St Henri is a time-honoured and alternative expression of shiraz, and an intriguing counterpoint to Grange. It is unusual amongst 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 with age. It is matured in an assortment of old large vats that allow the wine to develop, imparting minimal, if any oak character. Although a small proportion of cabernet may sneak into the blend, the focal point for St Henri remains shiraz.
McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley recorded well below long-term average winter rainfall, while the vineyards in the South-East growing districts enjoyed above-average winter rainfall. September temperatures were cool with little rainfall, resulting in some isolated frost events. Summer was generally hot, with high temperatures delaying veraison. The Barossa Valley experienced 31 days of temperatures exceeding 35°C while McLaren Vale experienced 25 days (December to March). Irrigation was crucial to keep vines in good health. The proximity of the Southern Ocean played an important role in moderating temperatures in Wrattonbully and Padthaway, allowing for a high-quality harvest, albeit with smaller yields than average. Although yields were down in all regions, the quality was outstanding with shiraz showing excellent colours, firm tannin profiles and intense flavours.