The World Gets the Taste of Australian Wines

Penfolds Chief Winemaker – Peter Gago – imparts his knowledge and wisdom at Vinexpo 2017

The custodian – amongst other things – of the legendary Penfolds Grange – chief winemaker for the Australian producer, Peter Gago was present at Vinexpo Bordeaux where he held a series of Master Classes. We asked him to tell us about the tastings…

The great thing about Vinexpo is that we are able to show people from across the planet what we do – not just with the current releases, but with tastings across the decades. The tastings here have been on Saint Henri – a wonderful Syrah or Shiraz blend – and Bin 389, and we’ve gone back across five decades. Because there is an understanding that Australian wine can be good value for money and lots of fruit and flavour, but it’s only when you look at the older wines that the seriousness of the offer becomes quite prevalent. Having said that though, we have been very big proponents of Vinexpo going way back. I’ve lost count of how many Vinexpos I’ve had. For us, this is THE showcase for fine wine. The people we’ve been meeting with from every part of the world here, it’s just been amazing. We put on a dinner in a beautiful property in the middle of Bordeaux for our Chinese and other Asian guests. So, it’s an Australian winery, in Bordeaux, entertaining Asian clientele. When we were at the Cité du Vin the other day in Bordeaux, we saw Penfolds Grange and Penfolds Bin 28. That would not have happened 20 years ago. You have a world epicentre of ne wine here in Bordeaux that’s very positively, generously engaging wines from across the planet; and that’s such a professional and mature approach. We also met with Jacques Olivier Pesme from Kedge Business School of Bordeaux, as there is a lovely liaison between the University of Adelaide and the University of Bordeaux. And in fact, I am now of officially the global ambassador for the Great Wine Capitals of which Bordeaux is one; Adelaide in South Australia is the second out of only ten across the planet, including Napa, San Francisco and Oporto. We have been meeting at Vinexpo to discuss links in education, in tourism, and obviously also in business. So, it’s not just about pouring wine. This is a great, great venue for talking about the world of commerce, the world of wine education, and so many other things. I travel the world quite a lot, but here, we come to one place and the world comes to us, and that’s the beauty of Vinexpo in Bordeaux.

I travel the world quite a lot, but here, we come to one place and the world comes to us, and that’s the beauty of Vinexpo in Bordeaux.

What is the feedback like from the people who have been tasting your wines?

The first reaction was more or less of shock (laughs)… Humble Bin 389, which is not at the top of our tiers of portfolios, but is more mid-range. “Wow! How fresh is that 1989? Doesn’t that ’78 look good!” … Like surprise and shock. But also putting things back into perspective. Bin 389 has been released for 57 vintages uninterrupted. St Henri goes back to the late 1800’s. From a Penfold’s perspective, we resurrected it in the early 1950’s. People talk about Old World and New World, but when they leave this tasting, they no longer use the term New World, they use the term Newer World!

How is the global perception of Australian wine evolving?

There’s a big change in attitude. When I used to do tastings in Paris 15 or 20 years ago, we would invite 20 media. Two might respond, one might arrive. In September of last year, we invited 22 top people… and all 22 came. That doesn’t even happen in Adelaide! That shows the difference in the perception of Australian wine. Times have changed.



Peter Gago is the winemaker behind the most expensive wine in the world – the Penfolds Ampoule Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, valued at over $US160,000.

Photo: Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker