Henschke is a name entwined with Australian wine history. Proudly entrenched in the history of their region and craft, fifth generation winemaker Stephen Henschke and his wife, renowned viticulturist Prue are at the helm. They invited our young waiters, Breanna Lawler, Brooke Adey and Gerald Ryan to spend two days with them at their property. Breanna, Brooke and Gerald got the chance to grill Stephen with some of their own questions. It’s a great insight into one of Australia’s iconic winemakers, what he loves drinking, his thoughts on low alcohol wine and more;
Q1. Who influenced you in the world of wine?
Primarily my grandfather Paul Alfred and my father Cyril Henschke. Later on, Professor Helmut Becker at Geisenheim Institute, winemaker Gerry Sissing, wine legend Len Evans, winemakers Jim Irvine and Max Schubert and wine merchant Arch Baker.
Q2. Having been a producer at the forefront of organic and biodynamic viticulture for some time, do you have many vineyards/ viticulturists/ winemakers who approach you for your expertise? What advice do you give?
Surprisingly few have approached us, as there are organisations such as Biodynamic Agriculture Australia to provide advice. Prue, however often shares her knowledge with the many groups she is involved with, such as the Eden Valley Biodynamic Group and the Adelaide Hills Viticultural Group. Her meticulous viticultural management and aspirations for a long-term healthy environment recently won her an award at the 2014 Adelaide Hills Wine Show for recognition of service to the region. She also won the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) Environmental Excellence Award in the small to medium business category in 2011.
Q3. What new varietals are you excited about being introduced in SA; what’s well suited to the region?
Grüner Veltliner in the cool climate Adelaide Hills, and in the more continental Eden Valley; Grenache Gris, Cinsault, Counoise, Clairette, and Carignan.
Q4. Are you planting any new international varieties?
We have recently planted Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Graciano and Barbera, with some exciting results.
Q5. What wine styles/regions, in Australia and overseas, really excite you most at the moment?
Ribera del Duero in Spain, Piedmont Süd Tyrol in Italy, and Rheingau in Germany. These regions are the homes of their native varieties that make truly wonderful wines.
Q6. Do the public’s drinking habits affect the style and volume of wines you produce?
Yes, we respond to consumer insights and interests, for example the current trends of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling. The revival of interest in Riesling in particular is exiting for us as it’s a historic variety for Henschke and a variety we love to make and drink too.
Q7. What do you think about creating lower alcohol wines and this trend?
It would be better to fix climate change first and then the whole world will have a better chance!
Q8. You have recently opened a restaurant at Adelaide Oval. Are there any plans for another fine diner or is Hill of Grace Restaurant the one for now?
No other plans. We are proud of the new Hill of Grace Restaurant; the ‘five star’ association is positive for wine and food and they are presenting our wines with style.
Q9. With the general quality of wine production worldwide being at an all time high, what steps are you taking to remain at the forefront of Australian wine? As a leading Australian producer are you feeling any pressure to change anything, or is it business as usual?
We are always innovating and improving. It is all about the vineyard, with our mantra being ‘Exceptional wines from outstanding vineyards’. Our wines are handcrafted by a dedicated family with a long-standing heritage and great pioneering spirit.
Q10. Being a family run business, have there been times when you considered branching out and taking on partners?
Q11. We have heard you speak before about winemaking happening in the vineyard, not the winery. How do you manage the unpredictable weather that we can sometimes expect and its impact on your land / vines?
You are forced to take it on the chin like all farmers do! Sustainable farming principles help us to be as prepared as possible, but when you are at the mercy of Mother Nature, all you can do is get on with it.
Q12. With changing climatic conditions every year, where do you see Henschke in 20 years?
We would like climate change to be fixed by then. At Henschke we aim to live within the natural landscape rather than on top of it.
Like to know a little more about the Henschke’s? See the below clip or read our article, Henschke – we’ll drink to that!