Few New World wineries can claim such long, unbroken winemaking lineage as Henschke. For more than 150 years, the Henschke family has been tending vines and making wine in South Australia’s Eden Valley. The thoughtful, tender caretakers of several plots of centenarian vines, including one of the world’s most famous single vineyards, Hill of Grace, the Henschkes have played an outsized role in the success of Australian Shiraz worldwide and in the significance of old vines and single-site expression.
The winery is a truly family-run affair. Fifth-generation Stephen Henschke and his son Johann make the wines, together with Winemaker Paul Hampton; Stephen’s wife, Prue, helms viticulture; their daughter Justine is in charge of marketing and public relations; and their son Andreas is an engineer and Henschke ambassador.
“Prue and Stephen [Henschke] have shaped their family’s destiny by years of hard work, enlightened science, love of their land, sustainable farming and imaginative winemaking,” says Andrew Caillard, MW, cofounder of Langton’s.
Stephen Henschke is a direct descendent of the winery’s founder, Johann Christian Henschke, who fled religious persecution in Silesia (modern-day Poland and Germany) to settle in South Australia in 1841, during the earliest days of its colonization. In 1862, Johann purchased land in what is now known as Keyneton, in the Eden Valley, and released his first vintage of wine in 1868.
The famed Hill of Grace vineyard was planted in the same decade by an ancestor, Nicolaus Stanitzki, on a plot of rich, alluvial soil in a shallow, fertile valley. The vineyard sits opposite a historic Lutheran church named Gnadenberg after a small village in Silesia, which means “Hill of Grace.” Stephen’s father, Cyril, made the first single-vineyard Shiraz from the vineyard in 1958.
Six years before that, in 1952, Cyril crafted the first single-vineyard wine from the Mount Edelstone vineyard. Planted in 1912 on clay-loam soils, derived from ancient 500-million-year-old Cambrian schists, and—unusually for the time—solely to Shiraz, Mount Edelstone is believed to be the longest consecutively produced single-vineyard wine in Australia.
The original Henschke winery, which sits just southeast of Hill of Grace, still stands today.
While modern technology is utilized, the winemaking is unwaveringly traditional. The reds, including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Pinot Noir, are fine, spicy and tightly structured. The whites are Germanic in influence, thanks to Stephen’s time studying in Germany.
Prue Henschke, a renowned viticulturist and trained botanist, also studied with Stephen in Germany. She brings a forward-thinking, global approach to her land stewardship. Prue embraced- regenerative and organic farming techniques three decades ago, and biodynamic farming techniques two decades ago. Her compassionate yet scientific approach to combating climate change includes trials of heat- and drought-tolerant varieties like those from the Rhône Valley.
In December 2019, the Henschkes faced a devastating blow. Their Lenswood Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills, along with their vineyard shed and equipment, burned in a wildfire.
Two years on and 90% of the charred vines have regenerated, showing signs of bearing fruit for the 2022 vintage. They are a symbol of the family’s resilience, their deep roots in South Australia and their unwavering commitment to the region’s wines. For its contributions to world of wine, Henschke is awarded New World Winery of the Year.
Published: November 18, 2021