100 years of Henschke Mt Edelstone – The Century tasting
‘2012 has been a year of milestones for us here at Henschke. Not only have we celebrated the 50th vintage of the Hill of Grace with the release of the 2007 vintage, this year also marks the 100th year of the planting of the historic Mount Edelstone vineyard. In addition to the 100 year anniversary we have produced 60 consecutive vintage since 1952 which is possibly the longest consecutive produced single vineyard wine in Australia.’ Stephen Henschke
As you can tell it is a milestone year for Henschke, and milestones give you an excuse to look inward. To look back at where you have come from, whilst also looking forward to where you’re going (and want to be).
Fittingly, we gathered at Sydney’s new ‘The Century’ restaurant recently to look at a whole suite of both old and new Henschke wines, led by the always thoughtful Stephen Henschke.
The choice of restaurant was also apt considering its context – The Century is the latest iteration of Golden Century, an absolute institution for Sydney BYO eateries. It’s a new restaurant, based on an old one. Better still, The Century is located in the base of The Star, the redone and renamed Star City casino.
Undoubtedly though the main feature of this tasting was a look at Mt Edelstone, the Henschke families prized 100 year old Shiraz vineyard. It’s a vineyard which, peculiarly for 1912, was planted almost solely to Shiraz (save for a few rogue bastardo vines).
What is most satisfying (for me personally) about Mt Edelstone is that – like Hill of Grace – the fruit from it is so distinctive. Even in the more challenging years – the drier and the wetter years – those fabled Shiraz characters always shine through. It’s a quality that should never be underestimated, particularly given how much flak Australia receives on the international scale for its supposed lack of terroir driven wines…
Perhaps the only surprise was just how odd the Cyril Cabernets looked in this tasting, especially considering how much I enjoy the style historically. A string of challenging vintages really hasn’t helped it at all. Lets hope that it can recapture that mojo when the better vintages roll around (I’m thinking 09 for that).
First up though, a few whites. Notes in italics are from the winery.
Henschke Julius Riesling 1998 (Eden Valley, SA)
‘Excellent’ vintage. pH 3.0, TA 6.3g/L, 12.9% alc.
Toasty and properly advanced in a buttery, bottle aged weight and richness sort of mould. This carries some of the ‘mothballs and lime juice’ middle aged Eden Riesling characters on the nose, but with an extra layer of orange rind ripeness. There is fatter marmalade edges to the citrussy fruit but otherwise its taut and tart, the acidity a little hard tart considering how overt and full flavoured the palate is. Very much a warm and open year wine that is ready to drink now, this is a fraction obvious but certainly of style. Maybe a bit hard through the finish? Enjoyable regardless.
Henschke Julius Riesling 2006 (Eden Valley, SA)
‘Exceptional’ vintage. pH 2.99, TA 7.4g/L, 12.5% alc.
Really quite restrained, lemon grass and floral smelling wine which looks quite nuanced really. Lemon, sherbety edges to the palate which again is quite ripe like the 1998 but has the finesse. It’s much more composed from start to end actually, the acidity a little spikey but otherwise this is right in the zone. Spot on. 18.5/20 94/100
Henschke Julius Riesling 2012 (Eden Valley, SA)
‘Exceptional’ vintage. pH 3.05, TA 7.11g/L, 11.5% alc.
Pretty florals, warm year lemon lime splice generosity. Generous and sherbety talc and lemon palate looks open, soft and utterly generous. Already open for business with a softness to. I’d drink this early, it just looks so open and ripe. Much like a younger 1998 if anything. 17.8/20 92/100
Henschke Green’s Hill Riesling 2012 (Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, SA)
‘Exceptional’ vintage. pH 3.09, TA 7.3g/L, 12.5% alc.
Lovely open perfume on this. Very level and even palate too, with a juicy middle and perfectly soft natural acidity. Its just a little broad through the finish but it all looks quite complete and harmonious. Definitely a fragrant and affable Riesling this but with sufficient drive too. I’d quite like to drink a bottle of this with some salt & pepper calamari, such is its undeniable attraction. Yes 18/20 93/100
Henschke Abbotts Prayer Merlot Cabernet 1991 (Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, SA)
‘Excellent’ vintage. pH 3.18, TA 7.2g/L, 13.7% alc. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet.
As expected this is fully mature and looks every bit of its 21 years. There’s charm in here though, the charm of a mature, leathery Australian red, full of brick dust and the treacled earth of bottle aged Cabernet Merlot. It is a fraction treacled and volatile and coffeed, the oak still lingering all these years later. The acidity is notably raised on this too, the full and meaty palate punctuated by a slightly tart finish. Much of the joy with this style is that mid palate and that bottle aged composure. It’s not getting any better but does show some old wine goodness now. 17.3/20 90/100
Henschke Abbotts Prayer Merlot Cabernet 2001 (Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, SA)
‘Excellent’ vintage. pH 3.46, TA 5.9g/L, 14.5% alc. 86% Merlot, 9% Cabernet, 5% Cabernet Franc.
A decisively Merlot dominated wine, all minty varietal characters, matched up with chocolatey oak and sweet alcohol. It’s a quite rounded wine underneath but there is no shaking the under-and-over ripe, ‘Merlot is a hard bitch in the vineyard’ sensation. Still, there is some chocolatey, warmth to be had. 16.8/20 89/100
Henschke Abbotts Prayer Merlot Cabernet 2008 (Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, SA)
‘Excellent’ vintage. pH 3.59, TA 6.3 g/L, 14.5% alc. 57% Merlot, 43% Cabernet.
There is a certain level of vintage derived blackberry juiciness to this wine that is quite attractive, even if it all looks roasted and less than varietal, the wine then capped off with firm, raw tannins. I like the caramel chew and condensed milk fruit/oak sweetness but otherwise it remains a lesser, stunted wine. 16.5/20 88/100
(Postcript – I’m not convinced that 2008 is an excellent Eden Valley vintage by any measure. Good for whites, a less even one for reds. There are exceptions, yet it is not my favourite by any stretch).
Tappa Pass Shiraz 2009 (Eden Valley and Barossa Valley, SA)
‘Exceptional’ vintage. pH 3.65, TA 6.1g/L, 15% alc.
Very sweet choc berry fruit. Very luscious and open and vital if very sweet, concentrated berry juice. Too sweet? Lots of fruit viscosity but certainly too warm and obvious for me to really like. Impressive concentration and certainly quality making, just far too obvious for me. 16.5/20 88/100
Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2009 (Barossa, SA)
‘Excellent’ vintage. pH 3.55, TA 6.3g/L, 14.5% alc.
A certain white chocolate lusciousness to this. Sweet red berries and a quite open knit, red fruit style. Perhaps a fraction strained and fruity but on style and solid. Interesting to see this after the Tappa – I’d take this for sure. 17/20 90/100
Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 (Eden Valley, SA)
‘Exceptional’ vintage. pH 3.36, TA 6.8g/L, 14.4% alc. 85% Cabernet, 8% Cab Franc, 7% Merlot.
Brick red but still looking vital. Very classic, if slightly green, nose over a wine that is mid weight and somewhat herbal in an old school, all leaf underripe form. The palate doesn’t look unripe but i do find the herbal hints a little distracting. A less than perfect bottle according to Steven (and previous bottles of this have been very smart). 16.3/20 87/100
Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (Eden Valley, SA)
‘Great’ vintage. pH 3.33, TA 6.7g/L, 13.5% alc. 90% Cabernet, 5% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc.
Dropping quite a bit of sediment. Quite a solid cassis driven sort of nose with lovely dark choc fruit and a rather regal composure to the tannins. Slightly sweet and sour, but still those lovely chocolatey tannins work wonders. The mixed ripeness may distract a little, but those tannins are sexy as. 18/20 93/100+
|Check that colour!|
Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Eden valley, SA)
‘Great’ vintage. pH 3.57, TA 6.6g/L, 14% alc. 75% Cabernet, 17% Merlot, 8% Cab Franc.
A very different beast this one, the drought vintage written all over the wine. It’s dusty, raisined and curranty on the nose, the palate is quite mouthfilling and full, but nutty and simple. Much more like a Barossa floor wine than Eden Valley and didn’t move me much at all. 16/20 87/100
Mount Edelstone 2012 barrel samples
What a pleasure to check out these three barrels samples of Mt Edelstone Shiraz. They’re hardly finished wines – and shouldn’t be treated as such – but certainly interesting. The colour of these three in particular was absolutely stunning – like all three were coloured in with a purple/red pen. I didn’t score these, though there is much promise amongst these samples…
Drawn from the younger, replanted/newer vines. This juice may not make the main blend.
The most berry laden and rounded, pulpy wine of this trio. Almost confected and caramelised young vine simplicity. Skinny finish. Lesser, but still pretty.
Two Wire Vertical trellis
This trellising is the most used in Mt Edelstone and this is probably the most representative wine of these barrel samples.
The most fatty and spicy wine and wild of this lot, but coupled with juicy spicy, black fruit. So much depth and wildness! Superb stuff. Very real and charismatic juice.
Scott Henry trellis
A smaller section of Mt Ed is trellised with Scott Henry system with arched canes and the foliage left to sprawl.
Certainly the densest, firmest component. this has the structure further biased towards the back although looks spicy still. Not as velvety as the Two Wire but may well be the most prized component in time. Stunning promise here!
Henschke Mt Edelstone Shiraz 1992 (Eden Valley, SA)
‘Exceptional’ vintage. pH 3.39, TA 5.9g/L, 13.5% alc.
Rich and heavy with sediment. Dark chocolate, cinnamon and earth, the palate luscious and properly softened. It’s silken and evolved and concentrated, inky and long and satisfyingly cocoa powder sweet. Everything you would want in a 20 year old Australian Shiraz really, looking twenty years old but with a wonderful mid palate drive and fine tannins. Lovely wine! Unexpectedly lovely even considering the unheralded vintage. 18.7/20 95/100
Henschke Mt Edelstone Shiraz 2004 (Eden Valley, SA)
‘Great’ vintage. pH 3.55, TA 6.4g/L, 14.5% alc.
Again very sweet and chocolatey nose, truffley and sausage edged too, everything overlaid with noticeably toasty oak. Very oaky! What an odd phase for this superstar wine. It’s so brooding and dark and unresponsive, oak the only thing escaping. Leave it in the cellar for as long as you can, this will reward you in time. 18/20 93/100++
Henschke Mt Edelstone 2009 (Eden Valley, SA)
‘Excellent’ vintage. pH 3.54, TA 5.76g/L, 14.5% alc.
Really quite pretty for a mount Ed. Very primal and quite juicy and open and seductive. Showing lots of vanilla oak, dark berry fruit and fine tannins. Really quite sweet and juicy and open in the mouth, a warm year wine with a generous heart and loads of appeal. Delicious. 18.7/20 95/100
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Tappa Pass Shiraz is too obvious for yourself, but I love that crimson red colour. It is a shame the Australian imports get so much flak for being "fruit bombs", etc, But I think attitudes are changing. Certainly Henschke are doing their best to put South Oz on the map, and from here we can see Mt Edelstone certainly has the Terroir spirit.
Here's to another 100 years. Thanks for a good read.