The 2016 Henschke New Releases – embargoed until 31st March 2021

The 2016 Henschke New Releases

embargoed until 31st March 2021

I was delighted to be invited to taste the following six wines during a Zoom video-call with Stephen Henschke on the 25th March and I have waited, as requested, until today when the embargo is lifted, to publish my notes and scores.

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 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 59th vintage (55th release) of Henschke Hill of Grace which was handpicked from 9-14 March 2016.

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.

While these wines are all on the water, and due to land in mid-April, I have noted the guide retail pricing for each bottle.  The merchants who usually put their hands up for Henschke are www.hedonism.co.uk, www.ozwines.co.uk, www.philglas-swiggot.com, www.cambridgewine.com.

Information, thoughts and scores on the wines

 2016 Henschke, Hill of Grace, Eden Valley Shiraz £595.00

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 85% French and 15% American (29% new, 71% seasoned) hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling. 14.5% alcohol; pH 3.43; Acidity 5.83g/L

My Note – After the extraordinary bombast of the beautiful 2015 Hill of Grace release I was extremely keen to taste the 2016.  As always, I taste the wines over a four or five day period to give them a thorough workout and Hill of Grace benefitted most from this prolonged assessment.  It is exciting to see another great vintage of this wine and yet this 2016 could not be more different than its glossy, come-hither brother.  While the 2015 is juicy, buoyant, pliant and welcoming this new 2016 release is upright, introverted and composed.  The overture is one of restraint and elegance with discreet spice over a deep, dark, multi-layered core.  There is immense polish, as always, and the savoury finish is not more or less tannic than the 2015, but it is certainly tense and bristling with energy.  I remember noting that the 2015 was a wine that ‘everyone, expert and novice alike, will love’, but I am certain that 2016 Hill of Grace is, exclusively, an aficionado’s wine.  You can taste the site so clearly here and it seems that every vine is singing its 160-year-old song in perfect harmony and this is incredibly mesmerising.  There is no doubt that this will be a long-lived vintage for Hill of Grace and it continues a magnificent run of releases from this blessed corner of the wine world.  19.5+/20 (drink 2030 – 2055)

2016 Henschke, Hill of Roses, Eden Valley Shiraz £310.00

Info – 100% Shiraz from 27-year old vines grown in a single block at the Henschke Hill of Grace vineyard.  Matured in 30% new and 70% seasoned French hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling. 14.5% alcohol; pH 3.45; Acidity 6.11g/L

My Note – This is definitely the most opulent wine in this sextet and it really does what it says on the label.  The overriding sense of red rose perfume is insane and the fruit is refreshingly pure and silky, too.  With none of the brooding intensity of Hill of Grace this wine’s identity inches closer to its big brother as every vintage passes and it will, one day, disappear as a label when the calibre of the crop is deemed accurate and impressive enough to be used in Hill of Grace itself.  But for now, Hill of Roses looks to be enjoying its freedom!  This is an expressive, velvety wine with none of the life experiences and memories, both good and bad, that come with being 160 years old.  If you think of Hill of Roses as a mere babe in arms compared to grandparent HoG instead of siblings then you can imagine just how bright and animated it is in the glass.  Planted in 1989 and with a first vintage release in 2001, this wine is certainly into its stride and I feel that at this relatively youthful stage of its life, and in a vintage like 2016 which brings a degree of composure and gravitas to proceedings, this is an extra special Hill of Roses.  Aside from the overriding rose petal perfume, there is a musky five-spice note which cuts through with savoury élan.  Beneath the aromatic display, the fruit majors on mixed black and red berry notes and this is another differing factor from purely black-fruited Hill of Grace.  I have not had the pleasure of tasting many vintages of Hill of Roses, but on this showing, it is a mesmerising and all-encompassing wine.   19+/20  (drink 2028 – 2050)

2016 Henschke, Mount Edelstone, Eden Valley Shiraz £137.00

Info – 100% Shiraz grown on the Henschke Mount Edelstone vineyard.  Made from 104-year-old vines.  Matured in 80% French and 20% American (19% new, 81% seasoned) hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling.  14.5% alcohol; pH 3.48; Acidity 6.57g/L

My Note –  It is extraordinary just how stunning Mount Edelstone is in 2016 and while those people fixated on scores will wonder how this wine can gain the same score as Hill of Grace I implore you to read the following few sentences.  In 2016 it appears that this east-facing plot has performed at the highest possible level and this means that each chapter of this wines sensory journey is complete.  Firstly, it explodes out of the glass with one of the most complete aromatic displays of the year.  There is enviable freshness and spice here alongside complex florals and musks.  The first sip is tremendous and there is no need to agitate the glass or to decant this wine in order for it to sing.  It literally bursts out of the blocks and continues its assault at one speed and that is full speed.  Having said this, and taking into account the volume of flavour, there is tenderness and elegance here, too.  There is red, black and blue fruit making up the mid-palate and they eddy and flow in perfect synchronicity.  In addition to this, the overall balance is pinpoint perfect with refreshing, vital tannins and crunchy acidity.  I cannot recommend this vintage enough.  19.5+/20 (drink 2026 – 2050)

2016 Henschke, Cyril Henschke, Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon £113.00

Info – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Matured in 35% new and 65% seasoned French oak hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling.  14.5% alcohol; pH 3.56; Acidity 6.14g/L

My Note – I am a lifelong Cyril fan and this wine has appeared in my 100 Best Australian Wines Report more than any other Henschke wine.  There is no doubt that the Eden Valley is home to truly great red wines and Cyril is my favourite Cabernet by a mile.  Once again, in this vintage, the perfume is tremendous and intoxicating and it signals that a remarkable wine is to follow.  With a slightly firmer feel than the Shirazes and a narrower set of hips, too, there is a faint leafy character here which adds drama to the blackcurrant core.  The tannins are sooty and fine and, again, there is leafy freshness that signs its name and the end of the finish.  While the mid-palate fruit is superb this is a youthful wine and it requires patience.  Like Hill of Grace, Cyril was another wine that continued to evolve over the course of my repeated visits to the bottle and this is a stunning sign for the future.  18.5+/20 (drink 2027 – 2045)

2016 Henschke, Keyneton Euphonium, Barossa £44.00

Info – 57% Shiraz, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc coming from the Eden Valley and Barossa Valley.  Matured in 71% French and 29% American (13% new and 87% seasoned) oak hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling.  14.5% alcohol; pH 3.58; Acidity 6.36g/L

My Note – This is the only wine in the line-up which is not cut from the same cloth as its 2015 predecessor.  The blend has ramped up the Cabernet component (the 2015 was 66% Shiraz, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc) and also the inclusion of American oak and this has had a profound effect on the finished product.  This is a spectacular Euphonium with the most detail and exuberance I have seen from this label.  I am a committed fan of The Great Australian Red (see www.thegreataustralianred.com) blend and while this wine hides some Merlot and Cab Franc in the mix, to great effect, this is a mighty release and a wine that offers a true sense of Australian vinous history at the same time as rewarding you with incredible value for money.  If you want to experience the Henschke magic, with TGAR heritage, while embracing a fabulous vintage and a fairly forward disposition, this is IT!  18.5/20 (2023 – 2035)

2019 Henschke, Henry’s Seven, Barossa £30.00

Info – 74% Shiraz, 16% Grenache, 8% Mataro, 2% Viognier coming from the Eden Valley and Barossa Valley.  The Viognier is co-fermented with the Shiraz, while the Grenache and Mataro are fermented separately.  Matured in 6% new and 94% seasoned French hogsheads for 10 months prior to blending and bottling.  14.5% alcohol; pH 3.55; Acidity 5.65g/L

My Note – I have added this wine onto the end of the mighty 2016s because it is, too, hitting the UK market soon and given the value for money here and also the sheer impact and energy of the joyous fruit in this wine it is certainly to be highly recommended.  In spite of its youth, this is a forward-drinking, sleek, fruit-stuffed beauty.  Think turbo-charged Côtes-du-Rhône made by the Henschkes and you will be spot on!  17.5/20 (now – 2030)

FIN