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Penfolds releases £1.2m vertical

Penfolds has announced its most expensive collector's item to date – a complete vertical for £1.2m.

The centrepiece of the one-off ‘Penfolds Collection’ is a complete vertical of Grange from its first experimental vintage in 1951 (pictured) through to the current 2007.

It comes hot on the heels of its controversial £100,000 Ampoule launch earlier this year,

Each bottle of Grange has been authenticated and signed by one of Penfolds’ Chief winemakers including the late founder Max Schubert, John Duval and current incumbent Peter Gago.

The deep-pocketed purchaser of the collection will also receive a set of 13 magnum cases which include both the ultra-rare 2004 Bin 60A and the 2008 Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet-Shiraz. They will also be sent a case of Penfolds icon and luxury wines for the next ten years.

That’s not all. An additional part of the Penfolds vertical package is £50,000 to spend on acquiring other older Penfolds wines to add to the collection. Also included are two business class tickets to Adelaide, followed by a VIP tour and tasting at Penfolds Magill Estate. This comes with two nights’ accommodation and dinner at the Magill Estate Restaurant.

Gago believes this is probably the finest set of Penfolds wines ever to be assembled and sold. It is certainly the most expensive.

In the last two or three years, the South Australian producer’s owners, Treasury Wine Estates have been aggressively, re-positioning Penfolds icon range as a global luxury brand to capitalise on opportunities in newer markets such as China.

According to Sandy Mayo, Penfolds global brands business director, ‘it’s about harnessing Penfolds’ unique history, its tradition of craftsmanship and inventiveness to up the ante in the luxury niche sector.’

But others take a more cynical view and regard it as a naked commercial ploy to leverage the brand in order to raise prices, particularly for Grange. In London this year, the 2007 vintage was up by 35% to £350 a bottle.

Some merchants turned down their allocations in protest. ‘High release prices can raise the brand value, but they can just as easily alienate collectors. Penfolds needs to watch out,’ one London trader said.

Others’ opinions are divided. Australian wine critic Max Allen told Decanter.com, ‘this is either marketing genius or end-of-empire insanity. Clearly, neither the Ampoule nor the Collection are aimed at the home market at all – which could backfire on Penfolds in the long run, as (I would argue) their core, their strength, their raison d’etre is how loved they are by generations of loyal Australian Penfolds drinkers.’

The Penfolds Collection goes on sale at Hedonism Wines, the Mayfair, London fine wine emporium, where you can also buy the Penfolds Ampoule.

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