This February I am going to be writing about wines that I have fallen in love with. Just like with people, I don’t find falling in love to be something that happens everyday but when it happens, I’m bowled over. Sometimes I discover a wine that takes my breath away. I guess I should have expected to have that experience many times over at the New York Wine Experience held by the Wine Spectator in October 2017. I certainly should have expected it from a wine which won one of their coveted wine stars and received a top score but since I don’t read scores and didn’t know that they had won the award, I just happened over to the Henschke table. Stephen Henschke wasn’t there initially, someone else from his team was. I was so taken with the wine that I guess I spent too much time hanging around the table. Stephen Henschke came over and therein ensued a long conversation about the wine, his family, their roots, etc. He was incredibly humble, gracious and kind which made me like the wine even more.
Stephen is the fifth generation to run the winery. He is also the winemaker. His wife Prue is the viticulturalist. This is one of the oldest family owned wineries in Australia and was started in 1868. Their properties on Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone in Eden Valley are pre-phylloxera vineyards. Eden Valley lies within the Barossa Range and has river valleys and hills. The altitudes are between 400-500 meters above sea level which allows for more acidity in the grapes as well as phenolic ripeness. The soils are sandy loam over clay-rocky sub-soils, with schist/silt sandstone bedrock .
Prue Henschke notes on their website that “My philosophy is a holistic one – to ensure our created environment sits in a healthy balance with our natural landscape. I would like to see the next generation inherit a fertile and sustainable land.” She uses the principles of biodynamics and organic viticulture to create the best environment for plant growth, adding compost to build up organic matter and nutrition in the soil, as well as local native plants to provide a healthy and sustainable ecosystem. She follows the astral calendar as well. She works with canopy management techniques too. Reading about all of her practices on the website reminded me of some very intense wine essays one needs to write to get certain high level qualifications read Master of Wine. Certainly this winery and this website can provide loads of answers and ideas. Need to book mark it should I ever try to go back into the program…
The wine in the picture comes from Shiraz vines that were first planted in 1912. The first bottle of this wine was made in 1952. The wine I tried was the 62nd vintage of this wine and was made from 102 year old vines. It was incredible, layered, complex and enveloping. It was packed with dark fruit, spice, herbs, and savory notes with beautiful silky tannins and a long lingering finish. It retails for around $150 in the US, not inexpensive but really fabulous wine from a lovely man. Could be a Valentine splurge.
I have visited Australia in the past and the Barossa Valley in particular was part of my trip but I am long overdue for another visit. An amazing country and an incredible wine for this first day of February love.