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26 May 2010

Penfolds Red in Class of Own Magill Estate Shiraz 2007

Chris Shanahan, The Canberra Times

Last week’s column covered how the creation of Magill Estate Shiraz in 1983 saved the historic vineyard and Dr Penfolds’ Grange Cottage from bulldozing. The Rewards of Patience described the original vintage as “the pick of the shiraz fruit off the Magill vineyard”, made by chief winemaker Don Ditter with retired Grange creator Max Schubert. But the column revealed that Schubert’s handwritten specification for the wine called the addition of Eden Valley shiraz and Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon into the Magill blend. The column questioned why this hadn’t happened. It turns out it did.

We can reveal that towards the end of his life, Schubert gave the specification to a trusted colleague. Barrie Woodward, then state manager of Southcorp Wines (by then owner of Penfolds).

I subsequently discussed Schubert’s Magill specification with Penfold’s chief winemaker, Peter Gago. He had not seen the document and wasn’t aware of external fruit being used in the wine, but was keen to amend the record if it had been. So Gago contacted winemaker John Bird, who had worked on those early Magill wines. Bird recalled using Eden Valley and Coonawarra material and even a touch form Clare, up to a legal percentage, for the first two or three vintages. After that, Magill became entirely an estate-grown wine.

Woodward, now co-owner of Leura Cellars, NSW, has released a copy of the specification to Gago for the Penfolds archive.

The just-released 2007 Magill Estate is a long way from those lighter-bodied, short-lived experimental wines. It’s a beautiful, floral scented red with deep, supple, elegant fruit melded with spicy oak. It’s comparatively high in alcohol, at 14.5 per cent, but not heavy or hot – the fruit’s too good. In our tasting, it was flanked and overshadowed by St Henri and RWT. But sipped on its own a few days later, it showed real class.

Grape varieties: shiraz
Region: Magill Vineyard, Adelaide
Maturation: 14 months in hogsheads – 63 per cent new French, 32 per cent new American, 5 per cent one-year old French.
Price: $114.99
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