1981 Penfolds Grange Hermitage
Robert Parker | 97 RP
Grange, Penfolds’ flagship wine, is, by many accounts, the most renowned and world-famous wine produced in Australia, and these six vintages from my cellar all acquitted themselves well. These wines are almost always Shiraz, but many vintages include less than 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and there are cross-appellations blends from vineyards in the Barossa and McLaren Vale.
Robert Parker | 97 RP
Wine Details for 1981 Penfolds Grange Hermitage
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: Australia is one of the New World's most innovative and reputable regions, and a sip or two of their glorious red wines can quickly explain why. Infused with the essence of noble grapes such as Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, these reds will take your senses on a thrill ride.
: Something magical occurred when two ancient French grapes procreated and the varietal of Syrah entered the world of winegrowing. The exact time period of its inception is still undetermined; however, the origin of Syrah’s parentage confirms it was birthed in the Rhone Valley. DNA testing performed by UC Davis has indicated that Syrah is the progeny of the varietals Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche, both of Rhone origin. Syrah dominates its native homeland of Northern Rhone and has become one of the most popular grape varietals in the world.
Syrah, Shiraz and Petite Sirah have often been confused and misunderstood, some consumers believing them to all be the same grape, while others thinking the opposite. Petite Sirah is actually the offspring of Syrah and Peloursin and though related, is an entirely different grape variety. Its official name is Durif, for the name of the French nurseryman who first propagated the varietal in the 1880s; it is called Petite Sirah in California (due to the resemblance of Syrah, but smaller berries). Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape. Producers in Australia have been labelling Syrah as “Shiraz” since James Busby first introduced the varietal to the continent. The Scottish viticulturist brought Syrah from France to Australia in the middle of the 18th century and labelled the cuttings as “Sycras” and “Ciras,” which may have led to the naming. Most California vintners label their bottlings as Syrah and of course in French style and tradition, the name of the village or area the grape is cultivated dictates the label name.
The Syrah grape is at home in Northern Rhone where the climate is cool and the terroir is filled with gravel, schist, limestone, iron, granite and sandy soils. It thrives on rocky, hilly terrain with a southern exposure, due to its need for sunlight. Syrah is a very vigorous grape with a spreading growth habit. The berries are small to medium oval shaped blue-black and tend to shrivel when ripe.
Today, Syrah is one of the most popular and widely planted grape varietals in the world, covering almost 190,000 hectares across the earth’s surface. It is the only red grape variety permitted by AOC regulations in the appellations of Hermitage and Cote-Rotie, where it has breathed life into some of the most tremendous wines on the planet. Languedoc-Roussilon has the most surface area planted in France with 43,200 hectares dedicated to Syrah. The varietal is used for blending in Southern Rhone, Provence and even Bordeaux. Syrah has spread worldwide from Australia to California and South Africa to Spain creating the ‘New World’ hype of the varietal. Since the 1990’s, Syrah winegrowing and production has increased exponentially; for example, in 1958 there were a mere 2,000 hectares planted in France. By 2005 that number increased to over 68,000 hectares and today it is well over 70,000. The same holds true for California, Australia and other ‘New World’ producers that have jumped “all in.” World-wide there are approximately 190,000 hectares of Syrah currently being cultivated.
The allure of Syrah has taken the world by storm, but is important to note where the hype began. Long before Syrah was being stamped with ‘New World’ or of ‘cult status,’ the tremendous quality of Hermitage was being written about in Thomas Jefferson’s diary. Today, the grape variety can be grown, fashioned, named and enjoyed in a myriad of ways, but the quality of Syrah grape remains the same – incredible.
: In the past few decades, Australian wine has broken through the “Rest of the World” category and into one of the top players in today’s market. It burst onto the scene in the 1980s offering the world vibrant, fruit forward wines of exceptional value. A decade later, Australian vintners were producing intense, concentrated examples of Shiraz (Syrah), Grenache and red blends which began to dominate the wine market. Today, it is an extremely important wine producing country, both in terms of quality and scale.
Australia boasts 150,000 hectares under vine with an annual output of 10.6 million hectoliters, placing it sixth among all leading wine producers in the world. The country has 2,500 wineries and around 6,000 growers, who operate under a complex appellation system with over 65 distinct designations. Many of today’s brands, such as Penfold’s, Clarendeon Hills and D’Arenberg, have a strong international presence as do its well-trained and well-qualified wine professionals, who have spread their expertise to many corners of the world.
Shiraz (Syrah) has greatly contributed to the country’s success and rise to international recognition. Of the 150,000 hectares currently being cultivated in Australia, 99,000 are planted to Syrah. The country remains behind only France in regards to vineyard space and export proportion. Chardonnay has become its second largest export and together with Syrah, have propelled the Australian economy, which sees $40 billion in wine exports each year. The country now boasts a plethora of grape varieties, from Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir to Riesling and Semillon. This is greatly possible due to Australia’s vast topography, climate and terroir.
Australia’s vast size and huge range of climatic geographical conditions, makes it one of the most versatile winegrowing countries in the world. Overall, the climate is affected by the latitude, but regional features such as altitude and proximity to the oceans also plays a significant role. From coastal influenced areas using cooler climate varietals in Victoria to the northern reaches and its Mediterranean climatic influence to Tasmania in the south, which is known for graceful Pinot Noir and sparkling wines. The portfolio of grape varieties greatly reflects this immense geographical and climatic diversity.
The country has played a major role in the globalization of wine over the past 40 years, with its many brands and its global awareness of Syrah. It has long been at the forefront of the New World winemaking renaissance and dedicated to research and development of new industry implantation of technology in the vineyard and cellar. There is a bit of irony in its New World methods, as Australia boasts some of the oldest productive grape vines in the world (due to the fact that it has not yet been affected by phylloxera). This polarizing idea makes the region even more intriguing but also allows for a large range of production, from inexpensive Chardonnay to intense, complex Shiraz.
: The South Australian landscape is almost surreal in its beauty. It's a seemingly endless expanse of fields stretching out into the horizon, and it's easy to appreciate what a mixture of soils like this contributes to mouth-watering, delicious wines. With a variety of grapes ranging from Syrah (or as it's known in Australia, Shiraz), Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to Riesling, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, it's no surprise that South Australia is easily considered one of the biggest powerhouses in the wine world.
Given the sheer number of represented varietals, it's hard to pinpoint a signature taste, but that just means you get to enjoy exploring this region to your heart's content, always discovering new pleasures as you go. The quality is consistently high, and every wine offers something unique and different, making them a joy to collect. Whether you prefer reds or whites, Australian winemakers should at least be near the top of your priority list, as their wines are inspirational, compelling and powerful. We've prepared a selection of fine wines from every important sub-region of South Australia. There's something in here for everyone, and you can be sure that your guests will suddenly become very inquisitive about where you obtained the bottles you decide to uncork in front of them.