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Rare vintages surface at Penfolds Recorking Clinic

Penfolds has held its first London Recorking Clinic since 2008, with collectors arriving with thousands of pounds of rare red wines from the iconic Australian producer.

Photo Credit: Adam Lechmere

The total number of wines seen at the clinics, which have been held around the world since 1991, is over 110,000, Penfolds‘ chief winemaker, Peter Gago, told decanter.com.

Any red wine qualifies for examination, the only criterion being it must be at least 16 years old. In practice, almost all wines submitted are from the icon range: Grange, St Henri, Bin 707, Bin 60A, Bin 169, RWT and Magill Estate.

If the wine is deemed in perfect condition it is topped up with up to 15ml of a more recent vintage of the same wine, recorked and certified. Duplicate paperwork relating to each wine is kept by Penfolds. Wines which are not in perfect condition are simply recorked. Wines are never recorked twice.

Red winemaker Steve Lienert said some 200 bottles had arrived by lunchtime at the London tasting, held at the Berkeley hotel in Mayfair. ‘The most memorable was a 1959 Grange – the last of the “hidden Granges” [so-called because winemaker Max Schubert, forbidden to make Grange, had vinified the ’57, ’58 and ’59 in secret].’

Other bottles included the legendary 1962 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Shiraz, of which 425 cases were made, and which fetches around AUD$4,500 (US$4,350) at auction.

Over the last few years, as fraud has become an international problem, recorking of great wines has fallen out of fashion, and Penfolds is the only major producer which holds public recorkings.

Gago insisted the clinics were a protection against fraud. ‘You can just as easily fake a bottle off a bottling line. Bottles that have been through clinics are more difficult to forge. You’ve got the certificate, the capsule, the cork, the duplicate paperwork: we’ve got the data on every single bottle.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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