Every year I write an annual “Year in review’ column, commenting on what I thought were the best red and white wines of the year, plus the best beer I had tried that year.
Two years ago the white wine of the year for me was a toss-up between the ’15 De Illius Semillon and the ’15 Pewsey Vale Riesling. I ended up going with the Pewsey Vale at the time, simply because of its perfect drinking, the fact that the wine is so readily available at bottleshops, and the crazy fact that it was sitting at $15.99 real shelf pricing at the time, from a $26 RPP. The wine then went on to stun a lot of critics with its sheer brilliance, with Halliday giving it a whopping 95pts.
Pewsey Vale is not only a single vineyard wine, that is all the fruit for the wine comes from one vineyard, but its also a vineyard that has nothing but Riesling planted on it.
The story starts just over 170 years ago when Joseph Gilbert arrived in South Australia from England in 1839, he built his homestead and then, in 1847, he started planting out his small Eden Valley vineyard, originally with five varieties. It was the region’s very first vineyard. In 1854 his Riesling was awarded a second prize at the Adelaide Show, laying the foundations for their future success.
The death of grandson William Gilbert in 1923, crippled the estate with debt, and they sold part of the land to cover debt, with the land eventually purchased by Wyndham Hill Smith, of Yalumba and S. Smith and Sons, who then took on an extra 57ha of adjoining land. Over the years many varieties have been tried on the site, such as cabernet sauvignon, gewürztraminer and pinot gris, but none produced the quality that the Riesling fruit did. So they got rid of everything except the Riesling – which they planted more of. In 1969 the first commercial vintage of the modern Pewsey Vale Riesling was released and immediately greeted with two trophies and seven gold medals.
Over the years Pewsey Vale’s winemaker, Louisa Rose has added a few extra versions of Riesling into the range. In 2007 she added the Pewsey Vale Prima GR22 to the range, an off-dry style semi-sweet wine with 22grams of residual sugar. Their newest label is the Pewsey Vale 1961 Riesling, named for the year the vines were planted. It’s a leaner style, with a hint of grippy tannin structure to it which will allow it to work with a greater range of food than usual.
Whilst there are many Eden Valley Riesling wines on the market, Yalumba’s Pewsey Vale range is the only Riesling that is crafted from one single Eden Valley site.
To quote Pewsey Vale it’s their “one vineyard, one variety, and one vision” that has driven their success, to become Australia’s most awarded Riesling.
Pewsey Vale Prima Riesling 22 GR 2017 – its sweet at first, with 22 grams sugar per litre, but as it warms it shows its well-balanced, almost chalky, acid structure, sweet and syrupy lychee, some mandarin peel and passionfruit in here. Will age well over the next decade and develop some interesting toast and spice notes, will definitely be putting some away to see how they go. RRP $28 but about $24 shelf price.
Pewsey Vale Riesling 2017 – dangerously drinkable and at a very affordable shelf price too, its moving more into the riper fruit spectrum than the Prima does, Bickfords lime cordial, with fresh cut lemon, white citrus blossoms, its got a great depth to the wine and a superb long and lingering finish. RRP $26 shelf pricing is about $16.
Pewsey Vale 1961 Riesling 2017 – tried this over a few days and it got better on the second day, needs a little time in the bottle still, maybe another three months or so. Its a touch fuller than the standard label, with a slighty grippy feel on the tongue, ginger and lemongrass, citrus and wet slate notes. There’s a herbal note that I couldn’t quite pin down too. Clean and crisp on the finish. RRP $32
Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling 2012 – a wine that is released at five years of age, and made from some of the oldest vines in the contour planted vineyard. Those extra few years of bottle age give it extra depth and some toasty notes and some of those kerosene type aromas that you find in quality, aged Rieslings. It’s a big and expressive wine, it doesn’t carry the same elegance of prior releases, but I think that’s why I like this so much. RRP $36