News National Prized Aussie drop sells for $52,000

Prized Aussie drop sells for $52,000

Penfolds Grange
A bottle of 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage - one of less than 20 believed to still exist - has sold at auction for almost $52,000. Photo: Facebook
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A bottle of red that was once given away for free because it was an experiment has been sold by a Melbourne-based winehouse for almost $52,000.

MW Wines auctioned off the bottle of 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage on Wednesday night.

An unnamed private collector parted with $51,750 for a piece of history: the very first vintage of what Penfolds says is Australia’s finest wine.

It’s believed fewer than 20 of the 1800 bottles that were made still exist today. Another bottle went for $50,200 in 2004.

Penfolds’ chief winemaker Max Schubert produced the wine as an experiment more than 60 years ago. It was never commercially available and Schubert gave it away to his family, friends and wine enthusiasts.

Nick Stamford, from MW Wines, has told Fairfax the buyer is Melbourne-based and described the price as “staggering”.

“I would imagine this one’s going to be part of history rather than being drunk. It’s an investment,” he said.

The 1951 drop started something big. Grange has grown in stature to the point where the release of each vintage is an international event and keen collectors pay thousands for a single bottle.

The stunning 2014 resignation of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell – over an alleged gift of a $3000 bottle of 1959 Grange – adds to the wine’s rich history.

Schubert’s groundbreaking heavy shiraz defied popular wine sensibilities at the time he began to make it. Later, when Penfolds management ordered he stop making a wine they considered unsaleable, he produced three vintages in secret, including the 1959.

Some wine experts dispute Penfolds claim that it is Australia’s finest wine, but accept it is it’s best-known.

Wine expert Ian McKenzie, a director of wine group The Wine Society and former chief winemaker with Southcorp Wines, said Grange’s reputation was cemented when US magazine Wine Spectator ranked the 1990 vintage as a perfect “100 point” wine.

“While it’s an iconic style of wine, it’s a style a lot of people, including myself, don’t particularly enjoy,” Mr McKenzie said.

“There are and have been better wines than Grange but (Grange) has the cachet with the consumers and the collectors and that’s why the price holds up.”