Penfolds auction record

Penfolds Grange bottle sells for record $103,000

July 2, 2020
By Alana House

A Melbourne buyer has purchased a 1951 Penfolds Bin 1 Grange for more than $103,000 at auction, the highest price ever paid for a bottle of Australian wine.

The record comes just two days after 246 bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) – widely considered the world’s greatest wine – from James Halliday’s cellar were sold, making it the largest successful sale of this ethereal wine from Burgundy in one parcel.

“The demand for fine wine is stronger than ever judging by these two flagship auctions, as fine wine collectors look to enhance their cellar collections,” said Langton’s General Manager Jeremy Parham. 

In total, 1092 bottles of Penfolds were sold during the Langton’s Penfolds: Rewards of Patience Auction, which closed on Tuesday. The previous record for the first vintage of Penfolds Grange was $81,000.

“The early 1950s Penfolds Grange wines are very rare, so collectors will snap these up when they can in order to complete their sets of every vintage of these incredible wines,” said Langton’s Head of Auctions Tamara Grischy (pictured main). “The 1951 Penfolds Grange truly represents the beginning of modern Australian wine.”

In December, a set of Penfolds Grange from 1951 to 2015 was sold for $372,800 by Langton’s.

Buyer says he will never drink his Grange

The mystery buyer of the wine says he has no intention of drinking it.

He told 2GB the bottle will be preserved for a personal collection.

“The beautiful part about a Grange is it’s not about the food you have with it, it’s about who you’re with,” the man said.

“When you bought your first house or you had your first child, it’s always a memory that a Grange gives you great joy.”

He also explained why he’s keeping his identity secret.

“I don’t want my name out, because I’m pretty sure I’d have a few mates knocking at the front door wanting to taste it,” he said.

Fine wine bidding boom during COVID-19

A few days before the Penfolds auction, James Halliday’s collection of DRC wines closed. The auction of his pristinely cellared 252 bottle collection had a 98% clearance rate (only six bottles were passed in).

James Halliday

The online auction attracted international attention, with approximately 35% of the wines sold to overseas buyers. All wines came with a certificate of authenticity signed by James Halliday himself.

“The authenticity and provenance of the James Halliday collection drove all-time highs in bidding and pricing for DRC in the Australian market,” Grischy explained. 

Overall, the demand for fine wine has increased since COVID-19 restrictions took place in late March, with an almost 50% increase in the number of online bidders and a sharp increase in the number of customers purchasing fine wines from Langton’s website. 

“With many of us still unable to visit our favourite restaurants or travel to cellar doors, new and existing clients have instead immersed themselves in the world of fine wine from the comfort of their homes,” Parham said. 

Langton’s will be auctioning wines from James Halliday’s Australian collection later this year. 

Langton’s Rewards of Patience Auction is in its 24th year and takes place every six months. The next auction will take place in December 2020.

“I think we love Penfolds because it’s such an Australian story, it’s the underdog story defined,” Parham said. “Max Schubert was Penfolds’ first Chief Winemaker, who started making the Grange as an experiment. At the time, Australian winemakers were mainly making fortified wines. 

“He believed in his conviction, and he kept making Grange, although he was actually told to stop making it by his supervisors. He was a rebel, and the wine world can forever be grateful for his refusal to do what he was told.”

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