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News

Australia’s most famous single-vineyard wine, Henschke Hill of Grace 2012 was awarded the hotly contested ‘Wine of the Year’

 

Australia’s most famous single-vineyard wine, Henschke Hill of Grace 2012 was awarded the hotly contested ‘Wine of the Year’ and ‘Best Shiraz’ titles at the fifth annual Qantas epiQure Halliday Wine Companion Awards ceremony, held on Wednesday night, 2 August in Melbourne.

Fifth-generation winemaker, Stephen Henschke was thrilled with the result after only launching the exceptional 2012 vintage of Hill of Grace Shiraz on 1 May 2017.

“It is an absolute honour to receive these accolades. Hill of Grace vineyard is a special site. The vineyard is only made up of 4 hectares of shiraz ranging from 70 to over 150 year old vines. The wine really is history in the bottle,” said Stephen.

This award acknowledges Stephen’s pioneer ancestor Nicolaus Stanitzki who planted the vineyard in 1860 and his father Cyril, a pioneer of single-vineyard table wines, who produced the first vintage of Henschke Hill of Grace in 1958 when those original vines were already almost 100 years old.

Henschke Hill of Grace is the most celebrated of the wines crafted by Stephen and Prue Henschke.

Every vintage from the revered single-vineyard Hill of Grace is a limited release, but some are more limited than others. Just one barrel was produced in 2003 with extremely tiny vintages for 2013 and 2014. There was no Henschke Hill of Grace made in 1960, 1974, 2000 and 2011.

“My viticulturist wife Prue has done incredible work in this vineyard, looking after such old vines with organic and biodynamic principles. Her work is already showing huge benefits in soil health and moisture retention for these pre-phylloxera, dry-grown sentinels. Hill of Grace Shiraz is a reflection of the wonderful flavours and balance this site can achieve, and the separate parcels are ‘nursed’ in the winery using very gentle, traditional open-top fermentation techniques.”

The awards are based on the reviews in the 2018 Halliday Wine Companion book, published by Hardie Grant in paperback and on sale nationwide from Thursday, 3 September.

Stephen and Prue were delighted to find an additional 38 wines from their portfolio reviewed in the 2018 Halliday Wine Companion, with no wine being scored below 90 points.

“It’s fantastic to see Hill of Roses 2010 and Mount Edelstone 2014, wines that have shaped the Henschke story, so high up on the list,” Stephen remarked.

An extended profile of Stephen and Prue Henschke will feature in the next issue of Halliday Wine Companion magazine, on newsstands from early September. winecompanion.com.au

Wine of the Year Award video


 

 

2016 Vintage Reports: Eden Valley, barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills

EDEN VALLEY – 2016

The 2016 vintage began with well below-average winter rainfall, followed by a warm and dry spring, which enhanced flowering and set to give average to above-average yield potential. Low disease pressure was maintained by one of the hottest Decembers on record, though temperatures cooled down in the New Year and rainfall around veraison in late January brought relief to the ancient, dry-grown vines. This was followed by further rainfall in early March which eased the stress on all varieties. The fruit matured with an earlier harvest, as predicted due to an early Easter. Open, light and airy vine canopies allowed for good flavour, sugar and colour and mature tannins to develop at harvest, which was overall characterised by average yields but very high quality.

 

BAROSSA VALLEY – 2016

The 2016 vintage began with well below-average winter rainfall, followed by a warm and dry spring, which enhanced flowering and set to give average to above-average yield potential. Low disease pressure was maintained by one of the hottest Decembers on record, though temperatures cooled down in the New Year and rainfall around veraison in late January gave relief to the old, dry-grown vines. This was followed by further rainfall in early March which eased the stress on all varieties. The fruit matured with an earlier harvest, as predicted due to an early Easter. Open, light and airy vine canopies allowed for good flavour, sugar and colour and mature tannins to develop at harvest, which was overall characterised by average yields but very high quality.

 

ADELAIDE HILLS – 2016

The 2016 vintage began with below-average winter rainfall, followed by a warm and dry spring, which enhanced flowering and set to provide average to above-average yield potential. Low disease pressure was maintained by one of the hottest Decembers on record, though temperatures cooled down in the New Year and rainfall around veraison in late January/early February brought relief to our early-ripening varieties in the Adelaide Hills, resulting in excellent conditions for natural acid retention and clean fruit. This was followed by further rainfall in early March, which eased the stress on the late-ripening varieties, allowing them to mature towards a predicted earlier harvest due to an early Easter. Open, light and airy vine canopies allowed for good flavour, sugar, colour and mature tannins to develop at harvest, which was overall characterised by average yields but very high quality.

 

 

Hill of Grace Vintages 2006 -2011 by Stephen Henschke.

Over 165 years ago Johann Christian Henschke came from Silesia to settle and farm in the Eden Valley region. By the time third-generation Paul Alfred Henschke took over the reins in 1914, the famous Hill of Grace vines were more than 50 years old. They were planted around the 1860s by an ancestor, Nicolaus Stanitzki, in rich alluvial soil in a shallow fertile valley just north -west of the winery. The red-brown earth grading to deep silty loam has excellent moisture-holding capacity for these dry -grown vines, which sit at an altitude of 400m, with an average rainfall of 520mm. Hill of Grace is a unique, delineated, historic single vineyard that lies opposite a beautiful old Lutheran church which is named after a picturesque region in Silesia called Gnadenberg, meaning Hill of Grace. Cyril Henschke made the first single-vineyard shiraz wine from this vineyard in 1958 from handpicked grapes vinified in traditional open-top fermenters.

 

Vintage 2006

The 2006 vintage shaped up as another high quality year but with only average yields in the Eden Valley. After a late break in mid June 2005, winter and spring rains were some of the best for years in the lead - up to flowering in early summer. Some varieties such as riesling and shiraz suffered more than others from poor set, leading to‘hen and chicken’. While there was some damage in Eden Valley from frost, this had only minor impact on the overall yield; however, yields in most varieties were down by 15-20%. The summer was mild with southerly winds, reminiscent of 2002. Brief heat waves occurred in late January and mid February but were early enough not to affect quality, with only minor sunburn on exposed fruit. Whites were nearly all picked by the end of March, an unusual situation.

Wine Description

Deep crimson in colour with violet hues. Lifted blueberry and blackberry fruits on the nose with hints of crushed sage and confident, ripe herbal notes. The plum and sage flavours follow through on the palate that is beautifully structured with fine-grained tannins and a long, lush finish.

 

Vintage 2007

The 2007 vintage shaped up to be another high quality year but with significantly reduced yields in Eden Valley. Despite an early winter break, rainfall during winter and spring was the worst for years in the lead up to flowering. There was significant spring frost damage in Eden Valley, with yield losses of 20-25%, compounded by the drought and lack of subsoil moisture with overall losses of 50%. Brief heat waves occurred during January; otherwise, it was mild and dry. At the end of January a tropical air mass connected with a cold front to bring good rains to the agricultural areas of South Australia, with flooding in the north. The 70mm rainfall fell steadily over four days, coinciding with veraison, which freshened up the vine canopy to assist with ripening the fruit for harvest. February was recorded as the hottest for 100 years, which brought the already reduced crop to an earlier ripening phase.

Wine Description

Deep crimson with purple hues. Sweet, fragrant, exotic aromas of spicy red and black berry fruits, supported by plum, anise, tar and truffles and a hint of cedar. An elegantly fruited palate shows rich, complex flavours of forest fruits and cassis with underlying notes of black pepper spice, while the surprisingly restrained powdery tannins provide layers of texture for a long and luscious finish.

 

Vintage 2008

The 2008 vintage in Eden Valley was preceded by an average rainfall and a mild and unusually frost- free spring with regular rainfall periods. Fine flowering weather meant good set despite the expectation that the previous drought year of 2007 would affect yields. The vines also showed surprisingly vigorous growth. A dry and hotter than average early summer  caused smaller berry and bunch size. Although temperatures climbed to over 40C around New Year and in mid-February, the weather from mid-January through February was the coolest for 30 years, allowing amazing development of fruit colour, flavour and maturity. In early March, South Australia suffered an unprecedented record heat wave of 15 days over 35C. The unexpected searing heat seemed never-ending and resulted in stressed vines, significant leaf drop, escalating sugar levels in the fruit and significant shrivel. A cool change followed, which brought relief. Selective early morning handpicking, leaving shrivelled fruit on the vines, gave the best quality, resulting in some amazing intensely coloured and flavoured reds, in particular shiraz.

Wine Description

Intense deep crimson in colour. The nose is attractive and enticing with aromas of sweet blackberry, blueberry, Satsuma plum and rhubarb, with characteristic nuances of oriental spices, black tea leaves, anise, tar and cedar. The palate is rich and concentrated with spicy plum, crushed herbs and Dutch licorice flavours. An amazing balance of acid, fruit intensity, weight and length create a powerful palate that finishes with long, fine tannins.

 

Vintage 2009

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.

Wine Description

Deep red with crimson hues. Complex aromas of red currants, blackberry and marzipan with hints of five spice, dried herbs, black pepper, smoked charcuterie and layers of fine French oak. The palate is deep, rich and textural with a beautiful expression of berry fruits and spice,finishing with long, fine velvety tannins.

 

Vintage 2010

The 2010 growing season was preceded by above average winter rainfall. Spring was mild with little frost damage and gave us an even budburst. The weather remained cold and wet through spring, which held back growth until a two-week high 30s heat wave in November affected flowering and fruit set. Spring rains continued into early summer right through until mid-December, making it the wettest year since 2005. The vines responded to the heat and grew vigorously until early January, developing lush canopies, but bunch development suffered as a result.

A roller-coaster ride of heat spikes and cool changes continued through a warm summer with occasional thunderstorms. The vines went through veraison a week earlier than 2009. Lower yields coupled with the mild ripening period resulted in concentrated fruit. Vintage began a week earlier than 2009 and was in full swing by mid-February. The white vintage was all but finished a month later while the red harvest continued with deeply coloured, well-balanced grapes being picked during mild, dry conditions until the end of April.

Wine Description

Very deep crimson with violet hues. An alluring nose of exotic spices, cracked black pepper, licorice, sage and crushed herbs, complemented by sweeter notes of blackberry, plum and cedar. The complex palate has dark, brooding flavours, rich layers, texture and balance of natural acidity, while the refined, silky tannins provide incredible length.

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History

The Henschke family has been making wine since Johann Christian Henschke planted a small vineyard on his diverse farming property at Keyneton in 1862. He was one of many Silesians who had fled their homeland in search of religious freedom, and he arrived from Kutschlau in 1841. The wine was initially intended for consumption by family and friends, but with the first commercial release in 1868, believed to be principally riesling and shiraz, the wheels were set in motion for greater things to come.

 

Each generation has built upon the foundations of HenschkeIn more recent times, fourth-generation Cyril Henschke pioneered varietal and single-vineyard wines at a time when blended wines and fortifieds were in vogue. His greatest legacy was the creation of Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone in the 1950s, shiraz wines from Eden Valley that have captured the red wine world’s imagination.

 

Today, it is fifth-generation Stephen Henschke and his wife Prue at the helm, passionately upholding the family name and reputation. This highly regarded team has won a multitude of awards that recognise the complementary nature of their roles - Stephen as winemaker and Prue as viticulturist. One of the most notable things about the couple is their ability to keep devotees fascinated. While they are perhaps most famous for Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone, they continue to surprise with their new styles and techniques. Prue’s meticulous, innovative viticultural management has seen not only new life breathed into the venerable vines, but also a new direction given to white winemaking that their forebears could never have imagined. 

 

Henschke boasts a strong portfolio, with a focus on ultra-premium single-vineyard wines. They maintain their ‘Exceptional wines from outstanding vineyards’ by sourcing additional fruit from growers of excellence, from the Eden Valley, Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills regions.

Stephen and Prue are well recognised for their complete integration of vineyard and winery, and have received many accolades. Most recently, Henschke was named 2011 Winery of the Year at the inaugural The Age/Sydney Morning Herald Good Wine Guide awards.

The sixth generation, Johann, Justine and Andreas, are all actively involved in helping Stephen and Prue explore new and exciting developments. Among these are organic and biodynamic principles that will enrich the land of their forebears and strengthen a future in winemaking for the generations to come.

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Vineyards

SUSTAINABILITY

Ensuring a healthy balance with our natural landscape

As a custodian of the Henschke vineyards in the rolling hills of Eden Valley, and the wet, steep slopes of the Adelaide Hills, Prue Henschke’s days are divided between various landscapes.

Viticultural Management / In the late 1970s Dr Richard Smart was developing theories about the role of the canopy on the colour and quality of red grapes. Those theories, Prue believed, could well be applied to the Henschke vineyards. While they were already producing high quality red wines, she believed they could do better. Initially they looked at establishing better trellis systems, which in turn led to experimenting with a cooler climate and the subsequent purchase of the property at Lenswood. There, Prue believed, less stressful photosynthesis duringsummer would allow flavour compounds to develop. This turned out to be right, and Henschke started winning awards and media recognition immediately.

 

Soil Management / A number of key issues must be considered in relation to soil management, such as soil structure, moisture holding capacity, and nutrient availability. There is also a need to consider such things as how to maintain good soil porosity, the bacterial activity in the soil that leads to fertility, and the effects of pH. The water holding capacity of a soil is important in dry-grown vineyards and is improved by increased organic matter and mulching. Thirty-six percent of Henschke vineyards are dry grown and the soil management techniques now used lead to the production of very high quality fruit.

 

Many different techniques of soil management exist. Henschke has moved completely away from mechanical disturbance and now uses permanent sward. Mulching with wheat straw to avoid herbicide treatment under the vine is used in most of the vineyards, and allows more organic matter to be incorporated into the soil and preserves soil moisture. Earthworms also open up the soil and introduce nutrients and soil ameliorants such as lime. Mulching helps to maintain the fertility of the soil without the addition of nitrogen fertilisers, which often favour the development of disease, especially botryus. A good balance of nutrients in the top 60 to 70 centimetres of soil is important for the production of premium grapes. The vineyards are currently run incorporating organic and biodynamic practices, including biodynamic compost being produced from all the winery by-products, such as grape marc, stalks and waste water, cow pit peat and 500 and 501 preparations.

 

The Effect of Old Vines / Australia's oldest vineyards, dating back to the 1860s, carry an aura of wonder about them and the gnarled and free-form shapes are rarely seen in other plant species of such age. For overseas industry personnel visiting these vineyards, it is a viticultural mecca.

Soon after the establishment of the Australian vineyards, phylloxera was introduced to France where it slowly exterminated most of the vineyards and beyond into Germany and Italy. Rootlings brought into Australia from the French nursery Richter led to a similar plight in the Victorian vineyards. But sand is phylloxera's enemy as it does not allow the formation of soil cracks or damp 'super-highways' between the root systems that these sap-sucking insects love. This is why vineyards such as Chateau Tahbilk's small 1860 shiraz vineyard can still exist and why, for slightly different reasons, the Vieilles Vignes of Bollinger survived the much later devastation by phylloxera in the Ay and Bouzy regions of Champagne.

Hugh Johnson makes a tiny but fascinating reference to the pre-phylloxera vines, the "Survivors of the Plague" in his latest book, The Story of Wine. He mentions that wines made from these vines "have a certain quality and depth of flavour that sets them apart…the view of Bollinger's president is that champagne from ungrafted vines (which produce small quantities of highly concentrated juice) is too 'fat' for modern tastes!" Undoubtedly this 'fatness' is the part of the texture - the extract or intensity of flavour on the palate - that we identify in the Australian red wines from the century-old vines.

 

South Australia has had very different infestations affecting the survival of its old vineyards.

Firstly, the fungal disease, eutypa, which is spread through large pruning wounds, causes dieback in the arms of older vines and the vine slowly rots away and becomes unproductive.

The second limiting factor is related to economic pressures forcing growers to rip out ageing vines. These low-yielding vineyards are being replaced with a more efficient trellis design particularly suited to mechanisation and better irrigation systems. The quality rating of these new vineyards depends on the vine balance, which is something many old vineyards have realised over the years. They adjust to the nature of the not-so-benevolent rainfall during the growing season and to the natural nutrient status of the soils.

The third factor is one we hope well not have to witness again - the mid 1980s vine-pull scheme - where growers were paid to rip out their vines. This mostly involved those ancient red vineyards that had developed a harmonious relationship with nature, but not with a winery purchase price.

As a consequence of low vigour comes low bud numbers and open canopies, low yields and often smaller berry size. With the lower yields comes earlier ripening and full maturity - particularly important in cooler years - and a development of extract or intensity of flavour on the palate.

Their root systems are formed in the first 10 years and from then on, the roots die and re-grow using the starch reserves built up in early winter for new growth in spring. It can almost be guaranteed that within a 10-year period extremes of drought and floods will be experienced, and the root systems will develop accordingly. The wood development appears to reach a maximum butt circumference at around 30 to 40 years. After this the live wood dies off and the butts of the oldest vines have very little live tissue. Of a 20-centimetre diameter butt, about a quarter will still be alive. Practices such as machine harvesting which requires flexibility in the vine trunk are out of contention.

The cultural techniques are similar between these vineyards. They are trained either as bush vines or on a low single- or two-wire trellis and left to survive as best they can through dry summers with minimal weed and irrigation management.

Investigation into the difference between wines from young vines and wines from old vines allow one to appraise the differences in complexity and texture. Complexity is derived from the various combinations of primary fruit flavours - developed fruit flavours and flavours contributed through the winemaking and barrel-ageing. One should look at the wines analytically to distinguish the components of complexity. Flavour descriptors are useful in looking at the fruit characters, which are split into primary fruit characters and developed fruit characters.

 

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Winemaking

Fifth-generation Stephen Carl Henschke took over running the winery in 1979. Born in 1950, he was Cyril’s younger son and showed an interest in science and winemaking from an early age.

Stephen completed a Bachelor of Science Degree at Adelaide University in 1973, gained winemaking experience in the Hunter Valley, and in 1975 with his wife Prue, spent two years at the Geisenheim Institute of Viticulture and Wine Technology in West Germany. During their stay in Germany he undertook work experience in two wineries, Winzerverein Oberrotweil in Baden and the Institut für Rebenzüchtung und Rebenveredlung in Geisenheim.

 

On their return to Australia they enrolled in Wine Science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, in order to catch up with the changes in the Australian wine industry. During this time Stephen worked with his father at the winery in Keyneton while Prue embarked on a career as a technical research officer at the nearby Roseworthy College.

In the early 1980s, Stephen introduced winemaking techniques learned in Germany and upgraded to more flexible refrigeration in the winery in order to improve the quality of the white wines. He maintained his ancestors’ traditional methods with his red wines, which focused on fruit quality and tannin maturity in the vineyard, submerged cap open fermentation, minimal racking, no fining and minimal filtration. He also began incorporating barrel fermentation as a component of his red fermentation techniques. Because of the poorly seasoned oak at the time he introduced an oak timber purchase program, seasoning it in the Barossa in order to obtain better quality mature oak flavours.

 

In the early 1980s, Stephen and Prue purchased an apple orchard at Lenswood in the cool-climate Adelaide Hills in order to pioneer viticultural and soil management techniques from Germany. This led to using Vertical Shoot Positioned canopies to improve fruit exposure and the old-vine selection programs in the 100-year-old shiraz vineyards.

In 1988 and 1989 they worked vintages in Burgundy and Bordeaux respectively, in order to research the grass roots level of viticulture and winemaking in those regions. With widened perspectives they have forged their own styles, with much of the success of Henschke wines attributed to the vine age and fruit quality in the vineyards. In 1994/95 the UK International Wine and Spirit Competition named them International Red Winemaker of the Year.

Stephen and Prue, with their three children Johann, Justine and Andreas, quietly continue a proud heritage and the philosophy for outstanding quality. They are mindful of the fact that more than 145 years of grapegrowing and winemaking, spanning six generations, has been an integral part of Australian quality wine history.

 

Hill of Grace  / The Eden Valley in which the Henschke estate lies, is situated in the Barossa Range to the east, overlooking the Barossa Valley. Together, these valleys comprise what is today known as the Barossa zone.

Hill of Grace is surely one of the most evocative phrases in the world of wine. It is a translation from the German ‘Gnadenberg’, a region in Silesia, and the name given to the lovely Lutheran Church across the road. For Henschke, it is the name of both the vineyard and the wine that has so beguiled lovers of red wine. The 8ha single vineyard on the original 32ha block sits at an altitude of 400m and has an average rainfall of 520mm. It is situated near the family property at Parrot Hill, an isolated spot that was once an active village

 

The land was originally granted to Charles Flaxman by land grant in 1842 for £1 per acre. It was then sold by George Fife Angas to Nicolaus Stanitzki in 1873, for £480. Following his death the property was transferred in 1879 to his son Carl August Stanitzki, who later sold the vineyard and moved from the district. Paul Gotthard Henschke purchased the vineyard in 1891. After his death, his sons and executors Paul Alfred and Julius Philip Henschke arranged the transfer to Julius Philip, who had married Ida Maria Magdalena Stanitzki, a granddaughter of Nicolaus Stanitzki. On Julius Philip’s death in 1928, the property transferred to his wife. In 1951 the property was purchased by Louis Edmund Henschke, a son of Paul Alfred Henschke and brother of Cyril, who worked the vineyard and property for nearly 40 years. The Henschke family continue to maintain the tradition and develop new ways of preserving the precious genetic heritage for future generations.

As with the winery, each generation has added to the vineyard, which is now home to eight blocks of shiraz of various ages, as well as semillon, riesling and mataro (mourvèdre). The whites are used in Eden Valley varietals while the mataro, with its rich colour and complex flavour, often complements blends such as Henry’s Seven.

The Grandfathers, as the oldest block is called, was planted by Nicolaus Stanitzki around the 1860s. These vines are planted on their own roots from pre-phylloxera material brought from Europe by the early settlers. The sturdy, gnarled vines are dry grown and yield an average of 2.5t/ha (1t/acre). The shiraz vines are planted on a wide spacing of 3.1m between vines and 3.4m between rows. The 1m trellis consists of two wires which carry two or three arched canes with a bud number of around 40 to 50. The foliage is allowed to hang down to form a drooping canopy, which helps to reduce shoot vigour. The more vigorous blocks have been converted to VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) and Scott Henry to open up the canopy.

The mataro is grown as bush vines, which suits the upright growth of this variety. The whites are planted closer together than the reds, down to 2.2m, and have the regular 3.4m between rows to suit the old tractor widths.

 

Originally the ground was cultivated and the vines were ‘dodged off’ in spring and ‘hilled on’ again in early summer for weed control. Nowadays, under the guidance of viticulturist Prue Henschke, the vineyard has a permanent sod culture of early-maturing perennial rye grass in the row, which is mowed down low. The vines are no longer dodged and a mulch of wheat straw is used under the vines to retain soil moisture, build up organic matter, and inhibit weed growth. Prediction of disease pressure through an integrated pest management program is a strong part of Henschke’s viticultural management, resulting in minimal chemical input in the vineyard. The vineyard is currently run incorporating organic and biodynamic practices. Yield estimates are carried out in early summer, and cropping levels are kept in check by bunch thinning at veraison. The grapes are picked early to mid-April at a sugar level of around 24°Bé. There is always a good acid/pH balance from this vineyard. The anthocyanins (colour pigments) in the berries are also very high, which perhaps offers a clue to the very high quality of the Hill of Grace shiraz.

While much work is being done in the vineyard with biodynamics and organincs, Prue is also focused on protecting the vines for future generations, and in 1986 began a clonal selection program to identify the best vines to propagate, and where else to look but to the Grandfathers block which she has often referred to as old soldiers.

Prue and her assistant Uschi (Ursula Linssen), who had studied together at Geisenheim, literally walked the rows together, earmarking potential vines. They took a scientific approach, using criteria such as even budburst and the absence of Eutypa, a wood-rotting fungus that wasn’t the problem they had imagined. Then they moved through to flowering to look at bunch numbers per shoot, the evenness of flowering and veraison, virus, and finally the fruit itself. What was the bunch composition and bunch structure? How was the balance of sugar, pH and acid? And all this was after they had already eliminated vines they didn’t deem suitable. It was painstaking work, slotted in with the Mount Edelstone selection and the first of four selections planned extending over at least a 20-year program

 

The Hill of Grace vineyard was taken over in 1891 by Paul Gotthard (second-generation winemaker) but it wasn't until Cyril Alfred's time as winemaker (1950-1979) that the single-vineyard wine was named Hill of Grace with the first release in 1958.

Soil:   rich alluvial soil

Production area:   8 ha

Grape varieties:  Shiraz 100 %

Average age of vines:   brought from Europe by the early German settlers in the mid 1800s. The original vines are now over 140 years old.

Harvest method:  hand picked

Ageing:   in 100% new French (50%) and American (50%) hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling

Vintage Chart

 

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

2008

Excellent

20+years

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Inside information

READING THE SEASONS

By Prue Henschke

In biodynamics, there are two important aspects that will help the soil health of your garden or vineyard:

  • The importance of maintaining soil fertility
  • The energy force – the relationship between the growing environment and the cosmos

This is expressed in the phases of the moon, the planets and the stars:

  • Waxing & waning of the moon
  • Ascending & descending of the moon
  • Moon & planets in relation to star constellations

We track these cycles using Brian Keats’ Antipodean Astro Calendar, as well as going outside and gazing at the night sky.

Download Prue’s Organics/Biodynamics guide

 


 

2015 POST-VINTAGE REPORT - a fairytale vintage?

A traditionally wet winter, mild spring and excellent fruit set provided a great start to the 2015 vintage after four vintages with below average yields. Spring was dry and led into a very mild, dry summer with no disease, resulting in fruit with higher natural acidity, and incredible flavour and colour concentration. A dry, warm and windy start to January, however, resulted in one of the worst bushfires in the Adelaide Hills in living memory, though well away from our Adelaide Hills vineyards.  By the end of the first week, relief came with 60-75mm of rain and a record-breaking coolest January in 11 years. With the onset of veraison at the end of January, the rain was perfectly timed for the old dry-grown vineyards, and the mild weather that followed from February through to April provided for a fairytale vintage. 

Most of our white varieties and some Eden Valley shiraz were in before Easter, moving on to the rest of our Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills red varieties soon after, and eventually winding down at the end of April as the rain and cooler temperatures set in. The 2015 vintage is on track to produce stunning signature riesling and elegant shiraz from Eden Valley, and classic Adelaide Hills expressions of our cool climate varieties such as chardonnay and pinot noir that show extraordinary flavour, purity of fruit and acid balance with the potential for excellent ageing. 


HILL OF GRACE - CELEBRATED 50 VINTAGES AND 150 YEARS OF THE VINEYARD WITH A HISTORICAL RETROSPECTIVE TASTING AT THE WINERY

A once in a lifetime tasting of Hill of Grace was held at the winery in early March, to commemorate 50 vintages of our most celebrated wine, with the oldest vintage, the 1958 Hill of Grace, being one of the standout wines.

Stephen and Prue celebrated 50 vintages of Hill of Grace and 150 years of the vineyard with a retrospective tasting of every vintage dating back to 1958. A small panel of highly respected wine journalists from around the world joined Stephen, Prue, Johann and Justine to share this incredible experience.

The group included such luminaries as Jancis Robinson, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Joe Czerwinski, James Halliday, Andrew Caillard MW and Nick Stock. Master Sommelier and Asia Pacific Best Sommelier competition winner Franck Moreau MS was also in attendance.

For Stephen, it was an emotional day having Johann and Justine present to see the results of decades of work shining through in some glorious wines. “This was an extraordinary tasting because of the extreme rarity of these wines, with the last remaining bottles opened on the day,” he said.

Hill of Grace, a single-vineyard shiraz acclaimed by many as one of Australia’s most prestigious wines, is produced from vines planted more than 150 years ago by Stephen’s great-great-grandfather, Nicolaus Stanitizki, and first made by Stephen’s father Cyril in 1958.

This landmark tasting provided an insight into the unique flavour profile of this vineyard, as well as the extraordinary longevity of the wines, growing in the continental climate of the Eden Valley. In total, 48 vintages were tasted - no wine was made in 1960, 1974 and 2000. 

The line-up concluded with a preview of the 2008 Hill of Grace, which is due for release in April and now under the Vino-Lok glass closure. Stephen says this complex wine is set for a magnificent long life and is currently displaying signature exotic spices, great structure and elegance, finishing with delicious mature, velvety tannins.

Some standout vintages included the 1958, 1962, 1966, 1967, 1972, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and of course the new-release 2008.


 

2016 Vintage Reports: Eden Valley, barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills

EDEN VALLEY – 2016

The 2016 vintage began with well below-average winter rainfall, followed by a warm and dry spring, which enhanced flowering and set to give average to above-average yield potential. Low disease pressure was maintained by one of the hottest Decembers on record, though temperatures cooled down in the New Year and rainfall around veraison in late January brought relief to the ancient, dry-grown vines. This was followed by further rainfall in early March which eased the stress on all varieties. The fruit matured with an earlier harvest, as predicted due to an early Easter. Open, light and airy vine canopies allowed for good flavour, sugar and colour and mature tannins to develop at harvest, which was overall characterised by average yields but very high quality.

BAROSSA VALLEY – 2016

The 2016 vintage began with well below-average winter rainfall, followed by a warm and dry spring, which enhanced flowering and set to give average to above-average yield potential. Low disease pressure was maintained by one of the hottest Decembers on record, though temperatures cooled down in the New Year and rainfall around veraison in late January gave relief to the old, dry-grown vines. This was followed by further rainfall in early March which eased the stress on all varieties. The fruit matured with an earlier harvest, as predicted due to an early Easter. Open, light and airy vine canopies allowed for good flavour, sugar and colour and mature tannins to develop at harvest, which was overall characterised by average yields but very high quality.

ADELAIDE HILLS – 2016

The 2016 vintage began with below-average winter rainfall, followed by a warm and dry spring, which enhanced flowering and set to provide average to above-average yield potential. Low disease pressure was maintained by one of the hottest Decembers on record, though temperatures cooled down in the New Year and rainfall around veraison in late January/early February brought relief to our early-ripening varieties in the Adelaide Hills, resulting in excellent conditions for natural acid retention and clean fruit. This was followed by further rainfall in early March, which eased the stress on the late-ripening varieties, allowing them to mature towards a predicted earlier harvest due to an early Easter. Open, light and airy vine canopies allowed for good flavour, sugar, colour and mature tannins to develop at harvest, which was overall characterised by average yields but very high quality.

 

Hill of Grace Vintages 2006 -2011 by Stephen Henschke.

Over 165 years ago Johann Christian Henschke came from Silesia to settle and farm in the Eden Valley region. By the time third-generation Paul Alfred Henschke took over the reins in 1914, the famous Hill of Grace vines were more than 50 years old. They were planted around the 1860s by an ancestor, Nicolaus Stanitzki, in rich alluvial soil in a shallow fertile valley just north -west of the winery. The red-brown earth grading to deep silty loam has excellent moisture-holding capacity for these dry -grown vines, which sit at an altitude of 400m, with an average rainfall of 520mm. Hill of Grace is a unique, delineated, historic single vineyard that lies opposite a beautiful old Lutheran church which is named after a picturesque region in Silesia called Gnadenberg, meaning Hill of Grace. Cyril Henschke made the first single-vineyard shiraz wine from this vineyard in 1958 from handpicked grapes vinified in traditional open-top fermenters.

 

Vintage 2006

The 2006 vintage shaped up as another high quality year but with only average yields in the Eden Valley. After a late break in mid June 2005, winter and spring rains were some of the best for years in the lead - up to flowering in early summer. Some varieties such as riesling and shiraz suffered more than others from poor set, leading to‘hen and chicken’. While there was some damage in Eden Valley from frost, this had only minor impact on the overall yield; however, yields in most varieties were down by 15-20%. The summer was mild with southerly winds, reminiscent of 2002. Brief heat waves occurred in late January and mid February but were early enough not to affect quality, with only minor sunburn on exposed fruit. Whites were nearly all picked by the end of March, an unusual situation.

Wine Description

Deep crimson in colour with violet hues. Lifted blueberry and blackberry fruits on the nose with hints of crushed sage and confident, ripe herbal notes. The plum and sage flavours follow through on the palate that is beautifully structured with fine-grained tannins and a long, lush finish.

 

Vintage 2007

The 2007 vintage shaped up to be another high quality year but with significantly reduced yields in Eden Valley. Despite an early winter break, rainfall during winter and spring was the worst for years in the lead up to flowering. There was significant spring frost damage in Eden Valley, with yield losses of 20-25%, compounded by the drought and lack of subsoil moisture with overall losses of 50%. Brief heat waves occurred during January; otherwise, it was mild and dry. At the end of January a tropical air mass connected with a cold front to bring good rains to the agricultural areas of South Australia, with flooding in the north. The 70mm rainfall fell steadily over four days, coinciding with veraison, which freshened up the vine canopy to assist with ripening the fruit for harvest. February was recorded as the hottest for 100 years, which brought the already reduced crop to an earlier ripening phase.

Wine Description

Deep crimson with purple hues. Sweet, fragrant, exotic aromas of spicy red and black berry fruits, supported by plum, anise, tar and truffles and a hint of cedar. An elegantly fruited palate shows rich, complex flavours of forest fruits and cassis with underlying notes of black pepper spice, while the surprisingly restrained powdery tannins provide layers of texture for a long and luscious finish.

 

Vintage 2008

The 2008 vintage in Eden Valley was preceded by an average rainfall and a mild and unusually frost- free spring with regular rainfall periods. Fine flowering weather meant good set despite the expectation that the previous drought year of 2007 would affect yields. The vines also showed surprisingly vigorous growth. A dry and hotter than average early summer  caused smaller berry and bunch size. Although temperatures climbed to over 40C around New Year and in mid-February, the weather from mid-January through February was the coolest for 30 years, allowing amazing development of fruit colour, flavour and maturity. In early March, South Australia suffered an unprecedented record heat wave of 15 days over 35C. The unexpected searing heat seemed never-ending and resulted in stressed vines, significant leaf drop, escalating sugar levels in the fruit and significant shrivel. A cool change followed, which brought relief. Selective early morning handpicking, leaving shrivelled fruit on the vines, gave the best quality, resulting in some amazing intensely coloured and flavoured reds, in particular shiraz.

Wine Description

Intense deep crimson in colour. The nose is attractive and enticing with aromas of sweet blackberry, blueberry, Satsuma plum and rhubarb, with characteristic nuances of oriental spices, black tea leaves, anise, tar and cedar. The palate is rich and concentrated with spicy plum, crushed herbs and Dutch licorice flavours. An amazing balance of acid, fruit intensity, weight and length create a powerful palate that finishes with long, fine tannins.

 

Vintage 2009

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.

Wine Description

Deep red with crimson hues. Complex aromas of red currants, blackberry and marzipan with hints of five spice, dried herbs, black pepper, smoked charcuterie and layers of fine French oak. The palate is deep, rich and textural with a beautiful expression of berry fruits and spice,finishing with long, fine velvety tannins.

 

Vintage 2010

The 2010 growing season was preceded by above average winter rainfall. Spring was mild with little frost damage and gave us an even budburst. The weather remained cold and wet through spring, which held back growth until a two-week high 30s heat wave in November affected flowering and fruit set. Spring rains continued into early summer right through until mid-December, making it the wettest year since 2005. The vines responded to the heat and grew vigorously until early January, developing lush canopies, but bunch development suffered as a result.

A roller-coaster ride of heat spikes and cool changes continued through a warm summer with occasional thunderstorms. The vines went through veraison a week earlier than 2009. Lower yields coupled with the mild ripening period resulted in concentrated fruit. Vintage began a week earlier than 2009 and was in full swing by mid-February. The white vintage was all but finished a month later while the red harvest continued with deeply coloured, well-balanced grapes being picked during mild, dry conditions until the end of April.

Wine Description

Very deep crimson with violet hues. An alluring nose of exotic spices, cracked black pepper, licorice, sage and crushed herbs, complemented by sweeter notes of blackberry, plum and cedar. The complex palate has dark, brooding flavours, rich layers, texture and balance of natural acidity, while the refined, silky tannins provide incredible length.

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33 different wines with 200 vintages

Winemaking since 1868

  • Stephen Henschke

    Winemaker
    The international recognition came in 1984 when a group of 'Masters of Wine' (MW) visited Australia and tasted several wines including ours. They gave glowing reviews to the Hill of Grace. Then tasting with other journalists followed and there has been no looking back.
  • Prue Henschke

    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.

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Andrew Caillard MW, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henschke . In a tasting of  18 wines 

2020 The Penfolds Collection - An outstanding collection of classic Penfolds styles, showing brilliant consistency across all the range. This release offers wine collectors and drinkers alike some of Australia’s most sought after wines, renowned for their compelling stories and reputation for further cellaring. 
 

21d 15min ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henschke . In a tasting of  23 wines 

Yesterday a fine tasting with friends including wines from 1908-2019. Best ones were Harlan 2011, Cristal 1962, Cheval Blanc 1947, Monfortino 2009 etc.

1m 8d ago

 Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henschke . In a tasting of  12 wines 

What a lovely BBQ tasting under the Finland Midnight Sun! Eight guests voted Cyril Henschke 2013 as the best from the bunch. My favorites were Muga Prado Enea GR 2006 (94p), Petrolo Galatrona 2004 (94p) and Shafer One Point Five 2016 (94p). Troplong-Mondot 2000 was passed its peak while La Landonne 2012 is nowhere near for its enjoyability yet (give it another 8 years still to open up!)

1m 21d ago

 Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  10 wines  from  Henschke . In a tasting of  19 wines 

Pol Roger 2012 – Whether or not it will ultimately be seen as topping the 2002 is probably immaterial. Suffice to say, both are spectacular. This is, for me, the best since that great wine. A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, it was aged for seven years on lees before disgorgement and then spent further time in the cellars. Dosage is just 7 grams/litre. The grapes were sourced from twenty vineyards across the Montagne de Reims and Cote des Blancs, both Grand cru and Premier cru. The wine sees full malo. Riddling is by hand, which is the exception these days. I thought it was an absolutely glorious wine, one which again would make many Houses very proud to have as their flagship. It is that good.


Pale green gold, the aromas open with stonefruits and citrus, more specifically white peach and grapefruit. A minerally backing. Florals, notably white jasmine, and a seabreeze freshness. A hint of red fruits sneak in and out every now and then. It reminded me of a perfect Queensland autumn morning, intense blue sky and the ocean sparkling like diamonds have been scattered across it. The wine has great length and carries the vibrant acidity with it. Fine balance. Decadent, hedonistic. The stonefruit and peaches dominate the finish. This wine has an assured future ahead of it and should drink magnificently for many years to come. A glorious champagne now, with even better things to come. 97.

2m 27d ago

 Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  23 wines  from  Henschke . In a tasting of  46 wines 

Penfolds  Series Two 50 Year Old Port NV / Pale tawny-brown in color and exuding an incredibly complex nose of walnuts, gingerbread, Manuka honey, treacle / molasses, plus tons of earth notes that show nuances of bark, loam and fungi and later-emerging wafts of exotic incense and spice notes of sandalwood, cloves and spice cake, the Penfolds Series Two 50 Year Old Port is a very big, rich and intense Port-style wine with a wonderful array of aromas and flavors, a crisp line of acid and an epically long finish. 100 points

5m 17d ago

 Henschke  has updated producer and wine information

7m 22d ago

 Jancis Robinson MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  9 wines  from  Henschke . In a tasting of  26 wines 

Opus One 1998 / El Nino brought rain and changeable weather followed by exceptionally late Oct harvest. A vintage damned from the start. Cabernet Sauvignon 91%, Cabernet Franc 7%, Merlot 1%, Petit Verdot & Malbec 1%. Skin contact 36 days, 16 months in new French oak.


Very, very glossy crimson with some evolution already at the rim. Toasty, open nose. Sweet start to the palate. Nothing like the 1997 in nobility. Tannins and acidity crowd in at the finish. Jagged. Difficult to predict evolution. Slightly hot finish.

8m 4d ago

 Julia Harding MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  2 wines  from  Henschke . In a tasting of  25 wines 

Henschke Hill of Grace 2004 / 100% Shiraz grapes from pre-phylloxera material brought from Europe by the early settlers in the mid-1800s and grown in the Eden Valley wine region. Matured in 100% new French (50%) and American (50%) hogsheads for 18 months prior to blending and bottling.
Slightly greyish but deep garnet. Intensely sweet dark cassis fruit plus some cedary leafy notes. Rich and smooth and really plush, generous and silky but also very moreish and juicy. pH 3.6, TA 5.7 g/l,

8m 29d ago

 Julia Harding MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henschke . In a tasting of  20 wines 

Penfolds Grange 1990 / 95% Shiraz, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.Smoky coffee and cassis and a little herbal and just a touch leathery. Much more evolved than the 1991. Fine grained and more elegant tannins than the 1986. Fine grip and freshness, dry but not drying. Long and rich and satisfying. (JH)

10m 3d ago

 James Halliday, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  14 wines  from  Henschke . In a tasting of  14 wines 

2015 Henschke Mount Edelstone / "This was the first wine sold in bottle ('52) by Henschke, although it has had to play second fiddle to Grange since '58 when the latter came on stream. New oak is only 22%, and the majority of the oak is French. The vintage was excellent, the flavours deep, with soft blackberry and plum fruits wending their way across the palate, cushioned by cedary oak and carefully polished tannins. It's utterly classic drinking, with unalloyed pleasure now but no less in another 20 years."97 points

10m 7d ago

 Henschke  has updated producer and wine information

10m 22d ago

 Henschke  has updated producer and wine information

1y 15d ago

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