This year, Max Schubert, the famed winemaker behind Australia’s most celebrated wine would have been 100 years old. When we were asked to create an experience to highlight Schubert’s accomplishments at Penfolds’ annual showcase, we discovered a story we couldn’t wait to tell.
Teaming up with All Terrain, we helped transform Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Gallery into a giant timeline telling the Penfolds story from its founding in 1844 to today. The high-end event hosted top Penfolds figures, VIPs, and influencers, and GQ was in attendance to hold their second annual Best Dressed Sommelier contest with a red carpet and backdrop photographer. Our task: creating an experience that conveyed the fascinating history behind the secret development of the singular wine, Grange Hermitage.
Max Schubert is considered one of the most important Australian winemaking figures of the twentieth century, but as a young winemaker he was first labeled a failure. Following a trip to Europe, Schubert returned to Australia inspired to make wines that could last 20 – 30 years similar to the French wines he was fortunate enough to taste. Max created the first experimental vintage of Penfolds Grange in 1951, which was not well received. Remember that Australia was very much a sherry and port drinking nation at this time, so critics, and the Penfolds Board, were not impressed and Max was told to stop production.
But Schubert persevered, working secretly on ‘special projects, at Magill Estate, away from the eyes of senior management in Sydney. It wasn’t until the 1955 Grange started dominating at domestic and international wine shows that the Board instructed Max to resume production and he was able to tell them he never missed one! It was this dedication and perseverance that has put Penfolds Grange on the global map.
To celebrate this fantastic history, we created an interactive wall in the “Grange Room” that allowed guests to uncover Schubert’s Grange secrets from the time period of its invention. Every detail of the room evoked the Grange story, including a recreation of the winemaker’s desk based on historical photographs and mementos. A tasting was held to demonstrate the wine aging process with samples of successful and unsuccessful attempts.
To create the wall, we suspended an infrared camera and custom mounted a short throw, high lumen projector, covering the entire right wall in an image of the historically hidden wine barrels (labeled with the actual numbers). The projector connected to a computer running a custom application. Guests were invited to grab an infrared flashlight that when trained on the wall revealed images, facts, and quotes from the period “hidden” behind each barrel.
The room created a sense of traveling back in time and guests were amazed and enthralled as they unveiled the mystery behind each bin and learned each fascinating detail. From the design of the barrels themselves to details like the magical animated specks of dust, the project touched multiple teams at Real Art across creative design, video, and digital design and development. All teams took some inspiration from Max Schubert, a maker and innovator whose story was one we loved to tell.