Hill of Grace was first produced in 1958. It has been made every year since with the exception of 1974 (poor conditions). It is generally regarded as Australia's most sought after wine after Grange. This single vineyard wine is produced from old low yielding vines. These incredible old vines of the Hill of Grace vineyard are gnarled and twisted almost beyond recognition and hardly seem to be of this world yet produce shiraz of immense purity, intensity and flavour.
The famous century-old Hill of Grace vines were planted around the 1860s in rich alluvial soil in a shallow fertile valley just north-west of the winery. The vineyard lies opposite a beautiful old Lutheran Church, built of local field stone, which was named Gnadenberg, meaning 'Hill of Grace'. The eight-hectare vineyard sits at an altitude of 400 metres, and has an average rainfall of 520 millimetres. The exact year the vineyard was planted is not known but it is believed to have been during the 1860s. It means that the original vines are now approaching an astounding 140 years of age. Perhaps even more astounding is that they were almost a century old before they first produced a 'Hill of Grace'. It is understood that previously the grapes were used in other blends and sometimes sold off elsewhere and to locals. The older vines, approaching 140 years, are some of the oldest in the world. They are a joy to behold: thigh-thick, cracked, split such that there are some you can put your hand through. The shiraz is dry grown. The original vines were planted on their own rootstocks, which were brought out from Europe. The yield from the vineyard is normally around 30 tonnes but varies. Both 1993 and 1995 were very small vintages while the record sits at 44 tonnes.
Anyone viewing the 'Hill of Grace' vineyard could be forgiven for thinking that it has been misnamed. 'Gentle Slope of Grace' would be closer though 'Dead Flat Piece of Dirt of Grace' would be even more accurate. It is as flat as pancake. The shining reputation of Hill of Grace seems to have come largely in the last two decades. It wasn't always so. Interestingly, Hill of Grace seems to have been largely ignored for the first decade or so of its existence. The oak used is mostly American with some French and the finished product is released after five years. Deep crimson colour. Magnificent nose of sweet plums, blackberries, vanilla and spice. Outstanding palate flavours, rich ripe blackberry plum fruit flavours. Superb balance, with velvet smooth tannins, deceptively soft followed by a long aftertaste.
The Henschke family is one of the longest-established names in the Barossa. Johann Christian Henschke purchased land for a farm at Keyneton in 1861, after fleeing religious persecution in Kutschlau, Silesia (Germany). He planted a small vineyard and an orchard, and after initially making wine for family consumption produced his first commercial vintage in 1868, believed to be principally Riesling and shiraz. His son, Paul Gotthard, continued farming and winemaking and planted more vines to increase wine production. Upon his father's death in 1914, third-generation Paul Alfred took over the property and as demand for fortified wines grew, winemaking assumed greater significance. Each generation built upon the reputation for quality, but it was fourth-generation Cyril Alfred Henschke who in 1958 created the wine that has most captured the red wine world's imagination - Hill of Grace. His first vintage of this shiraz was produced in 1958. Today, fifth-generation Stephen Henschke and his wife Prue uphold the family name and reputation, as winemaker and viticulturist respectively.