6 Questions With Penfolds Winemaker Andrew Baldwin

Nov. 17, 2016

The history of Australian wine is quite young, especially when measured against European counterparts. However, its story began with Penfolds, which was founded in 1844–a mere eight years after the foundation of South Australia. In 1951, Penfolds began secret bottlings of Grange, the crown jewel of not only Penfolds’ remarkable portfolio, but of Australian wine, period. Over 60 years later, the now legendary yearly vintage releases continue.


On the evening of Thursday, October 20th at one of the wine industry’s most prestigious events, Penfolds literally pulled back the curtain on this year’s vintage release–the 2012 Grange. “The Penfolds House,” the yearly tasting of the latest Penfolds selections, showcased the big, rich, $850-a-bottle red along with other new entries. Arriving in a diamond-cut crystal decanter from Saint-Louis, the latest Grange is mostly Shiraz, with a 2% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, and delivers a penetrating, dark, complex, and most importantly, unique taste that will last a very, very long time.


“No two Granges are the same,” said Penfolds Chief Winemaker Peter Gago.


Gago’s winemaking team, including Red Winemaker Andrew Baldwin, were on hand to educate “Penfolds House” attendees, which included our Breakthru Pennsylvania team. Baldwin led a series of exclusive educational sessions and tastings designed to be an immersive, informative and enjoyable brand experience for the Breakthru team. It was.


We were thrilled to chat with Baldwin about his experience with the first family of Australian wine, as well as getting his take on the latest Grange and the deep lineup of Penfolds wine.



Breakthru: How did you get started at Penfolds?

Andrew: I started in 1988 as a cellar supervisor. Living in a wine region, it’s much easier to break into the wine business as someone coming out of high school. At an early age, I had worked on vineyards in Eden Valley in South Australia, so the natural attraction was to work in vineyards. This is the only wine company that I’ve ever worked for. Like many other Penfolds winemakers, they’ve only worked for the one company.



Breakthru: What are the most unique aspects of Australian wine?

Andrew: Australia is unique in itself. The terroir, the soil, the conditions. I just think some of the concentrations and flavors are totally different than what you get in the northern hemisphere. I think it’s just a unique place to live and grow up and work with wine. I think we’ve learned a lot over the years and we’re sort of quite unique. We’re not trying to produce wines that are in the early stages–things revolved around what the French wines were like. We’ve evolved our own personality within Australia now and people really enjoy that.



Breakthru: Can you tell us about your projects at Penfolds?

Andrew: My portfolio is all of the Bins and super premium wines. Sangiovese, Merlot, Tempranillo–we grow all those varieties in Australia. We play with those varieties in a smaller way. We have a cellar reserve range of wines, which is what we call a “winemaker’s playground.” We can take unique small batches of wine, make them and release them. Sometimes we only release them in Australia in our cellar doors or at restaurants. Just small 500 case batches of wine that are quite unique.



Breakthru: What’s your perspective on how wine drinkers’ taste preferences have evolved during your time in the industry?

Andrew: The evolution has been huge from what I’ve seen. The Australian Chardonnays from many moons ago are completely what people don’t expect from Australia. People are expecting overripe, quite buttery Chardonnays–now they’re nice and lean and tight, beautiful fruit-driven star wines.


I think one of the main things is wine education, which has come a long way. Consumers have become more involved in wine, what they’re doing, what they’re trying to achieve. It’s all helped the industry as a whole. We also like to blog about the wine industry. It’s all about getting that information and relaying it to people so that people can form their own opinions and judgements.



Breakthru: Tell us about this year’s vintage–Penfolds Grange.

Andrew: There’s a special container that it will be in which is quite unique. It’s about the luxury. Penfolds is a luxury brand and we try and convey that with the new Grange. The Penfolds House is about exposing people to the brand–from the vineyards to the winemakers–where they become completely immersed in Penfolds. It’s a whole unique experience.



Breakthru: You have this really diverse portfolio of wine ranging from great value price points for just a novice getting into winemaking to the highest of the high end. Can you tell us about the range in the portfolio?

Andrew: It is and that’s what the creator of Penfolds, Max Schubert, really wanted. He wanted a diverse portfolio for people to enjoy wine at all the different ranges, whether it’s different styles of wine made from different regions or multi-regions. He also wanted to form a chain of wines that was like climbing a ladder so you could be start with an introductory wine and climb that ladder as one gets more expertise. You can climb that ladder and experience what different price points bring. It’s a great range of wines that comes in everybody’s price point.


To see more photos from the Penfolds House 2016, please click here to check out our recap on Facebook. 


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