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Saturday 24 October 2015

Meet Julius; a wine with an impeccable pedigree

Meet Julius Henschke. He was a stone mason, sculptor, an accomplished artist, band member and a wizard on the euphonium.

He was also an ancestor of the Henschke winemaking family, who make some of Australia's finest wines from organic and biodynamically-farmed fruit grown in vineyards in the Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills. 

Think names like Hill of Grace, Cyril Henschke and Mount Edelstone.  

The benchmark Henschke Julius Eden Valley Riesling is named in his honour and his photo takes pride of place in the new Henschke private tasting room at Keyneton.

The Henschke family has been making fine rieslings for over 150 years - and for the past 20 years they have been bottled under screw cap. 

Stephen Henschke, a perfectionist in all that he does, detests cork and uses either stelvin or Vin-O-Lok closures for all his wines. 

"Winemakers want their customers to enjoy their wines the way they design them to be; they don't want the characters changed by faulty cork," he says. 

"Under cork you lose control and are at the mercy of a God-awful closure. It can turn wines in to awful beasts. 

"In Australia we have seen the benefits of the switch to screw caps first hand; once you've emerged from the dark side into the light you will never want to go back." 

The Henschkes proved their point this week with a museum tasting of Julius rieslings from 1996-2015 - believing they are the only winery in Australia able to show off 20 consecutive vintages under screw cap; the last 15 under Stelvin.

I was fortunate enough to be among the handful of wine writers invited to attend. 

Even given vintage variations there was not one disappointing wine in the lineup (excluding, perhaps, the still sluggish 2011 from a difficult vintage). 

Among my favourites were the still hugely impressive 1996, the elegant 2001, graceful 2003, delicate and floral 2006, and the brisk, tangy 2010. 

The new-release 2015 (which retails for $40) is, thanks to biodynamics, perhaps, but certainly due to improved vineyard management and better closures, a model of floral freshness. 

An enticing aromatic pot-pourri nose leads on lemon, lime and tangerine notes on the palate, fresh herbs and bright, focused minerality with crisp, refreshing acidity. History tells us it will cellar for two decades or more.

More importantly it is delicious. But you really wouldn't expect anything else from the Henschke family. 


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