There is a thrill in exploration, when you leave behind the familiar and no longer know what lay beyond the limits. Not many people or brands have the courage to reach this stage, but two luminaries do. One of these two luminaries is a wine estate born in 1844, innovated in response to considerable change and a dedication to quality.
The other luminary is an accomplished chef, who left his home in 1998 in order to forge his own path to learn and create. This year, they are coming together in a wonderfully fortuitous partnership for Penfolds’ Beyond the Flavours campaign. We delve deeper behind the shared values of courage, determination and innovation that bring Penfolds and Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur together.
Behind the courage
Courage was in the DNA of Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold who, after sailing to Australia from England, planted vine cuttings in 1844 to make fortified wines. Adapting to the challenges of their new South Australian environment, they began to make a name for their quality wines, and Mary continued the business after her husband’s death in 1870. By 1907, Penfolds had become South Australia’s largest winery in the hands of the next generation.
Colagreco’s grandparents loved to cook. Growing up in Argentina and absorbing the conversations at their table, he learnt not just recipes, but about nature’s four seasons, about ingredients and respect for others. It was this conviction to meet people and continue learning that propelled Colagreco to Europe, the first step on his journey to achieving three Michelin stars and being named number one on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2019.
Behind the determination
“My fear was that people would not be able to understand me, that I wouldn’t succeed, that I wouldn’t be following the right path,” Colagreco articulates. It is the ability to push beyond limits that distinguishes those at the top.
At Penfolds, the spirit of determination continued in the 1950s, when the company’s first chief winemaker Max Schubert created the Grange blend but was told to stop as the early results did not meet the Penfolds board’s approval. Schubert persevered in secret, and won over the board members with the quality of the further aged wine in 1960. With multiple 100-point scores and a heritage listing in Australia, Penfolds Grange is a symbol of determination for the company, which has since made a pledge to never rest on its laurels.
Behind the innovations
In 1998 (coincidentally, the same year Colagreco had embarked on his own journey abroad), Penfolds ventured to California to test its vines, which became the inaugural Californian Collection 22 years later. Whether it’s a champagne or spirit collaboration, digital NFT release or the new Beyond the Flavours campaign, Penfolds honours its spirit of innovation.
Innovation is not elitist, Colagreco insists. He says: “I believe innovation should be open to everyone. Innovation should not be considered good or bad. Innovation means being different.”
In his most famous example, he decided to reinvent the way he cooked as well as the customer experience. Taking place at the peak of his career, after the accolades rolled in, he could have taken the easy way of continuing the same path for years.
Colagreco laughs when people call him a gardener disguised as a chef. “Being a chef means that you’re transforming the food we get from nature into something delicious, gourmet and wonderful. So for me, as a chef, my profession starts with the land. They are not two different things. For me, a chef should also be a gardener,” he explains.
The results were the acclaimed Roots, Leaves, Flowers and Fruits menus at Mirazur, based on the lunar cycle and a deeper understanding of nature.
Beyond the flavours
With so much in common, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming months. “Mauro Colagreco has a long list of accolades and truly embodies the Penfolds DNA. I am proud to have him launch Beyond the Flavours,” says Peter Gago, chief winemaker at Penfolds.
The first event is the launch of the Beyond the Flavours docu-film in May on the Penfolds website. In it, Colagreco muses on what it means to go beyond the limits. “All boundaries can be overcome with a strong drive. It’s this open-mindedness that allows us to push the boundaries,” he says of his partnership with Penfolds.
Find out more about Beyond the Flavours at penfolds.com