How Hands-on Engagements and a Partnership with a French Crystal Maker Earned an Australian Wine Producer Luxury Brand Status
The corks popped, the wine flowed and the crystals sparkled at Penfolds House 2016, a luxury experience held at the Academy Mansion in New York City on Oct. 20. The evening event, which capped an afternoon of private appointments, educational seminars and a media dinner, immersed sommeliers, industry influencers, buyers and trade press in the Penfolds brand and its range of varietals. Live artist sketches, an interactive touch table, photo ops and music by contemporary violinist Seth G engaged attendees until the climax, when a crystal curtain gathered up to reveal the Aevum, a decanter made by French crystal maker Saint-Louis, which has partnered with the brand.
This was the third iteration of Penfolds House, which began in 2014 and takes place each year during Wine Spectator Week in New York City, as part of a strategy to reposition Penfolds as a luxury brand in the U.S. A full-scale global launch is slated for 2017.
“We want to make sure that our guests get the full Penfolds experience, that they understand the history of Penfolds, where we’ve come from and where we are going,” says Emma Brown, senior brand manager at Penfolds for the Americas. “Different experiences in each room really bring the brand to life for our guests and for our collectors.”
For example, inside the entrance to the mansion, a replica of Penfolds Block 42 vine, the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon-producing vine in the world, twisted up from the floor and flowed into a canopy of leaves and crystal chandeliers leading through a hallway. A visual timeline weaved between the branches, educating guests on Penfolds’ 100-year history up to the release of the 2012 Grange. The vine ended in the Luxury Room where a crystal and vine installation piece created the backdrop for a photo op.
One room was devoted to Max Schubert, creator of the Penfolds Grange, a wine with a perfect score of 100 points that is sold for $950 in a distinctive red foil-wrapped bottle. Throughout the evening guests peeled away strips of the same red foil that covered a wall hanging to reveal a black-and-white mural of Schubert hidden beneath. In another room, Australian visual artist C.J. Hendry created live sketches of the Grange and two museum-style pieces displayed bottles dating from 1952 to the current 2012 Grange release. Well-stocked wine bars throughout the space offered copious samples of the various wines.
Earlier in the day, Penfolds held recorking clinics in which its experts opened and inspected wine bottles from collectors and enthusiasts to assess the quality, then recorked them, a service it has offered since 1991. A Christie’s Auction House specialist also was on hand to appraise the bottles.
“We want to make sure that we keep people interested, so we offer a different experience every year, but stay core to our Penfolds tradition,” Brown says. “This is very tangible, very tactile, very hands-on.” Agency: All Terrain, Chicago.