A fleeting opportunity to sample once of Australia’s greatest wines, the Henschke Hill of Grace 2008.
October 27, 1841, after a gruelling 98-day voyage on the Skjold from Brandenburg, Johan Christian Henschke arrived in South Australia with his two surviving children. They settled in the Adelaide Hills, and four years later purchased land in Krondord Village, outside Bethany in the Barossa.
Fifteen years later, he went on to purchase land in what was known as a prospective wine growing region in the North Rhine region of the Barossa (later renamed Keyneton). Walking between Krondorf and Keyneton, Johan adopted traditional self-sufficient farming methods, and with the help of his son Paul, planted a small vineyard of Riesling and shiraz grapes, with the first sales taking place in 1868. The original buildings and houses still stand today, and were the foundations of what was to become one of the most prestigious wine makers in the world.
Despite not being able to get a taxi and therefore running late my journey to the Henschke Hill of Grace 2008 launch at Merivale’s Felix Restaurant was far from gruelling. On arrival guests were treated to a glass of Blanc de Noir, Henschke’s Adelaide Hills sparkling which in a blind tasting would rival vintage Champagne from any serious wine maker in France. The sparkling has a superb bead with a rich creamy complex palate that only the best wine makers can achieve through years of experience, The first glass was bliss, and matched perfectly with a few local oysters. This wine at $50 a bottle is where the smart money is going in Australia, forget the big champagne houses.
As we sat down to a flight of Henschke’s red wines, the table was graced with the presence of Prue Henschke who kindly explained the wines we were about to taste. My eyes immediately zoned into the Nebbiolo, a grape variety that is making its way onto the Australian wine scene with great success. Henschke’s 2010 Rose Growers Nebbiolo from 10 year old vines grown in the Eden Valley was outstanding. Medium bodied, complex on the nose with a layered texture, Prue put it perfectly saying it displayed elegance above weight. This is the type of bottle you bring to someone’s house to impress, it is exciting and is an example of the Henschke family taking the flavour of red wine in different directions. Release date and final pricing to come!
As is often the case, the best was saved for last. Having never tasted this mysterious drop, I was intrigued. With its hefty price tag and a providence that dates backs to 1958 when the first vintage was made, the 2008 Hill of Grace haunted our oversized Shiraz glasses.
The wine is truly special. The complexity and richness of the palate, offset by fine tannins at the finish is sublime. It is a vintage not to miss according to Stephen Henschke and potentially one of the greatest vintages in its 50-year history. It was matched perfectly with the decadent Cote du Boeuf, a winner from Felix.
There is a reason why not many people have had the opportunity to try Henschke Hill of Grace. The price, and how little is produced. Therefore the opportunity to enjoy the wine by the glass is unheard of until now. To celebrate 50 vintages of Hill of Grace, and 150 years of the vineyard, various Establishments in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth are offering the 2008 Hill of Grace by the Glass, matched with a dish selected by the Head Chefs of each establishment.
This is offered until the end of May at Felix (Sydney), Est (Sydney), Vue De Monde (Melbourne), Cha Cha Char (Brisbane, Chianti Classico (Adelaide) and The Trustee (Perth) and is an opportunity not to be missed. The single vineyard, 100% Shiraz Hill of Grace will not disappoint.
For more information on Henschke Hill of Grace head to Henschke’s website.