Before Penfolds’ signature Grange earned its status as an iconic red wine, the Australian Shiraz almost faded into oblivion.
After five years of production, winemaker Max Schubert was told to put the 1956 vintage on hold. Luckily for modern wine enthusiasts, however, Mr. Schubert bucked authority and continued production in private.
By 1959, the secret was out, says Treasury Wine Estates regional manager Devon Larking.
“He was ordered to resume production because the world had heard about this great Australian red. It is now known as one of the most collectable wines in the world,” he says.
Two rare 2003 bottles of the Shiraz made for an idyllic pairing with Grand Cayman’s white sand beaches and Australian fusion last month at East End restaurant Tukka.
Treasury Wine Estates featured the Grange at a private tasting for local restaurateurs alongside a selection of red and white wines from Penfolds and California’s longest operating winery, Beringer.
Despite Cayman’s small population, the islands offer a world-class wine market, says Larking.
“You have some of the best wines in the world in Grand Cayman because you have such a broad base of populous that enjoys good quality,” he continues.
Among the 45 countries he manages, Larking says Cayman ranks as a premium wine destination.
Webb Banks regional sales manager Marcela Nunez Gourlay compares Cayman’s market to London in terms of selection and demand for rarity. As a result, she says Caymanian distributors often carry wines found nowhere else in the Caribbean.
“Cayman is a paradise. You have amazing distributors that care for the wines and try to target high-end consumers with the best selections you can find,” she says.
The tasting at Tukka served to remind Cayman’s hospitality sector of the wide range of wine options available to them, explains Brandon Copico from Jacques Scott’s wholesale division.
“We’ve gathered some of the most eclectic restaurant minds that we could find on island and brought them all together to showcase some phenomenal products and some long-standing products to reintroduce these benchmark wines,” he says.
He describes Cayman as the crown jewel of the Caribbean when it comes to wine selection.
Jacques Scott carries all of the wines that were featured at the tasting, including New Zealand sauvignon blanc Matua and Beringer’s private reserve cabernet.
Tukka is one of the leading vendors of Australian wines on the islands, adds executive chef and owner Ron Hargrave.
“We carry a lot of different wines from a lot of different regions but we specifically carry a lot of big, bold reds to match up with the kangaroo and a lot of the different game meats,” he says.
During the tasting, wines were paired with a menu of deep sea scallops, lobster bisque, jerked Muscovy duck breast and lamb cutlets, all prepared by Tukka. Dessert, a double chocolate lava cake, was served with Penfolds’ Club Tawny Port.
For those hesitant to dive into the world of fine wines, Copico encourages shoppers to branch out from time to time.
“Because wine has been put on a pedestal for many years, people are afraid to take that jump. But if you treat yourself once a month or every other month to a bottle that’s over $100, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the quality,” he says.
Several of the wines featured at the tasting retail for under $100, including the Matua sauvignon blanc, Beringer’s chardonnay and Penfolds’ St. Henri Shiraz.