The Goblet isn’t given to hanging around in hotel basements but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get the story. Which is why, not long ago, I found myself lurking in the bowels of One Whitehall, waiting for a secret assignation with Penfolds’ chief winemaker, Peter Gago. The purpose of our meeting was to give me a preview of Penfolds’ top-secret new project, a blend of three Grange vintages by the name of G3. This wine was so secret, it actually had to be smuggled from Australia in Gago’s luggage disguised as a bottle of plonk. It was all very cloak and dagger.
But they like a bit of drama at Penfolds. As the publicity material is quick to remind you, the first vintages back in the 1950s were panned by critics affronted by the idea that an Australian Shiraz might style itself on long-lived bordeaux. Undeterred by bad reviews, Penfolds winemaker Max Schubert continued to make Grange in secret – despite orders from the company’s top brass to cease production – so that by the time the wine was revived in 1960, he had honed it into something properly age-worthy. Plaudits followed and Grange was catapulted into the ranks of the world’s great wines, where it’s stayed ever since.
Now Penfolds is hoping to break the mould again with G3, a blend of three Grange vintages: 2008, 2012 and the yet-to-be-released 2014. The headline-grabbing bit about this wine is the inclusion of the 2008 (£500 a bottle), which has the distinction of being the only Australian wine ever to score a perfect 100 from both Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator in the same year. “The 2008 is not a shy, timid wine; it’s more like this,” says Gago, giving the air a right hook. “It gives the wine its foundation.” To this, the 2012 brings “poise and sheen”, while the yet-to-be-released 2014 delivers freshness – “a taste of the future”. Blended and matured for three years in oak, G3, he adds, is “the house style distilled. It is the essence of Grange.”
Even at this early stage in its life, G3 is wonderful – deep claret in colour, with vibrant aromas of purple/red fruit and more tannic sloe berries. There are hints of leather, pepper and cool aniseed. On the palate it just flows; it’s elegant, intricate, lively. Limited to just 1,200 bottles and priced at A$3,000 (about £1,780), G3 is sure to be accused of being a publicity stunt, but Gago is prepared for that. “I’m hoping G3 will be controversial, because Grange has always been controversial,” he says with an impish grin.
And guess what, they never did find that missing bottle.