The Sommelier’s View – Henschke 2021

Cafe Sydney Sommelier Simon Curkovic gives his verdict on the 2021 Henschke Shiraz releases.

There are not many occasions where one can taste these high priced Henschke beauties side by side and when presented with the opportunity, the only answer can be “of course”.  

2018 Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz – Barossa $115
95 Points

A blend of 2 vineyards which share a geological characteristic of limestone in both the Barossa Valley at Light Pass and Tappa Pass in the Eden Valley.  Separated by less than 2km as the bird flies however with 200m of variation in altitude, the consequence for the wine is that it shares characters associated with both Barossa and Eden Valleys.  This Barossa labelled wine shows immense depth of colour and this translates into super dense blue and black fruit notes, with sufficient but not overwhelming oak to support the wine’s immense depth and complex fruit profile. With a confection like pastille blackberry, boysenberry and blueberry edge, the wine is both sweet and savoury with hints of meaty charcuterie like spice and pepper notes.  The tannin structure is both supportive of the fruit weight providing balance to what is a quintessential new world wine.  Absolutely delicious now and through 15-20 years in the right cellar conditions. 

2016 Mount Edelstone – Eden Valley $225
96 Points

Australia’s first single vineyard wine planted in 1912 is the quintessential tour de force of youthful austerity and wonderful longevity. This wine shines through beautifully in this brilliant vintage.  In the glass it evolved considerably and most favourably over the half hour I was in its presence.  Initially, showing a hint of eucalypt, bay-leaf, sage and olive with an immensity of ripe, yet never overripe or cooked, blackberries, mulberry, black cherry, plum with hints of blueberry and red cherry. The wine is both wonderfully fruit forward and luscious in a new world style, however oak once again, like in the Tappa Pass, is thoughtfully integrated delivering not only spine and structure but also additional savoury baking spice characters like clove, cinnamon and star anise.  However it is on the palate where the wine shines with an elevated yet fine line of distinct tannin, almost Pu-Erh tea like that frames the immense perfectly ripe and pure syrah fruit notes with all the complexity the variety is famed for. Another classic rendition from this venerable vineyard, a seductive and beautiful offering, this wine will survive for many decades in the right cellaring conditions, that is if you buy enough and do not succumb to its immediate charm.

2016 Hill of Roses – Eden Valley $415
99 Points

The result of Pru and Steven Henschke’s plan to future proof the magnificent and most famous singe vineyard in Australia, the Hill of Grace.  The Hill of Roses is the Post Office block adjacent to the ancient Grandfather’s block that is not considered old vine in the Barossa’s Old Vine Charter and therefore not yet considered suitable for inclusion in the most famous single vineyard, Hill of Grace.  The vineyard was carefully propagated by Pru from Hill of Grace cuttings and similarly dry grown in the warm climate provided by the Eden Valley.  There are not many occasions where one can taste these two high priced beauties side by side and when presented with the opportunity, the only answer can be “of course” building excitement and anticipation immediately.  

There was an immediate lusciousness to the wine.  On the nose the depth of the ripe amalgam of black and blue fruits was amazing.  It had immense depth, concentration, intensity and charm.  The fragrance from the wine was stunning, with perfumed roses, violets, even hibiscus.  There was pepper spice, savoury baking spices and again a definitive line of tannin that is both powerful yet subtle and restrained.  Upon tasting such a wine, you can wonder why is this not Hill of Grace worthy, you can ask the question, when is it considered worthy of inclusion in the top wine?  Is this a perfect wine?  So very close.

2016 Hill of Grace – Eden Valley $890
100 Points

Undoubtedly Australia’s most famous single vineyard wine.  In similar environs in France with a stone wall or a former stone wall that may surround this magnificent and ancient vineyard, it would be called a ‘Clos’ and have a zero on the end of the price.  

And to answer my own question ‘when is the Hill of Roses ready for inclusion in the top wine?” it is only in a side by side comparison where it is obvious.  Not to detract at all from the Hill of Roses, it may forever be its own unique representation and live side by side as equally magnificent.  But it is the multi-dimensional depth, balance, harmony in the Hill of Grace that is clear.  Whether this is the power of suggestion alone holding Grace above all others, the evidence in the glass was obvious.  Both wines enormously gratifying and multi-dimensional but the Hill of Grace was just a perfect rendition from what is another magnificent vintage following 2015.  If 2015 and 2016 follow the same trajectory as 1990 and 1991, then we are all set for a wonderful decade or two to consume these wonderful wines.



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