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Penfolds' chief winemaker says 2014 vintage 'surprisingly good'

Published:  02 June, 2014

Penfolds' chief winemaker says Australia's 2014 vintage is "surprisingly good for something that was looking a bit ordinary".

Speaking exclusively to ahead of the fair, Peter Gago, who has worked at the winery for 25 years, said he was impressed with the vintage.

He has been out tasting wines in Coonawarra, Barossa and McLaren Vale and said "the proof's in the pudding".

Penfolds' chief winemakerPenfolds’ Peter GagoPenfolds’ chief winemaker Peter Gago is looking forward to London Wine Fair as an energy-filled ‘rebirth’ for the exhibition.

"Winemakers are farmers - we always tell you the negative, but as the harvest progressed it got better and better, and finished with a bang."

He said that yields were down in some regions, but that "overall, we're quite impressed". "We've got some pretty good components. Lots to play with," Gago added.

Gago is confident this year's London Wine Fair will represent a "rebirth", including "renewed impetus and energy" for a "brave new wine world".

"ExCeL promised a lot but it was a long way away. Olympia is smaller but it will be more intimate and focused. It became more about global drinks business, this will be more of a fraternity of wine individuals. I hope we can return to the times and successes of the past."

Gago is opening the fair with a masterclass on Monday 2 June between 11 and 12.30 for the Circle of Wine Writers tasting Shiraz from St Henri and Grange. "They're pretty disparate styles. I'm sure there will be a bit of controversy between the St Henri and Grange lovers - never the twain shall meet."

As for its exclusive 170th year commemorative Bin 170, Gago said it was "wonderful to have artistic collaborations" like the partnership with cabinet maker David Linley. Only 500 cases were produced, including imperials and magnums.

It also recently released 330 bottles of its 50-year-old Tawny, which Gago described as having "drinkability off the Richter scale".

"From a winemaker's perspective, it doesn't get much better than working at Penfolds."

On the subject of ageing Penfolds, Gago said some people "couldn't believe how youthful" the wines from the 1950s tasted.

"This is what Penfolds does. It's part of our genetic DNA. The wines are accessible in their youth but have the propensity to age. It's not necessarily a New World tag - it applies to Bordeaux and Burgundy, but not Australia, but once you introduce longevity, it all changes.

"Many people don't drink Grange under 30 years old, and St Henri under 40, but others drink them in the year of acquisition. It's wonderful to have the choice. You can do at all levels, not just Grange. I'm doing a Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet tasting back to the 80s. The fact that entry level wine in the right year can age well is really quite remarkable."