12 April 2012 by Luke McCormick
Penfold's Chief Winemaker, Peter Gago, has been named ‘Winemaker's Winemaker of the Year' at a recent gala awards dinner in Dusseldorf, Germany.
The South Australian was recognised for his work in managing an iconic brand and for continuously striving to innovate and develop vintages at new levels, as well as his outstanding contribution to raising the profile of Australian wines.
Lynne Sherrif, Chairman of The Institute of Masters of Wine, of whom there are fewer than 300 members around the world, said: "It cannot be easy to manage an iconic brand and continue to take it to a new level, but he seems to constantly innovate, caretake and raise the bar of one of the world's most appreciated and valued wine labels."
Penfolds has a reputation for making wines of provenance combined with the ability to develop and refine innovative new wine styles that aren't restricted by the latest trends.
This has been a long and eventful journey for the brand that started life as a 500-acre homestead, then known as the "Mackgill Estate", purchased by Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold, an English doctor who emigrated to Australia with his wife Mary in 1844.
Initially Dr Penfold, who like many physicians believed in the medicinal properties of wine, produced tonic wines for patients with anaemia. These were the product of vines grown from cuttings that he had brought with him from the south of France.
Today, Penfolds owns around 1,200 hectares of vineyards in the prime grape growing areas of South Australia, producing a wide range of popular red, white and fortified wines, including contemporary wines for immediate drinking and iconic luxury brands, such as the renowned Grange, arguably Australia's most famous wine.
First produced in 1951 following a trip to Europe by Penfold's then Chief Winemaker, Max Schubert, Grange was created as an Australian red wine capable of maturing for a minimum of 20 years and comparable to those produced in Bordeaux.
Sixty years on it continues to be Penfold's flagship wine and among its numerous accolades has won 126 gold, 76 silver and 42 bronze medals, since winning its first award in 1962, with the 1977 vintage being the last to be entered into an Australian wine show.
Penfolds has vineyards in the Barossa Valley, Eden Valley, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra and other celebrated parts of South Australia. The Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon vines at Kalimna in the Barossa Valley are thought to be the oldest in the world on their original roots - planted in the mid-1880s.
Peter Gago is a former teacher and a natural educator with boundless energy, enthusiasm and dedication to his craft. Under Peter's stewardship and that of his winemaking team, Penfolds wines have pushed the boundaries of wine making and taken standards to an even higher level.
Peter spends half the year labouring from winery to vineyard and the other half working as an enthusiastic, flamboyant Penfolds ambassador. He also makes a point of travelling to other wine producing countries to ensure he keeps abreast of his competitors.
"It's important not to fall into the trap of drinking only your own wines. You must have benchmarks against which to measure your own achievements - besides, I love trying new (and old!) wines," he said.
As the fourth winemaker to take on responsibility for Penfolds' iconic Grange wine, Peter ensures that the older vintages continue to set the standard for style and quality while, at the same time developing new, fresh wine styles.