieties grown include Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon (some of the oldest continuously producing in the world), Grenache, Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Mataro and Sangiovese.
For collectors, investors and just plain wine lovers- the wines tick every box. In 1990, Wine Spectator named Penfolds “Wine of the Year”, which ignited global recognition for the producer and an increase in value/demand. A recent re-release of the 2004 Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon (limited edition, special packaging) is going for $168,000- significantly higher than the original asking price upon release of $225 a bottle. This makes it the most expensive wine in the world sold directly from a winery. The wines, specifically the highly and continuously lauded Grange Shiraz, symbolizes and embodies a place - even though it’s not a vineyard designate, but a blend of Barossa Valley fruit. Greatness is Penfolds, and from the horses mouth the best vintages on the current market are 1986, 1990, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002.
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