It’s a sign of the affection with which Pewsey Vale is held in the Yalumba/Hill Smith/Negociants business that, a few years ago, uproar was caused by the wine being taken off the staff sale list in order to preserve stock for customers. A small harvest and the usual high demand combined to deplete the warehouse, forcing the wine off limits to the team of winemakers, marketeers, sales people, viticulturists and bean counters based at Hill Smith HQ in Angaston and around the world. As far as I am aware no-one actually went on strike, but this might be down to the excellence of the available substitute, Yalumba’s Y Series Riesling.
Pewsey Vale is an historic vineyard tucked away in the Eden Valley at an altitude approaching 500m above sea level. This altitude is key as it delivers a longer and gentler ripening period and allows the grapes to preserve their acidity and aromatics. The vineyard was originally planted with back in 1847, making it one of the most historic vineyard sites in Australia. in the past 3 or 4 decades it has become increasingly known for outstanding Rieslings, defined by their purity of fruit, minerality and elegance, and for their ability to age beautifully. There’s a lot of information on the most excellent Pewsey Vale website.
It’s often a challenge to differentiate the Rieslings of the Clare and Eden Valleys, but perhaps it’s generally fair to say the Clare produces slightly more opulent flavours, the Eden slightly more elegance. (I’d be more than happy for that sentence to start a debate!!). Both G.I.s tend to have very low pH levels and marked acidity in their Rieslings, but I find the acid in Clare is assertive in a wine’s youth as opposed to displaying as mineral in young Eden wines.
There are currently 4 Rieslings in the Pewsey range, but the one which has always stood out for me is the Contours. Made from grapes on the coolest (contoured slopes) the wine is only ever released after 5 years in bottle, the intention being to showcase how Riesling can age in bottle. The magic of Riesling always comes through clearly when this wine is released and compared to the new vintage of the “normal” Pewsey Riesling which is generally bottled and sold within months rather than years of the harvest (to insure continuous supply to staff of course).
Contours always seems to show a more overt Riesling character – it’s a great wine for when you are learning the basics of New World Riesling for blind tasting purposes – the aroma is so distinctive. Give it a few more years in bottle, (the 2004 vintage is nearly 16 years old now!) and more often than not the wine has gained a little honey mixed in with rosemary and lemons…it’s so attractive on the nose, and fresh, so youthful and moreish in the glass. The back label says it should be drunk by 2019, but I’d happily keep it for another decade.
Production and allocations of this wine are small, but it’s generally possible to find it in independent merchants and some top notch restaurants. Best to check with the UK distributor John E Fells for UK stockists or with Negociants International for further afield. If you do find some, buy it and drink it with the freshest ceviche…