Why Visit Penfold’s Magill Estate?
- You’re in Adelaide and want to go wine tasting, but don’t want to trek too far from the city
- You want to experience a part of Australian winemaking history
- You’re looking for an incredible dining experience to go along with your tasting
- You truly appreciate wine and want to try the best wine Australia has to offer
The History of Penfold’s
If there is one winery is synonymous with Australian wine the world over, that winery is Penfold’s. Since 1844, Penfold’s Magill Estate has utilized art, science, and innovation to continually produce outstanding wines, making Penfold’s the most renowned wine producer in Australia.
Penfold’s was born from “a soil that had never grown grapes and winemakers who had never made wine.” Dr. Christopher Penfold and his wife, Mary, first arrived in Australia in 1844 with a vision for medicinal winemaking. The family bought 500 acres in early colonial South Australia and planted vineyards from vine cuttings they carried with them on the ship from the U.K. Dr. Penfold began concocting tonics, brandies, and fortified wines for medical purposes from the vineyards planted where Penfold’s Magill Estate sits just outside of Adelaide today.
As the saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman. That was definitely the case with Penfold’s. Mary Penfold was the driving force behind the winery’s experimentations and innovative winemaking philosophies. She was completely self-taught when it came to wine and insisted all of the wines be blended to her taste. Crazy to think how the success of what is one of the biggest names in Australian wine today began with the exceptional palate of this woman. Especially considering in the 1800s, a woman at the helm of a successful business was completely out of the question. Go girl!
Dr. Penfold’s reputation grew along with the popularity of the winery. New varieties such as Riesling and Claret were planted with the wineries growing success. When Dr. Penfold died in 1870, Mary obtained complete control of the winery continuing to lead with innovation and determination. In 1884, Mary retired and passed the management torch on to her daughter, Georgina. By this time, Penfold’s was producing 1/3 of all South Australian wine. Georgina continued to lead Penfold’s with the same ethos of innovation and determination as her mother. In 1907, Penfold’s was able to stake claim as South Australia’s largest winery.
The winery hired Max Schubert as Penfold’s first Chief Winemaker in 1948. A decision which would prove to be instrumental to the global success of the winery. Schubert wanted to experiment with long-lasting wines inspired by the ageworthy wines of Bordeaux. This passion for experimentation led to the production of Penfold’s Grange – a wine that propelled Penfold’s onto the global stage. The release of Penfold’s Grange eventually garnered Max Schubert the title of Decanter’s Man of the Year in 1988. Penfold’s Grange has since received perfect 100 scores in some of the world’s most influential wine magazine. You can read more about this revered wine and its creator here.
Penfold’s Magill Estate Tastings & Experiences
If you are going to visit Penfold’s while in South Australia, I definitely recommend visiting Penfold’s Magill Estate Cellar Door as opposed to the Barossa Valley location. Though the same wines are on offer at each location, the Magill Estate is a better experience for the ambience alone. Not to mention the Magill Estate is the location of the original winery and the spiritual birthplace of Penfold’s wine. Plus, Penfold’s Magill Estate is a short 8km from the Adelaide city center. The cellar door is absolutely gorgeous with friendly, knowledgeable staff behind the bar. Guests can even book in for a fine dining experience at the Magill Estate Restaurant or opt for more casual dining at the Magill Estate Kitchen.
- Penfold’s Tasting Experience – $10 per person. Waived with the purchase of any Penfold’s wine. Enjoy a cellar door tasting experience with Penfold’s knowledgeable staff and try up to 11 Penfold’s wines on offer.
- Magill Estate Heritage Experience – $25 per person. Experience the history of Australia’s most iconic winery with a walking tour of the original winery and vineyards. Then enjoy a cellar door tasting of a selection of wines from The Penfold’s Collection and the more limited Cellar Reserve range. A 45 minute experience. Tours daily at 10am & 1pm.
- The Ultimate Penfold’s Experience – $150 per person. Tour the original Grange Cottage – the 1844 home of Dr. Christopher and Mary Penfold. Then explore the estate vineyards, underground cellars, and original Penfold’s winery. Complete the experience with an exclusive selection of Penfold’s most sought after wines, including the flagship Grange, in one of Penfold’s private tasting rooms. For $295 per person, upgrade the Iconic Penfold’s Experience to include a 3 course lunch with matching wines. A 2 hour experience. Offered daily at 11am.
- Twilight Tour and Luxury Degustation – $555 per person. Enjoy a guided twilight tour of the iconic Penfold’s estate, cellar, vineyards, and winery. Plus a visit to Max Schubert’s original Grange hiding spot. Then savor a 7 course degustation experience with each course thoughtfully paired with a wine from the Penfold’s cellar. 4.5 hour experience. Offered daily at 6pm.
Below are some of my tasting notes from my cellar door tasting experience. Due to the size and history of the winery, Penfold’s actually owns vineyards throughout different regions of South Australia. So during the tasting experience, guests get to experience different regions through the wines which is something I always enjoy. My favorites were the Konnunga Riesling, the Traminer, and the Marananga Shiraz.
- 2018 Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling – 6% Gewürztraminer. Touch of sweetness with incredible aromatics. The crisp acidity balanced with the fruity aromatics will perfectly compliment spicy Asian food.
- 2018 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling – Super bright acidity. Bone dry. Tart and crisp. Green apple malic acid. Long, lingering finish.
- 2018 Cellar Reserve Traminer – Fruit from Tasmania. Bright acidity. Rose water and Turkish delight on the nose. A bit of sugar to balance the acidity. Green grass or herbs. Grapefruit quality. Wow.
- 2017 Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro – Chocolate covered cherries. Light refined tannins. Long finish. Medium bodied.
- 2017 Bin 8 Shiraz Cabernet – Ripe red fruits. Chewy green tannins. Balsamic. Sweet spices on the nose.
- 2016 Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz – Heavy oak aromas on the nose.. Light pepper. “Cool climate” Syrah. A bit hot alcohol wise.
- 2016 Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz – Fruit comes from the hottest part of Barossa Valley. A lot of the ripe blue and red fruits. More full bodied. Rich. Luxurious tannins. Velvety mouthfeel. Sweet spices on the nose. Long finish.
- 2016 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz – 51% Cabernet 49 %Shiraz. Goes into Grange barrels when Grange is removed and sits/ferments on the lees of grange. “Baby grange” or “poor mans grange”. Black currant. Oak. Super smooth structured tannins. A wine for aging.