Prue Henschke, Viticulturist

Prue Henschke Viticulturalist, Henschke

In 1987 Prue took on her current role as viticulturist for Henschke and her research, which is still ongoing, revolves around vineyard sward management, green waste, compost and mulches, trellis design, canopy management, soil moisture management and trials with native grasses and organic and biodynamic viticulture. Prue has always been an active participant and protector of her surroundings and as such is a member of many committees including the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology, Adelaide Hills Vine Improvement Group, Barossa Viticultural Technical Group, Adelaide Hills Wine Region Environment committee and the Barossa Water Allocation Planning Advisory committee.

Career

Prue began her career by studying botany and zoology at Adelaide University, graduating in 1973. On completing her degree, when she and Stephen spent two years in Germany, she become involved in viticulture and plant physiology. During this time she worked in the Geisenheim Institute vineyards, as well as becoming involved in grafting and breeding. Since it was hard to get a job at the time, she worked without pay in the Botanic Institute at Geisenheim on a project to isolate root inhibitors in rootstocks.

After studying Wine Science with Stephen at Riverina College of Advanced Education in Wagga Wagga, Prue worked in 1978 at the Roseworthy Agricultural College (now Roseworthy campus of the University of Adelaide) as a technical research assistant under Peter Dry, running trials on top-grafting grape vines at the time of the Vine Pull scheme.

In 1980 Prue became a viticultural consultant and began working with Stephen in order to further develop their own research ideas and theories on cool-climate viticulture, site selection and canopy management. In 1981 Prue and Stephen purchased an apple orchard at Lenswood, in the Adelaide Hills, with the aim of eventually converting it to vineyard and establishing the site as a research tool to apply their learnings from Geisenheim. The use of VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioned canopies) and permanent swards was then extended to their Eden Valley vineyards.

In 1986 Prue began a project in the old Mount Edelstone and Hill of Grace shiraz vineyards, with the assistance of a fellow Geisenheim graduate Uschi Linssen, to select the best genetic material for vineyard replanting. This long-term project was aimed at selecting the vines that produce the most intense colour and flavour in the grapes, through a process of mass selection. WIth assistance from Patrick Iland from the University of Adelaide, Prue initiated trials on varying trellis styles looking at grape colour in relation to crop load and leaf area to fruit weight ratio. The results led to the development of Scott Henry trellis on the old shiraz vines to enhance the unique flavours of each of these old vines.

Travels to many different wine regions around the world has inspired Prue to trial new grape varieties and clones in the three different vineyard regions: grenache, mataro and counoise in the Barossa Valley; tempranillo, barbera, nebbiolo and various clones of shiraz and riesling in the Eden Valley; and grüner veltliner and clones of pinot noir, chardonnay and merlot in the Adelaide Hills.

Awards

The highlights of Prue's career include the following awards and nominations:

  • Induction into Family Business Australia (SA) Hall of Fame 2011 (with Stephen)
  • 2011 InStyle and Audi Women in Style Awards - ‘Environment’ category award
  • The Age/Sydney Morning Herald Good Wine Guide 2011 Winery of the Year (with Stephen)
  • 2010 Advantage SA Regional Awards - Sustainability award
  • 2006 Gourmet Traveller WINE Magazine Winemaker of the Year (with Stephen)
  • Induction into the 2005 USA Wine & Spirit Magazine Hall of Fame
  • Selection for the Australian Rural Leadership Program Course 7, conducted in 2002
  • 1998 Volvo/WINE Magazine Winemaker of the Year nominee (with Stephen)
  • Barons of Barossa Viticulturist of the Year in 1997
  • Advance Australia Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Wine Industry in 1995 (with Stephen)
  • Regional finalist in SA Rural Women of the Year 1995
  • Joint International Red Winemaker of the Year 1994/95 (with Stephen)