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Grange: bashing an icon

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Jamie Goode

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Grange: bashing an icon

by Jamie Goode » Wed Mar 22, 2006 4:13 pm

It's been a while since I tasted Penfolds Grange, but yesterday I tried the 97 and 99 vintages. Look, these are good wines, if you like the style, with plenty of warm, spicy, menthol-like american oak and concentrated tannic fruit. And they'll certainly last. But I found them cruder and less appealing than I have done in the past (earlier experiences were with 95, 96 and 98 vintages). I'm not one for going after icons, but the question crossed my mind - is grange on current form worthy of its place in the wine firmament? Aren't there much better, and cheaper, expressions of Australian wine? Just a thought.
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Robin Garr

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Re: Grange: bashing an icon

by Robin Garr » Wed Mar 22, 2006 4:36 pm

I've had small tastes of the 1999 and the 2000 at trade tastings, Jamie, and under those circumstances thought that the 1999 was a classic case of "Emperor's New Clothes," pickle-scented alcoholic grape juice. The 2000 struck me as much better, firm and balanced if unabashedly a fruit-bomb. In fairness, the conventional wisdom holds that considerable cellar time is mandatory. But in short, I agree with you: It's difficult to justify the awe-inspiring price on the basis of anything but sentimentality.
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Re: Grange: bashing an icon

by Jenise » Wed Mar 22, 2006 5:58 pm

Jamie Goode wrote:Aren't there much better, and cheaper, expressions of Australian wine? Just a thought.


Wish I'd had enough Grange to debate the question, Jamie. But out of hand, I want to say yes, there are Australian wines at least wines as good that are certainly a lot cheaper. (Kay Brothers Block 6 comes to mind for one that's similarly traditional in style.) Or at least wines that are 90% as good but cost 50%--or less--of the price. But then that's the case with almost anything iconic and culty, isn't it? You pay, in large part, for the name.

Let me turn the question around: if Grange isn't one of them, which wines for you have no equal?
Last edited by Jenise on Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grange: bashing an icon

by Otto » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:27 pm

Jamie, great troll. But can it be called a troll? I thought a troll has to say something controversial :wink: Well, I'm not really a fan of the style, but I've tasted through a fair amount because one good anorak friend of mine is a fan. The 97 seems rather lackluster but the 95 and esp the 96 and 98 are precicely what Grange is about.

Robin Garr wrote:I've had small tastes of the 1999 and the 2000 at trade tastings, Jamie, and under those circumstances thought that the 1999 was a classic case of "Emperor's New Clothes," pickle-scented alcoholic grape juice. The 2000 struck me as much better, firm and balanced if unabashedly a fruit-bomb. In fairness, the conventional wisdom holds that considerable cellar time is mandatory. But in short, I agree with you: It's difficult to justify the awe-inspiring price on the basis of anything but sentimentality.


I've had the 1999 now twice. A year+ ago it was like you described, a month or so ago it was as classic Grange as you can wish for and if that is a style that you enjoy, certainly worth the price. The 2000 I thought was great: the scent had so much shit and cedar that it was almost Bordeaux-like. The palate however was just too massive. The same problem I have with all Granges. It certainly is not the style of wine that I like.
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Re: Grange: bashing an icon

by Robin Garr » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:58 pm

Otto Nieminen wrote:I've had the 1999 now twice. A year+ ago it was like you described, a month or so ago it was as classic Grange as you can wish for and if that is a style that you enjoy, certainly worth the price. The 2000 I thought was great: the scent had so much shit and cedar that it was almost Bordeaux-like. The palate however was just too massive. The same problem I have with all Granges. It certainly is not the style of wine that I like.


Thanks, Otto, both for the palate calibration and the update. Frankly, the early taste of 99 (also a year+ ago) was utterly disappointing, even with a cynical attitude about Grange. The 00 was much more as you describe, although the "manure-like" qualities were hard to find beneath the fruit, particularly in a mobbed trade-tasting setting with marginal glassware.

Point is, though, that Grange does take a while to find its footing, and whether you like its style or not, tastings soon after release are hardly fair for a long-term judgement.
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Sue Courtney

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Re: Grange: bashing an icon

by Sue Courtney » Wed Mar 22, 2006 8:04 pm

Jamie Goode wrote:I'm not one for going after icons, but the question crossed my mind - is grange on current form worthy of its place in the wine firmament?


Well I haven't tasted the 1997 for some time and have never tasted the 1999 but I did have the 1998 a couple of weeks ago when Penfolds did their new release tasting. As the 2001 Grange was still on a boat they popped open a magnum of the 1998 Grange. It's a beautiful wine and honestly, I swooned.

So after that I have to say, "Yes - it is definitely worthy of its place".

Cheers,
Sue
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Jake Parrott

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Re: Grange: bashing an icon

by Jake Parrott » Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:33 pm

Jenise wrote:(Kay Brothers Block 6 comes to mind for one that's similarly traditional in style.)

But Block 6 comes from a specific place. Grange has always been a "designed" wine--from all over everywhere. It's a winemaking and marketing approach more similar to a liqueur than what we think of as a top wine. Doesn't that put a hard ceiling on its inherent quality? And further, is there another wine that commands that kind of price that comes from as diffuse a sourcing as Grange? Makes you wonder how we got here......
Jake Parrott
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Importing small-production wines from South Africa.
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David Lole

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Re: Grange: bashing an icon

by David Lole » Thu Mar 23, 2006 8:08 pm

Jamie,

Now that all my mature grange has departed from my cellar, I'm tending to lean with your assertion - "is grange on current form worthy of its place in the wine firmament? Aren't there much better, and cheaper, expressions of Australian wine?". Historically, grange belongs with the big guns, that is for sure. No other single Australian wine label has carried the flag/brand with such distinction since Max's "secret" vintage of 1951. The single oldest, greatest Australian red wine I've tried was a grange, closely followed by an experimental grange made in 1962, the Bin 60A. So, although there has been the odd dud vintage or three, grange deserves its' status. Stylistically, I agree with you. I'd rather a top mature Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone or other Aussie red for a fraction of what grange retails of late. I just picked up some wonderful Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze and Clos Saint Jacques for a total less than 1 bottle of the last seen advertised price for 2000 grange. Horses for courses, I suppose.
Cheers,

David
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Bill Spohn

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Re: Grange: bashing an icon

by Bill Spohn » Thu Mar 23, 2006 8:36 pm

Grange typically shows best at 15-20 years old.

It is therefor too soon to comment on recent vintages. We may speculate that they are made in a more forward style, but we won't know for sure until we see how they last compared to the old ones.

I'll get back to you in another decade or so....... :mrgreen:
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Bob Cohen

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Re: Grange: bashing an icon

by Bob Cohen » Fri Mar 24, 2006 11:01 am

Bill, that's what I was thinking as I was reading this discussion. I bought a few bottles each of a couple of vintages of Grange around 1990, just before it really soared in price. I left them undisturbed until I brought one bottle of the 1990 to a New Year's Eave party (obviously) about three months ago. Everyone who had a taste was extremely enthusiastic. I'm in no hurry to open my remaining bottles.
--Bob

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