I recently had the privilege to attend a Penfolds’ Wine Clinic. A wine clinic!?! Yes, Penfolds offers this service for its best bottles. And my baby Grange deserved nothing less than a health check for its quarter of a century.
Baby Grange was adopted by my partner at a HeartKids charity auction last year. After being born in South Australia in 1987, it made its way to the cellar of Quentin Bryce in Canberra. And it now lives in a Vintec cellar in central Sydney.
I had been waiting for this day since we visited Penfolds cellars in the Barossa Valley 9 months ago. That’s when I discovered the existence of the clinic. It tours the world and comes back to Australia’s major cities every second year. A few months after registering my interest, I finally got an email annoucing the touring dates for Sydney. I immediately jumped onto the website and made an appointment for baby Grange. I had to name three preferences of dates and times. The final time was only confirmed a few days before the big day: 4.45pm on Tuesday the 7th of August at the Intercontinental Hotel in the city. Sounded perfect.
On Tuesday, I woke up very excited, but also somewhat anxious about the result of the healthcheck. I had discussed the options with my partner beforehand. If the exterior appearance of baby Grange indicated potential issues, then we would allow Penfolds winemakers to open it, taste it, refill it with Grange 2007, re-cork it and label it as opened and tested. We understood the consequences, Penfolds had made me sign a document.
Due to timing, I had to take baby Grange to work so I carefully took it out of the cellar and placed in a special Vintec carry bag. And I took a cab to work. Come 4.30pm, I started making my way by foot to the Intercon. I was so scared to drop it, that my fingernails were imprinted into the palm of my hand when I got there.
I announced myself at the welcoming desk and was directed to the waiting room. A couple of minutes later, I was introduced to one of Penfolds’ winemakers (I am bad at catching names – let’s call him Paul). He asked if the wine had a special story and I was very proud to tell him baby Grange’s story. He then had a look at the bottle and label. I was pleased to hear that, based on appearance only, baby Grange looked young and healthy! Thank you Ms. Bryce for doing such a good job at raising baby Grange. However, winemaker Paul did raise a slight concern about the level of wine in the bottle – “it is getting close to the end of the neck of the bottle” he said. Then he used a colour-coded measuring tool made of cardboard to check the exact level. I was relieved to see that the level was still in the “green zone”. He then asked the feared but innevitable question: “Do you want us to open it?”. I knew that he was dead keen to have a taste, but I was apprehensive. I asked for the chance to discuss this with my partner in light of the comments made on baby Grange’s exterior appearance. At Paul’s visible disappointment, we decided to save him the trouble. Paul then said that baby Grange would be in the drinkable window till 2020 and that it would not improve anymore. Conclusion: let’s drink it in the coming year! I was recommended to taste it with a duck terrine, steak and mash, and a cheese course. Any other recommendations are welcome!