To kick off my Untapped Region: Rieslings from Australia series, I decided to open the 2010 and 2011 Pewsey Vale bottles, and do a side by side vintage comparison. Pewsey Vale winery is located in Eden Valley, in the Barossa Zone of South Australia. The vineyard has an impressive history having been established in 1847 by an Englishman who named the winery after his ancestral home.
Before I move on to my tasting notes, I want to make a point about Riesling from Australia. These wines are not meant to be drunk young, unlike the majority of white wine produced around the world (and frankly, red wine too!) These wines are known for intense acidity which preserves freshness over the years, allowing for the fruit in the bottle to evolve into secondary flavors and gain complexity—imagine aged White Burgundy or Sauternes, but of a more modest caliber and price. It is rather unusual to find whites that can and should age, making this exploration of Australian Riesling all the more interesting. What this means is that both Pewsey Vale bottles are very, very young and should be considered in the context of their vintage.
First, the 2011…
Quick! First two thoughts that pop into my head: Teeth-whitening and Algebra. The acidity in this baby could literally whiten and brighten, perhaps dissolve the enamel on my teeth. As for the Algebra, well, that’s what I think of when I imagine taking a bite of blackboard chalk. Sounds awful, right? Not so fast.
Day 2: After letting the wine open up in the fridge overnight, we met a less aggressive side to this gal. She’s still lean and tight—think Madonna in her 50’s—but has underlying substance and structure, and I can detect some citrus fruit today—Yay! She’s got huge promise, considering the 2010 is in a drinkable state (notes to follow), but to do this bottle justice, don’t crack her open for a few years. Definitely a HOLD unless you want to taste the sound of nails scraping slate. $14.99 from K&L Wine Merchants.
LET’S DRINK THIS IN…3 years!
No travel pairing on this one; she isn’t ready to be cracked.
Now for the 2010…
After tasting the 2011, I was nervous this wine would be too young, and harbor the same aggressive acidity, but it was actually a pleasure to drink. What a difference a year makes. The aromas in the glass feature lemon-lime seltzer, powdered rocks and the slightest hint of white stone fruit. The palate is similar to the nose, offering Meyer lemon (a cross between lemon and mandarin orange) and Persian lime (fancy name for grocery store limes), a sprinkling of white peach, streaks of minerality, and a prickly, zesty finish that lifts the wine. Fun and refreshing, but she has room to loosen up (see tight). I know this bottle could use more time, but you can certainly throw back a glass, or three, now. At $14.95 from Sherry-Lehman, the wine is well-made and within wallet’s reach.
LET’S DRINK THIS IN CORFU!
Let’s head to the Ionian island of Corfu, Greece to drink the 2010. This bottle offers a crisp, refreshing end to a sun-filled and sunburnt day in Corfu. Imagine an afternoon at the beach, bobbing in the vivid blue sea; perhaps a smidgen of sightseeing, including a stop at the famously tiny monastery of Pontikonisi, shown above. After returning to the hotel, toss on your maxi dress, hair and skin still salty from the ocean, and rush up to the hotel rooftop to catch the last rays of the waning sun. Parked at a table with a view, the citrus and mineral notes of this crisp Riesling are perfect for sunset sipping, paired with a few garlicky-grilled shrimp and local Greek cheese. The day ends with ribbons of pink and orange streaking the sky above the rooftops of old town, as the glittering lights of the city below flicker with the promise of an enchanting evening.