Over 165 years ago Johann Christian Henschke came from Silesia to settle and farm in the Eden Valley region. By the time third-generation Paul Alfred Henschke took over the reins in 1914, the famous Hill of Grace vines were more than 50 years old. They were planted around the 1860s by an ancestor, Nicolaus Stanitzki, in rich alluvial soil in a shallow fertile valley just north-west of the winery. The red-brown earth grading to deep silty loam has excellent moisture-holding capacity for these dry-grown vines, which sit at an altitude of 400m, with an average rainfall of 520mm. Hill of Grace is a unique, delineated, historic single vineyard that lies opposite a beautiful old Lutheran church which is named after a picturesque region in Silesia called Gnadenberg, meaning Hill of Grace. Cyril Henschke made the first single-vineyard shiraz wine from this vineyard in 1958 from handpicked grapes vinified in traditional open-top fermenters.
Henschke Hill of Grace is more than just a wine. It is an ongoing story of a single place on earth: of a family, of the perseverance and courage of generations past and hope for generations to come. It is a tribute to Henschke ancestors who travelled from Silesia aboard the ‘Skjold’ for ninety-eight days, on one of the hardest recorded voyages, to embrace life in a strange new land at the bottom of the world.
Henschke Hill of Grace is a story of loss, hardship and determination. The fierce independence that brought the German pioneers to South Australia to settle in the Barossa, the promise as they became naturalised Australians, the craftsmanship and doggedness as they created their homes, self-sustaining farms and vineyards. It is the joy that must have swelled in their hearts as they laid the final hand-quarried stone on their own church near Keyneton in the Eden Valley, naming it Gnadenberg ‘Hill of Grace’ in remembrance of home. It is the joy they must have felt at week’s end when they gathered to fill the small church with song.
Remembering our ancestors, the former custodians of Hill of Grace and their ability to endure and yet to always celebrate, we have chosen the word ‘Joy’ to mark our 2012 vintage of Henschke Hill of Grace.
After the difficult season of 2011 that devastated the Hill of Grace crop, we were blessed by nature in 2012 with a truly beautiful and celebratory season; a long, slow ripening period that was perfectly timed.
The La Niña pattern weakened during the lead-up to the 2012 vintage, resulting in below average winter and spring rainfall. July was the driest since the serious drought of 2003. Spring was mild with few frost events; however, flowering and fruit set were affected by wet drizzly weather in mid to late November, leading to only average yields. Summer was also surprisingly mild with below average temperatures from southerlies off the ocean in January and only two short heat events, at New Year and at the end of February. This provided for slow ripening which allowed for intense fruit flavours, high colour figures, high acidity and mature tannins. Rainfall leading up to vintage was above average, with the heaviest rainfall events in late January and late February, which tied in well with the natural physiology of the dry-grown vines; ie, keeping leaves active at veraison and ripening. Temperatures were mild during harvest through March, warming to an Indian summer in April, allowing for a long window of picking and amazing maturities with the red varieties.
Shiraz was a standout variety showing great purity and spice, colour, intensity and strikingly mature tannins. Yields were average with exceptional overall quality.
"One of the great iterations of this regal single site wine. Very spicy, dried ground baking spices on the nose as well as dried sage leaves and other roasting herbs and a kind of wet chalky element too. Not the saturation and swagger of 2010 or 2009, a very tightly cut palate that's contained and reserved. Plenty of fine layers here and the sustained length is a real thing of marvel. The nose has all the blackberry and dark cherry fruits on offer with a wealth of fresh-roasted coffee, plums and blackberry. Tight and contained, real elegance with power and a long, fresh and even-handed finish. Best give this some time to fill out. Will be complete around 2025 and historic tastings would suggest it will really peak around 2035."
"Aroma is incredibly intense and powerful, with loads of dark plum, plus those beautiful...blackberry and edgy licorice characters...Beautiful palate structure, with oyster shell and fine, chalky tannins providing a fine firmness that carries through to the very long finish. Clearly one of the greatest Hill of Graces, with the flavour and texture of those old vines providing a velvety smooth palate experience. There’s a purity of place that almost speaks to you."
"This highly anticipated release — there was no wine from the terribly difficult 2011 to follow on from a stellar 2010 bottling — proves the wait has been worthwhile. The wine achieves tremendous concentration without bulking up. It’s focused and poised, revealing itself in ever-deepening layers. There are bright and lively blue and black berry aromas and flavours, some ecclesiastical smoke, Dutch licorice and a savoury edge that suggests black olives and dry bay leaves. It’s the composure of the wine that is really impressive, and the ease and — dare I say it — grace with which it moves through the mouth and lingers in the memory."
"It’s been worth the wait, and then some, for this is a flawless Hill of Grace. Perfect colour, fragrant dark cherry/berry aromas and flavours, positive savoury tannin and French oak support, and great aftertaste."
"100% grown on a small shiraz vineyard planted some time in the mid 1800s. Stephen Henschke noted, emotionally, that there are four generations of the Henschke family buried in the cemetery beside the Hill of Grace vineyard. The climate, the soil, the aspect, the dancing, the music, the food, the vines, the struggles and joys, and all those each-important lines of Henschke people; this is the terroir from which this wine comes. It will be released on May 1. Gravitas. Depth of fruit. Lift, life and spice but a weightiness, an aristocratic presence. Hill of Grace Shiraz has a special place in Australian wine life but this is a particularly special release. There are myriad flavours and aromas on offer here. It’s entrancing. Fennel, blackberry, violets, ground spice, a lick of soy, flickers of light, purrs of dark. A rumble of firm, integrated, robust tannin. This is a great one."
"Wonderfully harmonious, refined and elegant, blending a supple, silky texture with a profound level of detail. Aromas of mahogany, cedar, juniper and black truffle mingle with a core of bright cherry and cranberry flavors, gaining momentum and traction on the epic finish."
“In walking the ancient vines of the isolated Hill of Grace vineyard during harvest, I discovered a personality to this place articulated in its wines quite unlike any other. There is an effortless, indeed graceful and calm purity to this vintage that captures the essence of this historic and celebrated place. It exudes a grand, expansive complexity and yet upholds restraint and elegance, alive with the classic Chinese fine spice that is Hill of Grace, the dark chocolate of Barossa shiraz and a sage leaf note that Henschke says is true to 2012. Tannins are gorgeously fine, intricately silky and yet commanding and tense, stringing out a finish of profound line and length, backed with the brilliantly taut acid line that defines 2012. Approachable and irresistible now, don’t underestimate the grand longevity of this season.”