On a hazy day in Kuala Lumpur, a select group of oenophiles and journalists converged at the stylish dining hotspot Blackbyrd KL for a private wine tasting session hosted by Sam Stephens, the brand ambassador of Penfolds Asia.
Blessed with over two decades worth of experience in the wine trade, the guests were enamoured by his unique combination of knowledge, enthusiasm, understand and passion for the fine wines from Penfolds. In an interview with Prestige, Stephen reveals more about his passion for Australia’s most famous wine producer.
What is it about Penfolds wines that make it so highly desirable?
Penfolds has been making premium quality wine for 175 years. As time went on, we have built a global reputation for quality, consistency and delivering this at every quality and price level. I think this gives our customers a huge amount of confidence when selecting our wines to either drink by themselves or give it away as a gift to their friends and family.
Across Asia we are seeing a big growth in the variety of wines available, but it is definitely fair to say that there is still a big demand for richer fruit driven reds. Grapes like Shiraz and Cabernet are very popular — this is great for Penfolds as they are two most important grapes for us. Our Penfolds Max’s Shiraz and Cabernet have become very popular since we released them in the market a couple of years ago.
Are there any other trends in Asia’s wine scene that you’d like to share with our readers?
There is a definite shift to quality over quantity. People are becoming much more selective with their wine choices, and would rather spend a bit more for quality and provenance. You get more flavour and complexity if you are willing to spend a little bit more, and this is definitely becoming a trend.
If you had to pick just one, what is your absolute fondest memory of enjoying a bottle of Penfolds?
It was 6 years ago, right after I got the job with Penfolds. I flew back to Adelaide to meet with the winemakers and taste the range. Afterwards, I took home a selection of the wines to a family dinner and shared a glass of 2008 Grange with my grandfather. It was a very special moment as he played a big influence in getting me in to the wine trade.
In your opinion, what is the best way to savour a bottle of fine wine from Penfolds?
Enjoying wine is all about the company and the ambience — so the most enjoyable way to savour Penfolds would be with friends and family within relaxed surroundings. Whether it is over meal when you are out, or relaxing on the sofa at home, the wine always tastes better if you are comfortable and have good company.
This interview has been edited for clarity. Images provided by Penfolds.