Founded by a British doctor, Penfolds has become a major wine brand both in its home, Australia and overseas. No one could have predicted that when Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold founded his small winery in 1845 that success would be on the scale we know of today.
The winery was founded by Penfold while the doctor was also building up his medical practise. Soon, Penfold was not only treating his patients, but also supplying them with port and sherry from his very own vineyard. From this humble beginning, the word spread of the quality of Penfold's wines, and soon he was forced to expand his operations.
Dr Christopher Penfold died in 1870. Despite this, his wife, Mary (who was already an important part of the business success) took over all operations. The business continued to grow, and its dominance in the South Australian wine industry at the time can be demonstrated by the fact that in 1881 one third of all stored wine in the state was at Penfolds winery (equaling 500000 liters).
Mary retired from direct Penfolds operations in 1884, and the business was passed onto her daughter and son-in-law Georgina and Thomas Hyland. Business continued to boom under their control, with the company reaching its peak market share in 1920 when it was estimated that half of the wine sold in Australia came from Penfolds.
During World War II production of the wines slowed due to the war effort. It was during this period that the current owner, Jeffry Penfold Hyland decided to diversify operations beyond the brands traditional fortified wines into table wines.
It wasn't until 1951 that Penfolds would release Grand Hermitage - a brand that would drive the business success to the present day and revolutionize Australian wine making. Created by winemaker Max Schubert the product was released commercially in 1952. Grange Hermitage was not an instant success - it was widely criticized by reviewers. Schubert was instructed by company officials to cease creating the wine in 1957, however he continued to create the wine until 1959 in secret.
Production was recommenced in 1960 due to the realization by management that the brand's quality rapidly increases with age. Vintages soon started to achieve the recognition that the brand deserved. The 1955 vintage of Grange revived over 50 gold medals in wine competitions. The brand is unique in that the grapes used in every vintage vary every year - where many other premium wines are produced from restricted amount of grapes.
Following on from the success of Grange, Penfolds soon created and released a variety of wines to cover the full range of red wines. Examples are Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz, Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz, Bin 2 Shiraz-Mataro (Mourvedre). These products succeeded well on the Australian wine market, and the brands reputation spread worldwide.
The brand became a public company company in 1962, however the Penfolds belief in quality remained - and products produced in this era remain popular with collectors today.
The year 1990 was a vital year for the future of Penfolds. The brand released Yattarna Chardonnay, which rapidly established itself as a premium white wine on the worldwide market. 1990 was also the year that the brand was acquired by Southcorp Limited. This major development provided Penfolds with the ability to expand their brand further overseas - bringing in even greater profits.
In 2005 Southcorp was acquired by Fosters Group. This development resulted in many operations of Penfolds to be streamlined to increase efficiency. A major Penfolds facility was closed in Nuriootpa as part of this drive.
Despite these changes, Penfolds continues to be a leading brand on the overseas market, with its original range of fortified wines now expanded to have a wine suitable for any situation and occasion.
- Penfolds Grange
- Bin 707
- Magill Estate
- St Henri
- Yattarna Chardonnay
- Bin 04A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay