Tasting an Australian Wine Icon; Penfold’s Grange, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


Our last day of tasting in the Adelaide region was taking in an Austrian Icon and enjoying a boutique winery in the Adelaide Hills. The travels took us to the Penfolds Magill Estate to taste the world renowned Penfold’s Grange, arguably the most famous Australian wine. We would then continue onward to boutique sparkling wine cellar door Deviation Road, which was located in the Adelaide Hills a short distance away.

This post is one chapter in our trip to Australia on Air Canada & Qantas Business Class and United Airlines. This trip was booked using British Airways Executive Club Avios and Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) points. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Tasting an Australian Wine Icon; Penfold’s Grange Wine followed by Deviation Road Sparkling, Adelaide, SA, Australia.

Today’s Adelaide experiences were around the city limits and hillsides of Adelaide. After a visit in town, it was up for a visit at the Penfold’s Magill Estate for tasting of their wines, in addition to a tasting of their flagship Grange Tasting.

Visiting Penfold’s Magill Estate:

We headed over to the Magill Estate of Penfold’s for a Grange Tasting. The Magill Estate of Penfold’s is right in the heart of suburban Adelaide. It was probably at one time on the outskirts of town and is now surrounded by nice homes. 

Penfolds:The Magill Estate Cellar Door
Penfolds Magill Estate
Penfold’s Cellar Door – Established 1900
Penfolds’ Memorabilia and Gift Shop Items

About Penfold’s Grange:

Mr Max Schubert was one of the first Chief Winemakers for Penfolds. In the year 1948, at the age of thirty three, he became Penfold’s Chief Wine Maker. As the story goes, he was initially sent to Spain and Portugal in the 1950’s to study winemaking Europe. On a side trip to Bordeaux, he was impressed by the French cellared wines. On this return to Australia, he sought to create a special vintage of his own.

In the year 1957, Max Schubert presented his special creation (which was predominantly made using Australian Shiraz Grapes) to the board. To his surprise, the board was not in favour of the project and shut down the endeavour. Max Schubert continued to make his special blend in secret through the years 1957 – 1959. He was eventually able to convince the board to accept his product and Penfold Grange was launched for the first time in the year 1960.

On the year of its fiftieth anniversary in the year 2001, Penfolds’ Grange was labeled an Australian Icon. In the year 2008, it received worldwide acclaim as receiving a perfect one hundred point score by two international wine magazines. Penfold’s Grange is considered the flagship Australian Wine.

Our Penfold’s Tasting:

We arrived to the tasting bar and claimed our reservation. We started by tasting some of the general wines During our general Penfold’s tasting, we tasted 10 wines. Within the 10 varietals tasted, we seemed to get an upgrade in the wines that they offered as many of the wines tasted were of the $300+ a bottle variety. Thankfully, I wasn’t driving.

Penfolds General Tasting Bar
Penfolds’ Reserve Wines for Tasting at McGill Estate

A Penfold’s Grange Tasting:

At the end of the regular tasting, it came time for our Grange Tasting. We were led off the bar and over to a stand alone barrel. Our Australian surfer wine host started the pours after a brief explanation of the wine and it’s history.

Wine Tasting: Australian Style
Penfold’s Grange Tasting
Penfolds’ Grange 2010 Vintage
A Grange Tasting for Three

The wine was of terrific quality. I don’t profess to be a Master of Wine, or even have any international tasting certifications but it was indeed smooth, robust and delicately balanced. This 2010 vintage of Grange was a blend made from Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Magill Estate fruit that was aged 17 months in 100% new American oak barrels. As photographed, in color, it was very deep purple-black with fresh, vibrant and youthful black fruit notes showing blueberry aromas and accents of anise and the slightest floral hint, plus a trace of oak in the background. It presented as medium to full-bodied in the mouth, with a balsamic liveliness and an additional film of dark chocolate. The wine was very taut and finely constructed showing typically firm, grainy, uniform tannins, great concentration and wonderful persistence on the finish. This year’s blend was 96% Shiraz, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon

After the Grange tasting, we had a very brief private tour of the barrel and fermentation room at the McGill estate. 

Barrell and Fermentation Rooms
Barrel Rooms
Penfold’s Estate Tank Rooms

All the tastings at Penfold’s were free, with the exception of the Grange tasting which was $50. Given that Penfolds 2008 Grange is retailing for about $780 a bottle back home in Canada, I didn’t think that this was at all unreasonable. 

The last stop for sparkling at Deviation Road champagne house:

We concluded our Adelaide wine tour with a last stop at Deviation Road, champagne house. Any winery that was coming after Penfolds’ Grange would be having a tough time but we had a pretty nice experience at Deviation Road. A short drive through the gum trees got us there quick.

The Road to Deviation Road
The Cellar Door at Deviation Road

Kate and Hamish (who wasn’t here today) are the winemakers and proprietors. Kate happened to be good friends with our hosts and we lucked into the deluxe tour, including a tour around the back of the house operations. Tour of the back of the house as well with a rustic facility that has been converted from a dairy.

Deviation Road Tasting Tables
Sparking Champagne Racks

Kate was initially trained in Epernay, France which is the traditional champagne region. Deviation Road is making some terrific tasting bubbles along with wonderful Sauvingon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. 

Deviation Road Sauvingon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris
Deviation Road Sparkling

We were fortunate enough to see some wild Kangaroos jumping around and through the vines here which was a truly unique experience I don’t think you’ll be able to replicate many other places in the world. 

Deviation Road Vines
Deviation Road Vines
Deviation Road Vines

Our day at Penfold’s and the Deviation Road Sparkling Winery:

Overall, our Adelaide visit was a peek into a less visited corner of Australia. My other Melbourne Australian friends had made some inquisitive comments on my Facebook page as to why I was visiting Adelaide over Melbourne? I firmly believe, and am now convinced, that Adelaide is an up and coming food and wine destination of Australia. The wines were of exceptionally high quality and surprised us with their depth and structure. With several wine regions within 2 hours, fresh and fabulous food available at almost every opportunity, its’ easy to see that Adelaide will be hitting the majors as a food and wine destination very shortly. 

If you’ve tasted Penfold’s Grange, did you find it met the calibre of a world class wine?

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