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James Suckling / A dry season with reduced yields, but all the DNA is here with a rich array of baking spices permeating ripe blackberries, red berries and plums. Chocolate, plum cake, currants, freshly turned and loamy earth and dried sage leaves, too. Very complex. The palate's smoothly arranged around the fine, long tannins that carry a concentrated core of blackberries, tarry, dark stony flavors, ripe blood plums and a long trail of deeply spicy warmth through the finish. Hints of mocha and expresso to close. Elegant, complex and complete. This is very approachable now. Typically though, it's a wine that is best drunk at 20 or more years from vintage.
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 lead-up to the 2013 vintage saw an early onset of summer, with occasional thunderstorms and only four heat spikes, into the 40s, over summer. A cooler than average January followed by a warm February, brought the predicted early vintage even further forward.
Even after the dry-fecta of winter/spring/summer the word from the winery floor was that it would be another great Eden Valley riesling year, followed up with some great old-vine shiraz. Fortunately, a desperately needed 16mm of rain came, the first for nearly six months, at the beginning of March to help the dry-grown vines struggle through to full maturity.
The roller-coaster weather ride continued through March with almost weekly cycles of hot and cold. Cool drizzly weather at the end of March nearly brought the harvest to a halt, but with a return to the Indian summer conditions in early April, it gave us a chance to get the late varieties in Eden Valley over the line, predominantly cabernet sauvignon and merlot, returning us to another great vintage of average yields and fabulous rock solid quality.