If any wine could potentially knock Penfolds Grange off its mantle as Australia’s most iconic wine, it would undoubtedly be the Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz. These two wines share the stage as Australia’s preeminent expressions of shiraz. Together they perennially deliver almost unbeatable quality, and command equally impressive prices upon release.
But whereas Grange is a multi-regional blend sourced from Penfolds very best vineyards, the Eden Valley Henschke Hill of Grace comes from a single, eight hectare vineyard that was planted in the 1860s with pre-phylloxera material brought from Europe by the early settlers.
Hill of Grace was first made by Cyril Henschke in 1958. Today the wine is very much the product of the shared vision, talent and expertise of fifth generation winemaker Stephen Henschke and his wife, viticulturist Prue Henschke.
The Henschkes are absolutely fastidious about every aspect of vineyard and winery management. Projects over the years have ranged from a clonal selection nursery to soil management innovations. The Hill of Grace vineyard, for example, is now mulched with wheat straw to avoid herbicide treatment under the vines. This technique also allows more organic matter to be incorporated into the soil and preserves precious soil moisture. Organic and biodynamic principles are also utilised.
The minimalist intervention approach to winemaking that was favoured by Cyril Henschke in the 1950s and 60s has been continued by Stephen Henschke. The handpicked grapes, picked at full maturity, are vinified in traditional open fermenters and matured for 21 months in a combination of new French and American oak. The use of racking, sulphur, fining and filtration is minimised or avoided.
2006 is considered one of the best of recent vintages, and the reviews have been excellent. Lisa Perrotti-Brown of the Wine Advocate scored the 2006 97+points and described it as a “staggeringly beautiful wine and delectably approachable even at this very early stage. I anticipate this great vintage will cellar to 2025+.” (Wine Advocate #192, December 2010.) James Halliday described the 2006 as “surely one of the best Hill of Graces. Here’s his review:
Bright red-purple, highly fragrant, spice, cedar, red and black berry aromas, oak evident but not excessive; it has a silky, velvety texture and mouthfeel to a beautifully balanced medium-bodied palate brimming with black fruits; wonderful length and finish. (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2011)
The 2006 vintage is available on the Cellarit Wine Market. Back vintages going back to 1980 are also available.
Photo Credit: Hill of Grace Vineyard, Henschke