Sunday, March 6, 2011

Penfold's Grange Hermitage, 1978

I'm not going to pretend this wine fits into anyone's budget; this 1978 now sells for $500 to $700 a bottle, and even the current vintage will cost you almost as much. Grange does rank as one of the world's great red wines, however, and I feel privileged to have a chance to try a bottle from someone else's cellar.

At 33 years of age, the color is amazingly deep, dark and saturated all the way out to the rim; surely there is some browning, but my eyesight is not sharp enough to spot it. The bouquet and flavors are equally well preserved. Although 90% Shiraz (with 10% Coonawarra Cabernet), it's the Cabernet that strikes me as dominant at this stage of the wine's evolution. Black currants, plums, dark cherries and a hint of mint. Very pure, focused smells and flavors. I get a tiny bit of dry tannin on the mid-palate but mostly bright, lively fruit that lingers and lingers. This is indeed a special wine and is showing no signs of aging. Is it comparable to a Rhone Hermitage? Not at all. If I had it in a blind tasting, I would peg it as a Bordeaux, probably a St. Julian such as Gruaud Larose, from a very good vintage. I've had other vintages of Grange, but this is by far the best I've had.

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