Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951 – the ultimate wine dilemma

Penfolds Grange Hermitage – or just straight ‘Grange’ to its friends – is roundly considered as one of the world’s greatest wines. It’s certainly one of the most expensive. So I was intrigued when I mate Jarrod texted me a picture of the oldest Grange vintage the other day. Here’s the story why.

Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951 - the ultimate wine dilemma

Jarrod is a lucky fellow. Apart from devilish good looks, a quick wit and exceedingly good taste in friends, he’s also married to the lovely Kathleen.

Together, they run Nip of Courage. It’s a distributor and appreciator of craft Australian spirits. Kathleen’s worked in the industry for years and, thanks to his love of booze, so has Jarrod in his own way!

The other day, Jarrod was talking to his mate when they got talking about wine.

“You might be interested in this,” his mate suggested, and pulled out a bottle.

It was a bottle of 1951 Grange – the very first vintage Penfolds made. This line wasn’t really for sale, only given as gifts to the winery’s friends and colleagues. It wasn’t until the following year that Penfolds started selling the stuff.

So in front of Jarrod was one of the 1,800 bottles ever made in 1951. Quite a moment.

The problem with such old wine is that it can go off.

Mr & Mrs Romance - Wine of the Month - Grange '51

The good news is, Penfolds now run corking clinics for Grange owners every couple of years. At this clinic your bottle (or bottles for the fortunate) will be uncorked and tasted. If they are satisfactory they will be topped up with the current release and have nitrogen added to remove any oxygen and then given a new cork before being put down for further maturity.

Jarrod’s mate had bought this bottle seven years ago for a princely $27,000. He had not over-paid.

Recently the corking clinic told him that, if he refrained from opening the bottle, its current value was about $55,000. If he decided to let the clinicians do their job, open it for testing and the wine was found to have gone off, the value would drop considerably.

In fact, it would be worth $0 – though he could head to South Australia and collect the 30c for recycling the glass!

On the other hand, if they did open the bottle and the wine was good, the value would jump to $85,000.

What do you think he did?

Well, he had the bottle opened…

The wine was good. He’d just made $58,000 on a seven-year investment. Impressive.

If you want more information on this incredible wine, here’s the link to the Penfolds 1951 Grange Heritage tasting notes and a little bit of history of Grange wine.

What would you do if you were given that choice? Would you open a $27,000 bottle of wine with the chance of it being worth nothing or $85,000? Tell us in the comments!


  • Reply September 5, 2014


    I would LOVE grange! I’m such a massive red wine drinker it feels cruel that I’ve never tried it.

    • Reply September 7, 2014

      Mr Romance

      I know what you mean, Smags. The worst of it is that most of the people who do get to own a bottle don’t want to drink it – though at $85k a bottle, maybe I’d find something else to drink instead!
      Your day will come though, I’m sure of it.

  • Reply September 5, 2014

    Nick Deane

    Wow, I guess I am in the wrong business. Glad to hear everything worked out for your mate and he made a cool 58k. Always love a good story, thanks guys.

    • Reply September 7, 2014

      Mr Romance

      You’re not wrong, Nick! Crazy money, right? My mate’s friend must have nerves of steel though – I’m not sure what I’d have done given the choice.
      Glad you liked the yarn – I was intrigued when Jarrod was telling me.

  • Reply September 5, 2014


    That is a totally incredible story! I’m glad it worked out for the best…I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to uncork!

    • Reply September 7, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Crazy story, isn’t it, Fairlie?! It’s amazing the amount of money some people have to just play with like that! I’m pretty sure I’d have just sold it for $50k and been happy with that. Glad the punt worked out for him though.

  • Reply October 3, 2014

    Liz @ I Spy Plum Pie

    So my dad is actually in possession of a couple of bottles of Grange (not sure what year/s but not that old!) that I believe he got through his old job. They opened one a few years back and shared it with some friends when they announced they were moving to China, but he’s planning on selling the other two bottles because whilst apparently it was delicious, I think the general consensus was they could buy quite a few bottles of equally (or at least close to equally!) delicious wine for the same price. Not sure when he’ll get around to it though!

    • Reply October 3, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Wow! That’s amazing, Liz… your dad didn’t work for the New South Wales government by any chance? 😉
      I get the impression that Grange is much more for collecting (and then selling) than drinking. It’s a very strange concept that I can’t really understand – though These bottles go for so much cash, they’re great to have and only become more valuable as time goes by.
      Lucky bloke, your dad. Does he want a pommie mate by any chance?

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