Days of Grange and roses

Max Crus
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Penfolds Grange Hermitage, Bin 95, Vintage 1986, Bottled 1988

Penfolds Grange Hermitage, Bin 95, Vintage 1986, Bottled 1988 [©Winepros/VisitVineyards.com]

Big Brother was visiting the parentals who were hosting a barbecue for a couple of friends for no reason at all, as they do.

"Geez, Grange at a barbecue", he remarked, incredulous upon spying the iconic beverage on the table awaiting consumption, "what's the occasion?"

"No occasion", came the casual reply.

"But Grange?"

"It's an ordinary vintage".

Those were the days. Big Brett had managed to show exemplary self control and kept a few bottles from the seventies and eighties when he'd snapped up dozens for sometimes less than $10 a bottle.

Incredibly, according to anthropologists who have deciphered the hieroglyphics from ancient stone tablets of the '70s, there were instances too where the erstwhile enviable Hermitage was discounted to $3.99.

The 2001 version, the 50th vintage, has just hit the streets at the now customary figure of about $450.

And, alas, that little fact is another indicator that the Crus household has reached the end of an era.

No one gives me Grange any more, I can't afford it and we just drank the last known one from the cupboard of friends, thus I may well have consumed my last Big G from the Big P.

So what is Grange like?

It's running at about 50/50 at present. The first few I tried from the above parental's cellar, I was too young to notice but assumed at the time that I was drinking liquid gold.

Then I had the brilliant idea to buy friends a bottle for special birthdays with explicit instructions that I must be present at the next special birthday at which time they were permitted to drink it.

Brilliant. Get all the kudos of a posh present and get to drink it yourself.

Ricardo cooked his for a few years in his boiling kitchen in outback South Australia and it was absolutely buggered.

Bruno's got cooked by his mother in a stroganoff. Delicious by all accounts.

Little Sis cooked her goose by drinking hers without me, which of course was against the rules and thus no matter what she says it will always be awful in my eyes but I'll never really know as I haven't spoken to her since. 

Ms L sold hers to buy a dozen other bottles, which was acceptable since I helped drink the replacements.

Then there were a few bottles courtesy of the Big P themselves - before they realised my true status in the wine world - and yes they weren't too bad and I must say had pretty individual characters.

But of course many wines have individual characters, and don't cost $450.

Lastly, The Big M opened his the other night, an ‘ordinary’ 1989 version, and despite the rat bites on the label we all pretty much thought it was splendid, but then nobody wrote a letter home to Mum later that night, and anyway the 1996 Bin 707 cabernet (a mere $100ish) was deemed vastly superior.

So there you have it, the complete history of Grange, and the verdict? Don't buy it for your little sister, specially if she lives in outback SA, and is keen on casseroles.

Wines reviewed:
5 different vintages of Grange

© Max Crus

Column on iconic Aussie wine Penfold's Grange published the week beginning May 7th 2006.

Published in Cairns Post/Rockhampton Morning Bulletin/Northern Star Lismore)/Daily Examiner (Grafton)/Wagga Daily Advertiser/Geelong Advertiser.

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