The Penfolds is mightier than the Sword!

With half a day left before we had to say goodbye to Adelaide there was just enough time to visit one of Adelaide’s oldest institutions.Setting the scene…

In 1844 Dr Christopher Penfolds and his wife Mary emigrated from West Sussex to the crown colony of South Australia. Acquiring 500 hectares of land they quickly set about creating a legacy on the foothills of Mount Lofty. Their mission was to explore the medicinal benefits of ‘tonic wine’ and armed with some French Grape vine cuttings (this is Pre Australian Border Force days remember) they went to work

Fast forward to 2015; The original Magill Estate is now a heritage site and their ‘tonic wine’ has become one of the biggest brands in Wine!

We took a bus along to Magill Estate via the leafy suburbs of Norwood and Kensington. The Former being home to many Italian families and the famous Mary Mary MacKillop (Australia’s first beautified Saint) while the later was home to Sir Donald Bradman from 1935 to 2001. History everywhere!

We jumped off the bus and looked up to see a grand entrance…nous sommes arrive (as they say in Bourdeaux)


We made our way up the meandering driveway and were immediately surrounded by a vineyard. On our left,about half way up, was a small cottage set apart from the main buildings. This was the original home and doctor’s surgery for the Penfold’s and was called ‘The Grange’.

It was just after 10am – a bit early for wine but just in time for a tour of the facility and I might add a private tour at that as there wasn’t many people around. We started with a brief intro video, similar to the Jameson Experience in Midleton, detailing the history of Penfolds, the various people to take up the mantle of chief winemaker and a small section on Max Schubert – more on him later on!. Starting the tour proper we then went outside where our guide described what types of grapes were grown and in what quantity on site.

Around the corner is where we first got a glimpse of what it would have been like back in the old days as we wandered around the production area with a plethora of different buildings – bonded warehouses, power plants and it even had it’s own tax office! We were brought through the entire life-cycle from Grape to Bottle and the intricacies and nuances of the production of various blends was spelled out for us in an informative and fun way.

Throughout out ‘journey’ into Penfold’s history we came across some characters – whether it was Helen Keller’s visit to measure a keg by touch or the cubby holes where Chief Winemaker Max Schubert hid his secret stash of Grange Wine….

By 1957 Max was ordered by Penfolds management to cease production of the Penfolds Grange. However the 1957, 1958 and 1959 vintages of Grange were still made by Schubert despite this direction. He secretly recycled old bottles and labels and went about his task in a secretive manner (similar to that Episode of ‘Mash’ where Radar covertly mails home a Jeep one piece at a time).

Whilst his secret came out eventually the staff at Magill Estate still find another bottle or two each year in some newly discovered hidey-hole!

Paulo Coelho once wrote that: “All wines should be tasted;”, and with those words in mind we moved on to the visitor interaction part of the tour – the tastings. We were served a sumptuous amount of different wines that we even started to use that bucket they normally wheel out and that is usually only reserved for true wine connoisseurs or posh-wannabes trying to impress. We were treated to a number of the Shiraz’s from the Bin 8 Family, a really good Autumn Riesling and some fizzy reds.

Last Hurrah

We jumped back into Adelaide and grabbed our bags before heading west – not to the airport just yet but slightly to the north of it – to Henley Beach. It was one of those 30 Degree Sunshine days so the decision was made to get a last bit of tan-on as we walked down Henley Esplanade.

Our last meal in Adelaide turned out to be one of our best – fish and chips on the rocks beach-side.

As we got on the plane we both decided that between Barossa Valley, Port Lincoln (and maybe a shark dive), Haigh’s Chocolate Factory and Coopers Brewery that there was plenty to come back and see so another trip is on the cards.

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