Joe Czerwinski, The Wine Advocate
About this WINE
Henschkes family name and reputation are now being upheld by the fifth generation, Stephen and his wife Prue. Stephen is the biochemist and winemaker and Prue is the viticulturist.
Over the past 14 years, Prue`s viticultural management has breathed new life into the vineyards, which fully capitalise on some of the most remarkable old vine material in the world.
The highly sought-after Hill of Grace is the product of vines planted in the 1860s and is Australia's greatest single vineyard Shiraz. The Mount Edelstone Shiraz has a large following, as does the Keyneton Estate. Henschke Rieslings are the finest in the Eden Valley and amongst the very best in Australia.
Samuel Smith planted vines here in 1849. Johann Henschke’s farm near present-day Keyneton, then called ‘North Rhine’dates back to 1862. However until the 1950s the region reverted back to livestock to make a living (as irrigation impractical). The 1950s saw a resurgence in the region’s fortunes, thanks to the likes of Cyril Hencshke’s promotion of Riesling. Yalumba acknowledged the region’s high quality fruit by relocating its winery to Angaston in the early 1970s; they had already planted the now famous Pewsey Vale vineyard in 1962. In 1972 they planted their Heggies vineyard with Chardonnay & then in ’84 with Viognier.
At between 380 – 550 metres, the region displays nutrient poor yellow podzolic/sandy & pink quartz soils over decomposed (gneiss) granite. Due to the rocky nature of the soils, irrigation is largely provided by dams & planting densities are higher than average. Compared to Clare Valley, Eden Valley is a marginally higher in altitude, if notably cooler zone with similar sunshine hours but slightly lower levels of continentality.
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.