Wednesday Wines – Episode 87 – Penfolds g5

Episode 87 – 24th November 2021

Penfolds g5

The third and final Penfolds ‘g-series’ wine was released on the 1st November 2021.  One sample bottle made it over to the UK, and I was fortunate to both be the recipient and also to taste it with winemaker Peter Gago over a Zoom call last week.

First, some of my facts and then a few more about this wine.  To set the scene, these are the scores that I awarded the last few vintages of Penfolds Grange, and it is these five vintages that make up the multi-vintage blend of Penfolds g5.

2010 Penfolds Grange 20++/20

2012 Penfolds Grange 19++/20

2014 Penfolds Grange 20++/20

2016 Penfolds Grange 20+/20

2018 Penfolds Grange – to be released next year

Next, the vintage ingredients, my scores and the dates and links to my articles for the two previous g-series releases.  I have provided these links because you will find more background information on this alchemic creation in these articles.

Penfolds g3 – 2008, 2021, 2014; 19.5++/20 (18/10/2017)

Penfolds g4 – 2002, 2004, 2008, 2016; 19+/20 (22/07/2020)

My thoughts on Penfolds g5.  This wine was bottled back in April 2020 after having been blended and then put back into its original oak barrels (there is none of this 200% new oak malarkey going on at Penfolds).  Peter Gago re-tasted this wine late last month, and it is safe to say that he was pretty excited by the results because he couldn’t stop grinning throughout our chat.  It is also clear that next year’s 2018 Grange release is a wine to look forward to because there must be a large proportion of this vintage in this stunning wine.  All of the vintages involved in g5 are double-digit percentages, so a good few bottles of 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 Grange were opened and decanted into the 2018 to make g5.  The final blend, which I suppose is also the starting blend for all of these wines, is a trusty 97% Shiraz and 3% Cabernet.  If you add up the numbers 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18, they total 70.  This year is the 70th vintage celebration of Grange, and the number 70 crops up again, with 70% of the overall blend coming from Barossa with the balance derived from McLaren Vale, the Clare Valley and a small amount from Wrattonbully.

These number games are very clever and also rather misleading because while they trip off the tongue, it’s what happens on the palate that really matters.  Initially, I tasted this wine and then decided, like all great reds, I would look at it over the next few hours to see how it opened up.  I changed my mind as the hours passed and ended up spending the following two days dissecting this extraordinary creation.  I have been lucky to taste a good few vintages of Grange in my time, but I have never tasted the 1951 or 1952, which those in the know consider to be the greatest.  I can, however, say that g5 is the finest wine made of Grange that I have ever tasted.  Is it cheating?  Yes.  Is it an abomination, a Frankenstein, an insult to all honest single vintage wines on earth?  Yes, yes and yes.  But is it more enveloping, more challenging, more kaleidoscopic, more thought-provoking and also more daring – of course, it is.  And g5 manages to achieve what the other two g-releases fell short of doing: to engender true balance and completeness.  While this is a seemingly massive wine with a thundercloud of perfume, a tempest of flavour and a wake that rocks the palate for half an hour, there is no sense that anything is rushed, out of place or exaggerated.  It is its own history of five beautiful vintages of Grange in one glass.  Having tasted four of these vintages already and very much liking them all for different reasons, this wine manages to take all of the complexities and nuances of five titanic wines and fit them neatly into one bottle, and it works.  I am sure that 2018 Grange will be a superstar and that when we look back on these vintages, they will all retain their own character traits and individualities and this is why we love wine so much.  But in one 75cl bottle, g5 has five times the detail and, to my mind, five times the wonder so, for the very first time in my life, I will give it five times my own maximum score of 20/20.  This is the only time I will ever give a wine this score in my life.  100/100 (drink now – 2091)

Post scriptum – I asked Peter if this was the last of the multi-vintage projects, and he said, ‘Never say never, maybe a Cabernet, maybe a Block 42 in the future, who knows?’. Well, someone does and that someone is Mr Gago!

Price – AUD$3500.  I have found it in the UK between £2000 – £2880 per bottle in bond and I understand that the following merchants have been offered stock, so if this wine takes your fancy then get on the phone now because there are still some of the 2200 bottles available.

UK Stockists – Berry Bros Rudd, Cult Wines, IG Wines, Justerini & Brooks, Crump Richmond Shaw, Fine and Rare, Vinum, Corney & Barrow, Lay & Wheeler and Laithwaites.