Peter ShakeshaftAchieving one of the highest fine wine sales prices ever in Australia, a single, rare bottle of 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage was sold at auction in Melbourne on the 21st July 2017 for $51,750 by a private collector.

Termed ‘Australia’s most celebrated wine’ the 1951 Grange Hermitage was a special project of the chief winemaker, Max Schubert, who apparently produced three Grange vintages in secret. Schubert reputedly gave the 1951 away to friends and it is highly likely that the seller never paid for the bottle, pocketing a sizeable boon from Max. In 2004 another 1951 bottle sold for $50,200.

Penfolds Grange 1951 bottleThe auctioneer, Nick Stamford, MD of MW Wines, described the sale as historic: “I would imagine this one’s going to be part of history rather than being drunk. It’s an investment. ” The Penfold tasters confirmed that this bottle is in excellent condition, which is a rare exception. There are believed to be less than 20 of the original 1800 bottles still in existence and rarity is an enormous part of the appeal with a direct impact on price.

With scarcity in mind we receive the latest market news on the 2017 vintage. France’s Ministry of Agriculture has stated that the country’s wine productivity may fall 17 per cent to 37-38.2million hectoliters (4.9bn bottles) this year, compared to 45.5million in 2016. The April frosts and hail are the main causes, but these numbers are deemed to be a historic low, 16 per cent lower than the five year average and lower even than 1991, the previous worst year on record.

Frost on VinesBordeaux 2017 may see a 50 per cent cut in production compared to 2016 with the Right Bank seeing the worst effect. Many of the top estates do have the resources to battle such challenges and some flew helicopters over the vines to create air circulation.

Champagne is expected to be 9 per cent below the 2012 – 2016 average. Burgundy suffered a small 2016 crop, a good flowering actually indicates a larger 2017 crop here than last year. Hot early summer weather in France has advanced the growing season, which is currently running 10 to 20 days ahead of normal. Certainly, the 2017 vintage will be testing the skill of the winemakers, and rarity will be a factor when it comes to pricing.

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