The week of indulgence continued with a comparative tasting of some Grange vintages. Now, Grange is the opposite of what you would do if you were to design an ultra premium red wine today. You would pick a single vineyard; Grange is not only a blend of vineyards, but even regions. You would focus on one variety; Grange has some Cabernet blended with the Shiraz in most years. You would use French oak; Grange, of course, is matured in American oak. Your label would be more eye-catching. Yet, Grange is Australia's icon wine.
The tasted wines were 1990, 1996, 2001 and 2010 Penfolds Grange, with a 2002 Clarendon Hills Astralis thrown in for good measure. A lot has been written about these wines. Therefore I will just stick to my highlights. The best wines were the 1990 and 1996 Grange.
My wine of the night was the 1996 Grange. It was a little fresher than the 1990, the fruit a bit more generous now - a lot of complexity, smoke and spice and a firm grip (98 points).
The legendary 1990 still shows this incredible layering of fruit. It has become more delicate, as the tannins have softened. The finish is very long and so is the life ahead (97 points).
The 2001 demonstrates what happens if the fruit is not powerful and weighty. Licorice takes over on the palate, there is a bit of heat, and the mouthfeel is not as round. This is still a good wine, but Grange has quite a lot of vintage variation (92 points).
The 2010 is back to form. This is an inky wine with dark fruit flavours (the 1990 has red fruit, also), firm, but silky tannins. The structure is balanced with a long finish. This wine is too early to drink and should develop more differentiated characteristics (95 points).
Grange is not everybody's favorite. Some find it too powerful and overwhelming. If you are aiming for a top shelf Australian Shiraz, the other choice would be Hill of Grace, for most. But an equally attractive choice could be Clarendon Hills' Astralis wine.
The 2002 Astralis is not as big and powerful as Grange, yet it is a full-bodied wine. The mouthfeel is very harmonious, with great balance and silky tannins. Next to its blackberry and plum fruit, it delivers attractive mocca flavours (96 points).
This was a great tasting and a rare opportunity to taste different Grange vintages side by side. Vertical tastings always deepen one's understanding of a particular wine.