Penfolds is an Australian wine producer that was founded in Adelaide in 1844 by Christopher Rawson Penfold, an English physician who emigrated to Australia, and his wife Mary Penfold. It is one of Australia's oldest wineries, and is currently part of Treasury Wine Estates.
The chief winemaker since 2002 has been Peter Gago.
Christopher and Mary Penfold arrived in Australia from Angmering, West Sussex, UK, at the respective ages of 33 and 24. Following their arrival, they were supported by family members in the attainment of the 500 acres (200 ha) Magill (originally "Mackgill") Estate at the foot of the Mount Lofty Ranges. As part of the cultivation of the land surrounding the cottage that the couple built (named "The Grange"), French grape vine cuttings that had been brought from England were planted. Christopher was a believer in the medicinal benefits of wine, and both he and Mary planned to concoct a wine tonic for the treatment of anaemia; Christopher had set up his practice on the eastern outskirts of Adelaide, South Australia.
Initially, the Penfolds produced fortified wines in the style of sherry and port for Christopher's patients. As demand for the wines increased, the winery was expanded and was officially established in 1844. In addition to sherry and port, the Penfolds discovered that clarets and rieslings were both easy to produce and popular. As the demand for Christopher's medical services increased, Mary was required to devote more time to the operation of the winery, and her tasks included the cultivation of the vines and grape blending.
Mary assumed the running of the winery after her husband died in 1870 at the age of 59. According to one historical account, by the time of Christopher's death the business had "grown to over 60 acres with several different grape varieties including grenache, verdelho, mataro (mourvedre), frontignac and pedro ximenez", and the estate was "producing both sweet and dry red and white table wines with a growing market in the eastern Australian colonies of Victoria and New South Wales. At this time, the Penfolds' son-in-law, Thomas Hyland, was unaware of Mary's fundamental role at the winery, and he urged his mother-in-law to sell the business as preparation for her retirement. Mary did not accept Hyland's advice, and eventually brokered a partnership agreement that resulted in Hyland remaining in Melbourne, while Mary continued her work at the winery in Adelaide.
A journalist reported in 1874, four years after the death of Christopher Penfold, that Mary blended "the wines when they are two or three years old", a process that "is done under Mrs Penfold's personal supervision, not in conformity with any fixed and definite rule, but entirely according to her judgement and taste". The reporter stated that there was "about 20,000 gallons of wine of that age ready for the market", with a "total stock ... close upon 90,000 gallons". During her tenure, Mary engaged in experimentation, explored new methods of wine production, looked into ways of combating diseases like phylloxera, and engaged a cellar master by the name of Joseph Gillard. Mary retired in 1884, aged 68; at that time the winery owned about a third of all of South Australia's wine stores, and had presented at a colonial exhibition in London.
Following Mary's retirement, her daughter Georgina, and son-in-law Thomas Hyland, assumed responsibility for the day-to-day running of the winery. Subsequently, the business was passed onto their two sons and two daughters. The Penfold family continued to operate the business very successfully following Mary's death in 1896, and after the company became public in 1962, the Penfold family retained a controlling interest until 1976.
In 1903 Penfolds was the largest winery in the Adelaide region, with a production total of 450,000 litres (120,000 US gal) of wine. Between 1904 and 1912, more vineyards in McLaren Vale and New South Wales were purchased.
During the 1940s and 1950s, the company changed its focus and commenced the production of table wines to accommodate changing tastes. This new direction led to experiments by Penfolds' chief winemaker, Max Schubert, who visited Europe following the end of World War II to learn about sherry production; however, it was the time spent by Schubert in Bordeaux that eventually led to the production of Penfolds' and Australia's most famous wine, "Grange Hermitage", later renamed "Grange". In the 1960s the company introduced a series of red wines: Bin 389, Bin 707, Bin 28 and Bin 128, that became the highlights of the Penfolds brand.
In 1976, control of Penfolds was acquired by Tooth and Co., a brewer based in New South Wales, which in 1982 became part of the Adelaide Steamship Company Group. In 1990, SA Brewing purchased Adelaide Steamship's wineries. Subsequently, SA Brewing was divided into three separate entities: the brewing assets retained the S.A. Brewing name, the wine assets were named Southcorp Wines, and the 'white goods' and other manufacturing interests became Southcorp, an Australian conglomerate. It was also in 1976 that Schubert stood down from the position of Penfolds Chief Winemaker, a role that was passed onto Don Ditter.
In 1977, Penfolds began what was to be an almost twenty-year association with Sydney-based rugby league team, the St George Dragons as the clubs primary sponsor. This association saw the Dragons play five 'home' games at the Adelaide Oval between 1991 and 1995, with the 1991 game attracting 28,884 fans. The Dragons, with Penfolds as their sponsor, would win the Sydney premiership in 1977 and 1979, while appearing in the 1985, 1992 and 1993 Grand Finals. Penfolds ended their association with St George at the end of 1995.
Southcorp Wines became a part of the Foster's Group in 2005. In 2011, Fosters Group shareholders voted to demerge the wine operations from the brewing operations, and form two separate companies; Foster's wine business became Treasury Wine Estates (TWE). Headquartered in Melbourne, it was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and began operating as a standalone company on 9 May 2011.
Since then, Penfolds operates two wineries: Magill Estate, at the base of Adelaide's eastern foothills, and Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley.
In June 2012 Penfolds released a limited edition run of the "2004 Block 42" wine that was only sold in glass ampoules. The wine was labelled by the Huffington Post publication as "the most expensive wine directly sold from a winery in the world", as the winery sought US$168,000 for each of the ampoules. The glass ampoules were designed and hand-blown by Australian glass artist Nick Mount.
In 2013 Penfolds was awarded "New World Winery of the Year" by American wine industry publication, Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Penfolds operates a number of vineyards in the South Australian wine regions that produce a wide range of grape varieties:
First used in 1923, the Penfolds logo is one of Australia's most recognised trademarks. Eight Penfolds wines were named by the Langtons auction house in its 2012 list of the top 20 most-desired brands.
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