Riesling Through the Decades

3.46am, Thursday 28th October, Tank 11, The Clocktower, Yalumba, Angaston, Eden Valley, The Barossa, South Australia
I’ve just finished working with a group of visiting sommeliers who are in our piece of the world for the day, as part of a whistle stop tour of Australian wine regions. They’ve been with us this morning and for lunch and are out with the Henschkes for the afternoon. Louisa Rose did a masterclass for the group that featured Pewsey Vale Riesling, a ‘horizontal’ of various vintages of our Cabernet Shiraz blends, a vertical of five vintages of Signature, and a comparison of the Single Site Shirazes 2005 and 2006.

What I want to talk about though is the set of three Eden Valley Riesling wines:

1971 Pewsey, 2005 Pewsey Contours, 2010 Pewsey

All three wines were finished with stelvin closure screw caps, but the 1971 Pewsey has the unique distinction of having been closed with a standard cork as well! It was a time when ‘screw caps’ were seen as only being used on inferior wines by most folk, but we knew we were ahead of the game, and that they were the shape of things to come – so that 1971 vintage of Pewsey got both. Everyone was happy! In the photo, you can see the complete change in bottle shape from 1971 to 2010, as well as the change in labelling. Years ago, we used to use the term “Rhine Riesling”, but now it’s just the variety “Riesling” and the area of production – Eden Valley, from the individual vineyard confines of Pewsey Vale. (But bear in mind that we can trace the older vines at Pewsey Vale back clonally to the original James Busby 1832 import, from Geisenheim.)

Here are my tasting notes for the three wines:

1971 Pewsey Vale Riesling: The colour shows the development and age of the wine straight away, as it’s a golden slightly brown, which follows to the slightly less than fresh oxidation showing on the nose. However, there’s still some fading citrus fruit evident, which carries through the palate – and is a good example of how well Riesling can weather 40 years in the bottle. She’s tired but hanging in there.

2005 Pewsey Vale Contours: Lots of lifted primary citrus fruit – more lime than lemon floating about, with acid snap on the palate. The fruit just seems to be softening and carrying the lime through. Marmalade, lemon zest and toast there as well, and this thing is in great shape.

2010 Pewsey Vale Riesling: Lashings of solid fragrant perfumed lemon lift is the first thing I got – chased by more lemon than lime fruit flavours around a granuley acid skeleton. Nice fruit length and screaming for some seafood!

Our Tank 11 masterclass today with Louisa Rose and the sommeliers

It was a pretty accomplished group of sommeliers with us today in Tank 11 – the underground tasting room that we were using – and as you can see, there’s still tartrate and wax on the walls from over 100 vintages.

Dave Cross from Estbek House

By the way – here’s David (from Estbek House – one of our Yalumba ‘fortresses’ on the east coast of England – up in the hamlet of Sandsend, south of Whitby actually) and I, holding those walls up after the whole tasting and lunch was done.

And speaking of lunch – thanks go to Scott from Vintners bar & Grill. He poached some local Barossa Chook and put it into caramelised onion tarts with a reduction using Louisa’s Eden Valley Viognier, and added asparagus, Haloumi cheese and baby lettuce. Spot on with the new 2009 vintage of Virgilius, Eden Valley Viognier and the 2005 Tricentenary Grenache.

Barossa chook and a Viognier reduction

We’ll be catching up later with the crew out at Henschke for a BBQ dinner, so it will be interesting to see how their day in the Barossa washed up. See ya when it’s Friday and I’ll be off to the airport to pick up one of our new colleagues from ‘The London Office’ and introduce them to the mother ship!

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