Henschke Hill of Grace 2016
One of the world’s most iconic wines, from a great vintage – much expected. But the Henschkes never let you down. Another stunning Hill of Grace; it seems to have been a while since that was not the verdict.
The story is well known and oft-told. A small single vineyard near the famous Gnadenberg Lutheran Church in the Eden Valley, planted with pre-phylloxera vines brought to South Australia in the mid-1800s. The oldest vines, the ‘Grandfathers’, now exceed 160 years in age (who’s new world now, Europe?). They are under the care of Prue Henschke, one of Australia’s most highly respected viticulturalists. The oak, hogsheads, is 85% French (83% of which is new) and 15% American (17% new), in which the wine spent 18 months.
The Henschkes always like to come up with a title or slogan for the wine/vintage. This time? ‘A Congregation of the Ancients’. Some titles work better than others.
This is the 59th vintage for HoG, though only the 55th release – there was none made in 1960, 1974, 2000 and 2011. Recent vintages have been less than generous – one barrel in 2003 and minute quantities in 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020.
The wine itself? Deep, intense, opaque blacks and purples. Still so young, although one thing immediately apparent is that the tannins seem delightfully mature. Time will reveal more of what this wonderful wine has to offer, and perhaps nudge it up the next point. To be honest, the score was a toss-up and really only given to allow the inevitable improvement this wine will see to be properly reflected.
Finesse, balance, elegance, power, a wine dancing on the knife-edge of intensity and grace. Seamless, such a gloriously supple texture, and amazing length. Yet all the time, one is reminded at just how youthful this wine is. There is complexity, but undoubtedly not to the extent that will be apparent as this wine unfolds over the next decade.
Spices, black fruits, cassis, fresh leather, blueberries, sage, coffee beans, soy, even a whiff of cocoa powder. Finely integrated oak, giving the wine a creamy note. The flavours come in waves and are carefully held in place by impressive structure and those silky tannins. The finish persists endlessly and all throughout, maintains its intensity. Thirty years? Forty years? Who knows, but it hardly matters. Provided your cellaring conditions are top notch, this should age and improve for as long as you want.