AFTER more than 50 years the supremacy of Penfolds Grange as Australia's
leading wine is under threat.
Fellow South Australian winemaker Henschke's latest Hill of Grace, the 2005
vintage, is selling for $510 at the cellar door and for about $550 in
liquor stores. The 2004 Grange release also sells for about $550 a bottle -
leaving the two locked in combat as buyers seek out collectable wines as
In the US the 2005 Hill of Grace sells for $US550 ($600), and the 2004
Grange fetches $US450.
Sommelier Stuart Knox, owner of Sydney restaurant Fix St James, said: ''Ask
the general public and I'm sure that Grange is still No. 1 in terms of
reputation but, for those in the industry and for knowledgeable collectors,
Hill of Grace has the track record to prove it can challenge Grange.
''They are wines made in different styles but in a lot of years, given the
choice, I'd plump for Hill of Grace ... It's made by a family winery from a
small vineyard with a lot of history. Grange is a bit of an anomaly, being
a multi-regional blend. Take Grange out of the equation and Hill of Grace
would be the undisputed king.''
In the US Hill of Grace appears to have already taken over from Grange,
with previous Hill of Grace releases fetching more, although this has a lot
to do with rarity value to collectors. Only 25 cases of the 2005 Hill of
Grace were shipped to the US, compared with 1000 cases of Grange.
British wine writer Jancis Robinson has described Hill of Grace as ''a
serious rival to Penfolds Grange on the auction circuit'' and ''a much more
Leading Australian wine critic James Halliday says: ''Hill of Grace is
second only to Penfolds Grange as Australia's red icon.''
Influential US magazine Wine Spectator rates Hill of Grace and Grange among
the finest in the world, giving both 98 out of 100 in the current issue -
but the rivalry is a friendly one. Henschke winemaker Stephen Henschke
said: "We are not trying to compete - they are very different wines."
Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago said: "Australia needs more wine
flagships. After carrying the load for more than half a century, Grange
actively welcomes more players to share this stage."
Whether buyers opt for Hill of Grace or Grange, they'll need to be quick to
snap up a bottle for Christmas. Supplies of Hill of Grace are always
limited because it is made from grapes from a single old-vine vineyard; the
2004 Grange is in short supply and on allocation.
Hill of Grace, the creation of the late Cyril Henschke, had its first
vintage in 1958. It is sourced from the Hill of Grace vineyard at Keyneton
in Eden Valley.
Penfolds Grange, whose first maker was the late Max Schubert, had its first
vintage in 1951 and its first commercial release in 1952. It was called
Grange Hermitage until 1990.