The ages – and hairstyles – of Penfolds Chief Winemaker Peter Gago
Peter Gago has so many arrows in his quiver, one might think there is nothing we don’t already know about him.
Respected internationally as an accomplished winemaker and incredibly articulate communicator, what escapes most of us is that when Penfolds Chief Winemaker first joined the company 32 years ago in 1989, it was to put a sparkle into their wine.
Gago later moved into reds before, in 2002, becoming the fourth Chief Winemaker of Penfolds since its founding in 1844.
If red wine courses through his veins, it is perhaps champagne that puts the brightest smile on Peter Gago’s friendly face.
It, therefore, came as no surprise to those who know the South Australian (and fortunate enough to have been on the generous receiving end of his Champagne collection) that two years ago in 2019, Penfolds launched Champagne Thienot x Penfolds at the Ritz Hotel in the heart of Paris.
Champagne Thienot x Penfolds is an apt tribute to the original trip Penfolds legend Max Schubert made when – visiting Chateau d’Issan in Margaux, Bordeaux – he became inspired to create Grange.
What will this 21st Century collaboration between South Australia and Champagne now spawn for Penfolds. Will it inspire Australia’s most famous wine brand to re-ignite sparkling wine production?
We don’t have the answer to that.
We can, on the other hand, share tasting notes of two bubblies as rewarding for aficionados and critics of Champagne as they are expertly made wines.
Champagne Thienot x Penfolds Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2012
From a single vineyard in Avize, we are, however, not informed if it’s La Vigne aux Gamins which Champagne Thienot produces under its own brand. Be that as it may, the collaboration between Peter Gago and Champagne Thienot Chef de Cave Nicolas Uriel has produced a winner. Keen, pristine purity of minerally, zesty grapefruit infused with white floral notes. The fruit is so intense and tensioned I thought I was two Grand Cru villages down the road in Les Mesnil sur Oger instead of in Avize, which tends to more roundness. I then discovered no malolactic fermentation was done. The extra vivacity was what threw me off course. A vin de garde.
Champagne Thienot x Penfolds Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru 2012
To maintain a connection with Australia, Champagne Thienot x Penfolds uses a liqueur (for the secondary fermentation) that has been matured in barrels used originally to ferment and aged Yattarna, sometimes referred to as the “White Grange”. This pure Pinot Noir is also from a single vineyard. Chambre aux Loups or “Room of Wolves” is a 1-ha plot in Aÿ. Whiff of brioche and red fruits. Howling richness wrapped in intensity and persistence. The freshness is, again, incredible as no malolactic was visited on the wine. An equal vin de garde.