High flying wine lovers: meet the perfect bottle of Grange. If you thought the latest release 2013 vintage was a showstopper, the Penfolds g3 emerges as one of the most luxurious reds on the market.
Standing for 'Grange 3', the ambitious g3 blend combines vintages from 2008, 2012 and 2014 (which isn't available until next year) in one powerhouse bottle priced at $3000 a pop.
The perfect Grange
There are just 1200 bottles available around the world via Penfolds' Magill Estate or online, with the Chinese market jostling to tuck a bottle away in the cellar – perhaps why the exclusive launch was held at an intimate dinner in a ritzy Hong Kong gallery and not at the wine's spiritual home of Adelaide.
Chief winemaker Peter Gago says the g3 celebrates the art of blending, which the winery has been doing since 1844. "This is a multi-regional blend across vintages, so we've added yet another variable into that mix," says Gago. "It was a very pragmatic journey to make something new and different without it being a gimmick, or a brand extension."
The downtown Liang Li Museum played host to 48 influential wine writers, high-flying collectors and bloggers who arrived to taste the '08, the '12 and the new expression of g3 matched with a multi-course feast cooked by Magill Estate chef Scott Huggins.
It'll be contentious: it should be, it's Grange.Peter Gago
While each vintage is undeniably 'Grange', no two years are alike, affected by terroir and weather conditions of a given year.
"Quality oscillates quite a bit," admits Gago, nominating 1962 Bin 60A as his standout vintage. "This [g3 project] gave us the opportunity to put something together that isn't dependent on mother nature or the vagaries of weather, because we know what '08 was like, we know what '12 was like and at that point we'd just made the '14, and each of those [wines] brings something different to the table."
The '08 and the '12 are some of the most decorated in the Grange canon: 2008 is big and bold, 2012 elegant and sophisticated. The '14 is an unknown quantity for the public, but not for Gago. "We bottled the '14 in November of 2015, so we're not dabbling with unknowns. We're adding '14 to the g3 because in effect it freshens up the blend. You'll be amazed at how fresh and vibrant this wine is … it's as fresh as a daisy."
It's a bold and potentially divisive move from Penfolds, which already has several premium offerings and arguably no need to up the ante. "We have historically been viewed as being a bit traditional, and we still are proudly traditional, but we've still had one foot into the future too in the way of innovation."
Gago has taken inspiration from the finest French champagne – "If I didn't have a champagne addiction I would have retired three years ago," he quips – to create the new drop.
"The great champagnes as far as I'm concerned are the lovely blends, so the g3 is in effect a blend of a blend, producing something from the sum of the parts that synergistically transforms all of the above."
Hong Kong has long been a Penfolds stronghold, but Gago insists the upmarket black tie tasting was more about establishing the wine as a global brand rather than a magnet for wealthy Chinese buyers.
"It's like when we released the Penfolds amphora in the Baccarat Club in Moscow. People thought we were eyeing Russian oligarchs. Or when we did a launch at the China Pavilion in Shanghai: we were selling our soul to Chinese billionaires. No. Penfolds is now almost truly global. It's not about selling wine in 'x' countries, it's being there, working there, having relationships there."
Penfolds has teams and offices in Shanghai, the Napa Valley, London and of course in Hong Kong. "It's where east meets west, where new meets old, it a confluence of many markets. Hong Kong makes so much sense: people love to eat here, they love to drink here, they celebrate rarity and luxury."
The average wine drinker will be lucky to get a bottle, with many of the 1200 already set to be snapped up quick. Wealthy wine lovers, upmarket wine clubs, and groups of wine collectors will bunch in groups of eight for a glass each.
"You can drink it tomorrow, because it's so nice, now, but you can probably drink it in half a century, because that's what Grange is, and it's the essence of Grange," says Gago. "This will be written about far and wide as a concept and a philosophy and also about the wine itself. It'll be contentious: it should be, it's Grange."
Whether this controversial style is set become a regular event for Penfolds, Gago is coy.
"We turn 175 in 2019, which is literally four sleeps away. So there are other things happening too."
And what about the taste of the g3? It's bright and buoyant, rich in colour, tinged with sweetness, luscious hints of berries and herbs and humming with the full-throttle luxury shared by the very best Grange.
Is it the perfect Grange? If you can get your hands on a bottle.
The writer travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of Penfolds.