|What a view… to a kill.
err, not really. Nice food and wine though.
Henschke Hill of Grace 2006 vs 2007
Never let it be said that I don’t suffer for my craft…
The picture right was taken (by me) last night at Black by Ezard, one of the newer outposts of fine dining that has taken up residence in Sydney’s ‘The Star’ (nee Star City) casino, a destination that is clearly just where I spend my Tuesday evenings…
But back to the picture. In the foreground you can see a Wagyu flank steak, one of the restaurants specialities. Behind the meat (and the neat stack of potato) lie two glasses – the one on the left holds a healthy pour of 2006 Henschke Hill of Grace (left side) the other an even healthier splash of the 2007 Henschke Hill of Grace. Looking further a-field, behind the expanse of glass, you can see the bright lights of the Sydney city skyline, the lights looking slightly blurred on a cool, wet and dull winter’s night.
It’s a pretty appealing looking pic isn’t it? A scene that makes you think ‘gee, that Andrew leads a good life. Maybe I should become a wine critic’.
Truth be told however that scene is an all too rare one for this wine freeloader. For if it was a normal event the view would be behind my back, the pours would be smaller (or I’d be spitting) and I’d be furiously writing – just to keep up – before the glasses were emptied. Oh and someone would be talking at me.
But last night I hit the jackpot. The wine writers nirvana. The food was tasty, the seat next to me was regularly empty (or occupied by someone interesting and understanding) and the glasses were well filled. I was drinking, not tasting, under perfect race conditions, with that Wagyu flank the sort of meal that such a wine should ideally be consumed with.
The net result? A great back-to-back comparison of two very different Hill of Grace vintages. Two contrasting wines that perfectly illustrate just how much variation should be expected in a single vineyard wine. Two wines of authenticity, detail and intrigue. I’ve had them both seperately at different times, but never in situ like this. Good times…
Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2006
Harvest date: 22 March-13 April. Alcohol: 14.5%. pH: 3.5. Acidity: 6.3g/L
After a late break in mid-June 2005, winter and spring rains were some of the best for years in the lead-up to flowering in early summer. Some varieties, such as riesling and shiraz, suffered more than others from poor set, leading to ‘hen and chicken’. While there was some damage in Eden Valley from frost, this had only a minor impact on the overall yield; however, yields in most varieties were down by 15-20%. The summer was mild with southerly winds, reminiscent of 2002. Brief heat waves occurred in late January and mid-February but were early enough not to affect quality, with only minor sunburn on exposed fruit. Matured in new French (65%) and American (35%) hogsheads for 21 months prior to blending and bottling.
|Yum. Oh and I didn’t even talk
about the Johann’s. Solid booze.
Instantly brighter than the 07 though perhaps less deep, this is proper ruby red in colour. All correct there. Most importantly, that famous ‘five spice’ that Prue Henschke talks about as characteristic of HoG appears to be even more prominent here, sitting alongside the graphite, deep black pepper and cloves (with a little cinnamon)
nose of classic HoG. The bacon fat pops up again too, a mark that I see in all the very best rich Shiraz and I really dig. That sliver of bacon fat carries through the
palate, initially it’s even quite fatty, then filling out with a sort of black
savoury richness through the finish.
Again wonderful, every sip reminds why this is world class juice – exceptional length and a dry-yet-rich character that is simply delicious. Great Shiraz indeed. Yes. 19.1/96
Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2007
Harvest Date: 16 March-4 April. Alcohol: 14%. pH: 3.58. Acidity: 6.4g/L
One of the driest winters in years, with little rain in the critical lead-up to flowering. Frost in December lead to losses of 20-25%, compounded by the drought and lack of subsoil moisture with overall losses of 50%. Brief heat waves occurred during January; otherwise, it was mild and dry, with just a little rain at veraison. February was recorded as the hottest for 100 years, which brought the already reduced crop to an earlier ripening phase. Matured in 100% French oak hogsheads for 18 months, this is the first Hill of Grace in years not to include any American oak barrels in the final blend, largely due to how dominant those components proved to be.
What a tough gig to be following the 06. Served blind you’d be forgiven for thinking this came from a different vineyard, such is the contrasting shape and structure.
Notably, this is immediately nuttier, harder and less decadent than open 06, with less spice
too. No five spice at all actually, with more dried figs and currants on the nose of this, as befitting
the vintage. The fruit looks a little caramelised around the edges too,
the palate more rounded and less generous than the perfect lines of the
06. There is still an attractive core of concentrated, hardish red fruit but
it doesn’t have that thrust like the 06 does. The tannins aren’t in the same league either, shorter and less well formed.
Viewed by itself however this is still a wine of swagger, a reticent and tight wine that has a firm hit of stewed plum fruit with seriously dark tannins. Plenty of flesh through the middle, but long and lean, this is still years away from its best.
Never to be a great HoG perhaps, but still very well made and distinctive, this suffers so badly next to the 06. On its own, a smart wine perhaps? 17.7/92