From superb vintages of wine to the ultimate distillation of the fruit, both the cultivators at Penfolds vineyards and the blending artists at Remy Martin share an abiding passion for bringing the subtle, cherished flavors of the grape to appreciating palettes across the globe.
While it seems hard to imagine, there was a time when Australian wines were not regarded with the proper respect they deserved. Founded in 1844 by Dr. Christopher and Mary Penfold, who had some success creating wine-derived spirits like sherry and fortified wine, the charter vineyards of Penfolds wine company were planted with vine clippings the couple brought from Europe at the Magill Estate just outside Adelaide (now the spiritual home of the company). Quickly, and with Mary really running the show, Penfolds’ expressions of Reisling and claret-style wines became popular. Later, under the guidance of daughter Georgina Penfold, the operation was producing a third of all of South Australia’s wine, and setting mandates that are still the watchwords of Penfolds today: to experiment with new methods and wine production and to elevate world-class quality.
After WWII, Max Schubert became the company’s first Chief Winemaker. His experimental nature, especially in creating longer-aged vintages he encountered in Europe, led to the beginning of his Penfolds Grange efforts. By the end of the 1950s, the company established its popular shiraz wines using grapes from its own Barossa Valley vineyards to the northeast of Adelaide, as well as its storied Penfolds Bin wine programs.
Meanwhile, the stunning quality of Schubert’s Grange experiments led to an official reboot of the Penfolds Grange operation, the results of which were quickly recognized on the world stage with accolades and awards: In 1988, Schubert was named Decanter magazine’s Man of the Year.
Today, Penfolds’ offerings, and footprint, are truly global. With multiple vineyards in Australia, relatively new vineyards in California cultivating Australian vine stock to much success, and a host of varietals, styles, multi-stock and multi-location blends, all of the wines, at all price levels, are created to exacting specifications so that all can proudly wear the Penfolds label. Most wine lovers will say you can’t go wrong with any Penfolds’ bottling of any accessibility or vintage. But for a selection that would both warm the heart of the late Mr. Schubert (who the wine world lost in 1994) and honor the vineyard’s legacy Bin collections, the limited edition 2016 Bin 111A Shiraz from the Barossa Valley delivers an uncannily rich, juicy mid-taste with
the benefit of the expert aging practices of the Bin program. The unofficial Penfolds motto is “1844 to evermore!” One taste, and you’ll be a true believer, my friend. The Penfolds Collection 2016 Bin 111A Shiraz, $1,200; penfolds.com
First off, a bit of simplified connoisseurship: If you distill fermented fruit (like grapes or even grape wine) you end up with an un-aged spirit commonly referred to as eau-de-vie, or more generically, brandy (or brandywine if you start with wine). If you limit yourself to grape and wine distilling, do it in the Grand Champagne area of the Cognac region, and do so under the region’s age-old and often very strict traditions of sourcing, distilling, aging and blending, you get cognac. So, while all cognacs are brandies, the reverse is simply not true. To extend that rubric, all examples of LOUIS XIII are, indeed, cognacs, but not all cognacs are LOUIS XIII – make no mistake.
Cognac is typically created from multiple sources: both operation- owned vineyards and distilleries, as well as rarer, single-estate, and even single-family aged sources. The art form, so well- practiced by LOUIS XIII, is the art of blending: Not only to create a consistent flavor profile in the final product, but to create a consistently balanced, consistently exceptional cognac. And the luxurious LOUIS XIII is, simply put, the pinnacle expression of the blenders’ art. Overseen by generations of Cellar Masters, the legacy of LOUIS XIII now lies in the hands of current Cellar Master Baptiste Loiseau, who in turn is setting aside LOUIS XIII’s finest eaux-de-vie as a legacy to his successors for the coming century.
Even just getting the chance to taste this masterful blend of up to 1,200 select individual eaux-de-vie ranging from 50 to 100 years of aging from a signature jewel-like crystal decanter puts you in a pretty rarified group of magic potion tasters. Actually owning your own bottle? Well, that literally puts you in a club: the exclusive LOUIS XIII Society. Simply register your individual decanter number, and in addition to your dose of the finest of the grape, you’ll receive a personal concierge contact and invitations to society-exclusive tastings, events and experiences. Now to that, we say “Santé.” 75cl Classic Decanter, $4,550. louisxii-cognac.com
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