High returns from Eden’s Riesling

We tend to dub them all Eden Valley wines, but it’s a slight misnomer, since many of the sublime Rieslings to come from the Barossa’s next-door neighbour are actually from the region’s highest hilltops.

We tend to dub them all Eden Valley wines, but it’s a slight misnomer, since many of the sublime Rieslings to come from the Barossa’s next-door neighbour are actually from the region’s highest hilltops.

The 2009 Eden Springs Riesling, selected in the top 10 of The Adelaide Review Hot 100 South Australian Wines, is a case in point. It emanates from the High Eden sub-region, a place of stony slopes and scarp where the often unnamed vineyards are separated by strips of residual bush and criss-crossed by narrow dirt roads. It’s a place where road signs and cellar doors are scarce.

Eden Valley Rieslings have always required a couple of years in the bottle before their limey character really kicks in, and the 2009 Eden Springs had been given the time it needed to work its magic on last year’s Hot 100 panel, who praised its citrus aromatics and “tangy, zingy mouthfeel”.

High Eden was a moniker conjured up by the quicksilver mind of David Wynn, who drove the development of the area in the 1970s after finding the site he sought in a Citroen fitted with an altimeter. Surprisingly, Wynn was not on a quest for more Riesling-raum, but in pursuit of a proper Australian home for Chardonnay.

The benefits of growing white wine on both sides of the Barossa range have been known since the 19th century; the original Pewsey Vale vineyard in Eden Valley dates backs to this time. A farmer turned winemaker named Cyril Henschke, based near Keyneton, helped to rekindle Eden Valley’s reputation for Riesling in the 1950s. When Henschke courteously listed his growers on his back label, a marauding Leo Buring tried to poach them.

By the 1960s, many of the Barossa’s big wineries, most notably Buring and Orlando, had Riesling vineyards on the other side of the hills, although it was Yalumba’s revivified Pewsey Vale that made a special virtue of the location.

There’s less than 40 square kilometres of High Eden, and it’s all at around the 500-metre elevation mark. The thin quilt of soil over limestone and schist provides a classic cool-climate terroir, which also eludes much of the frost that troubles Eden Valley’s lower-lying vineyards. Eden Springs, established in 1972, was an early comer.

As a brand, though, Eden Springs is no longer. Ray Gatt, who became the vineyard’s third owner in 2006, has recently renamed the winery, so the 2009 vintage was the final bow for the regal gold-on-black label. In the all-important winemaking, however, there has been no disconnection: Jo Irvine, daughter of local legend and leading merlot fanatic Jim Irvine, continues in the role.

Louise Radman from Gatt Wines says the approach of selecting and blending parcels of fruit from 40-year-old vines to make a Riesling with minimal intervention will carry on. The quality of the two subsequent vintages, now sold under the label of Gatt Wines High Eden Single Vineyard Riesling, seems to bear this out.

Radman says despite their comparatively recent arrival, the owners have slotted happily into the close-knit winegrowing community. They faithfully attend the annual Riesling taste-off at the local hall and also sponsor a footy team.

Yet Ray Gatt is clearly a man with a plan: since building his own winery in High Eden in 2007 (a cellar door is expected to follow shortly), he has bought more hectares of vines nearby as well as a vineyard down on the Barossa Valley floor, and is spending considerable time and effort on smoothing a path to markets in Hong Kong and Japan.

And as a sign of a serious ambition, he has also added a $250 super-duper premium Cabernet to his list.

Me? I’m just going to keep on drinking that Riesling.

 

X