When my friends decided to uncork a 1999 Grange the other night, I could hardly wait. I love Grange and once tasted a vertical at the winery in South Australia and later interviewed its creator, the late great Max Schubert. The 1990 Grange was Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year in 1995.
The first whiff showed a strong dose of classy mocha and dill-laced oak, and I commented on that. Everyone agreed the wood smelled wonderful, and I offered that this wine showed how complex and distinctive American oak could be. My friends acted surprised. American oak? Really. Yup.
The wine was rich and powerful, notable for its plush blackberry fruit. It's an amazingly youthful Shiraz, I offered, to which my friends again expressed surprise. "I always thought it was Cabernet," one of them said, and that's a common misconception about Grange. A third misconception is that Grange comes from a single vineyard. But it doesn't. It is usually a blend of at least two sites, or the best Shiraz the winery can find.
PENFOLDS Shiraz South Australia Grange 1999 (94 points, $210 on release)