It seems a bit weird to refer to wines made by a company whose roots go back to 1844 as “new” anything but the fact that Grange has a discreet younger brother called St. Henri was a new one on me until a couple of years or so ago. (I know, I know … but, look, there’s an awful lot of wine out there …)
Anyway, it’s safe to assume that Penfolds’ revered Max Schubert will have a smile on his face as he looks down on those “clinics” from his cloud – he first made both wines in 1951 with the aim of putting Australia on the wine map of the world by producing two top-class wines – one aged in new oak (Grange) and another with minimal influence from wood. It seems to have worked.
Over the decades Grange has grabbed the headlines, probably because the oak influence has meant that it can be directly compared to its French counterparts. It’s also grabbed the big numbers, with most recent years selling for £150-250 per bottle depending on the quality of the vintage. (Oh, and if you’ve got a bottle of the ’51 knocking around, call it £30,000.)
Clearly, St.Henri is a different wine with different appeal – but at a tasting of several vintages of both wines I came away preferring it in most years. There’s something about the purity and freshness of the fruit and the way it morphs over time into swirly chocolate and toasty coffee and herbs and tar and red meat – yes, meat … char-grilled steak, cooked rare , mainly – and sacks of spice (and all this without any help from oak – even though there are “oak-like” aspects to it that I need to do a bit more, er, thinking about) that, well, really did it for me.
And the price for all this? Majestic have the 2007 (a bit young, so give it plenty of air – overnight, even) for £40 (but check wine-searcher.com too). Believe me, it’s not a lot for what you’re getting.