Matthew Jukes -Articles- Notes

2015 Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz is released today

2015 Henschke Hill of Grace & three more 2015 wines

 (The pricing and stockist information for Hill of Grace is embargoed until the release date on 6th May 2020)

 I was delighted to be invited to taste these four wines during a Zoom video-call with Stephen and Prue Henschke and fellow UK wine writer Sarah Ahmed on the 23rd April and have waited, as requested, until today to publish the full UK pricing and stockist lists for Hill of Grace.

Some (edited) notes from the Henschkes about Hill of Grace

Hill of Grace is a single vineyard in the Eden Valley, lying in a shallow alluvial valley just north-west of the Henschke winery.  The name comes from the beautiful Gnadenberg Lutheran Church overlooking the vineyard – ‘Gnadenberg’ translates from German to ‘Hill of Grace’.  It was planted by Henschke ancestor Nicolaus Stanitzki around 1860 and the oldest vines in this vineyard are now 160 years of age.

Hill of Grace Shiraz was created by fourth-generation winemaker Cyril Henschke in 1958, after the success of his first single-vineyard Shiraz, Mount Edelstone in 1952.

This year sees the 58th vintage (54th release) of Henschke Hill of Grace which was handpicked from 17-26 March 2015; the final pick taking place a week before the harvest moon of Easter.  Stephen Henschke noted, “We like to visualise the grace of the harvest moon underlying the luminosity of the 2015 Hill of Grace with its purity of aromas, depth of flavour and silky lustrous tannins – a majesty and a mystery that takes our breath away with its grandeur.”

Every vintage of Hill of Grace is a limited release, however, some are more limited than others. 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.

Information, thoughts and scores on the wines

2015 Henschke, Hill of Grace, Eden Valley Shiraz £540.00

Info – 100% Shiraz from pre-phylloxera material brought from Europe by the early settlers in the mid-1800s and grown on the Hill of Grace vineyard in the Eden Valley wine region.  Matured in 86% French and 14% American (33% new, 67% seasoned) hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling.

My Note – I am somewhat late to the Hill of Grace fan club having tasted countless old vintages but only written this wine up twice in the sixteen years of my 100 Best Australian Wines Reports.  The 2010 vintage gained a unique 19.9/20 score in my notes (you will have to read the tasting note in my Report to see why) and the 2012 vintage was the first perfect score 20/20 I have ever tasted from this famous vineyard.  The 2015 vintage of this wine is unlike any HoG I have tasted before given that it is lusciously proportioned and unnervingly easy to appreciate in the glass at this young age.  While it seems to rush at you from the glass and enthusiastically unfurl its magic carpet of exoticism and juiciness with little reservation, there is a dark core beneath the puppyish joy which will keep this wine on track for a good few decades to come.  I noted, during the tasting, that this was a wine that ‘beginners’ could understand and if they happened to have 540 quid, could step up to and be able to appreciate just why this is such a revered wine.  This is an unusual statement for a wine such as this, given that most five year old, titanically proportioned, densely fruited reds have the drawbridge up, portcullis down and boiling oil at the ready when palates approach.  I happen to think that Australia’s unique red wine drawcard is the apparent precocity of its great labels and unlike other countries’ elite red wines, which often taste belligerent, uncommunicative and disappointing in their youth to inexperienced palates, Aussie icons often show pliant fruit and admirable generosity.  2015 Hill of Grace is such a wine, and it does take this open-armed approach further than I might have expected.  I tasted this wine six times over four days (without the addition of inert gas to protect it) and it continued to set out its bountiful stall of fruit, spice, earth and leather, but at no stage did I ever encounter tannin in this extended tasting tour.  Of course, the tannins are present, it is just that they have melted away into the folds in this wine.  It would be tempting to overrate this release simply because there is so much boundless Shiraz ecstasy on the nose and palate, and this is indeed extraordinarily tasty, but I don’t think that, in the greater scheme of things and in the fullness of time, that this wine will eclipse the 2010 or 2012 in terms of control, restraint, elegance or detail.  2015 Hill of Grace is a sensational release from Henschke and it perfectly sums up the 2015 season – great rainfall in spring, mild summer with a little rain, long ripening and the pleasure of being able to pick each block, at will, without any pressure from the weather.  As Stephen says, ‘it is a Goldilocks vintage’, but I think that perfect wines are borne of a degree of tension with a sprinkling of drama and so, I will keep my perfect 20 in my pocket this year.  What is clear to me is that this is one of the most luxurious and glamorously upholstered Hill of Grace Shiraz I have tasted and for this reason, I would bet that everyone, expert and novice alike, will love it, and you cannot say that about many top-end red wines.  19.5+/20 (drink 2025 – 2050)

2015 Henschke, Mount Edelstone, Eden Valley Shiraz £135.00

Info – 100% Shiraz grown on the Henschke Mount Edelstone vineyard. Matured in 78% French and 22% American (22% new, 78% seasoned) hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling.

My Note – While HoG has appeared in my 100 Best Report only twice, Mount Edelstone has chalked up four mentions (2009, 2010, 2014 and 2013 – in that order).  This is a wine for which I have a particular penchant and this 2015 vintage is yet another cracker.  The oak in this wine is completely integrated already and this means that, like HoG, there is an immediacy and allure which you normally have to extract from this wine by torturing it in a decanter and then finding the largest glasses you have and, excepting the fact that you will have a serious case of RSI, engage in vigorous bouts of swirling.  I love the way in which the textbook weather conditions in the 2015 vintage have tamed this heroic wine.  This is a dreamy, succulent, expansive Mount Edelstone with volume and silkiness and there is scintillating black pepper detail here, too.  Without the inkiness and power of Hill of Grace, but with hints of red fruit in among the black theme, this is a more loquacious offering which does not stand on ceremony and gets straight to the task of romancing your taste buds.  With more than a nod to the flavour profile of the epic 2010 vintage, this is a cracking wine and it is one of the finest I have tasted from this awesome single vineyard.  19+/20 (drink 2022 – 2040)

2015 Henschke, Cyril Henschke, Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon £107.00

Info – 99% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc. Matured in 20% new and 80% seasoned French oak hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling.

My Note – I have looked back in my past 100 Best Reports this year because I think that it is important to find the right spot for these 2015 releases to reside in my brain.  Where does 2015 sit in the hierarchy of great Henschke vintages?  I have a feeling that it is one of the most homologous vintages I can remember.  The gloss, the impetuousness and the flair in these wines are unmistakable.  I can see them knocking palates over across the world and doing a stunning job of alerting wine lovers to the Henschke cause.  They are a vital band of brothers and I realised this when 2015 Abbots Prayer Vineyard Cabernet Merlot came up trumps in my 100 Best 2019/20 Report last May.  I noted that this wine was ‘mellow and harmonious’ over a year ago.  Cyril, too,  is as engaging and accommodating as I have ever seen him!   This wine has appeared in 100 Best on no less than six occasions (2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013) and I absolutely adore what the Eden Valley does for the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.  And in 2015, the Henschkes clearly do, too, because this wine is 99% Cab Sauv!  The vintages I have fancied in the past have never come close to this percentage, varying between 81% and 91%, and so this is a rather different shape of Cyril than I have seen before and it is everything I look for in this grape.  It is initially upright, controlled and extraordinarily fresh with violets and leafy hints which enchant the senses.  Then the 2015 generosity of spirit comes in on the palate and fills your taste buds with louche cassis flavours which are tailored to perfection.  This is one of the finest Australian Cabernets I have tasted in years and in terms of value for money it is a wine I can heartily recommend to all because I see great clarity and accountability in the complexity and reward you get for each £20 glass of this wine.   19/20 (drink 2022 – 2040)

2015 Henschke, Keyneton’s Euphonium, Barossa Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon £39.99

Info – 66% Shiraz, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc Matured in 20% new and 80% seasoned French oak hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling.

My Note – Many will know that I am a huge fan of the Shiraz/Cabernet blend (see www.thegreataustralianred.com) and this is a perfect example of how these two grapes work wonders together (I would love to taste a ‘Hill of Cyril’ one day!).  While this is not a particularly long-lived style, it is still an inspired piece of blending and, given the generosity and immediacy of the 2015 vintage, this is a fabulous wine to drink now.  The fruit is relaxing, melodious and comforting and it is a snip of a price by comparison to the other big names so pick up a bottle and get some elite Henschke in your lives today.  18/20 (now – 2030)

Stockists for all four wines (RRPs noted per bottle above) – www.bbr.com, www.hedonism.co.uk, www.luvians.com, www.oldbridgewine.co.uk, www.nywines.co.uk, www.ozwines.co.uk