Henschke Hill of Grace 2014 & Mount Edelstone 2015: Is A Wine Three Or Four Times The Price Three Or Four Times As Good?
by Ken Gargett
I looked at the release of the 2013 Henschke Hill of Grace, Australia’s greatest single-vineyard Shiraz and one of the world’s finest wines, a year ago. Vintages fly just as quickly as time, and I have now seen the followup, the 2014.
While the 2013 emerged in September 2018, the Henschkes have brought the release of the current 2014 vintage forward to May. At AUD$845, it is not for daily drinking – given the tiny production, a problem with the 2013 as well, that would not be an option in any event – but the good news is that the 2015 vintage has been more generous.
There is, however, a more than worthwhile alternative at a much more reasonable price: the 2015 Mount Edelstone Shiraz, also due out in May, will retail for AUD$225, brilliant value in comparison.
A question often asked is whether a wine three or four times the price of another can be three or four times as good. In reality, people pay high prices for special wines for all manner of reason, so that is very rarely the case. And this time, definitely not.
Both are truly superb wines, and I can’t imagine a red drinker on the planet who would not be delighted with either. I looked at them closely, next to each other, back and forward, and there really was barely a whisker between them. The Hill of Grace gets the nod from me, but I’m sure others would opt for the Mount Edelstone.
Henschke Mount Edelstone 2015: a fairy-tale vintage
Mount Edelstone has been made for even longer than the famed Hill of Grace, the first vintage being the 1952. The two vineyards – both are Eden Valley single-vineyard wines – are not far apart.
Mount Edelstone, a 16-hectare vineyard, was planted 107 years ago in 1912 (the section of the Hill of Grace vineyard making the legendary wine is even older, but the first wine was not made until 1958), making the vines 103 years old for the 2015 harvest.
Both wines were first made by Cyril Henschke, a fourth-generation winemaker. They are now in the safe hands of Cyril’s son, Stephen, and his wife, Prue, one of Australia’s most respected viticulturalists. She has introduced biodynamic and organic practices.
The Henschkes look to 2015 as a vintage of vibrancy. It started well, “cool beginnings, a dry spring, and soaking winter rains,” and although there were some heat spikes (something it looks like we can expect more and more in the coming years), it soon settled down into a wonderful year. This is clearly reflected in the wine.
The wine was matured in a mix of 78 percent French and 22 percent American hogsheads (aka large casks), of which 22 percent were new and 78 percent were “seasoned” for 18 months.
The various parcels from the vineyard are kept separate until blending and bottling. A wine destined for longevity, it is, as far as one can ascertain, the longest consecutively produced single-vineyard wine from Australia.
Stephen Henschke described 2015 as a “fairy-tale vintage.”
Mount Edelstone 2015 offers truffly notes, dry herbs and spices – great aromatics all around. It is immediately obvious that the wine is wonderfully complex with dark fruits, chocolate, and warm earth. It is utterly seamless with a gorgeous texture and silky fine tannins.
Lingering beautifully, it offers balance and length. And even though it maintains its intensity throughout, is always elegant. A wine with decades ahead of it, but which could be enjoyed right now.
The 2014 Henschke Hill of Grace
The 2014 Hill of Grace was from a vintage Stephen Henschke described as “more challenging than 2015.” They endured four frosts, including one black frost, and consequently the vintage was the smallest for some time. No harvest since then was smaller, until the very recent 2019.
But what a wine. Glorious aromatics and a delicacy and a prettiness to the wine. Spices, anise, summer garden herbs, black fruits, cloves. Has both generosity and elegance, but plenty of underlying power. Seamless. Plenty of tannins, but they really do seem to just melt away. Immaculately balanced, a stunning wine.
For those who like the technical details, the wine was matured in hogsheads for 18 months: 89 percent of them were French, 11 percent American; 33 percent of the oak was new, 67 percent “seasoned.” And the parcels are all, as with the Mount Edelstone, kept separate until blending and bottling.
The oldest vines in the vineyard contributing to Hill of Grace were planted around 1860. They are called “the grandfathers.”
The vineyard itself is one of the most picturesque imaginable and forms a destination for wine lovers’ pilgrimages – be warned that if you do so, you are not actually permitted into the vineyard given concerns over the phylloxera louse that would devastate all the vines if it arrived there.
Even without entry, the lovely old Lutheran church Gnadenberg (named after a region in Silesia from which the Henschke ancestors, and many others in this district, hailed, which translates to “hill of grace” or in some quarters “unforgiving mountain,” which does not quite carry the same marketing cache) and the ancient vines are worth a look (from a distance).
So, take your pick. Either way, you’ll have a brilliant wine.
For more information, please visit www.henschke.com.au.