Tue 21 Feb 2012

South Australia Series, Part Four: Henschke

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?Exceptional wines from outstanding vineyards??and if I?m honest, my expectations fell nothing short of this when we headed out to Henschke in the Barossa?s Eden Valley. The reputation this name has throughout South Australia is phenomenal and when mentioning in casual conversation to friends, ?I?m visiting Henschke?, their response was nothing short of ?Amazing!?, ?Lucky you?, etc. ? which surely suggested we were in for a treat.

A family owned and run winery, Henschke has been producing wine commercially since 1868, after the first vineyard was planted just outside a small town called Keyneton in 1862 by Johann Christian Henschke. Initially production was for the consumption of family and friends, as well as the altar wine for the Gnadenberg Church and its small Lutheran community. Named after the settlers? homeland, the church is a tribute to their German origins and the vineyard here also takes the same name, however in its English translation ? Hill of Grace, for which Henschke are perhaps most well known.

We met with Melanie Keynes on yet another scorching day (glorious, cloudless blue sky and nothing but sun!) and hopped in the 4WD (air-conditioned) to drive out to the Hill of Grace vineyard. The setting is beautiful, and the vines coming up to harvest were luscious, full and very well looked after. Straw bedding at the base of the vines ensures that any moisture is retained for nourishment of the roots, and the vines are trained to allow maximum exposure to the sun. Hill of Grace is just one of ten wines which are produced biodynamically by Henschke and will be picked just before the full moon of Easter this year.

It is these environmentally sustainable organic and biodynamic principles for which Stephen Henschke, fifth generation, and his wife Prue, are also highly regarded. They have an amazing range of wines produced from vineyards in the Barossa, Eden Valley and the Adelaide Hills, with particular focus on premium single-vineyard wines. Interestingly, research has also been underway at Henschke for a new closure, rivaling the humble cork and the screw cap: Vino-Lok is a glass closure which opens with a ?click? and, I?ll admit, looks very good in the bottle.

We began our tasting with four reasonably priced whites including a semillon, pinot gris, riesling and gewürztraminer ? the last which I particularly enjoyed and Melanie confirmed had the aroma and taste of Turkish delight (I had been searching for the right words!). Our introduction to the reds saw us start with Henry?s Seven, Henschke?s entry-level red, a blend of shiraz, grenache, mouvèdre and viognier.

I was impressed by the complexity of the reds, even at entry level and particularly enjoyed 2007 Cyril Henschke (2005 at The Society, £70 a bottle). A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, its gorgeous ruby red colour was a good intro to what followed; red fruit, red pepper, vegetal on the palate with smooth tannin, good acidity and subtle oak. The 2008 Mount Edelstone Shiraz (2006 at The Society, £59 a bottle) surpassed my expectations of a Barossa shiraz and proved to be complex, fruit driven with a sweet spice, peppery and bold. At 14.5%, it?s certainly packs a punch, and with the cold, snowy, dreary UK weather of late, would be a dream Sunday-night-in wine!

The piece de resistance at Henschke, was of course Hill of Grace (2006), which even at the Cellar Door has a three-bottle limit, and retails at The Society for £350 a bottle (2005). Decanted for three hours, it was vibrant ruby red in colour, with aromas of liquorice, chocolate, oak, sweet spice, and black fruit. The palate did not disappoint, juicy black fruit with chocolate and five-spice, smooth fine grain tannins, strong bold alcohol, but not overbearing. Melanie described it as a book; every time you turn a page there is something new. It?s just a shame, in this instance that it?s a book I can?t afford!

Jo Mansell
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Categories : Australia

Comments

  1. david copp says:

    Jo

    Glad you enjoyed henschke. members may be interested in

    AUSTRALIAN WINE WALKABOUT

    available through Amazon at £9.99 incl postage and pacing

    David Copp, Member

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