Pewsey Vale riesling stunners

Pewsey Vale chief winemaker Louisa Rose (Photo: Pewsey Vale Vineyard)

Pewsey Vale, which celebrated its 170th anniversary late last year, is a single vineyard wine. It’s also a large vineyard with nothing but riesling planted in it. Its owners, the Hill Smith family of Yalumba, tried sundry other varieties over the years, such as cabernet sauvignon, gewürztraminer and pinot gris, but none worked terribly well, so they got rid of everything except the riesling – which they planted more of.

Pewsey Vale, which celebrated its 170th anniversary late last year, is a single vineyard wine. It’s also a large vineyard with nothing but riesling planted in it. Today there are about 35 planted hectares. It’s 170 years since Joseph Gilbert planted the first Pewsey Vale vines in 1847. These were cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, gouais, verdelho … and riesling. In 1961, under Yalumba’s then boss Wyndham Hill Smith, Pewsey Vale was purchased and replanted.

Over the years Pewsey Vale’s chief winemaker Louisa Rose has added a few extra permutations of riesling. In 2007 she released Prima 22 GR, an off-dry style which, if we used the German sweetness system, might sit somewhere between a halbtrocken and a kabinett. While not really possessing the tension of a top producer off-dry riesling from the Mosel, it’s a delicious wine. The 2017 (AUD $28) has just 9.5% alcohol, and 22 grams per litre sweetness. It would go well with spicy-sauced Thai fishcakes.

The regular 2017 Pewsey Vale Riesling (AUD $26) by contrast has 12.5% alcohol and is ostensibly dry. It’s a very good wine at a very affordable price and it’s remarkable that about 20,000 dozen a year are produced. It would go with a plainly-sauced fillet of fish with, say, a beurre blanc.

Louisa Rose describes the difference between the regular Pewsey riesling and Prima thus:

“Prima has a more lychee, passionfruit, mandarin-like fragrance; the regular wine has more limes or finger-limes.”

The Contours is a vineyard selection that’s released at five years of age. The 2012 is current and AUD $38. It’s made from some of the oldest vines, which were contour-planted in 1965. It’s a lovely, mellow wine, showing some toastiness from bottle-age.

The Contours is a vineyard selection that’s released at five years of age. It’s made from some of the oldest vines, which were contour-planted in 1965.In recent years there’s the occasional The Contours Museum Release 10 Years Cellar Aged, the same wine as the regular The Contours with five extra years bottle-age, which Louisa Rose believes takes it to its peak of matured complexity. This has lots of honey and toast and the current release 2007 vintage (AUD $50) is a stunning wine, but the volume is very limited.

Finally, the latest Pewsey incarnation is the 2017 Pewsey Vale 1961 Block Riesling (AUD $32), which is one of the earliest harvested bocks from a north-facing site. Louisa Rose describes it as more stony, ti-tree and lemon myrtle-scented. It also seems to have a touch of grip which adds backbone. This would help it go with heartier foods such as prawn wontons or roast chicken.

The Pewsey Valley Contours blocks have been farmed biodynamically since 2011, but there is no plan to have them certified as such or declare it on the label. Says Rose:

“We don’t see any amazing change in the wine as a result, but if there is, we expect it to take time.”

The five-year-old Contours has a run of just 500 cases and the 10 Years Cellar Aged, just 50. But they are special wines, worth seeking out.

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