By Jim Boyce
As well as launching a new bottle sticker for Penfolds wines on May 22, chief wine maker Peter Gago sat down for lunch and an afternoon talk organized by ASC for about a dozen people in Beijing. Here are seven topics on which he touched:
Chinese wines: “I have tasted wines from Grace and the odd vineyard here and there. This is a huge country with a huge range of micro-climates and a huge range of soils,” he says. “[The key is to] go slowly, start small and grow big, experiment, and use a little bit of guts. No guts, no glory.”
Screw caps: “We are not moving toward screw cap – we have always used it for whites, at least since the 1970s, and we have been slowly introducing it for reds.” The winery is also looking at other closures, including glass, he says.
Corks: “With Grange and some other wines it’s not an issue of just 5, 10, 15, 20 years, but of 10, 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. We want to see that a closure definitely lasts the distance. Cork does, but it has problems. With the 1970s screw caps [on white wine], there is no problem. But with red wine, it’s a question mark – perhaps not for short- to medium-term cellaring, but for the longer term.
Wine making at Penfolds: “I want Penfolds to be the largest boutique winery, which means having the whole mindset of handcrafting where we can. We still make wines from single vineyards and from single viticultural areas.”
Penfolds’ oldest vintages: “I was in London, down in the cellars of Buckingham Palace, and there was security everywhere,” he says about his search for Penfolds wine in the nineteenth century. He did find some Penfolds, but “not the really, really old ones”, though he spotted one 1660 bottle of wine.
Why he likes Koonunga Hills wine: The quality-price ration: “It’s nice when you now you donâ€™t have to sell the car or house to buy it.”
On health: He says Penfolds wine was originally promoted for “medicinal purposes.” And now? “We’ve never stopped saying that it’s good for you.”
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Australia’s most respected wine writer, James Halliday, in his latest release of his book “Wine Companion”, (in which he reviews most of Australia’s vineyards and their top wines), has awarded 3 wines the top points score of 97/100.
The wines, all shiraz from South Australia, Penfold’s Grange, Henske Hill of Grace, and Bremerton Old Adam Shiraz. All three wines are available in Beijing, but only one of these is a fraction in price of the other two.
The Bremerton wine.