I was invited to attend a Henschke Masterclass last month at West London Wine School, hosted by Simon Woods. Simon was recently crowned Online Wine Columnist of the Year at the Louis Roederer Wine Writers’ Awards, and in a wine-geeky kind of way, I was very excited to see him in the flesh after enjoying his writing for many years.
Simon is an amazing story teller and flits between wine tales, tastings and analogies with the same pace and sense of abandon as Billy Connolly doing stand up.
Henschke is a fifth generation Australian wine making family firm run by Stephen Henschke and his wife Prue. With Stephen the chief winemaker and Prue the viticulturist is seems a formidable partnership.
Stephen and Prue both studied at the renowned Geisenheim Research Institute in Germany and on home soil at Wagga Wagga and so have enjoyed a mix of new and old world teachings.
Henschke is known for its red wines, which are rich, elegant and true to the vineyard.
It is perhaps little surprise then that the vineyards have started to follow organic and biodynamic principles (and is currently awaiting accreditation) designed to work in partnership with nature to bring out the best of the vineyard. I’m open-minded as to how much the moon’s cycle impacts on the vineyard etc, but Prue has clearly noticed a measurable difference since using these methods and the proof is in the pudding or in this case the wine.
Here’s three of my faves from the night…Simon has posted a video with some of his favourites here.
Croft Chardonnay, Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, 2007 Chardonnay
(£23.79-£24.74 Drinkshop, Slurp, DrinksDirect)
This 100% Chardonnay is made from grapes grown on Stephen and Prue’s Lenswood vineyard in the Adelaide Hills.
This vineyard stands 550m above ground and experiences higher rainfall and humidity. The resulting cooler temperature ensures the grapes retain their natural high acidity but there is still enough sunshine for the grapes to ripen fully.
This Chardonnay is a bright golden-green colour, and has been aged in a mix of old and new oak barriques.
This wine has a heady, toasty, oak on the nose and lots of freshness – ripe apple, pear, as well as a nuttiness – cashew maybe.
On the palate, it is a fine, crisp, tangy tipple with apple, plum, rhubarb and mineral complexity.
Keyneton Estate ‘Euphonium’ Barossa South Australia, 2004
Shiraz, Cab Sav, Merlot, Cab Franc
(£21,95-£24.40 Slurp, DrinksDirect)
This is a very Bordeaux style wine with an Aussie twist through the addition of Shiraz.
Simon describes it as ‘Pomerol with Cojones’. For me this is a voluptuous and full bodied wine packed with green olives, cassis, sweet, ripe fruit blackcurrant, blackberry with a smokey, tar edge too.
It is a really beautiful, some say sexy wine, and it seduced more than half the class with its deep crimson hues and lusheous fruit flavours and lingering length.
Mount Edelstone, Eden Valley, South Australia 2005
(£45.95-£49.95 Slurp, WineDirect)
Now this is what Henschke is famous for, 100% Shiraz from gnarly old vines grown in the Eden Valley. It’s sacrilege to think old vines like this were victims of the vine-pull scheme of the 1980s.
The 90 year old wines from this single vineyard provide a concentrated rich vibrancy on the nose with a wealth of ripe, rich , blackberry and plum, and eucalyptus and chocolate with a distinct earthiness.
It took a little while for this wine to open up, so this is one I’d definitely decant to fully appreciate the rich spectrum of flavours. This wine should probably be left for 10+ years but as it is drinking so well now I doubt many would have the will power/patience!
This year has been a weird one, full of new experiences- but one I wasn’t expecting and was thoroughly unprepared for was