St Henri is a time-honoured and alternative expression of Shiraz, and an intriguing counterpoint to Grange. It is unusual among high quality Australian red wines as it does not rely on any new oak. Released for the first time by Penfolds in the early 1950s (first commercial vintage 1957), it gained a new lease of life in the 1990s as its quality and distinctive style became better understood. Proudly, a wine style that hasn’t succumbed to the dictates of fashion or commerce. St Henri is rich and plush when young, gaining soft, earthy, mocha-like characters as it ages. It is matured in old, 1,460 litre vats that allow the wine to develop, imparting minimal, if any oak character. Although a small proportion of Cabernet is sometimes used to improve structure, the focal point for St Henri remains Shiraz.
Most areas of South Australia were impacted by lower than average rainfall across the winter period. This resulted in early bud break in some areas and ideal stress throughout spring flowering. Healthy and welcome spring rain ensued, merging with a mild summer with just a few short periods of heat. Mild daytime temperatures and cool evenings were observed across the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, allowing for impressive flavour development without inflated baumés. Typically cooler regions (e.g.Adelaide Hills and maritime Robe) developed evenly and with concentration over a long ripening season. Balanced canopies and crops provided even development throughout veraison across all South Australian regions. Bursts of warmth and dry conditions continued throughout harvest allowing fruit to be picked in optimal condition and rainfall marked the end of vintage. Smaller berry and bunch sizes were noticeable in most regions. This, coupled with favourable weather conditions, induced great results for traditional quality markers – colour, tannin profile, fruit concentration and flavour depth.