Pen­folds cel­e­brates a ro­bust se­ries

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | DINING - By MIKE PETERS

A tast­ing with a wine­maker doesn’t usu­ally come with a string quar­tet — even in France. But the four ladies in red silk and har­mo­nious bows were a sign that Pen­folds con­sid­ers its lat­est crop of wines to be some­thing spe­cial.

The un­veil­ing showed that China is as spe­cial to Pen­folds as the new se­ries of wines, which was in­tro­duced and tasted for the first time in Bei­jing just be­fore the Oct 1 hol­i­day. It’s no se­cret that China is now the world’s No 1 mar­ket for red wine, and the Aus­tralian com­pany was early to see the po­ten­tial here and es­tab­lish its brands, notably Bin 28, Bin 389 and Grange.

“I love the 2008 and the 2010 Grange,” says Kym Schroeter, a se­nior wine­maker with the gi­ant vint­ner and the leader of the tast­ing. “But the 2012 could be the great­est Grange ever.”

That lat­est Grange joins the new se­ries of 2014 whites and dry reds on store shelves this month.

Grange has been the flag­ship wine for Pen­folds since 1951, but it wasn’t al­ways the ap­ple of the com­pany’s eye. Be­fore the ’50s, the com­pany was most­ly­known­for for­ti­fied wines and sher­ries, but wine­maker Max Shu­bert had dif­fer­ent ideas.

“Max had been to Bordeaux and fallen in love with the dry reds there,” says Schroeter. “He’d also dis­cov­ered new Amer­i­can oak, which was barely on the wine­mak­ing radar at that time.” The com­bi­na­tion, Schu­bert was con­vinced, of­fered a chance to greet some­thing brand-new and won­der­ful.

Not ev­ery­one at Pen­folds was so sure. The mar­ket­ing folks in the com­pany, in fact, were sim­ply out­raged.

“Who’s go­ing to drink this?” was the com­mon re­frain among the sales team, Schroeter says, and the grum­bling was so loud that man­age­ment for­bade Shu­bert from fer­ment­ing his new­fan­gled vin­tage. The wine­maker, how­ever, con­tin­ued to do so in se­cret, and after the wine won a big award in 1960, Shu­bert and his baby were im­me­di­ately fa­vorite sons at the com­pany. (The “hid­den Grange” vin­tages of 1957-’58-’59 now com­mand big bucks at auc­tion.)

To­day, Shu­bert is a leg­end in the in­dus­try, and wine lovers who may never have heard of him are lin­ing up to buy the big, rich, fla­vor­some wines that have made Pen­folds a pow­er­house in the mar­ket over the last 50 years.

While Grange is the star of the line, the cur­rent wine­mak­ers at Pen­folds are al­most as buoy­ant about the least ex­pen­sive vin­tage in the group: the 2014 Bin 28. “Cho­co­late, berry fruit, power and struc­ture,” says Schroeter of the 100-per­cent shi­raz from Pen­folds’ Kal­imna vine­yard. “The 2014 is more el­e­gant than the ’13, though maybe not as full and gutsy.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The lat­est Pen­folds wines in­clude two whites and sev­eral ro­bust reds.

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