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Henschke Hill of Grace Eden Valley Shiraz 2016 £595.00
Henschke Hill of Grace Eden Valley Shiraz 2016
The Henschke family have been making wine at their estate in the Eden Valley since 1868. Fifth-generation winemaker Stephen Henschke took over running the winery in 1979. Together with his viticulturist wife Prue, they have taken their two single vineyards, Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone, and transformed them into two of Australia’s most sought-after wines. Through a combination of great viticulture from Prue, who is at the forefront of reintroducing native plants into their vineyards to improve biodiversity, and winemaking from Stephen, they have built upon their inheritance and turned this traditional producer into one that is recognised by savvy wine drinkers throughout the world.
The eight-hectare Hill of Grace vineyard is situated four kilometres northwest of Henschke Cellars beside the beautiful Gnadenberg Lutheran Church. ‘Gnadenberg’ means ‘Hill of Grace’ in German. First planted in 1860, it was purchased by second-generation Paul Gotthard Henschke in 1891, but it was not until 1958 that winemaker Cyril Henschke made the first single-vineyard Shiraz from the grapes grown here. The red-brown earth over a deep silty loam has excellent moisture-holding capacity for these old, ungrafted, dry-grown vines, which sit at an altitude of 400 metres. Organic and biodynamic practices in the vineyard are supported with under vine mulching and permanent cover crops.
The 2016 vintage began with well below-average winter rainfall, followed by a warm and dry spring, which enhanced flowering and fruit-set to give average to above-average yield potential. Low disease pressure was maintained by one of the hottest Decembers on record, though temperatures cooled down in the New Year and rainfall around veraison in late January brought relief to the dry-grown, old vines. Open, light and airy vine canopies allowed for good flavour, sugar, colour and mature tannins to develop at harvest, which was overall characterised by average yields but very high quality.
Grapes were hand-harvested in the cool of the morning. Individual blocks of this single vineyard were picked separately and remained so throughout the vinification process. Once in the winery, the grapes were destemmed and lightly crushed into traditional, concrete, open-top fermenters. A submerged cap was performed in order to manage a slow tannin extraction. The fermentations were controlled with pump-overs being performed twice daily. After 7-10 days and just prior to reaching dryness, the fermentations were gently pressed to barrel with the primary fermentation finishing in 85% French and 15% American oak (29% new and 71% seasoned) hogshead barrels. The wine matured for 18 months in oak before assemblage and bottling. It was aged for a further three years in bottle before release.
Deep crimson in colour with violet hues. Lifted, exotic aromas of star anise, bay leaf and fennel frame the dark blackberry, mulberry and redcurrant notes. The palate is rich, plush and concentrated with amazing depth and complexity from succulent plum, blackberry and blueberry through to an exotic array of flavours, supported by elegant cedar undertones. Bright acidity provides freshness and structure, while layers of fine, silky tannins result in an elegant finish with exceptional length.
99 Points Wine Companion
From a core of vines planted around 1860 (plus some 100+ and 35+ yo vines) at 400m elevation. Matured 18 months in 85/15% French/ American oak, 29% new. Such effortless grace and caressing elegance, in the presence of commanding endurance that will sustain it for half a century. This is the paradox that defines the legendary fable that is Hill of Grace. 2016 embodies this: the profound depth of black fruits, bathed in the inimitable fragrance and exotic Chinese five-spice that characterises these old vines, set to tannins more finely textured yet more commanding than ever. Resist the seductive temptations of its youth and drink the 2015 first, because the true spectacle of 2016 is decades away.
98 Points RobertParker.com
Henschke's 2016 Hill of Grace Shiraz is locked up tight behind a stubborn wall of firm tannins. Scents of pencil shavings, mocha, bay leaf, mixed berries and plums appear on the nose, while the full-bodied palate starts off broad, expansive and creamy, then draws to a chewy, drying finish. There's ample concentration, length, complexity and a definitive track record of ageing, so put this version away for several years while waiting for it to emerge and show its true glory. If you absolutely must drink it now, decanting for a couple of hours helps soften the tannins and brings the fruit-forward.