We all know that a very expensive wine proved to be the downfall of former NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell but was Grange 1959 a very good year? Googling about it appears so! There is a bottle of the same vintage available on e-Bay for $7490 and Dan Murphy’s has one for $4850 – so if Barry hasn’t knocked the top of it, he’s sitting on a good investment seeing it cost just under $3000 for a bottle from the year of his birth. Mind you, 1959 was not as good an investment as being born in 1952, 1953 or 1956 – Dan Murphy’s has these at $30,000, $25,000 and $22,000 respectively. You can also pick up some more recent vintages for a bargain price of around $500.
Barry said he doesn’t know much about red wine, but there aren’t many Australians who don’t know that a Grange Hermitage is one very special wine. What Barry may not know is that the Grange 59 comes with a dark secret. Legendary winemaker and creator of South Australia’s Penfolds Grange, Max Schubert, was told by his employees to cease making the drop in 1957 but he disobeyed them and continued making a batch each year until 1959. In 1960 he was told to start making it again and he had to own up that he hadn’t actually stopped.
In a nutshell, post WW2 Australians weren’t big wine drinkers. Men drank beer or spirits and the ladies might have gone for a sherry or two. Fortified wines were more popular that still wines and regular wine drinkers were thought to have a drinking problem. In 1950 Max Schubert went to Europe and was impressed with the way the French made wines in the Bordeaux region. On his return he made his first Grange using mostly Shiraz grapes with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon. The 1951 vintage is very much a collector’s item and would probably set you back $50,000.
The wine critics of the day pretty much hated the wine and that’s why the Penfolds bosses told Max to stop wasting his time. Those early vintages aged so well, however, that by 1960 the critics were raving and the bosses changed their minds. The 1955 vintage was a particularly good one and over the years picked up more than 50 Gold Medals. It must have peaked a while back because you can pick that up at Dan’s for a mere $5000.
Which brings us back to Barry. Like the wine, it looked like he was aging well but when it came to crunch time he found that he had not only peaked, he was well and truly corked. Perhaps a good lie down in a darkened room will improve things. O'Farrell's successor, Mike Baird, was born in 1969 and Dan has that vintage selling at just $899 a bottle. The tasting notes are… “The 1969 Grange, while still holding up well today, is only just starting to lose some of the bright primary fruits. Wonderful secondary flavours of mocha, leather and leaf are at the fore showcasing a truly elegant Grange.”
If you find yourself in South Australia, Penfolds has two cellar doors – the Magill Estate in the foothills just 15 minutes from the Adelaide CBD and the other in the heart of the Barossa, 90 minutes north of Adelaide. And, of course, in Adelaide, Rydges South Park can look after all your accommodation needs.