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Monday 25 April 2022

Henschke hits high points with new-release shirazes

It is one of the most eagerly awaited dates on the Australian wine calendar: the launch of the new vintage of Australia's highest-profile single vineyard wine; the Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz. 

May 4 is the date for the global unveiling of four super Henschke single-vineyard shiraz wines from the Eden Valley: a stellar Hill of Grace, Hill of Roses, Mount Edelstone and The Wheelwright. 

I was among the fortunate folk to get a sneak peek; and the wines certainly live up to expectations with a 98-point rating for the Hill of Grace and admiration for the value offered by the the Wheelwright. 

This sixth-generation winemaking family never fails to deliver.

The shiraz collection follows the vision of fourth-generation winemaker Cyril Henschke, one of Australia’s pioneers of dry table wines in the 1950s, who produced his first single-vineyard wine Mount Edelstone in 1952 from 16 hectares of shiraz planted in 1912 by Ronald Angas. 

This is the 65th release of Mount Edelstone Shiraz (96 points) and arguably Australia’s longest consecutively produced single-site wine. The 2017 shows off glorious fruit, eucalypt and herbs and great balance.

Around the same time on neighbouring land, the local German Silesian community were building the Gnadenberg Lutheran Church with a spire that overlooked a vineyard. 

Cyril Henschke paid tribute to the church with the wine name ‘Hill of Grace’; a translation of Gnadenberg. 

When he made his first Hill of Grace in 1958, the oldest vines, the ‘Grandfathers’, were thought to be 100 years of age. Now at just over 160 years of age, they are among some of the oldest vines in the world.

This is the 56th release of Henschke Hill of Grace, a wine that is always made from just four hectares of vines. There was no Hill of Grace made in 1960, 1974 and 2000. Just one barrel was produced in 2003; no vintage in 2011, and extremely tiny vintages for 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020.

The 2017 vintage is graced by vitality,” says Stephen Henschke, the fifth-generation winemaker. “The common thread through all four Eden Valley releases shows a liveliness and capacity for long life that has developed as the result of an exceptionally long and gentle vintage. 

"This vintage will be recognised for wines of incredible depth, purity and energy, much akin to high-quality vintages  such as 1992, 2006 and 2012, all of which were late, cool seasons and have shown excellent ageing potential in ideal cellaring conditions.”

My notes: "Subtle, smooth and seductive; dangerously, defiantly drinkable in its youth when you know it deserves to be cellared." 

The prices make this quartet "special occasion" wines: Hill of Grace $900, Hill of Roses $430, Mount Edelstone $230 and The Wheelwright $140, although all would make magnificent Mother's Day gifts. 

The Wheelwright (95 points), thrilled me.  Made from vines approaching 50 years of age, the 2015 vintage of The Wheelwright was released in 2018 to commemorate 150 years of family winemaking. 

The 2017 vintage is the third release of this wine - and well worth seeking out if you get the chance as it combines power and elegance in equal measure.

“Our unique Eden Valley sites mean so much more to me than the beauty of the vines and the wines they produce," says Stephen Henschke. "Each step we take is in the footsteps of our ancestors. Our story is the perseverance and courage of the generations past and the generations yet to come.” 

The Hill of Roses Shiraz (95 points) is an impressive understudy to the Hill of Grace, It takes its name from the Rosenzweig family who once ran the historic Parrot Hill Post Office that lies opposite the vineyard.

Some good news. You don't have to spend up big to enjoy a Henschke. There are also wines in the range that retail for under $35.  


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