Penfolds has just run another of its renowned re-corking clinics, at Somerset House in London - bringing the tally of recorked bottles to near 100,000.
Chief winemaker Peter Gago, in London to host the clinic, said an important reason for servicing old bottles was to ‘take some of the bad wines out of the system.’
Peter Gago and the team taste and recork two bottles of 1980 Grange
Customers – some with incredibly rare wines like early Grange, or the legendary 1962 Bin 60A – come to the clinics to have their wines assessed by Gago or his assistant winemakers.
Wines are examined and tasted. If found to be in perfect condition they are topped up with the most recent vintage of the same wine, re-corked, and labelled with a certificate of authenticity signed by Gago.
If found to be faulty, bottles are marked with a white dot and are not re-corked.
There can be disappointments. ‘I am gutted, actually,’ customer Simon Hamilton said. He had come with a bottle of 1962 Grange – now with a white sticker – bought at Sotheby’s a year ago for £550.
Others were much happier. Retired stockbroker Bruce Hervey brought four bottles of 1980 Grange – which he had bought from Thresher in 1985 for £20 each.
They were given a clean bill of health by Gago. ‘I’ll drink them at selected dinner parties – I haven’t opened one for 15 years.’
Will it spur him on to drink them? ‘Possibly. It’s probably time to start drinking them.’
Gago reckons Penfolds has re-corked more than 90,000 bottles in the 17 years they has been running the clinic.
Do customers ever get upset that a bottle they have treasured for decades turns out to have gone off?
‘Some do, some don’t. You have to be a bit of a counsellor – stay firm and calm: never confrontational.’
Written by Adam Lechmere