are an incredible family – try as you like it’s impossible not to like them and their wines. If there is a more revered small, family winery in Australia then I can’t name them, and if there are a nicer bunch of people making wine, I don’t know them.
Mention Hill of Grace
to any Australian and see vinous reverence fall upon them. Make a gift of Mount Edelstone
and you’ll have a loving friend for life. Share a bottle of any Henschke wine and you may well solve at least half of the world’s problems*.
*may not actually be true
The Henschke family have been making wine in the Eden Valley since the middle of the 19th century. First generation migrant, Johann Christian Henschke, fled war and persecution in Silesia for the young colony in South Australia and lost his wife and two children on the voyage. Resiliently hard-wired he remarried, bought land in the Barossa and set about planting vineyards, producing food, building a cellar and making wine. They moved to Keyneton in the Eden Valley in 1862 and the family have lived there ever since. Now the 6th generation continue to farm the same land, while occasionally adding new vineyards from the Adelaide Hills and other sites in their locality.
Johann Henschke (pictured) joined us recently in the Battersea store to introduce their wines to Philglas & Swiggot via their new importer, and the family history and values shone through in the entire range. These are elegant, silky and thoughtful wines made for contemplation. They taste deep-rooted, connected to their place like the family themselves. Not only was Johann charming, interesting and well-spoken, he turned the tables on us by inviting us to dinner afterwards to share a bottle of wine despite being on a 7am flight the next morning. I thought he was laying the niceties on a bit thick, but I was hungry and thirsty.
I’ve been to Henschke – it sits above and apart from the Barossa Valley, only 20 minutes away but seemingly years back in time. You get there by driving along a very long, empty road, lined with thirsty old red gums on both sides and miles of dusty, rolling paddocks. Quickly you wonder if you’re in the right place and why nobody is about. You pass one vineyard on the left (Mount Edelstone) and eventually come to a classic South Australian cellar crafted from field stone, mud and native timbers. A beautiful church (Gnadenberg) sits across the road in front of a gorgeous old vineyard – this is the famous Hill of Grace. Outside in summer you can smell the local ‘garrigue’ – wild aniseed, desiccated eucalyptus and bush pepper. Walking loses purpose and you start to meander, slow down. The sense of time pervades everything.
Prue and Stephen Henschke, Johann’s parents, have been custodians over the vineyards and winery since the early 1980s. Together they are the most formidable and respected viticulturalist-winemaker partnership in Australia. Both have extensive, world-class technical training which they have applied thoughtfully to their land while implementing both organic and biodynamic farming practices. Now they make beautiful wines from a host of varieties – Riesling, Semillon, the Rhône family (Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro), Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Stylistically these are entirely different to wines from the Barossa valley floor. The Eden Valley is cooler, but just as dry, and the wines are perfumed (with that garrigue) and have layers of fine, red fruits and oh so silky tannins. They whisper rather than shout.
2018 Julius Riesling - bright, tight and focussed in classic Eden valley style. Jasmine, hints of ginger and lengthy, lemony lingering flavours. Will improve immeasurably in bottle.
2016 Louis Semillon - we should all drink more wines like this. Lemongrass, toast and grilled lime over a faintly warm metal background. A modest 12% abv too and just lovely. Will age nicely.
2017 Giles Lenswood Pinot Noir - sadly this vineyard was destroyed by fire in December 2019 so we won't be seeing Giles again for some time. This is a lovely, nuanced Pinot Noir from a cooler growing season in the Adelaide Hills. Rosehip, faintly woody tannins, delicate body. This is gorgeous to drink right now.
2017 Henry's Seven - a red blend of Rhône valley varieties (Shriaz, Grenache, Mataro and Viognier) made from young vines and deliberately aromatic and charming. Soft and sandy tannins, this is great for drinking now.
Justin Knock MW
If you would like to purchase the Henschke wines or for more information, please contact or call into any of our stores:
21 Northcote Road, London SW11 1NG
0207 924 4494
22 New Quebec Street, London W1H 7SB
0207 402 0002