November 10th, 2011: While I was incredibly excited to visit the Pewsey Vale Winery, I learned upon arriving in the Eden Valley that there was, in fact, no such thing.
Arguably the most stunning Rieslings in Australia are made under the Yalumba umbrella, along with the lovely Chardonnays of Heggies. No matter, it was the the Pewsey Vale ‘Contours’ vineyard that was my personal Australian-Riesling-mecca, possibly one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful vineyards in the world (seriously, take a look.) To see them in person transcends any full-screen HD image, as you’d expect – there’s nothing that holds a candle to standing there in the middle of it all. The Rieslings that come from this spot though, oh the Rieslings. They’re made from Pewsey Vale clones (natch), traced back to clippings planted via James Busby himself in the early 1800′s. That’s some mighty heritage.
Indeed, it was a heritage almost lost as vineyards became commercially inactive during the Great Depression, and it wasn’t until the early 1960′s that the engine got revved-up again with fresh plantings. Most of those vines are still kickin’ around, that’s one of ‘em up top on the left. The contoured vineyards were an early way to defy erosion on hillsides, not so much of an issue these days due to advances in viticultural methods and restrictions. The high altitude, about 500m, allows the Rieslings to develop some great acidity during the cool evenings, and the bio-dynamic farming methods make them sing. The lime, the petrol, the glint of Australian sun, it’s all in there.
If you haven’t had a Riesling from Pewsey Vale before, I’m going to have to insist you do. You can find one in private wine stores around Vancouver for just under 30 bucks.
And, oh yeah— if distinct minerality in a Riesling is your sort of thing, which it probably is, take a look at all that quartz from the soil in that picture below on the left. Just click on it to make it bigger.
I know, right?