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Penfolds Grange 1951 sets new auction record

A bottle of Penfolds Grange 1951 has become the most expensive Australian wine sold at auction, fetching A$142,131 (US$104,587) during a Langton’s sale held at the weekend.

The price, including a 16.5% buyer’s premium, smashed the previous record of A$103,000, which was also paid for a bottle of Grange 1951 – the inaugural vintage of the legendary Australian wine – at a Langton’s auction in July 2020.

The bottle auctioned at the weekend, which had been signed by Grange winemaker Max Schubert and recorked by him at Penfolds’ Magill Estate in August 1988, was sold to a Sydney-based wine collector during the Langton’s Penfolds Rewards of Patience sale, which closed last night (18 July).

There are estimated to be only about 35 bottles of Penfolds Grange Hermitage Bin 1 Shiraz 1951 left in existence, about 15 of them part of complete vintage sets of the wine (currently spanning 1951-2016).

Schubert only made three or four barrels of the wine in 1951, and gave away most of the bottles to friends after the Penfolds board rejected the wine and ordered him to shut down the project – which he continued in secret for almost a decade.

‘This is extraordinary,’ said Langton’s head of auctions Tamara Grischy. ‘Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a bottle of Australian wine would sell for this much.

‘However, this is a unicorn of a wine, and one of the finest bottles we’ve ever seen come through at Langton’s. The buyer is thrilled to have secured this fine piece of Australian wine history for their collection.’

The record-breaking auction coincided with the 70th anniversary of Grange. Current Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago said: ‘After 70 years of unbroken vintage releases, Grange continues to surprise and reward. Much to celebrate.’

The weekend sale included Grange vintages spanning the period from 1951 to 1959, which sold for a combined total of A$301,000, as well as a range of other rare Penfolds wines from the 1950s.

The Penfolds Australia Collection 2021, including the latest Grange vintage, 2017, is due to be released on Thursday, 5 August.

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