Following on from a trip to Adelaide, I decided to spend a couple of days in the Barossa and do some quite selective tastings. The following notes are from the first day.
An established star: Henschke
To clear something up for people not too familiar with the area. Henschke is situated in the Eden Valley. This plus the Barossa Valley form the Barossa. Therefore, Henschke wines are from the Barossa - well, the original ones. They now have quite significant plantings in the Adelaide Hills as well.
My overall impression was very positive. It seems the wines move more towards European style wines, in particular the white wines with more emphasis on texture than fruit. The red wines from the hot 2008 year have come out really well, given the grapes come from the cooler Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills.
The Henschke wine portfolio is now quite large, certainly for a family company, with over 20 new wines and 5 museum releases on offer. Of the white wines on offer I tried three, the 2011 Julius Riesling, the 2009 Louis Semillon, and the 2010 Innes Vineyard Pinot Gris. The Riesling is another strong showing from the difficult 2011 vintage. Its grapes come from a grower near Springton.The wine is quite green, with good acidity and typical lime characteristics. The Louis comes from the Hill of Grace vineyard. Yes, not many people know that other grapes than Shiraz grow on this famous vineyard. The vines are 35-40 years old. This wine is very dry and incredibly backward. One to put away for many years. It will be amazing in 30! The Pinot Gris is also quite dry. It has beautiful pear flavours and has quite a linear texture. I would rate these wines 90/91 points, but maybe more in a few years.
Of the red wines, I tasted the 2009 Giles Vineyard Pinot Noir, and from 2008 the Abbotts Prayer, Tappa Pass and Mount Edelstone. The Pinot Noir is quite lean and savoury, with earthy flavours , well made, but lacking some of the fruit concentration which Australia can offer (90 points). The Abbotts Prayer is a Bordeaux blend from the Adelaide Hills. Sometimes, this wine is not quite ripe enough, but this year is excellent. The wine is dominated by blackberry flavours, and has a lot of complexity. An elegant wine with a long finish (93/+++ points). The Tappa Pass comes from the Fechner vineyard near Moculta. Made from 70 to 80 year old vines, this wine hits you upfront with a lot of plum and blackcurrant and has well structured tannins. Overall, the wine is perhaps not that well balanced (92 points/+).
The Mount Edelstone was the star of the tasting. This year, the vineyard turns 100, and the wine 60, making it possibly the oldest single vineyard wine in Australia. The 2008 is big and vibrant, with blackcurrant flavours dominating. Eucalypt is present, as always, and there is complexity with anise, mocca and spice on the palate. The wine has a terrific mouthfeel, with a strong tannin structure and great length. This is one of the best Mount Edelstone's of the last 20 years (96/+++ points).
Everybody visiting the Barossa should visit the Henschke cellar door. There is a lot of variety on offer. And although the top two or three wines are rarely opened, you may get lucky.