Vino Rouge Special Vertical Tasting of Penfolds Grange Flight Four

This week’s Penfolds Grange Flight Four tasting brought new meaning to the word “culmination”.

cul·mi·na·tion
kəlməˈnāSH(ə)n/
noun: culmination;
the highest or climactic point of something, especially as attained after a long time.
“the product was the culmination of 13 years of research”
synonyms: climax, pinnacle, peak, high point, highest point, height, high-water mark, top, summit, crest, apex, zenith, crowning moment, apotheosis, apogee

This fourth flight was pretty exciting, showing all of the nuances and variations found in Grange at 15 to 38 years of age. There simply were no slackers in this group. Certainly the fabulous 1976 vintage demonstrated the qualities of a WA 100 rating! This has certainly also created long term taste memories for all who were able to participate.

Penfolds Grange tasting

What an experience this has been to taste 27 consecutive vintages of Penfolds flagship Grange Hermitage wine from 1976 to 2002. Max Schubert certainly did craft a truly age-worthy Shiraz. It was also very enjoyable to hold this event at the Aurora Civic Association with wonderful food and service in a terrific space.

Not to be outdone, we also shared a wonderful bottle of Penfolds’ Great Grandfather Rare Tawny that was at least 30 years old… a special treat to us all… and hopefully one that we can look forward to enjoying again sometime in the future.

The following paragraphs contain Parker descriptions and club notes for the seven wines in this absolutely fabulous tasting!

Penfolds Grange tasting

1976 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 100 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2000-2020

Consistently one of the most awesome wines ever made at Grange, this blend of 89% Shiraz and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon (13.9% alcohol) was the first Australian wine to cost $20 upon release. The color is an opaque purple, the wine massive, full bodies, the quintessential Grange. Notes of blackberry liqueur intermixed with cassis, charcoal, new saddle leather, and underbrush resonate from the glass. Huge, thick, unctously textured, with extraordinary concentration but perfect harmony among all of its elements, this is a prodigious Grange that is still not fully mature. A legend for sure! The club was waiting for this one and it did not disappoint! The most fine, soft, sweet, suptle, fruity unbelievable wine. We all saw clearly was this one was rated 100! Just incredible. Deepest darkest color. Not brawny like most others, as it has thinner ankles. This one is truly perfection!

1980 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 94 (June 2009); Drinkability range 2009-2029

The least impressive but still a very great wine, is the dark garnet-hued 1980. Still a young wine at age 29, it exhibits massive earthy, meaty, bacon fat notes intermixed with notions of scorched earth, blackberries, currants, pepper, and spice. Full and rich with slightly rustic tannins, it has good 20 years a life ahead of it. We encountered a floral nose with hints of olives. In the mouth, earthy minerals with some spice, road tar and grilled meats coat the palate. Nice tannins and finish.

1984 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 94 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2002-2020

The best showing ever for this wine from my perspective, this blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon is considered a relatively forward, accessible style of Grange. The color is still a dark plum/purple, and the wine shows plenty of wet cassis, with notes of chocolate and toasty oak. The wine is opulent and luscious, with great intensity, full body and fabulous extract. The acidity seems relatively low and integrated, and the tannins quite ripe. The club thought this wine was really approachable soft layered wine with awesome balance and an amazing finish. Hints of plumb, cherry, toast and red meat flavors. Another awesome example of the prestigious Grange.

1988 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 91 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2003-2016

A blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, this was considered to be “an uncharacteristically soft, fruity Grange”. This wine shows a syrupy creme de cassis, earthy note, some pepper and caramel. It is somewhat soft and accessible for such a relatively young Grange, but there is plenty of structure and tannin in the finish. It is certainly perfumed and more evolved than some of its siblings that are actually older, chronologically speaking. This wine has sweet, full bodies plum, cherry and cassis flavors, with some distinct truffle and asphalt notes. This one had a cherry cola nose that leads to a nice mouth coating wine with hints of cocoa, dark chocolate, ripe cherry, with some spice on the finish.

1992 Penfolds Grange – Rating: 92 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2002-2017

This is a very aromatic Grange that seems to be the product of a vintage where the wines are showing extremely well young. It is dense purple, with a sweet blackberry/cherry nose and some subtle cedar and licorice in the background, unctouusly textured, thick, full, without as many nuances of some of the greatest vintages of Grange, but very concentrated and dense. We had a strong cherry nose that leads to a thick, full bodied wine, with hints of blackberry and saddle leather. A well balanced crowd pleaser.

1996 Penfolds Grange – Rating:93 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2006-2025

This dark purple-colored wine exhibits notes of sweet plum, blackberry and cassis intermixed with some licorice, chocolate and espresso. It is a blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon that tips the scales at 14+% alcohol. The wine is layered, unctuously textured, full bodied with tremendous intensity, moderately high tannin, and a 40-second finish. This Grange should ultimately merit a higher score when it is closer to its plateau of drinkability. We thought this one had a very quiet nose, but a nice coffee flavor up front with a bit of heat on the mid and back palate. Soft tannins are present with hints of road tar, blueberries, blackberry, chocolate and tart cherry. The acid is bright in this full bodies wine.

2000 Penfolds Grange – Rating 93 (October 2005); Drinkability range 2005-2021

Penfolds’ renowned 2000 Grange is only the fifth vintage to be made from 100% Shiraz (the others being the 1951, 19552, 1963 and 1999). It is also, atypically, 100% Barossa fruit. When it is not considered to be one of the top wines I tasted from this vintage (which has had to take a back seat to subsequent years), its dense ruby/purple color is followed by a big, sweet nose of blackberries, cherries, chocolate and earth. With decent acidity, ripe, silky tannin, superb intensity, wonderful equilibrium, and a more open-knit, softer, accessible style than usual, it can be drunk now or cellared for 15-16 years. While this is no wimpy wine, it is an ideal example for readers who are unwilling to invest the patience required for the big, blockbuster Granges. The club experienced aromas of cherry, chocolate and olives. We found the wine to be nicely balanced with a soft thick, velvety mouth feel, coating the entire pallet into a nice lingering finish. Some cherry, prunes with hints of chocolate and blackberry. The right amount of a lot of things! Touch of alcohol heat, soft tannins and low acid.

Well, after ending the first three flights off with some terrific Penfolds dessert wines like the Club, the Father and the Grandfather, everything was all topped off with the following…

Penfolds Grange tasting

NV Penfolds Great Granfather Rare Tawny – Rating 96 (October 2014); Drinkability range 2014-2024

A Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet, Mourvedre Sweet Red Table wine from South Australia. The 30 year old Penfolds Great Grandfather rare Tawny is pale tawny in color and has a more profound nose than the Grandfather or Father labels of this style. The nose presents some earthy notes that wrap a complex spiciness around a core of Christmas cake, dried fruits, milk chocolate and incense. It’s a huge wine in the mouth – very serous stuff – with tons of layers and racy acid to carry the flavor through the very long finish that also has a pleasant minerality.