Penfolds Grange HistoryView Timeline

When creating the first Grange, Max Schubert, Chief Winemaker from 1948 to 1975, set out to produce a big, full-bodied wine that contained all of the components in the grape material used. Although the 1951 vintage (which was never commercially released) was moderately successful, it did not fully reflect his ambitions for the wine.

The Penfolds Grange began as an experiment, however the unbroken line of vintages demonstrate the synergy between Shiraz and the soils and warm climate of South Australia, which judging by its success today, lend themselves to delivering a consistently ripe style of wine. The best shiraz grapes are chosen from vineyards all over the region, some of which are well over 100 years in age and are considered amongst the oldest in the world.

history-penfoldsThe Grange has always been a Shiraz, except for the 1953 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was produced in addition to the original vintage. This is now considered to be an extremely rare wine which is now part of Le Clos’ complete Penfolds Grange collection.

The story of the Penfolds Grange is one of personal triumph and extraordinary innovation, yet one that also bears a history, prestige and lasting quality that interconnect with the great wines of Bordeaux.

The legacy and vision that led Schubert to create such a masterpiece is upheld and continued on by Peter Gago, only the fourth Chief Winemaker since 1948. Peter Gago has most recently launched the Penfolds Grange 2010, completing the rare, unique and exquisite 60 years collection.

Penfolds Timeline

Switch to Dubai Timeline

Penfolds established

Penfolds wine brand established at the Magill estate by Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary. Established in 1844, just eight years after the foundation of South Australia, Penfolds started as a specialist in fortified wine and has played a pivotal role in the evolution of winemaking in Australia - and across the world.

Penfolds accounts for 50% of Australia’s wine sales

Max Schubert joins Penfolds

Max Schubert joins Penfolds as a Messenger Boy

Max Schubert visits Europe to find how to make long lived wines

In the latter part of 1949 Max Schubert was sent to Europe to investigate sherry production and wine making. On a side trip to Bordeaux Schubert visited the great vineyard estates of the Medoc, including first growths Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour ad Château Margaux, where he enjoyed tasting and evaluating aged Bordeaux wines. Inspired and impressed by the French cellared-style wines, Schubert dreamed of making 'something different and lasting' of his own.

The use of pH meters to control bacterial spoilage introduced

Developed by Penfolds scientist Dr Ray Beckwith, it allowed wine to be accurately controlled and stabilized. It revolutionized the world of wine and it is widely considered that without this breakthrough Grange would never have been possible.

First experimental vintage labeled Grange Hermitage

Back in Adelaide, Max Schubert set about combining traditional Australian techniques, new ideas from Bordeaux and precision winemaking practices developed at Penfolds, to make his first experimental wine named Grange Hermitage. The objective was to produce a big, full-bodied long lasting wine. The 1951 vintage was never commercially released and it did not fully reflect Schubert’s ambitions. Today it is hailed to be the most expensive Australian wine valued at $60,000.

First commercial production of Grange Hermitage

The commercial release of 1952 Grange Hermitage (as it was then known) was an historic moment for Australian wine. It marked the beginning of a 'dynasty of wines' that would capture the imagination of the Australian wine consumer.

The rare Grange Cabernet released

Max Schubert releases the experimental Grange Cabernet, one of the rarest and most sought after wines ever produced by an Australian winemaker. Despite the Cabernet’s outstanding quality in certain years the desired level of consistency was difficult to achieve. Therefore the project always remained an experiment.

Grange Hermitage named in the top 12 wines of the 20th century by Wine Spectator magazine

Grange Hermitage presented to the board

In 1957, Max Schubert shows his efforts in Sydney to Penfolds executives, wine identities and personal friends of the board. To his humiliation the Grange Hermitage experiment was universally disliked. Embarrassed, angry and dejected, Max Schubert's ambitions to make 'a great wine that Australians would be proud of' were completely destroyed.

Grange Hermitage “Hidden vintages” produced

It was the distance between senior management in Sydney and winemakers in Adelaide, which saved Grange Hermitage. All the experimental Grange Hermitage was hidden in the underground cellars of Magill and from 1957 to 1959, the 'hidden Granges' were made without the knowledge of the Penfolds board. Max Schubert continued to source fruit and make his experiments in secret. Although management was kept away, friends and associates were occasionally brought in to taste the wines. Some bottles were even given away. Although considered uncommercial in 1957, news was filtering out about Schubert's unique Grange Hermitage.

Second Grange tasting with Board Members

A second tasting with the same board members was organised of the 1951 and 1955 vintages, both with bottle age development, were greeted with enthusiasm.

Official production of Grange Hermitage resumed

The Penfolds board ordered production of Grange Hermitage to restart, just in time for the 1960 vintage. During the 1960s Grange Hermitage firmed its position as Australia's most distinguished wine. The rest is history.

1955 vintage won first gold medal

Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1955 vintage won first gold medal and gained world-wide recognition

Max Schubert retires and Don Ditter appointed Chief Winemaker

Don Ditter, who joined Penfolds as a laboratory assistant in 1942, was appointed Max Schubert's successor when Schubert retired. Ditter's contribution to the Grange Hermitage style is immeasurable. His technical eye for detail and gentle collaborative approach to management took Grange Hermitage into the modern era. The style was improved with fresher aromas, more richness and ripeness of fruit, and better oak selection.

Don Ditter’s last vintage and Jon Duval appointed Penfolds Chief Winemaker

The 1986 vintage – Ditter's last – is generally regarded as one of the greatest Grange Hermitage vintages of all time. The winemaking talents of John Duval were recognised early by Don Ditter and Max Schubert. He was appointed Penfolds Chief Winemaker at a remarkably young age, yet his contribution to the evolution of Grange Hermitage has been critical. His stewardship saw some of the greatest developments and innovations in viticulture and winemaking.

Max Schubert – Decanter Man of the Year

The “Hermitage” suffix was removed from the name

Penfolds re-corking clinic established

Recorking clinics are for buyers seeking good provenance, it adds an assurance value to mature bottles and experimental vintages. All bottles topped up, re-capsuled and given a clinic label and winemakers signature – also providing extra confidence to buyers, who will pay premium prices for “cliniced” bottles.

Penfolds Grange 1990 vintage was named Wine of the Year by U.S. Wine Spectator

Penfolds Grange was included in top 12 wines of the 20th Century by U.S. Wine Spectator

50th anniversary of Grange

Penfolds Grange granted Heritage icon status by the National Trust of South Australia.

John Duval retires and long time friend and colleague Peter Gago is appointed Chief Winemaker

Peter Gago is named winemaker of the year by Wine Enthusiast magazine

1953 Bin 2 Grange scored 20/20 by Jancis Robinson MW 2006 vintage released to high acclaim

1953 Bin 2 Grange scored 20/20 by Jancis Robinson MW in her Purple Pages book. 2006 released – Andrew Caillard MW scored 100 points / Matthew Jukes 20/20.

Peter Gago receives prestigious accolades

Peter Gago receives the Institute of Master of Wine / The Drinks Business Winemaker Award.

2008 Grange awarded 100 points

James Halliday names Grange Winery of the Year / 2008 Best Shiraz. Wine Enthusiast awarded Penfolds winery of the year.

Le Clos launches “The Grange vertical” capturing 60 years of Grange

Le Clos launched 60 years of Grange including the extremely rare 1953 Grange Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 42 in the Kalimna vineyard.

Gray Mackenzie & Co was formed

Martime & Mercantile International (MMI) traces its origins back to 1862 when, in Basra, Iraq, a partnership known as Gray Mackenzie & Co was formed between Archibald Gray, Edwin Sandy Dawes, John Halliday and Sir George Mackenzie.

Gray Mackenzie & Co was appointed as the licensed shipping agents in Dubai

The first bank opens in Dubai

The police force is formed in Dubai

The Trucial States Council is formed with the support of the British Government

United Arab Emirates is formed with His Royal Highness Sheikh Zayed as President

Gray Mackenzie & Co changes its name to Maritime & Mercantile International LLC (MMI)

Emirates launched

Burj al Arab – the world’s first 7 star hotel opens in Dubai

MMI becomes a subsidiary of the prestigious Emirates Group

MMI divests all non core business units, and focuses solely on liquor

Le Clos launched

Dubai metro opens

Burj Khalifa launched