Winery of the Year

James Halliday by James Halliday
Presented by Vintage Cellars
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Whether you consider this winery’s history, the number and quality of its present wines, or its future, the answer is the same: it has no equal.
Henschke needs little introduction as one of Australia’s most iconic, historic family labels – it’s more than 150 years old, reaching this milestone in 2018. It’s also a former Wine of the Year recipient for an outstanding release of its pinnacle label, Hill of Grace. Read on to hear what James Halliday has to say about his Winery of the Year.

  • Full list of award winners.

  • James Halliday on his Winery of the Year
    Henschke, Eden Valley, SA

    Henschke is the foremost medium-sized winery in Australia, and its recognition as Winery of the Year is long overdue. Whether you consider the winery’s history, the number and quality of its present wines, or its future, the answer is the same: it has no equal.

    Stephen is the fifth generation of the Henschke family, and he and wife Prue along with their three children – sixth-generation Johann, Justine and Andreas – are variously involved in the business. Stephen and Prue have taken the irreplaceable vineyard that is the jewel in the crown of a flourishing family business, polished it, and steadily built a complex and compelling suite of estate-owned and local-grower-supplied wines of consistently flawless quality.

    Stephen’s father, Cyril, was the visionary who turned around what was a quiet producer of bulk shiraz from the Hill of Grace vineyard. Cyril purchased and bottled shiraz from Colin Angas’s 16ha 40-year-old Mount Edelstone shiraz vineyard from 1952. Hill of Grace was sold into jugs, bottles or whatever vessel customers provided until it was bottled from 1958.

    In 1978, Stephen became assistant winemaker, and he and Cyril made the winery’s first cabernet sauvignon. Cyril’s death in the following year saw the wine named after him. It was also in that year the wine received the trophy for best Burgundy (!) at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show.

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    Stephen and Prue have purchased two further properties at Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills. These vineyards have all given birth to labels, as have wines made from contract growers in the Barossa (nine wines between 1996 and 2017) and the addition of Hill of Roses (shiraz), Hill of Faith (mataro) and Hill of Peace (semillon) from parts of the Hill of Grace vineyard.

    Stephen is the winemaker, Prue the viticulturist behind the magnificent array of wines profiled in this edition of the Halliday Wine Companion. They are headed by six wines with 97–99 points, four with 96 points, nine with 95, then 10 with 90–94 points.

    There are no tricks of equipment or practice in the winery, just attention to detail. For many years now they have been using organic/biodynamic practices in the vineyards, though the Henschkes have not sought certification. Quite apart from the application of the bio sprays and compounds, no herbicides or insecticides are used. Prue has added her own signature with a continuous thick layer of straw mulch running along each row, enhancing worm and microbial activity and preventing loss of moisture. Great wine made in the vineyard? Absolutely.

    Previous ‘Winery of the Year’ recipients: Paringa Estate (2007), Balnaves of Coonawarra (2008), Brookland Valley (2009), Tyrrell’s (2010), Larry Cherubino Wines (2011), Port Phillip Estate/Kooyong (2012), Kilikanoon (2013), Penfolds (2014), Hentley Farm Wines (2015), Tahbilk (2016), Mount Pleasant (2017), Mount Mary (2018), Seville Estate (2019) and Jim Barry Wines (2020).

    This is an edited extract from the 2021 Halliday Wine Companion guide, published by Hardie Grant and available at all good bookstores.

    Full list of award winners.