Rare Australian shiraz sells at a record price

Wed Sep 9, 2009 1:41am EDT
 
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - An Australian wine that was once considered a non-collectable item has sold at a record price, surpassing the country's most acclaimed vintage as wine lovers target rare bottles from the last century.

At the annual Penfolds Wine Auction this weekend, the Penfolds 1957 Shiraz St. Henri was hammered off for A$8,110 ($6,991) a bottle, the highest price ever paid for a St. Henri.

Bottles of 1955, 1959 and 1971 St. Henri also beat the records for the same vintages of the famous Penfolds Grange, widely recognized as Australia's most coveted and expensive wine.

"The result is extraordinary, probably ten times what they expected to bring, we don't see that very often," Stewart Langton of Langton's wine auction house told Reuters.

"I don't think any wine is intrinsically worth A$8,000 a bottle and basically people who spend that on a bottle aren't going to drink that wine, they put it away, it's a trophy," said Winsor Dobbin of "Food and Wine" magazine.

While Penfolds Grange was seen as a collectable wine, St. Henri was usually drunk, making older bottles of it quite rare.

St. Henri's first commercial vintage was 1957 and it gained a new lease of life in the 1990s as wine connoisseurs started to appreciate its distinctive style.

"People are focusing on those hard to find rare bottles that occasionally come up, so we are seeing price rises across the board from the wines from the 50s and early 60s," Langton said.

Penfolds, one of Australia's oldest wineries with an extensive product range, was founded in 1844 by British physician Christopher Rawson Penfold. The winery is now part of the beverage giant Foster's Group.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)