Wine Lists

James Halliday's top 10 Grange

James Halliday by James Halliday

We recap James Halliday's top 10 Granges – so far.

The 10 vintages of Penfolds Grange that follow are my personal favourites and, while the tasting notes were made by me at the most recent Penfolds Rewards of Patience tasting – held in Australia in September 2007 - they are not the same as the notes officially published. Those notes represent an amalgam of all of the tasters present. These notes here are my personal notes from the day. They were not taken on reputation; they are as the wines presented to me in the glass on the day.

In reading my notes, it is vital to remember the old English wine trade saying, “There are no great old wines, only great old bottles.” This is as true for Grange as any other red wine spanning almost 60 years where cork is the closure. You will notice references to a second bottle here and there, and you will also see references to ‘Clinic’. In the first instance, and despite behind-the-scenes screening of the wines before being presented to the panel for tasting, the bottle so presented was deemed to be atypical, and a second bottled called for. In the case of ‘Clinic’, it means the wine was assessed at a Penfolds Red Wine Clinic, topped up and given a new cork.

Thus, if you have any of these great old vintages in your cellar, or are tempted to buy bottles at Langton’s auctions, be aware there may be a substantial difference between your appreciation of the wine and my tasting note. Simply don’t shoot the messenger.

1985 

Lovely wine; supple and rich; great texture and structure; full array of red and black fruit aromas and flavours; perfect tannin and oak balance, and integration; long, lingering finish.

96 points, drink to 2025

1976 

Powerful wine; abundant black and red fruits, which are ripe, but not jammy or dead; tannins present, but in balance; rich and satisfying; long life ahead.

96 points, drink to 2026

1971 

Good colour, bright and clear; has the typical highly lifted bouquet of ’71, the palate silky smooth with predominantly red fruits. Two bottles opened, one better than the other, and neither wholly representative of this great vintage.

95 points, drink to 2016

1966 

Strong, deep colour; right back on track; abundant plum, prune and blackberry fruit; perfectly balanced and integrated tannins, ditto oak; rich and satisfying.

95 points, drink to 2021

1962 

Strong colour; a fragrant and aromatic bouquet of exotic spices and dried fruits; mouthfilling, rich and exuberant, with a cascade of ripe fruits; still absolutely in the prime of its life; an outstanding bottle.

96 points, drink to 2017

1955 

Beautiful limpid aspect, brick-red, yet alive; a very complex wine with a melange of dried fruits, spices, mocha and then a long, imperious finish with perfect acidity and fine tannins. Clinic.

97 points, drink to 2015

1953 

Slightly more brick hue than the ’52; fractionally riper fruit in a red and black spectrum; spices, leather and sandalwood; a firmer finish, the tannins alive and well giving great length and persistence; remarkable acid balance. Peter Gago regards it as the greatest Grange. Clinic.

98 points, drink to 2013

1952 

Still retaining remarkable red hues; beautiful rich aromas with no sign of decay, the palate as glorious as the bouquet promise; a satin and velvet brocade with vibrant fruit, great length and harmony. You could write a book about it. Clinic.

100 points, drink to 2020

Click below for the missing two vintages of Grange from James's list, plus two new releases. 

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