This morning we are delighted to offer two world-beating, continent defining, juggernauts; Penfolds St Henri 2017 and Penfolds Grange 2016. Together they form the acme of the Penfolds range and of Australian wine. This year we release them in unison; one yin, one yang. Penfolds Grange is considered one of the finest wines in the world needing no introduction; it is the flagship New World wine. In 2016 Grange flirts with perfection, Joe Czerwinski of The Wine Advocate awards it 99 points, who even toys with a 100 point score in the future stating that the 2016 is ‘Certainly at least on a par with such vintages as 2010 and 2012, the big question is whether it will ultimately reach triple digits.’ Grange 2016 is priced today on release at £2,070 per case of six.
St Henri’s 2017 has been awarded 93 points from Joe Czerwinski of The Wine Advocate and 95 points from James Suckling. St. Henri vies with Grange for pole position at 1/7 of the price – remarkable. It truly does compete with Grange, but diverges stylistically, Grange embodies the masculine, while St Henri personifies more elegance and subtlety, whilst retaining strength in a classical way. The release price today of £324 per case of six allows access to what we believe to be one of the world’s finest Syrah dominant wines for under £60 a bottle. The wine has the potential to improve for 30 years in bottle, with high notes of eucalyptus, lavender and mint. St Henri synthesises the Old and New World, offering an almost Neolithic minerality combined with gorgeous purity of fruit and elegance.
The history of Penfolds Grange and St Henri present two competing styles, designed to complement each other. In the 1950s the Australian wine industry was largely trying to make dry red wine out of very raw materials, using grapes cultivated for Port style wine production. Penfolds embarked on a project to create world class wines, engaging their winemakers to do something different; two winemakers broke the mould, Max Schubert and John Davoren. In 1951 Schubert created an experimental wine by bottling Shiraz after fermenting in American oak, he called it Grange Hermitage. However, at the same time Davoren was tasked with fashioning St Henri, created deliberately to challenge and juxtapose Penfolds Grange (then Hermitage Grange). Where Grange was viewed as polemical, St Henri was designed to use conventional winemaking techniques. Davoren worked painstakingly throughout the 1950s and in 1957 ordained the first vintage.
Penfolds Grange is selected from the very best grapes taken from the best parcels and blocks in Penfold’s vast empire, each is blind tasted removing all vineyard bias, letting the wine itself do the talking. As such it is a multi-vineyard, multi-district wine. Grange gets the full treatment, with Penfolds and Peter Gago throwing all of their skills and vast resources into creating something special. It undergoes nearly two years in 100% new American oak hogshead. It is hardly surprising therefore, that it forms one of the pillars of the pantheon of the world’s finest wines.
Stylistically, since the 1990s Penfolds St Henri has once again cemented itself as the highly efficacious counterpoint to Grange, a completely alternative expression of Shiraz. Unusually for Aussie Shiraz, St Henri does not depend on new oak, being matured in old 1,460 litre vats, which encourages the wine to display the fantastic fruit concentration that is derived from the vineyard’s old vines. Shiraz makes up the lion’s share of St Henri, although some Cabernet Sauvignon is added to improve the structure. The wine has the potential to improve for 30 years.