Stephen Henschke - Winemaker

Fifth-generation Stephen Carl Henschke and youngest son of Cyril Henschke showed great interest in science and winemaking at an early age. With a wonderful family heritage of winemaking Stephen is proud that the Henschke name and reputation is inexorably linked with red wines in general and Hill of Grace in particular, but with winemaking in his blood he approaches all wine styles with the same depth of passion and commitment to quality.


Stephen Overseeing the Red Ferments


Stephen’s memorable vintage,
2010 Hill of Grace


Stephen has retained the traditional approach to red winemaking used by his forebears. You can imagine their surprise at finding how ripe the grapes became in their newly adopted sunny country. Their table wines would have been naturally higher in alcohol and fermented dry, due to the warmer conditions. Wine exports towards the turn of the century required fortifying the wines due to microbiological spoilage problems. This technology lasted throughout the war years, until the demand for table wine flourished due to the contribution to our wine and food culture by the newer immigrants from southern Europe, predominantly from Italy and Greece.

The shift from fortified wines meant they picked the grapes ripe to achieve full maturity and to gain intensity of colour, flavour and mature tannins – something that is not out of place for rich, full-bodied reds – while the winemaking itself took a minimalist approach. They handled the wines gently; used minimal racking, low sulphur, gentle fining and filtration, unlike what is so often done today for ‘cosmetic’ reasons. Stephen’s forebears took a puristic, holistic approach that had been passed down from generation to generation so it was almost intuitive. At the ’40 Years of Hill of Grace’ celebration in 1998 when Stephen tasted every vintage – some for the first time – he was struck by how closely he was emulating his father’s winemaking of the late 1950s and the 60s with his minimal intervention techniques.

With today’s advanced viticultural practices, of course, the greatest focus is given to the quality of fruit in the vineyard. And just as success of the reds is largely attributed to fruit quality, so too is the quality of the whites.

If Stephen shows a traditional influence with red winemaking, then it is true to say he has been influenced by his German studies for the whites. In a way he is using the best of Old World tradition coupled with New World technology. He retains a purity of fruit through careful handling of the juice and wine, which brings out the intense, varietally pure perfumes of the natural grape flavours. Combine this with the today’s technology – and taste the resulting whites – and it is clear that Stephen has created a new direction for Henschke that his forebears could never have imagined.

In keeping with world’s best practice, Stephen embarked upon a project to develop a Quality Management System. Henschke was one of the first wineries in 1998 to achieve ISO 9002 Certification.


2015 – Wine Spectator’s Choice Award: NY Wine Experience

2015 – South Australian Regional Awards – Premium Food and Wine from our Clean Environment – Wine Award

2014 – Henschke Hill of Grace awarded an inaugural Barossa Trust Mark

2014 – Induction into South Australia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Business SA) Hall of Fame

2012 – South Australian Wine Industry Association Environmental Excellence Award – Small-Medium Business

2011 – Induction into Family Business Australia (SA) Hall of Fame

2006Gourmet Traveller WINE Magazine Winemaker of the Year

1998Volvo/WINEMagazine Winemaker of the Year nominee

1995 – Advance Australia Award for Outstanding Contribution to the wine industry

1994/95 – Joint International Winemaker of the Year (with Prue)

Learn About

Prue Henschke