My wine story

By May 15, 2021Uncategorized

When I was in Tasmania in the late 1970s, a mate’s father died and left him a case of 1976 Penfolds Grange Hermitage. At about the same time, Grange won some prize at a wine show, which I seem to remember was in Paris. Almost overnight, the price of the wine shot up on the strength of that prize. Apparently, the 1976 vintage is considered  “one of the most awesome wines ever made at Grange”, and is a blend of 89% shiraz and 11% cabernet sauvignon grapes1. After my sojourn in Tasmania, I got a job as a mug geologist in Alice Springs in 1981. I initially went to Alice with my father;  the last time he has been there was in 1942 on his way to fight the Japanese during the Second World War, some 39 year before. I spent most of a couple of years in Alice Springs, and after getting married, my partner and I moved into a unit which was quite nice, although we could only afford to have bedsheets as curtains.

During one of our trips to the local Coles supermarket, my partner went into the wine section of the supermarket (the Northern Territory allowed that in those days), and in a dark, back corner of the wine section, discovered a slot with 6 bottles of 1976 Grange Hermitage, and bought the lot. They were at the astronomical price of $10 per bottle (I seem to remember the real market price in those days was about $80 a bottle). Over the next few weeks we drank them all. Given that the 1976 vintage is not supposed to have reached maturity until 2004 to 2020, I feel guilty at having knocked them over in 1982. If we had kept all six bottles and looked after them, now they would be worth well over $1,000 per bottle1.  However, they were lovely to drink, despite being so immature!




  • Arthur Baker says:

    Here’s my 1976 wine story. After my first four years in Australia, from 1972, I returned to England in 1976 for about six months, travelling around and working temporarily for a while. In those days, there was only one little place in the whole of the UK where you could buy Australian wine unless you imported it privately yourself – the Australian Wine Centre in Frith St, Soho, London. Hardly anyone in Britain at that time even knew Australia produced wine at all, let alone good quality wine. Except, of course, people like me who had had the extraordinary good fortune to live in Aus for a while.

    In the northern summer of 1976 I was invited to dinner at a friend’s place in North London, and decided to visit the Frith Street shop to pick up a couple of bottles. It was doing a brisk trade for the few cognoscenti who had discovered Aussie wine, and I bought a bottle of South Australian chardonnay and a Hunter Valley red. Can’t remember the brands for the life of me. They weren’t cheap, but I thought it was worth the price.

    When my host and her guests unwrapped the wine, they actually (very rudely but unthinkingly I guess) laughed out loud. In those days in England, Australia was good for a laugh in many ways but really wasn’t taken seriously. After all, the previous year their monarch’s representative in Canberra had summarily dismissed the entire Australian government, so how could the country be worth a second thought?

    By the time they’d each had half a glass of the excellent Barossa chardy, the three of them were apologising profusely for their rudeness, and phrases such as “never tasted anything like this, even from France”, were being given an airing. By the time we were half-way through the Hunter red, they were ecstatic, and planning a big-spending raid on the Frith Street shop the very next day. “Better get a cartload of this stuff, before the riff-raff discover it and the price skyrockets”, opined one of them. Australia 2, England 0.

    These days, every British supermarket has an entire wall of Aussie wine, stacked from floor to ceiling. Most of it’s not extra-special, but it’s well drinkable and has caught the Brits’ attention to the extent that it represents a larger shelf-space than wine from any other country in the world. I like to think I started Britain’s infatuation with the good old Aussie drop.

  • Warren says:

    And here’s my wine story. Around 1985 a group of us started a wine appreciation group, later extended to include spirits, beers, etc. A number of guests were sophisticated wine peoples.

    I can’t remember the exact words used to describe some wines, so I borrowed some others to put you in the picture. One particular red ………had Ruby hues and scents of rose petals, that the front pallet (intended) had a spicy black cherry flavour and the middle palate bramble jelly, liquorice, spearmint and savoury oak and a ferric tannin finish. Another red…….shone bright garnet in the glass and shows gamey scents, that the front palate has intense cassis flavour and the middle palate, maraschino cherry, truffle, spice, cedary oak, and a dusty tannin finish.

    I made the mistake of asking my Kiwi mate Johnno his views. Without hesitation he said that they all smell and taste like puss, but most importantly, they got you really pussed. From that point on our Puss group meet regularly for years on Puss night.

    I too have consumed many fantastic immature, fantastic wines, including Grange. But I have learnt from my mistakes. I have a rare and valuable bottle of 1973 NOAH’s Rotten Red, known in the USA as Saviour Brand as well as Pharrk Red.

    And the French are so unsophisticated. I tried to buy a bottle of the Dom while visiting the French vineyard. But they didn’t have one in the frig!! Ooh La La.

    • admin says:

      Ha! I tried that red wine in Tasmania in the 1970s. I could not remember its name; all I remember was that it was ‘marketed in the USA as saviour brand because nine out of ten who tried it exclaimed ‘Jesus Christ!”

  • Warren says:

    Correct Admin. And it’s not hard to understand the Pharrk Red naming.

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