A note from Alex Dale:
Any wine enthusiast in Australia will know this wine. It’s a much-loved, famously good value, cherished character of the wine DNA of Australia. It’s also Australia’s most awarded Riesling and the original planted vineyard of Eden Valley, dating back to 1847 (from cuttings of the Macarthur vineyard in Camden, New South Wales, the owner of which had taken cuttings a decade earlier from Rheingau, the first ever successfully brought into Australia). In its 173 year history, the Pewsey Vale vineyard has only ever produced Riesling. It set the course for Riesling to emerge as Australia’s ‘own’ white varietal (like Chenin to South Africa) and is THE original Riesling of the Eden Valley. It is also the only producer in the region to make only Riesling.
OK, you get the gist. Pewsey Vale is Riesling !
Eden Valley, even today, is most famous for Riesling. Almost always, dry Riesling. Some great Chardonnay and world class Syrah also come from Eden Valley (see Henschke), plus even a Pinot Noir or two, but Riesling remains synonymous with the name Eden Valley.
Like many vineyards in Australia in the 1920s and 1930s, Pewsey Vale fell into disuse. But in 1961 the then owner decided to re-establish the vineyard, the highest in Eden Valley, averaging over 500m in altitude (double that of the Barossa Valley Floor at 250m). He recruited the assistance of his friend and neighbour, Wyndham Hill-Smith, who subsequently acquired it, passing it on successively to his own son Robert Hill-Smith, proud owner today. The replanting initially covered almost 60 hectares, planted along the contours of the valley hillside it covers.
There are four Riesling made from this fantastic vineyard. Currently we import two of them although I hope to score a first allocation of the Contours Riesling in a future shipment and to cover the entire spectrum of dry Riesling from this incredible site. And what a site it is to visit an estate like this, in one expanse, planted solely to Riesling. One vineyard, one varietal, one vision.
Pewsey Vale is also famous for another reason. In 1997, it became the first wine in Australia to be bottled using Stelvin screwcaps. A total revolution at the time and anathema to premium wine drinkers, who shunned it completely. To the extent that sales of the wine were very badly affected, stocks accumulated and an about-turn was made and the resumption of cork closures followed ! Thankfully, progress has brought us back to the future and all Pewsey Vale’s production is bottled under screwcap today.
Pewsey Vale has been first for many things, over its 173 years. It is certainly the Riesling I drink the most gallons of, on an annual basis, and represents the very best of this varietal from Australia. The 1861 Block (which has been organic since 2013) is penetrating, Dry, fragrant and intensely refreshing. I absolutely love it. This is a sure value from Australia, one of the wines that you should treat yourself to and understand why this grape is often referred to as the greatest white varietal in the world (though more by people with German accents than Burgundian!).