An Australian icon, Ashton Hills is one of this country’s foremost Pinot Noir producers. From the Piccadilly Valley sub region in the Adelaide Hills, this tiny 3ha vineyard was originally planted in 1982. The vineyard sits at an elevation of 570 metres and averages 1200mm of rainfall a year, double that of the nearby Barossa Valley. The vineyard is planted predominantly to Pinot Noir – 2.65ha and Riesling – .35ha. The unique estate site ensures the wines are singular, focused and absorbing.
Handcrafted, old world techniques
The Ashton Hills winery itself is like something from another time with its dirt floor and very basic winemaking equipment. The grapes are handpicked and basket pressed. Some whole bunches, wild ferments and no new oak. The wines in the 2017 vintage are some of the best yet from this great estate.
The Estate Pinot Noir is not only delicious, but different to anything we have had from this varietal in the Adelaide Hills before – more breadth, richness, structure and complexity.
The Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley range (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) is made from estate and non-estate fruit. Less expensive than the Ashton Hills Estate wines but made with the same meticulous attention to detail, they offer great value.
The 2018 is the second release of Ashton Hills’ Piccadilly Chardonnay. Drawn from fruit chosen off the Chapel Valley block adjacent to the old Piccadilly cemetery. The long-demolished chapel is remembered onsite by a miniature replica and now, this single vineyard Chardonnay. Ferment was sparked by indigenous yeasts and the wine aged in Burgundian oak both old and new for nine months.
I have always found that Chardonnay grown in the Piccadilly sub region of the Adelaide Hills to be fleshier and fuller bodied. The 2018 is a wonderful example of the complexities and contradictions of top Chardonnay. Lime, grapefruit, and stone fruits are rich and pulpy and with lovely bright acidity. The wine is opulent yet elegant, full bodied, textural and pulsing with energy.
The 2017 Piccadilly Valley Pinot from Ashton Hills reflects the cooler nature of the vintage. The result is a medium-bodied, layered Pinot with the Cemetery Block providing fleshy texture from the warmer clime, and the finely structured tannins coming from the Ashton Hills Vineyard. The wine is delicious, pulpy textured and extremely fairly priced.
Grapes were hand-picked and basket pressed, keeping individual clones separate in small open fermenters. A small percentage of whole bunches used. Fermented with indigenous yeast only. No new oak.
Ashton Hills lies at 570 metres above sea level and the vines shudder through some of the coolest vintage conditions in the country. Meanwhile, rainfall is a whopping 1200mm a year, well over double that of the Barossa. Whether it’s the lifted perfumes, elegant structure and Alpine freshness of the Pinot Noirs or the icy purity of the Riesling, Piccadilly Valley’s bona-fide cool-climate imprint is never far away.
As the label suggests, this is made from 100% Ashton Hills’ vineyard fruit. Grapes were handpicked. Small amount of whole bunches were added to ferments, enhancing aromatics and structural complexity. Fermentation was initiated by indigenous yeast (wild ferment). Each parcel was basket pressed and filled to seasoned French oak barriques with full solids. All barrels were kept on lees to build palate, body and complexity and racked off lees just prior to bottling. No sulphur used during winemaking other than bottling.
Ashton Hills is home to a meagre 1,200 Riesling vines, covering just 0.34-hectares of soil. At best these vines manage less than 200 cases of wine per year. Given the small volumes on offer and the quality of the vintage, you’d be right to expect something pretty special from this bottle. The 2017 growing season in the Adelaide Hills was characterised by a long winter, even by Hills standards, but the temperature eventually thawed and conditions leading up to vintage were perfect for fruit set. For the first time ever, the estate Riesling was picked before the Pinot Noir and the very low alcohol (11%) allowed the grapes pure fruit flavours to shine. The result is a classic “European-styled” vintage, with a fresh natural acidity offsetting the wine’s fine texture and intensity of flavour.