Penfolds recorking clinic returns to UK

18th June, 2013 by Gabriel Stone

Penfolds head winemaker Peter Gago has confirmed a plan to bring the Australian producer’s famous recorking clinic to London for the first time since 2008.

Peter Gago

Penfolds’ head winemaker, Peter Gago

The free service allows owners of any Penfolds red wine aged 15 years or more to register an appointment with the brand’s winemaking team, who will check the wine’s condition and top up its level where necessary.

The team carries out these clinics every two years in Australia’s major cities – the domestic market remains Penfolds’ largest – as well as other key countries around the world.

However, Gago admitted to the drinks business: “We have been a bit remiss in London,” as he confirmed that a clinic is now planned for “late October,” although a precise date and location are yet to be announced.

In total, since Penfolds began the recorking scheme in 1991, which are usually organised in partnership with local auction houses, Gago estimated that he and his winemaking team have recorked and certified around 120,000 bottles.

As evidence of the popularity of these clinics, Gago recalled recorking 544 bottles during a single day in Singapore. Meanwhile recent events in Sydney and Melbourne both involved eight winemakers over a three-day period.

“People love us doing these recorking clinics,” he remarked. “They’re free, they raise awareness of our wines and it’s about authenticity too.”

Recent years have seen the programme extended into new markets, with the brand having just held its first ever recorking clinic in China. Highlighting the significance of this Shanghai event’s success, Gago said: “The fantastic thing is that it means people are collecting these wines now in China. They just wouldn’t have been able to buy wines like this in the ‘70s.”

While recognising that for many customers the purpose of recorking is to increase the wine’s market value, Gago highlighted his own, rather different approach to these clinics. “We try to get more people to drink the wine,” he remarked. “We’re just arresting further deterioration.”

He also noted that each bottle can only be recorked and topped up once, arguing: “More than that and you start to affect the integrity of the wine.”

Insisting that these events are “purely about the wine,” Gago told db: “If anyone wants to talk money, we redirect them to someone else.”

However, he added, as a general rule the recorking process means that “for a wine from the ‘50s to ‘70’s, the value will go up a bit; if it’s from the ‘90s, the value will go down as people will worry about how it’s been cellared.”

Despite highlighting the value of these clinics for Penfolds, Gago suggested that the initiative is not more widely practised – and certainly not so well publicised – across the rest of the fine wine market because producers can’t afford the stock required for the topping up and indeed occasional replacements that the process involves.

“We replace corked wines,” he confirmed. “We can’t always afford to do that, but we will.”

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