Nicolaus Stanitski, a Henschke ancestor, originally planted the Hill of Grace vineyard during the 1860s above the Barossa Valley. During the 1950s Cyril Henschke took his family concern back to wine and established the Hill of Grace label in 1956. The Shiraz vines – many now over 140 years old – are among the world's oldest genetic Shiraz plant material. It is remarkable that the vineyard remained intact considering the economic uncertainty and the social conditions of the time. The vineyard is planted on red clay soils overlain by sandy and silty loams interspersed with gravels.
There are several blocks including Grandfather’s Post Office Blocks One and Two, Young which is made up of the younger selected material located near the vines of the old post office, and the Church Block, House Block and Windmill Block. Vintage takes place during mid to late April, each parcel vinified separately to maximise blending options. The Hill of Grace style has developed along Grange lines, but by a circuitous route. Vinification takes place in open headed down fermenters with regular pumping over. Towards dryness the wine is drained and pressed. Partial barrel fermentation in a combination of new American and French oak follows to integrate oak and create complexity. The wine is then allowed to mature in the same oak for a period of about 18 months before bottling and further maturation.
HILL OF GRACE
Location: Eden Valley wine region, 4 km north-west of Henschke Cellars at Keyneton, in the Barossa Range, South Australia.
Varieties: Shiraz (on own roots). Vines originate from pre-phylloxera material brought from Europe by the early European settlers. Riesling and Semillon.
Wines Produced: Shiraz – individual vineyard bottling since 1958.
Age: Oldest vines planted in 1860s.
Average Yield: 5 tonnes/hectare (2 tonnes/acre)
Soil: Alluvial, sandy loam over clay.
Trellis: 2 wire vertical/single wire at 70 centimetres.
Planting: Wide planting – 3.1 metres x 3.7 metres. Most are planted east-west, some north-south. Dry grown.
Treatments: Tilled and dodged for many years without herbicide. Only copper and sulphur used for foliage sprays. Now mulched and grassed down. Fungus problems are minimal. Vineyard can be considered 'organic'.
Maintenance Quality: Mass selection carried out over two growing seasons. Establishment of a mother source block.
Rainfall: 520 mm
Altitude: 400 metres
Year Vintage Quality Optimum Drinking
1984 Exceptional 20+ years
1985 Exceptional 15+ years
1986 Exceptional 20+ years
1987 Very Good 15+ years
1988 Exceptional 15+ years
1989 Great 15+ years
1990 Exceptional 20+ years
1991 Excellent 20+ years
1992 Excellent 20+ years
1993 Great 15+ years
1994 Exceptional 20+ years
1995 Excellent 20+ years
1996 Exceptional 25+ years
1997 Very Good 15+ years
1998 Exceptional 20+ years
1999 Excellent 20+ years
2000 Not Produced
2001 Excellent 20+ years
2002 Exceptional 25+ years
2003 Great 15+ years
2004 Excellent 20+ years
2005 Exceptional 20+ years
2006 Exceptional 20+ years
2007 Great 20+ years
The 2009 vintage was preceded by another cold, drought winter, with 399mm rainfall in Eden Valley for the year (a good year would see 500mm). It was the coldest August since 1951. Spring had a few heat spikes up into the mid to high 30s, some frost damage in low-lying areas, but very little rain during September and October. In fact, it was the driest September for 30 years and the driest October on record. Staggered flowering resulted from cool weather which reduced the fruit set. Some varieties were also pruned back hard to just a few spurs to allow them to survive with no water. Rain arrived in mid-December with around 65mm recorded, making it the wettest month of the whole year. The cool southerlies continued through into the new year, reminiscent of 2005. December didn’t record any days over 32C. January tended warm to hot with a couple of heat spikes into the high 30s and low 40s. Late January brought a record six days over 40C, not seen since 1908, causing vine stress, exacerbated by drought conditions and empty dams, followed by another week of hot weather culminating in a 46C day on Black Saturday on February 7. Fortunately subsequent weather was mild and dry, with perfect ripening weather from March 1 moving into autumn mode. A strong change brought a general rain across the state with 10-20mm in early March, which helped with ripening and flavour development. The Indian summer in late March brought ripening forward with all the whites finished and in the winery by early April.