Penfolds – traditions of innovation

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The history of Penfolds and how Grange came to be sounds like a proper mystery novel. Years of secret winemaking by Max Schubert leading to one of the most iconic South Australian wines, the rise of its intriguing counterpoint found in St. Henri Shiraz, and a thriving wine business led by a women (in possession of a lock of Rob Roys hair) not much unlike the Grande Dame at the wheel of Veuve Clicquot.

Combined with a winery set up right in the suburbs, with cellars that go meters underground and give way to alcoves closed off with old gates and big wooden doors – I think we have quite some old-school, dramatic, theatre on our hands here just outside of the city.

And yet, the 175 years of lavish history attached to this brand does not seem to weigh it down, but rather lift it up as Penfolds wins the race for the best innovation in wine tourism experiences. Global Brand Ambassador Jamie Sach is a great story teller and during our tour on the Penfolds grounds in Magill he tells me all about the creative minds brewing up new ways to produce wine, tinkering winemakers in the cellars and even scientific discoveries that emerged from the Magill Estate winery. These stories are what carry a visit to Penfolds Magill Estate, and you can almost feel the excitement of innovation and discovery when you head up the drive way.

The experiences on offer at Magill Estate showcase all of the innovation, and Jamie believes that Penfolds is both a flagbearer for Australian wines, as well as an example to the world of what makes our wines unique. Especially for South Australia, a place like Magill Estate truly shows how the industry has grown and how the winemakers here have a strong sense of using the local terroir. Pioneer Max Schubert was send to Europe on a study trip to understand the winemaking, and the knowledge he amassed in France was what gave birth to Grange. However, his adapted South Australian version was what brought the wine alive; new winemaking techniques were introduced and multi-regionality was key to ‘his version of Bordeaux’.

Above all though, Magill Estate has found a way of preserving history while looking forward. The old winery is beautifully kept (and still used!), right next to a super sleek cellar door – so whether you like the historical look of the Grange cottage or the mirrored views on the tasting room, you will always have an opportunity for that perfect photo to capture your visit. The experiences on offer range from the Magill Estate Heritage visit to a super deluxe Twilight Tour with following degustation dinner, and are open to everyone with an interest in wine. A lot of visitors make the trip down to Magill especially for the tick on their bucketlist of iconic wineries, but many locals walk up the beautiful drive way through the vineyards for return visits too. It seems like a return visit is on the books for me anyway, as the tradition of innovation surely means we will continue to see more interesting wines coming out of Penfolds for years to come.  

Penfolds Magill Estate is the winner of the 2019 Best of Wine Tourism Award for Innovative Wine Tourism Experience for Adelaide | South Australia

Words by Lieke van der Hulst