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Henschke

Henschke are one of the oldest-established wine families in the Barossa. It all began in 1841 when Johann Christian Henschke and his family set sail aboard the Skjold, fleeing religious persecution in their native Silesia, bound for a new life in South Australia. Sadly his wife and two of his children did not survive the arduous journey. Johann Christian and his two surviving sons settled in Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills and in 1843 he married Dorothea Elisabeth Schmidt, with whom he had eight more children. After the settlers became naturalised they were allowed to purchase land, and in 1847 Johann Christian and his family established themselves on 70 acres in Krondorf in the Barossa Valley; the house and outbuildings can still be seen today. In 1862 he acquired land in the area that would later be called Keyneton in the Eden Valley, known then as North Rhine, and planted a small vineyard with what is thought to be Riesling and Shiraz and built a small two-story cellar. His wine was for his own and friends consumption, but the first commercial sales in 1868 gave an inkling of what the future might hold. Paul Gotthard, Johann Christian's third son by his second marriage took over the running of the North Rhine property on his father's death in 1873 and planted more vineyards and increased wine production. In 1891 he acquired land with a small planting of vines near the Gnadenberg [Hill of Grace] Lutheran church at Parrot Hill in the Eden Valley. Paul Alfred took over from his father in 1914, and until this time the main pursuit of the family had been farming. However, the demand for fortified wine was increasing. Paul Alfred then expanded the vineyards, extended the original cellars and increased production of fortified wines whilst continuing to make dry red and dry hock wines. Paul Alfred married Johanne Ida Selma Stanitzki - it was in fact her grandfather Nicolaus Stanitzki who planted the first Shiraz vines on the Hill of Grace vineyard around 1860. Paul Alfred and Johanne had 12 children, but it was their youngest son Cyril who had the talent and the passion to become a winemaker. The business was built on fortified wine, but at home the family drank their own dry wines, and Cyril was keen to prove that the region could produce fruit that could make good dry table wines. It wasn't until Cyril was in his 70's that he took charge of the winery and started to experiment and concentrate on the production of dry wines, phasing out the fortifieds in 1952. At first there was some difficulty in establishing a market, but Cyril believed in his style and pioneered varietal table wines. Cyril's youngest son Stephen took over the winery in 1979. He had previously gained winemaking experience in Germany with his wife Prue, and in the early 1980's introduced winemaking techniques learned in Germany for the production of Henschke's white wines; whilst maintaining his ancestor's traditional methods for red wines, but began to incorporate barrel fermentation. Oak was poorly seasoned at the time, so he introduced a timber purchase program and conducted seasoning trials comparing American oak with French. The results saw him move more towards French oak and all their oak staves are weathered outside for three years before being made into barrels. Stephen and Prue also pioneered soil management techniques from Germany, which led to Vertical Shoot Canopies in order to improve fruit exposure, and they commenced an old vine massale selection programme to preserve the genetic heritage of their centennial Shiraz vines. Working vintages in Bordeaux and Burgundy also gave them an intrinsic foundation of knowledge for winemaking and viticulture in these French regions. Each Henschke generation has built upon the foundations of the last, the family have been an integral part of Australian quality wine history, and the sixth generation has already joined the family business. Johann Stephen, is Stephen and Prue's oldest son, he graduated as a winemaker from the University of Adelaide in 2005, and altogether with his brother Andreas and sister Justine support their father. Henschke are inexorably linked with red wine, especially their two single vineyard Shiraz masterpieces – the fabulous Mount Edelstone and the beguiling Hill of Grace – these are two of the most sought after wines in the world. But all Henschke's wide portfolio of wines are made with passion and the same commitment to quality. They are quite simply, exceptional winemakers.