Hill of Grace Vineyard

Hill of Grace Vineyard

Technical, geographical & other information

Vineyard location Eden Valley wine region, 4km north-west of Henschke Cellars at Keyneton, in the Mt Lofty Ranges east of Barossa Valley, South Australia
Varieties Shiraz (on own roots) - vines originate from pre-phylloxera material brought from Europe by the early European settlers; riesling, semillon, mataro
Wines produced Shiraz - single vineyard bottling since 1958
Age Oldest vines planted in 1860s by Nicolaus Stanitzki
Average yield 2.5 t/ha (1 t/acre)
Soil Alluvial, sandy loam over clay
Trellis Two wire vertical, single wire at 70cm, Scott Henry
Planting Wide planting 3.1m x 3.4m. Most are planted east-west, some north-south; dry grown
Treatments Undervine mulching and permanent sward, incorporating organic and biodynamic practices
Maintenance quality Mass selection carried out over three growing seasons from 1986. Establishment of a nursery source block in 1989
Rainfall 520mm
34° 30'
139° 07'
Aspect North through west to south
Size 8ha (4ha shiraz)

About the vineyard

Hill of Grace is surely one of the most evocative phrases in the world of wine. It is a translation from the German ‘Gnadenberg’, a region in Silesia, and the name given to the lovely Lutheran Church across the road. For Henschke, it is the name of both the vineyard and the wine that has so beguiled lovers of red wine. The 8ha single vineyard on the original 32ha block sits at an altitude of 400m and has an average rainfall of 520mm. It is situated near the family property at Parrot Hill, an isolated spot that was once an active village.

The land was originally granted to Charles Flaxman by land grant in 1842 for £1 per acre. It was then sold by George Fife Angas to Nicolaus Stanitzki in 1873, for £480. Following his death the property was transferred in 1879 to his son Carl August Stanitzki, who later sold the vineyard and moved from the district. Paul Gotthard Henschke purchased the vineyard in 1891. After his death, his sons and executors Paul Alfred and Julius Philip Henschke arranged the transfer to Julius Philip, who had married Ida Maria Magdalena Stanitzki, a granddaughter of Nicolaus Stanitzki. On Julius Philip’s death in 1928, the property transferred to his wife. In 1951 the property was purchased by Louis Edmund Henschke, a son of Paul Alfred Henschke and brother of Cyril, who worked the vineyard and property for nearly 40 years. The Henschke family continue to maintain the tradition and develop new ways of preserving the precious genetic heritage for future generations.

As with the winery, each generation has added to the vineyard, which is now home to eight blocks of shiraz of various ages, as well as semillon, riesling and mataro (mourvèdre). The whites are used in Eden Valley varietals while the mataro, with its rich colour and complex flavour, often complements blends such as Henry’s Seven.

The Grandfathers, as the oldest block is called, was planted by Nicolaus Stanitzki around the 1860s. These vines are planted on their own roots from pre-phylloxera material brought from Europe by the early settlers. The sturdy, gnarled vines are dry grown and yield an average of 2.5t/ha (1t/acre). The shiraz vines are planted on a wide spacing of 3.1m between vines and 3.4m between rows. The 1m trellis consists of two wires which carry two or three arched canes with a bud number of around 40 to 50. The foliage is allowed to hang down to form a drooping canopy, which helps to reduce shoot vigour. The more vigorous blocks have been converted to VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) and Scott Henry to open up the canopy.

The mataro is grown as bush vines, which suits the upright growth of this variety. The whites are planted closer together than the reds, down to 2.2m, and have the regular 3.4m between rows to suit the old tractor widths.

Originally the ground was cultivated and the vines were ‘dodged off’ in spring and ‘hilled on’ again in early summer for weed control. Nowadays, under the guidance of viticulturist Prue Henschke, the vineyard has a permanent sod culture of early-maturing perennial rye grass in the row, which is mowed down low. The vines are no longer dodged and a mulch of wheat straw is used under the vines to retain soil moisture, build up organic matter, and inhibit weed growth. Prediction of disease pressure through an integrated pest management program is a strong part of Henschke’s viticultural management, resulting in minimal chemical input in the vineyard. The vineyard is currently run incorporating organic and biodynamic practices. Yield estimates are carried out in early summer, and cropping levels are kept in check by bunch thinning at veraison. The grapes are picked early to mid-April at a sugar level of around 24°Bé. There is always a good acid/pH balance from this vineyard. The anthocyanins (colour pigments) in the berries are also very high, which perhaps offers a clue to the very high quality of the Hill of Grace shiraz.

While much work is being done in the vineyard with biodynamics and organincs, Prue is also focused on protecting the vines for future generations, and in 1986 began a clonal selection program to identify the best vines to propagate, and where else to look but to the Grandfathers block which she has often referred to as old soldiers.

Prue and her assistant Uschi (Ursula Linssen), who had studied together at Geisenheim, literally walked the rows together, earmarking potential vines. They took a scientific approach, using criteria such as even budburst and the absence of Eutypa, a wood-rotting fungus that wasn’t the problem they had imagined. Then they moved through to flowering to look at bunch numbers per shoot, the evenness of flowering and veraison, virus, and finally the fruit itself. What was the bunch composition and bunch structure? How was the balance of sugar, pH and acid? And all this was after they had already eliminated vines they didn’t deem suitable. It was painstaking work, slotted in with the Mount Edelstone selection and the first of four selections planned extending over at least a 20-year program.