BACK TO THE FOLD
WHEN DOCTOR CHARLES PENFOLD SET UP ROOMS AT THE GRANGE COTTAGE ON AN ESTATE OUTSIDE ADELAIDE IN 1844, HIS WIFE PLANTED A SMALL VINEYARD. THEY MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO KNOW WHAT THE NAME ‘PENFOLDS GRANGE’ MEANS NOW.
Nested in the Adelaide foothills, and just a short drive from Adelaide’s city centre, sits possibly Australia’s greatest monument to wine: the Penfolds Magill cellar door. For more than 170 years the original Penfolds winery has existed on this very spot, with many foundations of the firm’s success laid here. Every summer brings a flurry of activity as fruit and wines make their way up the gentle slope to its ancient cellar.
Magill Estate, now located in the Adelaide suburb of Roslyn Park, was originally much larger — 2000 hectares of prime land purchased by Christopher Penfold in 1844. Dr Penfold established his surgery in the Grange cottage on the property, and his wife Mary tended the garden, planting it with wheat, barley, oats, garden vegetables, fruit trees — and a little vineyard.
The first wines under the Penfolds name were handmade Magill health tonics, prescribed by the good doctor for his patients. But within 20 years the first Magill wines proper were for sale throughout the colony
with wheat also from the property exported to London. And over the next 150 years the site grew to be not only the spiritual home of Penfolds Grange but also the place where Penfolds helped to change the world’s view of Australian wine.
Today Magill Estate retains its industrial heritage: grandiose bluestone-fronted cellars that house barrels of ageing wines, fermenters long responsible for Penfolds Grange and an old distillery. Hidden within are lavish dining rooms and well-appointed offices, dating back to the era when Grange’s founder Max Schubert hid his secret vintages and Penfolds winemakers such as Ray Beckwith began a global winemaking revolution. In front sits what remains of the original Magill Estate vineyards: a beautifully manicured 5ha plot of old vines, one of the few working urban vineyards left in the world.
To this picturesque scene has recently been added a breathtaking modern edge, thanks to a $10 million upgrade that has restored semi-derelict 19th-century buildings to create a luxury cellar door experience, more typical of the Napa Valley or Bordeaux than suburban Adelaide. The first part opened in 2013, including the Magill Estate restaurant, followed by a major redevelopment of the cellar door in May.
The new cellar door complex retains the property’s history while the modern interior styling makes it one of Adelaide’s must-see attractions. Over summer the working vineyard and winery have come to life with pickers in to collect the next vintage of Magill Estate shiraz fruit and winemakers tending the next super premium Penfolds releases. Chief winemaker Peter Gago, however, already has his eye on some of the older winery buildings to the rear of the new cellar door, which could add even more to the site.
At the new development’s core is a network of interconnected rooms and outdoor areas to provide a variety of tasting and educational experiences. From the large tasting room for sampling all the Penfolds wines — incidentally enjoying some of Adelaide’s best views — to more intimate spaces such as the Back Vintage Tasting Room, all pay homage to Penfolds’ long history but give it a fresh, modern edge. Original rock walls in some rooms, hewn from local stone, show the past in a style that is entirely contemporary.
One of the centrepieces is Max Schubert’s priceless personal Grange collection, from the first bottling in 1951 to the 1988 vintage, all signed by the winemaker. There are also guided tours of the historic vaults that dive deep into the hillside, where many of the finest Penfolds wines still await their final bottling.
The international prestige of the Penfolds name also brings its fair share of famous names to Magill to sample some of the country’s most famous wines. The redevelopment includes a handful of private tasting rooms hidden in the warren of winery buildings, where Gago and his colleagues can entertain discreetly.
While wine is the focus, there are two restaurants on site — the renowned Magill Estate, with its modern fine-dining style, and a more casual experience in the Magill Estate Kitchen. Diners at both can choose from a vast selection of wines, with a range of Penfolds Grange vintages available by the glass or bottle, plus a handful of vintage international benchmarks for comparison. Both are a perfect opportunity to enjoy a tremendous view and fine food with a glass of Penfolds wine overlooking the vineyard where it all began.
The Penfolds Magill winery has undergone a huge redevelopment into a modern cellar door, with many tasting rooms and two restaurants, that celebrates the heritage of the place and
the history of the business.