78 Penfold Road, Magill, Adelaide, Australia
Visited 13th July 2008 Summer holidays day one and I'm back in Australia. Instead of heading straight to Melbourne I've decided to first spend a few days in Adelaide visiting mates (and wineries). After a delicious breakfast, that only Australian cafes do so well, we were looking to fill in a little time until it was deemed acceptable to visit the great Wheat Sheaf Hotel. The suburban winery of Magill Estate provided a very workable solution.
One of the World's few city vineyards Penfolds Magill Estate was planted in 1844, just eight years after Adelaide's foundation. Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary established the vineyard for medicinal wine around their cottage; 'The Grange', from which, of course, sprung the Penfolds empire. Over the years Adelaide has (slowly) grown, land has been sold off and the current 12.94 acres of vines is piddly compared with the 296 acres the estate had at its height in 1949. It's now all Shiraz; the best of which goes into the premium, single vineyard Magill Estate wine and on occasions Grange. The estate still works as a functioning winery producing many of Penfolds premium and ultra premium labels, while their huge Barossa winery churns out their commercial ranges.
The small cellar-door was honestly a bit of a disappointment. There were only four wines open for tasting and it seemed more set up to sell souvenir t-shirts and corkscrews than introducing visitors to the Penfolds wine range. I did however enjoy their Eden Valley Riesling that was on tasting; fragrant, citrusy and acidic, it was a nice wine from a producer famous for reds. The limited realise Penfolds Koonunga Hill “Seventy Six” Shiraz Cabernet 2006 was nearly worth the asking price for it's funky retro label alone; though it was also a nicely balanced wine with plenty of dark berries and spice.
For us the highlight came when my mate clicked he knew one of the wine makers and we were off on a tour of the cellars before you could say "show use your barrels of St Henri my good man". For an Australian wine lover descending into the old brick tunnels to see barrel after barrel of Grange, RWT and St Henri is something akin to looking at the Federal Bank's gold reserves. Whether you love or hate Penfolds, the renown of their wines, especially Grange, has done much to show the world the potential of Australian fine wine. We walked out of out Magill Estate with smiles on our faces, but decided we'd had enough of history and wanted a beer.
Visit winery website.