Stephen Henschke was in Auckland to show the latest Henschke releases. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to taste some of Australia’s finest wines so hot footed it to O’Connell Street Bistro. Justifiably proud of his heritage, Stephen took time to explain his winemaking philosophy, how the wines had come to get their names and his reasons for choosing vinolok and screwcaps in place of natural cork.
2013 Johann’s Garden $59.00. Old Bush vine grenache from several Barossa vineyards. Apparently back in the 1990s, Stephen heard a rumour that a grower was about to uproot his old, dry grown grenache vineyard so dashed over, took a look at the vines and declared he’d take all the fruit, paying $1000 a tonne (the grower had been getting $300). The first vintage was 1996 and the success of the wine means Henschke now source fruit from a number of different vineyards. Beautiful colour; red licquorice and fresh raspberry. Vibrant and alive; spice and red fruits, slippery tannins.
70% grenache, 25% mataro and 5% shiraz.
2013 Henry’s Seven Shiraz Grenache $52.00. Named after Henry Evans who planted the first vineyard of seven acres at Keyneton in 1853. Blackberry and damson with a touch of black pepper spice. A luxurious, opulent note (from the viognier?). Creamy, silky texture then the tannins just sneak in on the finish. Exuberant and full of cheer.
60% shiraz 26% grenache 7% viognier 7% mataro.
2010 Keyneton Euphonium Shiraz Cabernet $72.00. Always mainly shiraz and cabernet but can contain merlot and/or cabernet franc some years. Lovely touch of cabernet leafiness on the nose. Sweet spice and nutmeg then cassis and violet florals. Fantastic slippery texture then grainy tannins just appear on the finish.
70% shiraz, 18% cabernet sauvignon and 12% merlot
2010 Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon $182.00. From a single vineyard in the Eden Valley, the first vintage was 1978. A wine, according to Stephen that won the Best Burgundy class in an Australian show. Great purity; creme de cassis and fresh blackcurrant. Structured and poised, with ripe, finely grained tannins adding a note of firmness. By itself, good cabernet can have a freshness and line that is hard to beat, here a little merlot and cabernet gives an extra dimension.
84% cabernet sauvignon, 13% merlot and 3% cabernet franc.
2010 Mount Edelstone $182.00. In 2012 the Mount Edelestone vines reached their 100th birthday so were entitled to the Barossa Centenarian Vine classification. The nose has all sorts of different aromas; wine gums, dark plum, blackberry, black liquorice, dark chocolate and vender. Stephen said the wine usually has notes of sage oil – I wouldn’t have picked this myself (not sure I’ve ever thought of sage as oily) but once he said it, I thought what a good descriptor. Marshmallowy texture; fresh dark fruit, spice and oak all wrapped up in a luxurious parcel. A whiff of shitake mushroom and soy too. Great depth and length.
2008 Hill of Grace $773.00. Intensely aromatic; star anise and chinese medicine chest. Dark cherry and berry, retaining freshness and poise. Hugely concentrated with generous, silky tannins. Plenty of oak gives a nutmeg and cinnamon edge but completely soaked up by fruit. Tremendous length. Stunning.
Never once did I write ‘alcohol’ in my notes, despite the wines having 14.0% + alcohol in most cases. A good reminder that wine should always more than just numbers. Winery data sheets usually detail the pH, total acidity, alcohol etc. but the best, perhaps the only, way to judge a wine is to discard all the technical mumbo jumbo and concentrate on the wine in the glass.
An excellent line-up of wines.
I was invited to the tasting courtesy of Negociants New Zealand.