wa2.gif (4241 bytes)

abut9.gif (3095 bytes)

abut12.gif (3207 bytes)
abut10.gif (3636 bytes)

abut11.gif (4039 bytes)


The wines of Henschke, Barossa, Australia
Sustaining a heritage, with a biodynamic twist

CA Henschke & Co, PO Box 100 Keyneton, South Australia 5353
Tel: +61 8 8564 8223
Website: www.henschke.com.au

Stephen and Prue Henschke

Henschke is a fifth generation winery, with the sixth generation now coming to the fore. The vineyards date back to the 1860s, which is almost as far as Australian vitculture goes. The first family vines were planted in 1861 in Keyneton by Johann Christian Henschke, a migrant from Silesia. It’s currently run by the dynamic winemaker and viticultralist pairing of husband and wife team Stephen and Prue Henschke.

After trialling organics, Prue and Stephen have decided to go fully organic, including the adoption of some biodynamic practices. They explained what this blend of sustainability looks like in practice.

Hill of Grace is the most famous vineyard. It's a 9 hectare block with five different soil types, including the celebrated grandfather vines dating back 120 years. Mount Edelstone is another old vineyard of the Henschkes, planted in 1912, and consisting of 16.5 hectares. It's quite high vigour, with deep red brown earth over gravel. The trellis style here has been changed from the traditional single-wire 'umbrella' to Scott Henry (a split canopy system) to cope with the vigour, and is planted east to west so that the face of the vine rows get the northern sun.

One of the problems facing organic growers has been the control of under-row weeds, which is achieved in conventional vineyards by the use of herbicides. Under-vine weed control in the Henschke vineyards has been switched from herbicides to pine oil in the winter, and then in the summer an under-vine ploughing device which takes out weeds without damaging the vines is used. In addition, in some of the vineyard blocks a permanent sward is left in the vineyard with straw mulch under the vines, deterring weed growth and helping to maintain soil moisture.

The Henschkes practice a schedule of organic sprays. These include Bacillus thuriengensis, copper and sulfur (which they are moving away from), bicarbonate (Ecocarb) and canola oil (for control of powdery mildew). In bullet-point form, here are some of the other sustainable/organic/biodynamic practices they are putting into place.

  • The Keyneton home vineyards use recycled water from winery effluent dams.
  • Stalks and skins are recycled in a compost pad.
  • Regeneration patches have been planted to native vegetation, 'We're trying to cover up what our forefathers removed', explains Pru. Part of the organic schedule is that 5% of landholding is returned to native vegetation, but Pru says that her target is 20%. There are native cypress pines in the vineyards.
  • Soil is protected with native plant swards, such as wallaby grass (Danthonia sp.) and saltbush, which encourages beneficial insects.
  • Mulch is used to conserve the moisture in the soils.
  • They are moving away from wooden fence posts in the vineyard because of problems with contamination of the soil by CCA – plastic is being used instead.

Composting is being done by the biodynamic process, with different layers. One of the growers Henschke use has a dairy, which is a source of manure. BD500 is spread out as a soil conditioner. Prue doesnt have to make her own biodynamic preparations. 'We can just send away for BD500 and it is delivered in three days,' she says. 

'We're looking for management systems that help the health of the soils, and help them retain moisture', explains Prue. 'The soil components are manufactured by the microbes in the soil: they need food and the right conditions'. She adds that, 'for me it is not marketing – it is survival.'

'We are combining organics and biodynamics to give an integrated system', she explains. This sort of fusion of sustainable wine growing, organics and selected biodynamic practices strikes me as an enlightened, rational approach, although it would probably be frowned upon by purist followers of biodynamics.

Stephen Henschke emphasizes this point. 'We are looking at biodynamics from a scientific point of view', he says. 'We look at soil microbes, beneficial insects and so on, rather than seeing it as a religion'.

It's not just the vineyards that are old: the winery also dates back to the 1860s. Traditional and 'natural' winemaking practices are employed by the Henschkes. The reds are fermented in open-top fermenters with the cap submerged by boards. The submerged cap gives gentle extraction of softer, silkier tannins. However, cultured yeasts are used, which biodynamic practitioners would find worrying. Towards the end of fermentation the reds are transferred warm to American and French oak barrels, where they remain for some time (two years in the case of Hill of Grace).  


The wines

Henschke Tilly’s Vineyard 2006 Barossa
A blend of Semillon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Fruity, crisp and quite full with a mineralic edge and a hint of reduction. The palate is crisp and fresh with nice fruitiness. A brightly fruited style with lots of personality. 87/100

Henschke Louis Semillon 2006 Eden Valley
Wonderfully bright, limey, minerally nose is complex and striking. The palate is fresh, persistent and has lemony complexity with a strongly mineral character. Stylish and delicious. 91/100

Henschke Croft Chardonnay 2006 Lenswood, Adelaide Hills
Very classy nutty, vanilla-edged nose with bright fruit to the fore. The palate is fresh and tight with a sophisticated character, good acidity and careful oak use. 91/100

Henschke Innes Pinot Gris 2006 Littlehampton, Adelaide Hills
Some nice richness to the nose, which is rounded and grapey with a bit of spice. The palate is nicely rounded with a fruity character and fresh acidity.  Tasty stuff. 88/100

Henschke Julius Riesling 2006 Eden Valley
Very fine, fresh limey nose shows good balance. The palate is tight and fresh with good acidity. A bright style that’s dry and quite fresh. 90/100

Henschke Coralinga Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Lenswood, Adelaide Hills
Very savoury, lemony, grassy green pepper nose. The palate is concentrated and fresh with intense savoury green pepper notes. Great concentration here. 88/100

Henschke St Joseph’s Hill Gewürztraminer 2006 Eden Valley
Quite sophisticated: grapey lychee nose with a bit of minerality. The palate is fresh and savoury with bright fruit and good acid. An understated, fresh, food-friendly style. 89/100

Henschke Henry’s Seven 2005 Barossa
A blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Viognier. Lovely bright berry fruits nose with a hint of meat and spice. Forward style, with some alcohol evident. The palate shows sweet bright fruit with nice spicy structure providing support. Finishes sweet and ripe. 88/100

Henschke Giles Pinot Noir 2005 Lenswood, Adelaide Hills
Sweet and savoury at the same time on the nose. Red fruits dominate with a bit of cherry freshness and some richer, earthier notes. Nicely savoury, this is pretty good. Finishes warm. 88/100

Henschke Johann’s Garden Grenache/Mourvedre/Shiraz 2005 Barossa Valley
Grenache dominates here (68%). Sweet, ripe, open forward nose with red and black fruits backed up by earthy spiciness. The palate is quite lush, full and ripe with berry fruit character, some plumminess and spicy warmth. 15% alcohol. 89/100

Henschke Euphonium 2004 Barossa Valley
From the Keyneton Estate, a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot. Very sweet creamy liqueur-like blackcurrant fruit nose is more-ish and quite fresh. The palate is concentrated with lovely pure, lush blackcurrant fruit backed up by spicy plummy notes. 90/100

Henschke Abbott’s Prayer 2004 Lenswood, Adelaide Hills
Sweet, quite elegant nose with well defined fresh blackcurrant and berry fruit. The palate is quite supple and bright with focused, berryish fruit and good acidity. Nice definition here. 92/100

Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Eden Valley
Aromatic, fresh, spicy-edged blackcurrant fruit nose showing a bit of evolution. The palate is rich but refined with nice spicy, savoury, slightly earthy fruit. Good definition. 91/100

Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2004 Eden Valley
Rich nose is spicy, minty and tarry with a nice combination of richness and freshness. Classic Barossa. The palate is bold and concentrated with lots of rich spicy black fruit character, noticeable spicy oak and a savoury finish. Needs time. 90/100

Henschke Hill of Grace 2002 Eden Valley
Concentrated, aromatic nose of perfumed dark fruits, spice and earth. Quite savoury with some medicinal, tarry notes. Lots going on. The palate shows dense dark fruits with nice freshness and definition, and earthy, medicinal, menthol notes. This is still tight and has real potential for development. 91/100

Henschke Hill of Grace 1998 Eden Valley
Deliciously aromatic with notes of tar, herbs, spice and fudge, as well as sweet fruit. The palate is elegant and supple with smooth dark fruits meshing well with hints of earth, spice and tar. The finish is quite spicy, and this is beginning to drink well now, although it will of course develop further. 93/100

Wines tasted 10/07  
Find these wines with

Back to top