The Road to Expensive Non-Vintage Red Wine: Thanks Penfolds!

I’d like to take this opportunity on behalf of all winemakers to thank Penfolds for making a non-vintage red wine and charging $3000 a bottle for it.

Winemakers around the world have been greatly anticipating charging $3000 a bottle for non-vintage red wine.

 An American example of non-vintage wine, the Mastro Scheidt Jug! It only costs $39 and it's nearly 1.89L. You should buy some.

An American example of non-vintage wine, the Mastro Scheidt Jug! It only costs $39 and it's nearly 1.89L. You should buy some.

$39 or $3000?

Oh wait…I have been doing it for years. It's called The Jug (yep, that's the label above. It's good wine. Really good). I've been combining vintages to make a consistent blend for over 5 years now, but not charging $3000 for the bottle. Stupid me. I charge $39.

When winemakers combine vintages like they have at Penfolds, it becomes a non-vintage wine, generally regarded as inferior by critics for still red wines. Unlike port and champagne, which are regularly blended across multiple vintages and considered a mark of quality, blending red wines across vintages has long been considered the practice of corporate wineries using 1 gallon and up packaging.

Super Blend or Just Red Wine?

Penfolds of Australia produces the world famous Grange by blending Shiraz (Syrah) with some Cabernet Sauvignon (in most years). A long heralded wine and deservingly so. With the G3, they’ve taken a long held philosophy of Aristotle, that the “sum is greater than the parts”, combining three vintages of Grange together in a single bottling, or as Penfolds called it, “a super-blend” and thus, charging more than any single bottling would cost.

From my own experience blending wines from multiple vintages, the “super-blend” of wines can be beneficial in a few ways. First, a young wine lacking depth and structure is given a boost from a wine that is older, as the older wine has had time to mature. Secondly, the older wine is ‘refreshed’ by the younger wine with more vibrant fruit and freshness. Thirdly, if the wines have been on new oak, the interactions between the wine, oak and time, depending upon the oak origin, can have a whole combination of various results on the finished wine that add a layer of complexity not otherwise derived from the wine itself.

A true test of greatness would be to try each individual vintage of Grange that comprise the G3 super-blend; 2008, 2012 and 2014 side-by-side with the G3. That tasting would cost just under $6000, if you can get your allocation of G3. I’d love to taste it.

I raise my glass to Penfolds and offer a toast to them for getting $3000 a bottle for a non-vintage Shiraz. May we all be so lucky.

Now go buy my Jug for $39!!!