By Adrian Read
Anyone familiar with the Langton's Classification will know that it is headed — and always has been — by Penfolds Grange.
Since 1990, as the Classification has developed through six editions, Grange has been joined by a further nine Penfolds wines, more than any other producer.
Langton's Classified Penfolds wines today are, in addition to Grange, Yattarna Chardonnay, Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, St Henri Shiraz, RWT Shiraz, Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz, Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz, Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon and Magill Estate Shiraz.
Uniquely, Penfolds is held in equally high regard for wines ranging in release price per bottle from under $30 to over $800 and in status from everyday drink to global wine icon.
Since 1991 Langton's has also partnered with Penfolds in the Red Wine Re-corking Clinic program.
Langton's provides independent confirmation that the process of opening, tasting, topping-up and re-corking old bottles is acceptable both in principle and in practice.
The back labels applied to the more than 130,000 bottles that have 'passed' the clinic process carry Langton's endorsement as well as the signature of a Penfolds winemaker.
After more than 25 years of Clinics, now held all over the world as well as across Australia, it has also become clear that the service has improved secondary market confidence in the quality of re-corked Penfolds wines — some of them 60 and more years old.
Quite simply, the Clinics 'weed out' unacceptable or 'bad' bottles.
And the fact that no other winemaker in the world offers a similar program has strengthened the view that premium Penfolds reds are perhaps the world's most consistent fine wines.
This point was confirmed earlier this year with the emergence of 1971 Grange in European tastings as clearly one of the very finest wines made anywhere in the world in that decade.
In addition to its leadership in the wine auction market, Langton's now also offers a personal wine broking service and an online sales channel. This makes it entirely logical that Langton's — and its customers — should have unrivalled access to new Penfolds wines when they are released each year.
And so it is today, with the release of the 2017 Penfolds Collection. For us, this is the biggest week of the year.
The level of interest in Grange is close to being matched by wines such as Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon and St Henri Shiraz.
Wines once considered 'junior', such as Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, have forged new and independent status levels.
White wines, headed by world-class Chardonnays, are increasingly important.
And more recently created wines, such as Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz, focus on single regions (or in Bin 150's case a single sub-region), taking Penfolds' reputation further beyond the multi-region, multi-vineyard philosophy that has sustained the label for so long.
Langton's Wine Manager Adrian Read was a consultant to Penfolds for 15 years from 1985 to 2000.
He developed and ran the Red Wine Re-corking Clinic program and co-wrote four editions of The Rewards of Patience, the cellaring and drinking guide to Penfolds wines.