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St Henri is a time-honoured and alternative expression of Shiraz, and an intriguing counterpoint to Grange. It is unusual among high quality Australian red wines as it does not rely on any new oak. It was created in the early 1950s (first commercial vintage 1957) and gained a new lease of life in the 1990s as its quality and distinctive style became better understood. Proudly, a wine style that hasn’t succumbed to the dictates of fashion or commerce. St Henri is rich and plush when young, gaining soft, earthy, mocha-like characters as it ages. It is matured in old, 1460 litre vats that allow the wine to develop, imparting minimal, if any oak character. Although a small proportion of Cabernet is sometimes used to improve structure, the focal point for St Henri remains Shiraz.
Australia Vintage Report: Below average rainfall through the growing season and storms and hail in October 1997 led to some yield losses. Parts of Eden Valley were also hit by Spring frosts which affected yields. This was followed by a warm dry summer, “an unhurried vintage” which produced reds of generally good quality but “forward, plain” whites.
In 1988 there were 5,468 hectares of vineyards in Barossa and 43,371 tonnes of wine grapes were crushed in that vintage.
Grape supply turned around dramatically with demand now exceeding supply, forcing grape prices up by an average of 20%. Chardonnay was in strong demand but Riesling demand dropped away.
The wine industry introduced the “Enjoy wine in moderation campaign” to head off health lobby criticisms.
Grant and Helen Burge started their own winery, Grant Burge Wines, in the old Moorooroo Cellars on the banks of Jacob’s Creek. Grant followed a five generation tradition started by English pioneer John Burge in 1855 of grapegrowing and winemaking. He also made the first vintage of Meshach Shiraz in 1988, a full bodied red wine sourced from old vine fruit, which was to become his company’s flagship and a multi-award winner.
In the same year, experienced wine marketer Bob McLean, whose career included brand development at Orlando and Petaluma, joined forces with fifth generation vigneron Karl Lindner and winemaker Stuart Blackwell to revitalise 44-year-old St Hallett Wines at Krondorf. St Hallett Old Block Shiraz was repositioned as a classic Barossa red wine.
Brian Walsh was appointed Chief Winemaker at Yalumba.
Senior management undertook a buy-out of Orlando Wines from Reckitt and Coleman.
Australia’s most successful membership based mail order wine club Cellarmaster Wines Pty Ltd established a winemaking and distribution base at Dorrien and opened Dorrien Estate winery (although there was no cellar door outlet).