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Penfolds Grange 1951 auction will smash world record

A rare bottle of Penfolds Grange 1951 is expected to bring a world record price when it sells at the Langton’s Rewards of Patience online auction this month.

“This bottle is one of a kind in the world, and I’ve never seen anything like it in my more than 20 years in fine wine,”said Langton’s Head of Auctions Tamara Grischy. “We expect it to go under the hammer for around $120,000 if it sells.”

The previous world record for the highest price ever paid for a bottle of Australian wine is held by a Melbourne buyer who purchased a Penfolds Grange Hermitage Bin 1 Shiraz 1951 for $103,000 in the Langton’s Rewards of Patience auction in July 2020.

There are estimated to be around 35 bottles of the first vintage of Penfolds Grange in existence. This includes approximately 15 bottles that are part of complete sets of Penfolds Grange, which include all vintages of Penfolds Grange from 1951 to present day.

“It is difficult to establish the exact number of Penfolds Grange 1951 bottles in existence,” Grischy added. “There could be some unknown bottles lurking around in wine cellars, but because they are so incredibly valuable, we believe most of them have come to light.

“A Penfolds Grange set is a wine collector’s ultimate dream, and that is why the Penfolds Grange from the 1950s, and the 1951 vintage in particular, are so coveted,” she explained. 

The Penfolds Grange Hermitage Bin 1 Shiraz 1951 is the first vintage ever made of Australia’s most famous wine. Max Schubert only made three or four barrels of it, and he gave away most bottles to his friends.

This specific bottle of Grange Hermitage Bin 1 Shiraz 1951 is signed by Max Schubert (above), hand re-corked in August 1988 at Penfolds Magill Estate winery by him, then wax dipped and finished with a Penfolds stamp. 

Re-corking is the process of taking an older wine whose cork has deteriorated over time, removing that cork, assessing that the wine is still in good condition and then topping the bottle up and re-corking the bottle with a new cork to ensure that the wine lasts long in the future. Since 1991, the re-corking process has been done in Penfolds Clinics

“The provenance of this bottle is exceptional; it has been stored since purchase inside the Sydney-based collector’s luxurious temperature controlled cellar,” Grischy said. 

In total, there are more than 3300 bottles of Penfolds up for grabs in the Langton’s Rewards of Patience auction valued at over $2 million in total, with prices starting from $20.

Other highlights in the auction include several Penfolds Grange bottles from the 1950s, including Grange Hermitage Bin 4 Shiraz 1952 (half bottle), Grange Hermitage Bin 9 Shiraz 1953, Grange Hermitage Bin 12 Shiraz 1954 and Grange Hermitage Bin 14 Shiraz 1955.

“The story of Penfolds is as Australian as it gets – it’s the story of an underdog and dogged determination,” said Langton’s General Manager Jeremy Parham. “Max Schubert kept making Grange in secret after he had been told to stop making it by his supervisors. He was a rebel and had a vision, and the wine world can forever be grateful for his refusal to do what he was told.”

The Langton’s Rewards of Patience auction opens on Sunday, July 4, at 11am, and closes on Sunday, July 18, at 7pm.

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