The other night I was fortunate to taste - actually, drink - three different vintages of Grange. They showed quite a lot of variation, but there are three things which Granges from different vintages have (more or less) in common, and which distinguish these wines from any other in Australia and the world, for that matter. The first is the depth of fruit. If you wanted to find an analogy, it is for taste as it would be for the eye when you dive over a reef and look down into the endless sea of increasingly blue and then black water. Many have tried to copy this, and ended up with overripe fruit. Grange fruit is not overripe, it is a very meticulous selection process to identify the ideal fruit. Secondly, it is the influence of oak, which is significant, but over time quite seamless. This has to do with the production method. I don't have enough space to describe this here. The third element is the structure, which is supported by very firm, sometimes coarse tannins, which allows the wine to age for decades.
On to the wines. The oldest was the 1991 Penfolds Grange. This is a big wine, with layered fruit flavours of plum, blackberry and blueberry. Cedar and dark chocolate add to the complexity. The strongly toasted oak is in good balance with the fruit. The finish is strong and tannic. This wine will live for a long time. I rate this highly based on the criteria outlined before, but it was not my favorite. Too brutish.
The 1992 Penfolds Grange was totally different. This wine showed also deep, dark berry fruit, but this wine is much more elegant, almost feminine. Others described it as sensual. It has great mouthfeel and a fleshy, long finish. This wine is perfect to drink now, and I would drink it in the next three years.
I described the 2009 Penfolds Grange briefly in a previous post. On this night, the wine tasted big and oaky as previously, but the oak was not quite as dominant. I am now quite sure that the oak dominance will disappear over time. However, the second concern is likely to stay. The fruit is not as complex and layered as in the best years. As a result, the mouthfeel is not as satisfying. This is still a very good wine, but I am surprised, given the strength of the vintage, that the fruit does not come up better than this.