Who will win – Grange vs the Hunter? Red wine celebrity death match

What happens when you put arguably the most famous Australian wine in the ring with the best Shiraz Australia’s oldest wine region has to offer? It’s Penfolds Grange vs The Hunter Valley, and the gloves are off!

Penfolds Grange vs Hunter Valley Shiraz The Wine Store, Pokolbin #hvwff

When it comes to Australian reds, the first wine we think of is Shiraz. It’s a varietal that’s become synonymous with Aussie lifestyle and food.

Whether it’s a backyard barbie or an upmarket steakhouse, hot summer arvos or chilly winter evenings… Shiraz is always a welcome friend.

However, when it comes to quality, not all Shiraz is created equal.

Penfolds Grange vs Hunter Valley Shiraz The Wine Store, Pokolbin #hvwff

Penfolds Grange vs The Hunter Valley

During the annual Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival, which runs every June, the Wine House in Pokolbin pits Australia’s most famous wine against the best Shiraz the Hunter’s vignerons can craft.

Guests have a line-up of three highly regarded Hunter Shiraz all from the same year as well as the matching vintage of Grange.

Which wines against the Grange – 2021

Every year, the Wine House puts up the lauded Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz, leaving two spots free. In 2021, the wines were the Maurice O’Shea Shiraz from Mount Pleasant Estate and Silkman Wines’ Reserve Shiraz.

All these wines were from the 2014 vintage.

This is important because 2014 is thought of the best vintage the Hunter has seen in a very very long time (though I have heard 2017 was also an extraordinarily good year).

Conversely, it was an average year for Penfolds and the Barossa.

Penfolds Grange vs Hunter Valley Shiraz The Wine Store, Pokolbin #hvwff

But which wine was the best of the four?

The Wine House runs this as a blind tasting, with only a couple of staff members in the know as to which wine’s which.

We’re given only brief notes on each wine and a card to write our guesses on.

These cards are collected and at the end of the month after the festival, the Wine House emails everyone the correct order of the wines.

Penfolds Grange vs Hunter Valley Shiraz The Wine Store, Pokolbin #hvwff

Ostensibly, this is a competition to guess which wine’s which. But in reality, guessing correctly isn’t important. Instead, it’s a chance for people to taste four of the country’s finest examples of this noble variety. It’s a lot of fun and really interesting.

More details on the wines, please

These were the tasting notes everyone received for the tasting. This (obviously) isn’t the order the wines are poured in, but you can see they don’t give much away… unless you really know your wine and understand what a dark clay will do to the flavour of Shiraz compared to a yellow podzolic soil. Whatever that means.

I think the price tags are a really interesting factor here though, and the Halliday scores. It just goes to show a $50 bottle can score exactly the same as an $850 wine.

Penfolds Grange, Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz, Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea, Silkman Reserve, Hunter Valley wine

These are the actual notes that The Wine House gave us for the tasting. They don’t give much away!

Another point that I think is interesting is that the Hunter wines are all 100% Shiraz from the same estate, but the Grange is a Shiraz/Cabernet blend from lots of regions in South Australia.

I never knew that.

As for the flavours, all of these wines were absolutely delicious. Everything from chocolate, coconut and black cherry to liquorice, wood, leather and pepper.

And while we were keen to find out whether we had picked the wines correctly, Christina and I were more interested in finding out which we’d chosen to be our favourite.

Penfolds Grange vs Hunter Valley Shiraz The Wine Store, Pokolbin #hvwff Mr and Mrs Romance

It turned out the two favourites Christina chose – Wine 2 and Wine 3 – were the Mount Pleasant and the Silkman, while I’d picked the Brokenwood (Wine 1) – though I ummed and ahhed between that one and the Silkman.

As for the Grange, we both guessed which this was out of the four. And perhaps because we were in the Hunter, we didn’t choose it as our favourite on purpose. It’s a very distinctive wine with layered complexity – sweet on savoury, peppery on tannic.

It’s a once-a-year thing – the Wine House

The Wine House runs this event every year on the first weekend of June as part of the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival.

As well as this tasting, the Wine House also has a superb selection of wines that you won’t find anywhere else, some of which you can even try by the glass thanks to their impressive Enomatic wine-tasting system.

Penfolds Grange vs Hunter Valley Shiraz The Wine Store, Pokolbin #hvwff enomatic

Penfolds Grange vs Hunter Valley Shiraz The Wine Store, Pokolbin #hvwff


Maybe you’d like to see more of our stories on the Hunter Valley:

Or click here to see our library on Hunter Valley activities, winery recommendations and places to stay.

Penfolds Grange vs Hunter Valley Shiraz The Wine Store, Pokolbin #hvwff mr and mrs romance

We were invited as media to the Wine House’s tasting, guests of Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association.

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