Fom the Barossa, this is a grenache mourvèdre shiraz blend in the tradition of the great southern Rhones and it is singing. A blend of 77% grenache, 19% mourvedre and 4% shiraz.
I asked Stephen Henschke if he had ever made a better Johann’s Garden and, while he loves what he has from 2016, he did mention both 2002 and 2004, both of which won Best Grenache (or Grenache blend) in their respective Barossa Shows. I’m happy to concede that it is the finest for a decade. The first vintage was 1996, coming from an old shiraz vineyard which Stephen’s uncle was about to pull out. Stephen suggested that perhaps he should take a quick look and loved what he saw – wonderful old shiraz vines. There was to be no vine cull here.
I really loved this wine (it is entirely possible that I have a glass within reach as I type, but then it is entirely possible I have a glass of each of the range from the tasting table – the problem is choosing which one to enjoy, very much a First World problem if ever there was one).
An entrancing red/purple colour, the wonderful aromatics exploded from the glass from the moment the wine was poured. Elegance personified. Exquisitely perfumed, full of spices, with cinnamon, a hint of sage, vanilla, cherries. Ripe notes and a lovely sweet core of dark fruit. Chocolate and wonderfully supple on the palate, seamless with the silkiest of tannins and great length. Finely crafted, this wine lingers with intent. It has a great future but one wonders how it gets better. Different perhaps but surely not better? Finishes with just a slight savoury note. Just wow!
A score? I wanted to go 97 but then I thought that might paint me into a corner for the rest of the wines. So 96, it was to be. Then I thought hardly fair. For me, 97. Sure, a high score for immediate gratification and if an insistence for a long and classical future is compelling for you, then you may drop it back a smidge.
One minor detraction – the Henschkes moved from cork many years ago and use both screwcap and vinolock. Trials of the latter began in 2004. The Henschkes consider it their ‘cork for export’ and it seems well accepted. Personally, I much prefer the screwcap.
One final point. Wherever one ranks this in the latest collection, it is surely far and away the ‘value buy’ with daylight second.