Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia


Several of the older winery buildings at the Penfolds Magill Estate, site of the founding of Australia’s iconic winery in 1844, Adelaide, Australia


Our first wine tasting experience on this visit to Adelaide, Australia (as well as on a previous visit to Adelaide) was a visit to Penfolds Magill Estate.  Penfolds is regarded as one of the iconic Australian wine producers and its Grange wine is world renowned as one of the greatest red wines produced consistently over the past 60+ years.  Nestled in the foothills of Adelaide with views over the city, Magill Estate is one of the world’s few urban single vineyards — only a 15 minutes drive from Adelaide city.  The new Magill Estate Cellar Door wine center offers breathtaking views of the iconic Penfolds vineyards and the original (1844) Penfolds “cottage” (named “Grange”, it was the residence of the winery’s founder, Christopher Rawson Penfold, an English physician who emigrated to Australia) — an excellent setting for visitors to immerse themselves in the history and spirit of Penfolds



The old wine barrel-aging cellar at Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia


“Australia’s winemaking history of less than two hundred years is brief by European measures, though, like Europe, punctuated by periods of extreme success and difficult times.  From the earliest winemaking days Penfolds has figured prominently and few would argue the importance of Penfolds influence on Australia’s winemaking psyche.  Without the influence of Penfolds the modern Australian wine industry would look very different indeed.  Sitting comfortably outside of fad and fashion, Penfolds has taken Australian wine to the world on a grand stage and forged a reputation for quality that is without peer.  Penfolds has a history and heritage that profoundly reflects Australia’s journey from colonial settlement to the modern era.  Established in 1844, just eight years after the foundation of South Australia, Penfolds has played a pivotal role in the evolution of winemaking in Australia — and across the world.  Penfolds collection of benchmark wines were established in a spirit of innovation and the constant and endless pursuit of quality, evidenced from the secret bottlings of Grange in 1951 and the unbroken line of vintages of what is now Australia’s most iconic wine.” –



The original (1844) Penfolds “cottage”, named “Grange”, was the residence of the winery’s founder, Christopher Rawson Penfold, an English physician who emigrated to Australia, Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia



The living room of the original (1844) Penfolds “cottage”, residence of the winery’s founder, Christopher Rawson Penfold; Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia



The kitchen of the original (1844) Penfolds “cottage”, residence of the winery’s founder, Christopher Rawson Penfold; Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia



Part of the 13 acre Shiraz (Syrah) vineyard at Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia; note how the estate is hemmed in by the suburban housing development, precluding expansion of the vineyards



One of the original 19th century underground cave wine barrel aging rooms at Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia – now used for VIP tastings



The underground cellar at Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia houses the estate’s collection of early Grange bottles – shown here are two of the third vintage produced (1953) and 1964, all signed by the winemaker Max Schubert


“Penfolds Grange (until the 1989 vintage labeled Penfolds Grange Hermitage) is an Australia wine, made predominantly from the Shiraz (Syrah) grape and usually a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is widely considered one of Australia’s “first growth” and its most collectable wine…  Unlike most expensive cult wines from the Old World which are from single vineyards or even small plots (called blocks) within vineyards, Grange is made from grapes harvested over a wide area.  This means that the precise composition of the wine changes from year to year; it is the expertise of the winemakers which purchasers value, rather than the qualities of the specific places where the grapes are grown, or the particular vines.  The quantity of Penfolds Grange produced varies from year to year, with 1,800 bottles of the original 1951 vintage produced.  [Winemaker since 2002, Peter] Gago states that 7,000 to 9,000 cases are made each vintage as of 2013.  Despite the vagaries of grape sourcing and vintage variation due to growing conditions, some believe that there is a consistent and recognisable ‘Penfolds Grange’ style.”– Wikipedia



The VIP Grange tasting room in the new Cellar Door wine center with older vintages of Grange in the display racks and a custom made decanter (a spectacular glass design!) near the window to the main tasting room, Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia


The history of Grange: “In 1957, [Penfolds Chief Winemaker] Max Schubert was asked to show his efforts in Sydney to top management, invited wine identities and personal friends of the board.  To his horror and humiliation the Grange experiment was universally disliked.  Even further tastings in Adelaide resulted in negative opinion.  One critic observed, ‘Schubert, I congratulate you. A very good, dry port, which no one in their right mind will buy – let alone drink.’  Embarrassed, angry and dejected, Max Schubert’s ambitions to make ‘a great wine that Australians would be proud of’ were completely destroyed.  Grange was dead.   It was the happenstance of distance between senior management in Sydney and winemakers in Adelaide, 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) apart, which saved Grange.  With the help of Magill’s assistant general manager Jeffrey Penfold Hyland and Schubert’s team of winemakers, all the experimental Grange was hidden in the underground cellars of Magill and from 1957 to 1959, the ‘hidden Granges’ were made without the knowledge of the Penfolds board.  Max Schubert continued to source fruit and make his experiments in secret.  Although management was kept away, friends and associates were occasionally brought in to taste the wines.  Some bottles were even given away.  Although considered uncommercial in 1957, news was filtering out about Schubert’s unique Grange Hermitage.  A second tasting with the same board members was organised of the 1951 and 1955 vintages, both with bottle age development, were greeted with enthusiasm (the 1955 went on to have a very successful wine show career).  The Penfolds board ordered production of Grange to restart, just in time for the 1960 vintage.  During the 1960s Grange firmed its position as Australia’s most distinguished wine.  The rest is history.  It marked the beginning of a ‘dynasty of wines’ that would capture the imagination of the Australian wine consumer.” –



A portion of the library collection of older Grange wines, here the 1998 through 2003 vintages, Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia

2 thoughts on “Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia

  1. Greta post, Rich! Looks like you had quite a visit at Penfolds. Have enjoyed your recent posts of your time in Australia.

    We are sailing down the east coast of NZ. Had some rough water on our way to Wellington (winds up to 75 mph and waves up to 19 feet). Had to stay at port over night in Wellington as waves were 25 feet and projected to get as high as 38 feet! Just left Wellington and headed to Dunedin.

    Happy New Year! Tom


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