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Penfolds’ Peter Gago on staying ahead of the curve

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In an industry subject to ever-changing cycles, fashions and fads, it’s an ongoing challenge to keep a successful and well-established wine label shining brightly, says Penfolds’ chief winemaker Peter Gago.

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Gago, who began his career as a maths and science teacher before becoming a winemaker, has for the past 16 years been in charge of wine production at Penfolds in South Australia.

It’s an iconic label, with the company now entering its 175th year. But in a market inundated with an influx of boutique wineries and new releases, the task of promoting older wines ­ – like, for example, Penfolds’ Bin 28 Shiraz, which has been made for more than six decades – can be tricky, Gago tells The Message Pod‘s Nicole Haack.

“In terms of the imagery of wine, you can’t be all things to all people all of the time … we shouldn’t have to resort to gimmickry, we shouldn’t have to create a new story all the time.

“You’d like be able to, not rest on the laurels of your previous achievements, but bring out some of the older wines, talk about longevity, that ability to cellar… not just rely on flash labels or some sort of scandalous story.

“But that’s the world in which we live – it’s all about short grabs, it’s all about, you know, something that sparkles, but the shooting stars fall back down to earth very quickly.”

Gago, who admits there’s a healthy tension between the winemaker and the marketing department, says it is important to innovate and develop “in a real way”.

In the podcast (listen above), he also talks about the ruthless side of the competitive global wine business, the importance of Adelaide’s recognition as one of the Great Wine Capitals of the world, his personal pinnacles and legacy, and how his passion for the hands-on process of winemaking remains as strong as ever.

“Those ferments bubbling away, the smells, the people, the vineyards, the growers, that’s quite real and you never fatigue to that – if you do, you shouldn’t be in the game.”

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