Pikes Hills and Valleys Riesling 2018
The Pikes estate is situated in the picturesque Polish Hill sub region of South Australia’s beautiful Clare Valley. Brothers Andrew and Neil Pike established Pikes Wines in 1984 and continue to manage every aspect of the business today. They take great pride in producing quality handcrafted wines that reflect vintage, variety and region. Pikes flagship wine is Riesling Traditionale which has gained an international cult like following as Australia’s best dry Riesling. The Pikes story in South Australia is one rich in history dating back to 1878 when Englishman Henry Pike, Andrew and Neil’s great-great grandfather, immigrated to South Australia and established the family brewing business called H. Pike & Co. The company used the English Pike fish on the label, which remains to this day a symbol of Pike’s long heritage, now spanning three centuries. Pikes is situated in the North West section of the Clare Valley, in a sub-region known as Polish Hill River. The vines enjoy east to southeast exposure and for the most part are ungrafted, with just a small percentage planted on rootstock. The soils are red brown earth over clay, with slate and broken bluestone subsoil. The property is 240 acres (97 hectares), of which 200 are under vine. The region of Polish Hill is renowned for its black slate, which runs underneath the Pikes vineyards. Pikes aims to produce wines that reflect their varietal, regional, and vintage conditions. They are quite happy to watch over the wines during their formative stage and intervene only when necessary.
The Clare Valley is actually a series of narrow north to south valleys, each with a different soil type and slightly different weather patterns along their stretch. In the southern heartland between Watervale and Auburn, there is mainly a crumbled, red clay loam soil called terra-rossa and cool breezes come in from Gulf St. Vincent. A few miles north, in Polish Hill, is soft, red loam over clay; westerlies blowing in from the Spencer Gulf influece this area's climate.
The differences in soil, elevation, degree of slope and weather enable the region to produce some of Australia’s finest, aromatic, spicy and lime-pithy Rieslings, as well as excellent Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec with ripe plummy fruit, good acid and big structure.
Clare Valley is an isolated farming country with a continental climate known for its warm and sunny days, followed by cool nights—perfect for wine grapes’ development of sugar and phenolic ripeness in conjunction with notable acidity levels.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
In the Glass
Riesling typically produces wine with relatively low alcohol, high acidity, steely minerality and stone fruit, spice, citrus and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.
Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice) and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.