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Penfolds commissions £100,000 ‘ampoule’ for Block 42

In an extraordinary act of homage, Penfolds is releasing its ultra-rare Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 in a hand-blown glass ampoule in a hand-tooled wooden cabinet – for the price of a dozen cases of rare Bordeaux.

The vessel – ‘Essentially a hand-blown glass ampoule that provides an ideal wine environment and a bespoke glass plumb-bob that suspends the ampoule within a wooden Jarrah cabinet’ – retails for approximately AUD$168,000.

Such a sum, the equivalent of £100,000, would buy ten or more cases of Chateau Lafite 2009, or an entire case of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Romanee Conti 2000, with change.

It would also pay for four experienced teachers for a year, or five newly-qualified nurses, or Cristiano Ronaldo‘s wages for two and a half days.

But then the Real Madrid striker does not have Peter Gago flying in personally to adjust his shinpads: so rare is the ampoule – only 12 have been made – that the Penfolds chief winemaker will fly anywhere in the world to assist when you decide to open it.

‘The winemaker will travel to the destination of choice, where the ampoule will be ceremoniously removed from its glass plumb-bobcasing and opened using a specially designed, tungsten-tipped, sterling silver scribe-snap. The winemaker will then prepare the wine using a beautifully crafted sterling silver tastevin,’ the container’s prospectus says.

Penfolds says the rarity of the Block 42 – the last vintage was 1996 – inspired the ‘compelling work of wine art’, for which four renowned Australian artists were commissioned.

These are glass sculptor Nick Mount, scientific glassblower Ray Leake, metalsmith Hendrik Forster and cabinet maker Andrew Bartlett.

Block 42 Kalimna is made from 130-year-old vines from a 10-acre (4ha) block at the edge of the Penfolds Kalimna property in the Moppa area of the Barossa Valley, about 60km north of Adelaide. It is produced in tiny quantities and is highly sought after: the 1996 sells for around £2,500 a case.

Gago said, ‘The ampoule project is typical of the pioneering philosophy behind Penfolds winemaking evolution. The collaboration with South Australia’s finest artists has been a fitting tribute for one of South Australia’s finest wines.’

The ampoule contains one 750ml bottle of the 2004 vintage, which in a normal bottle retails for around £400.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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