The Winemaker

Paul HenschkePaul is a fifth generation of the Eden Valley Henschke wine family, and after a career as an internationally recognised wine research microbiologist and educationalist (Australian Wine Research Institute and The University of Adelaide at the Waite), is now focussing on grape growing and winemaking. His outstanding knowledge of the wine fermentation process and the critical role that wine yeasts and bacteria play, the real though microscopic winemakers, is being put to great practical use to emphasize the qualities of our grapes. Different strains and species of wine yeasts are chosen to compliment the native yeasts which accompany the grapes into the winery, to best unlock the plethora of cryptic, enticing, flavours that all grapes possess. Paul’s winemaking philosophy is to cultivate grapes to optimal maturity (appropriate balance of sugar (hence alcohol), acidity, phenolics and flavour) so that balanced, luscious and flavoursome wines can be produced with minimal technological intervention. Above all, the style of wine desired is tailored to complement and enhance the physical, cerebral and social enjoyment of food, one of the great pleasures in life! (a former PhD student once remarked that if you can’t drink with your supervisor you can’t work with them; Paul fitted the bill apparently).

Paul grew up on the family winery and vineyard and helped out at vintage and bottling during his school years. His first vintage was in 1970 just before his father, Cyril, visited Europe and USA to study new developments in winemaking on a Churchill Fellowship. Paul then attended The University of Adelaide to study yeast bio-interactions for his doctoral degree. During his studies he briefly taught wine microbiology at Roseworthy Agricultural College and the SA Institute of Technology. His post-doctoral studies were undertaken in the Zymology Laboratory of Prof. Anthony Rose in Bath University and the Long Ashton Cider Research Institute of the University of Bristol. Rose’s Laboratory was heaven on earth for this yeast scientist to which many leading researchers visited. At this time Rose was just discovering wine and one of Paul’s duties was to select wine for the monthly Sunday night dinners! Paul kept a close eye on the progress of fledgling vineyards in the West Country, who were well ahead of the curve but the shortage of sunshine photons limited grape ripening.

Paul and Penny first met during the winter of 1981/82 in Bath and after Penny finished her PhD they moved to Melbourne where Paul worked for CUB as company microbiologist. Paul was offered the post of Team Leader of Wine Microbiology at the Australian Wine Research Institute in Adelaide in 1987. He initiated research programs on yeast physiology, flavour metabolism and genetic improvement, malolactic fermentation and microbial spoilage of wine, and lectured at Adelaide University. Penny and Paul and their young family watched the vineyard being planted next door in the mid 1990’s replacing the cherries and strawberries that Penny bought for jam. They purchased the vineyard in 2009 and produced their first sparkling wine in 2011. Winemaking with friends and academic colleagues has been a constant obsession for Paul but would take it to a new level; the foundation of Greenhill Wines was laid.

Paul is an ASVO Fellow and currently holds the positions of Emeritus Fellow at The Australian Wine Research Institute and Affiliate Professor at The University of Adelaide. His much loved job is now taking a backseat as applying his considerable knowledge to grape growing and making wine has become a priority. Because the Greenhill Vineyard (formerly known as Strawberry Fields) was planted to Pinot Noir grapes, which supplemented a well-known premium sparkling wine from the Piccadilly Valley, his first wine was a bottle fermented, brut style, sparkling Pinot Noir rosè, from the very cool vintage of 2011. After 9 to 20 months of maturation on yeast in bottle this vintage produced a crisp but creamy palate with subtle strawberry, green apple and toasty aromas. His second release sparkling brut rosè from the 2012 vintage was aged in bottle on yeast for over 30 months and is proving as popular as the first vintage release in 2011. The 2013 vintage has been in bottle for 3½ years and was released in October 2017.

In addition, Paul is making three whites, a fresh style Grüner Veltliner, a barrel fermented Chardonnay, using grapes sourced from a distinguished vineyard in Summertown together with a cryophilic Saccharomyces uvarum yeast native to the Piccadilly Valley, and a white, non-sparkling, Pinot-Chardonnay (Pinot Grigio style blended with Chardonnay). The former variety is a newcomer to the Adelaide Hills and the latter two wines are proving very popular as an aperitif as well as pairing with food. Paul offers three red wines, a Pinot Noir made from the warmer western face of the vineyard using both native and selected yeasts in small batch open top fermenters, a Merlot also fermented with native and selected yeasts from grapes sourced from a neighbouring vineyard, and in warm years, a Cabernet. The Cabernet Sauvignon block situated at 580 metres above sea level is believed to be the highest altitude Cabernet in the state, and consequently produces a lighter, Pinot style, which unlike its block buster, warmer climate, counter-parts is proving very food friendly.