Vino Rouge Special Vertical Tasting of Penfolds Grange Flight Two

Well, no one promised that a Penfolds Grange Vertical would be boring! Unlike the results from Flight ONE, the Flight TWO wines showed considerably more differences and the top two preference poll wines garnered 82 percent of the points and three vintages received zero points. In fact, the top scoring 1982 vintage received 50% of all of the points, albeit deservedly. This wine was truly fabulous with lots of open fruit and spices and a very long finish…very impressive for a 33 year old wine. Interestingly, the Wine Advocate suggested a drinking period that was to end in 2010, but in my opinion it still has years of life yet, though I cannot imagine it getting any better.

Penfolds Grange

Bistro 45 did a marvelous job with the special menu they prepared for us; everything we tasted was wonderful and very well prepared; there were just too many courses. Thanks also go to Don, who worked with the restaurant to make the table seating pretty roomy and comfortable, using the available small tables and adding a top cover.

Penfolds Grange

The wines tasted spanned 20 years and included the 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 and the 2002. Prior to the tasting, the wines were prepared using a decant procedure that included filtering the wine through cheese cloth twice and completing a double rinse of the bottles using Peregrine water, after which the wine was re-poured in the rinsed bottles and vacuum sealed.

As previously stated, the club overwhelmingly chose the 1982 as the favorite of the night, followed by the 1986 and then the 1998. Collective tasting notes from the club for these and the other remaining wines in this second of four verticals are woven into the following wine descriptions.

Penfolds Grange

1978 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 93 (Feb 2002); Drink Range – 2002-2022
A blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, has turned out to be a blockbuster wine with extraordinary intensity, a voluptuous palate, notes of camphor, coffee, jammy black fruits, leather and creme de casis. As the wine sits in the glass, pepper and melted asphalt make an appearance. Very unctuously textured, thick and chewy, this wine is soft, with a very succulent style. The club encountered a subtle nose of tea and spice with a big old world earthy port-like flavor on the palate. Another luscious Grange with hints of chocolate, leather, blackberry and tar with peppery spice. For a 1978, this is acting young and not old. This will go another 10+ years, easy.

1982 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 97 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2000-2010
One of the jammiest, most precocious Granges when it was released, it has never gone through a closed stage and continues to drink beautifully. A full bodied, opulent Grange, it reveals an inky/purple color to the rim as well as a beautiful nose of crushed blueberries, black-berries, smoke, toast, roasted herbs and road tar. This dense, plush, expansive, seamless, seductive 1982 has not changed much over the last decade. The club noted a vibrant nose of roasted herbs and raw asparagus, leading to a voluptuous flavor profile of coffee, raisins, black currant and some spice, ans seems to be totally evolved at its very peak right now. Soft tannin lead to a fruity finish that are elegantly balanced.

1986 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 98 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2005-2039
A blend of 87% Shiraz and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1986 is one of the most powerful Granges produced (14% alcohol). Inky/purple to the rim with an extraordinary perfume of sweet licorice, crushed pepper, blackberry liqueur, camphor and barbecue spices, this sensationally full bodied, concentrated, layered 1986 is still an infant in terms of its ultimate potential. While a quiet nose, the club noted a great mouth feel similar to the 1998. A luscious Wow Wow wine with an awesome balance. Tannins very soft with some smoke and tar on corners of back palate on the finish. Interesting in that flavors and expand on the palate like a ramp up.

1990 Penfolds – Rating: 94 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2000-2020
The 1990 performed well in the tasting, but, along with the 1980, was the least impressive of these Granges. The 1990 is loosely knit, seems to border on over-ripeness with its jammy character, and has a slightly more aggressive style of tannin… or are the acids more pronounced? It is certainly outstanding, displaying full body along with a classic smoky, blackberry, cassis, pepper and forest floor-scented bouquet. The club echoed a nose described as “slightly off”, with a bricky edge. It was a jammy wine with a distinctive different style. A background dryness and not as fruity as the others, although there is still plenty of earthy fruit with a nice finish.

1994 Penfolds – Rating: 91 (Feb 2002); Drink Range – 2004-2020
Interestingly enough, this is the first vintage where Grange went to a bottle with laser-etched identification numbers to preclude the possibility of fraudulent bottles. The wine, a blend of 89% Shiraz and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, shows some toasty oak mixed with notes of root vegetables, damp earth, blackberry liqueur, prune and licorice. The wine is dense, full-bodied, not terribly complex in the mouth, but layered and rich. We noted a sugary butterscotch nose that leads to the same damp earthy taste with hints of raisins, cotton candy, caramel, with red plum as the main fruit.

1998 Penfolds – Rating: 99 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2009-2039
A wine that flirts with perfection, the 1998 has one of the highest alcohol contents (nearly 15%) as well as one of the highest percentages of Shiraz in the blend (97%). Its stunning purple color is accompanied by exceptionally sweet aromas of black-berry liquer intermixed with barbeque spices, an endearing, smoky earthiness, pepper, roasted meats, and coffee. Huge, massive, unctuously textured, and extraordinary youthful, this impressive wine is a candidate for perfection. my notes indicated a velvety, elegant coating wine with earthy hints of almonds, coffee and ripe plums with hints of cherry and black berries, a real nectar of the Gods and rated a 99 by Parker for a reason. Alcohol balances well with acidity and tannins for a long lingering finish that changes to black cherry flavors.

2002 Penfolds – Rating: 98 (Oct 2007); Drink Range – 2007-2050
The 2002 Shiraz Grange was sourced from 77.5% Barossa Valley and 22.5% from McLaren Vale. Included in the blend is a 1.5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Opaque purple, it gives off an ethereal bouquet of violets, saddle leather, blueberry, blackberry, pencil lead and chocolate. This is followed by a full bodied wine with tremendous concentration, multiple layers of flavor, ripe tannins, and great balance. Thick and rich with a 60 second finish. The club observed loads of glycerin with a nose of butterscotch, cola and saddle soap, with nice blackberry on the mid-palate, with a lingering finish. Taste the youth in this one, as it is still wrapped-up tight. , although big dry cherry fruit is the prominent characteristic of the full bodied soft tannin wine.

Penfolds Grange

How about closing with a NV Penfolds Father Grand Tawny – a Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet, Mataro Dry Red Table Wine from South Australia. The 10 year old, pale amber-tawny colored Father Grand Tawny is intensely scented of dried mulberries, sultanas, treacle and caramel with a marmalade lift. Big, expressive and rich with a nuttiness in the mouth, it finishes very long and very sweet.

Penfolds Grange

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