During The Wine Guy’s tenure in retailing, customers perusing the Australian wine selections have often asked: “How do you like that bottle of Penfolds?” Over time, my stock answer became: “In my opinion, I don’t believe Penfolds knows how to make a bad bottle of wine!” This southwestern Australian brand is almost singular in being the recipient of that kind of personal endorsement. While there are many, many producers who often make good or great individual wines, few wineries consistently produce as many good wines over their entire product line as well as this Australian house. Over my wine tasting years, Penfolds has been consistent in its ability to offer a good value in a glass of wine, regardless of price range. The only less than favorable experience I’ve had in a Penfolds wine came from a bottle that I’m sure was improperly stored.
Founded by English immigrants Christopher and Mary Penfold in Adelaide in 1844, Penfolds first became renown for their fortified wines, especially tawny port. By 1896 with heir and son-in-law Thomas Hyland now in full charge of the company, Penfolds & Co. accounted for fully 1/3rd of Australia’s total wine production.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s the development of Grange began the company’s ascension into the ranks of the world’s most reputable producers of wine and by 1995, acclaimed wine critic Robert Parker wrote that Grange was “a leading candidate for the richest, most concentrated, dry red wine on planet earth.” Over the past two decades Penfolds has achieved recognition, penetration and popularity in nearly every major wine consuming market in the world.
The Wine Guy can count the opportunity to enjoy a five-year vertical tasting of Grange as one of his top ten wine tasting experiences ever. However, it’s not just the luxury wines such as Grange or the higher end brands such as St. Henri that have attributed to this ascendency. It’s also their consistently good presentation of quality wines under $25.00 such as the Koonunga Hill and Thomas Hyland tier of wines. Often retailing under $12, Penfolds Koonunga Hills Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon blend has been one of The Wine Guy’s “go-to” value wines for a number of years.
Just after the first of the New Year, Penfolds announced that two of its tiers: Koonunga Hills and Thomas Hyland were becoming the first wine products ever to become affiliated with Product Red. The brands that partner with the Product Red program contribute a portion of their proceeds to fight and combat Aids in Africa. Roughly 67% of the AID suffers in the world are on this continent and over 3,500 of them die each day. Penfolds is committing to making a contribution of 15% of its proceeds from the sale of Koonunga Hills and Thomas Hyland brand wines towards the fight against this disease.
Good wine...good cause…good reasons to go out and buy some wine that comes with a red screw cap. Remember, these folks don’t know how to make a bad wine!