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Hill of Grace has 150-year history, with price to match

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Shiraz grapes in a barn in the Henschke Winery. Its shiraz wines have acquired the status of collectibles.

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Fifth-generation winemaker Stephen Henschke checking a glass of shiraz.

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Shiraz grape juice being pumped into an open fermentation vat.

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Wine barrels in an underground cellar that currently operates as a museum.

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Pickers harvesting shiraz grapes.

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The September release of Henschke Hill of Grace 2013 coincides with the Henschke family's 150th anniversary. Right:

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THE release of Henschke Hill of Grace 2013 this week marks a significant anniversary for the Henschke family. They and their forbears have been growing vines on the Hill of Grace in the Eden Valley region of South Australia for 150 years, and their shiraz wines have acquired the status of collectibles with prices to match, with the 2013 currently selling for A$825 (S$817).

The wines come from a four-hectare single vineyard around the village of Parrot Hill, and were conceived by fourth-generation winemaker Cyril Henschke back in 1958. Back then, Henschke was doing something radical and unusual, according to Elin McCoy, regular wine columnist for Bloomberg and an international wine judge.

The wines were rarities in an era when multi-vineyard, and even multi-regional red blends such as Australia's other icon, Penfold's Grange - reigned. 

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Hill of Grace was an immediate, spectacular success, and remains the rival of Grange for price, quality and demand - especially in the auction market. The cool nights of the Eden Valley ensure that the wine is no bold monster red.

Mr McCoy described it as "completely different from Grange, with a hallmark five spice fragrance that's utterly compelling, plus purity, elegance and an opulent fruitiness laced with minty, peppery notes", concluding: "And it lasts for decades."

No wonder the vineyard is the most significant wine site in Australia.

The better value, though, is Henschke's Mount Edelstone, which sells for about a quarter to a third of the price. It tastes of lush, ripe fruit with notes of minerals and dark chocolate. In Mr McCoy's view, both wines have only gotten better now that the vineyards are farmed biodynamically - and the 2013s are stunning. 

The September release of Henschke Hill of Grace 2013 coincides with the Henschke family's 150th anniversary  and also headlines the release of two new wines to the Henschke collection, The Wheelwright 2015 and the 2017 sparkling Johanne Ida Selma Blanc de Noir MD. 

The book, Hill of Grace: 150 Years of Henschke Under Southern Skies, is available from Sept 3. BLOOMBERG