Great wine, great container
A limited-edition ampoule for a unique Cabernet Sauvignonby Henry Neuteboom
Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon is a vineyard planted in the mid 1880s on the Penfolds Kalimna property, about 60 kilometres north of Adelaide, Australia. The vines are therefore an important heritage, 19th-century pre-phylloxera, and they are possibly the oldest plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in the world. Yield is low, flavour is rich, but only rarely does Penfold release a single-vineyard wine from Block 42.
In 2004, conditions were such that the wine could be bottled. It is this wine, 2004 Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon, that prompted the creation of a special container. Peter Gago, chief winemaker at Penfolds, said, "There is something really magical about the 2004 Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet. It has an ethereal dimension and a saturated blackness on the palate, it’s extraordinarily perfumed with layer upon layer of flavour. Essence of Cabernet. Purity." (In the photo below, Peter Gago).
The glass ampoule created for this wine is unique, a hand-blown limited-edition piece. Only twelve have been made. It is an interesting work of art in itself, and it makes the wine experience even more memorable. When the owner decides to open the ampoule, a member of the Penfolds Winemaking team will attend a special opening ceremony. The ampoule will be carefully removed from its glass plumb-bob casing and opened using a tungsten-tipped sterling silver scribe-snap. Then the winemaker will prepare the wine using a sterling silver tastevin. In the photo below, the complete container, seen horizontally.
The outer glass container, which recalls a plumb-bob, was designed and hand-blown by glass artist Nick Mount. The ampoule, created by scientific glassblower Ray Leake, is contained in the conical, elongated plumb-bob of transparent grey glass, with a red top resembling a cotton reel. The entire assembly is suspended in a bespoke Jarrah cabinet made by furniture craftsman Andrew Bartlett. Metal detailing is by Hendrik Forster. In the photo below, Nick Mount in his workshop.
The basic concept is that of creating the perfect environment for the wine, hence the scientifically-inspired ampoule. It is a tribute to South Australian winemaking, involving some of South Australia's greatest artists. The price of each piece is about $168,000 AUD (about €140,000).
The making of the Penfolds ampoule