Penfolds is Australia’s foremost winemaker, with an unbroken line dating back to its establishment in 1844 when medical practitioner Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold and wife Mary purchased ‘the delightfully situated and truly valuable of Mackgill … Comprising 500 acres (202 hectares) of the choicest land’. Here they built the house that still stands today, and within a few years had begun the winery and cellar on the site of today’s buildings at Magill Estate.
Mary took charge of winemaking, initially producing grenache prescribed by her husband as a tonic for anaemic patients. By 1870 she, son-in-law Thomas Hyland and cellar manager/winemaker Joseph Gillard had formed Penfolds & Co. With markets in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, their wine production was over one-third of South Australia’s total.
Growth continued unabated, and in 1945 Penfolds acquired the jewel of the Magill Vineyard, at that time the largest vineyard in South Australia. It now has 2100 hectares of vineyards, the largest share of Australia’s total. Two men came together in the 1950s to lay the foundation of Penfolds today: winemaker Max Schubert, and research chemist Ray Beckwith (who died shortly after his 100th birthday in 2012); indeed, their contribution transcended Penfolds to the entire Australian wine industry.
The architecture for the Penfolds wine portfolio of the twenty-first century was established in the 1960s, half a century ago. There has been growth, both in the range of labels and their price points, but it has been cleverly – indeed sensitively – managed; demand-driven growth has been achieved without any quality compromise whatsoever.
There is no possibility that the pre-eminence of Penfolds will ever be challenged by any other Australian wine business. Equally certain is that the Penfolds brand value will continue to gain ground on the world stage of all consumable products. If proof be needed, the overall quality of the wines in this Wine Companion is the best Penfolds has ever presented to the markets of the globe.