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A 'hidden' Grange that's top of the range

A truly epic fall from grace: Barry O'Farrell.

A truly epic fall from grace: Barry O'Farrell. Photo: Anthony Johnson

It was a wine made in secret, and its whereabouts is a mystery, but one thing is certain - if Barry O'Farrell's lost bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange ever turns up, it could be worth a lot more than $3000.

There are seven bottles of the 1959 Grange for sale in Australia at present, and the cheapest is listed at $2998, from Sydney wine broker Cellarit.com.au, for a bottle with a heavily stained and torn label.

That's only $20 more than the $2978 originally paid by Nick Di Girolamo for O'Farrell's gift.

The 1959 was superb, as it turns out.

The 1959 was superb, as it turns out.

National chain Dan Murphy also has a bottle of 1959 Grange, advertised at $4850. Dan Murphy's website says: ''The 1959 Grange is a dark cherry-dominated blend of 90 per cent shiraz and 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon. Still showing notes of bitter chocolate and marmalade, this great Grange will be drinking well for the next few years comfortably.''

The top price is on eBay at $7490, for a mint bottle that passed Penfolds' Red Wine Clinic in 2010.

For the past 23 years, Penfolds has held clinics around the world for its better ''Bin'' wines to be tested and recorked. Each bottle is tasted by one of Penfolds' winemakers, topped up and, if of a high enough standard, certified by the winemaker.

O'Farrell has until August to track down that missing bottle of Grange, that's when the next Penfolds Clinic will be held in Sydney, the company's first clinic in Australia since 2012.

Should O'Farrell's missing bottle turn up and pass muster - both in terms of content and label - its value could more than double, especially given its new-found significance in Australian political history.

Penfolds has tested more than 120,000 bottles of its own wine in the past two decades. While wine collectors initially snubbed the clinics - claiming it disturbed the original bottle - wines that have passed are now commanding a premium on secondary markets.

The 1959 Grange was made by legendary Penfolds' winemaker Max Schubert in secret after the company ordered him in 1957 to cease production.

The last of the ''hidden'' Granges, it matured in used American oak barrels for 18 months, as Schubert could not get his hands on new ones without alerting the bean counters.

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