Wednesday Wines – Episode 205B – A Double Bill of Bollinger & Henschke

LAUNCHED TODAY – The 2019 Henschke Single Vineyard Release

these notes were taken on 29th February 2024

 

Henschke 2019s

2019 was a warm and dry vintage, and it was also frost-affected, which resulted in meagre yields. Luckily, some rain reset the vineyard, but nothing could compensate for the tiny crop. Ultimately, Henschke made approximately 10% of the volume of wines they would typically expect. Curiously, these are elegant, spicy, fragrant wines. Despite the heat, these wines show crisp, savoury tannins. On account of the very small yields, and in order to not disappoint customers globally, Henschke has decided to release some museum stocks alongside the 2019s to go some way to assuage demand for their wines.

My notes on these two older wines appear below. In keeping with this family’s extraordinary attention to detail, they have found two wines that showed similar characteristics at the time of release to these 2019s.

The Henschkes have named the 2019 vintage, the vintage of the nurturer, after Prue Henschke’s meticulous work in the vineyards.

2019 Henschke Keyneton Euphonium (approx. £43.99)

Grapes: 52% Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot

Regions: Eden Valley and Barossa Valley

Oak: Matured in 17% new and 83% seasoned (80% French, 20% American) oak hogsheads for 18 months

Harvest Dates: 26th February to 16th April

Alcohol: 14.5%

pH: 3.59

Acidity: 6.1 g/L

While Australia is moving to the 2020 vintage imminently, the 2019 Euphonium is being released in the UK now, and this neatly lines up with the single vineyard releases. Thank goodness there is slightly more stock of this cuvée in 2019 because this old-fashioned ‘dry red’ blend is a complete and utter charmer in 2019. Harmonious, pretty, and packed with freshness and brightness, this is a smooth wine that is at its peak right now. I am sure it will hold for a good few years, but it is the only one of these 2019s you can confidently drink now without feeling guilty! Stephen Henschke puts this vintage’s success down to Eden Valley’s later ripening and its natural elegance and higher acid. And, of course, this all plays into Keynton’s hands. This is a seamless wine, and as a lifelong fan of the Shiraz/Cab blend, this wine plays straight into my sweet spot! Considering its price, this is an unmissable 2019 Henschke release, and if you have yet to indulge in these delicious wines, this wine is the place to start!  18/20 (Drink now – 2032) 

2019 Henschke Cyril Henschke (approx. £125.00)

Grapes: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Cyril Henschke vineyard

Region: Eden Valley

Oak: Matured in 32% new and 68% seasoned French oak hogsheads for 18 months

Harvest Dates: 10th to 16th April

Alcohol: 14%

pH: 3.58

Acidity: 6.0 g/L

Even though this is a single vineyard wine, it is, in fact, made from 30 separate components. While Merlot and Cabernet Franc can play a part in Cyril’s make-up, the 2019 vintage is pure Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cyril vineyard is 14km south of the winery, in a higher, cooler and wetter spot. The soils here tend to offer up redder flavours than those in slightly warmer areas, and it suits Cyril down to a tee in 2019. This is an amazingly refined wine with a thrilling perfume and superbly pure fruit. It is a red light sabre of purity, and while it is a shame that yields were pinched in 2019, this wine is one of the most slender and direct Cyrils I have tasted, and I adore its balance and poise.  19/20 (Drink 2025 – 2038)

2019 Henschke The Wheelwright (approx. £115.00)

Grapes: 100% Shiraz from The Wheelwright vineyard

Region: Eden Valley

Oak: Matured in 10% new and 90% seasoned (80% French and 20% American) oak hogsheads for 18 months

Harvest Dates: 20th to 22nd March

Alcohol: 14.5%

pH: 3.64

Acidity: 5.9 g/L

The first vintage of The Wheelwright was the 2015, which was released in 2018, so this is a relative newcomer to the range. Having said this, the vines are certainly not newcomers because they were planted in 1958. The Wheelwright vineyard is contoured and in 2019, it was a very small harvest indeed. It is less pronounced than previous vintages and slightly disjointed at this early stage of its life. It leans towards Cyril with red, not black tones, and needs a couple of years to assimilate its flavours. There is a degree of lusciousness here, and while it sits somewhere in a flavour spectrum between Barossa Valley proper and Adelaide Hills wines, it seems a little lacking in harmony right now. Give it time.  18/20 (Drink 2027 – 2035) 

2019 Henschke Mount Edelstone (approx. £155.00)

Grapes: 100% 107-year-old Shiraz from The Mount Edelstone vineyard

Region: Eden Valley

Oak: Matured in 20% new and 80% seasoned (80% French and 20% American) oak hogsheads for 18 months

Harvest Dates: 18th March

Alcohol: 14.5%

pH: 3.52

Acidity: 5.9 g/L

Planted in 1912, this is still an amazingly vigorous vineyard. Again, this was a tiny harvest, showing the most remarkable herbal tones that sit aloft the fruit notes. Stephen Henschke talked of sage and pepper, and I found lavender, which is a rarity, as well as thyme and bergamot. This is a wonderfully composed and restrained wine with profound elegance and charm, and it seems remarkably rewarding at such a young age. The yields were so small that Stephen and Prue named the pickers the ‘search party’, and when all was said and done, they only managed to harvest 5.5 tonnes off this 40-acre site. They expect to pick 1 tonne to the acre in an average year. I like the tension here, and with the haunting perfume and deliberate delivery of fruit, this will be a superb Mount Edelstone in time. Please be patient because while it seeks to impress now and certainly looks enchanting, there is a lot more to come when its shoulders drop and it acclimatises to its surroundings.  19/20 (Drink 2028 – 2040)

A museum release of 2013 Henschke Mount Edelstone (approx. £185.00)

Grapes: 100% 101-year-old Shiraz from The Mount Edelstone vineyard

Region: Eden Valley

Oak: Matured in 34% new and 66% seasoned (81% French and 19% American) oak hogsheads for 18 months

Harvest Dates: 18th March

Alcohol: 14.5%

pH: 3.52

Acidity: 5.9 g/L

I remember this wine well; it was always a more powerful and strident soul. In a classic drought year, it showed harder tannins and rippling muscle, and these traits have certainly mellowed over the last six years. This is a beautiful counterpoint to the 2019, and it was great fun to revisit this vintage. There is no doubt that it is a mighty Mount Edelstone, and while it is not a classic, it is certainly an excitable and enthusiastic wine.  18.5+/20 (Drink now – 2040) 

2019 Henschke Hill of Grace (approx. £625.00)

Grapes: 100% Shiraz from The Hill of Grace vineyard (taken from vines planted in the 1860s and others well over 100 years old and some over 70!)

Region: Eden Valley

Oak: Matured in 20% new and 80% seasoned (90% French and 10% American) oak hogsheads for 18 months

Harvest Dates: 8th March

Alcohol: 14.5%

pH: 3.50

Acidity: 5.7 g/L

Hill of Grace was the first to be picked of the single vineyard wines. While this is a warmer site in the Henschke portfolio, it was still picked a couple of weeks later than most of the Barossa Valley. This was another tiny yield, yet the fruit retained the benchmark HoG exoticism with deep, dark fruitcake and chocolate notes. A lot is going on here, with confusing complexity interwoven between waves of opulent fruit and near-silent elegance. Prue explained that she has worked extremely hard to build up the organic matter in the vineyard, which allows the vines to cope with warmer vintages as the soils retain a much cooler atmosphere. For example, on a 34C day, under vine temperature was over 50C on bare soil but 27C under the mulch that the Henschkes employ. These myriad details all conspire to enable Hill of Grace to flourish in a challenging vintage like 2019, which is why this wine is so complete. Don’t expect it to drink any time soon. There is so much the needs rearranging and cataloguing in the core of this wine, but when it falls into line, I do not doubt that this will be a remarkable and thrillingly unique wine.  19.5+/20 (Drink 2030 – 2055)

A museum release of 2008 Henschke Hill of Grace (approx. £750.00)

Grapes: 100% Shiraz from The Hill of Grace vineyard (taken from vines planted in the 1860s and others well over 100 years old and some over 70!)

Region: Eden Valley

Oak: Matured in new (84% French and 16% American) oak hogsheads for 21 months

Harvest Dates: 9th to 13th March

Alcohol: 14.5%

pH: 3.56

Acidity: 6.1 g/L

With trademark exoticism and deep violet florals, this is an elegant, spicy, superb wine with a calmness and luxuriousness that is already starting to assimilate. Long, layered and refined, this is a wonderfully refreshing wine; at 16 years old, it still looks bright and bold.  19.5/20 (Drink 2025 – 2040)

FIN