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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 latest release wines are some of the best yet from this great estate.

Ashton Hills winery

 

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.

And it doesn’t stop there, Ashton Hills also produce top rating Riesling and Sparkling Rose and Shiraz.

 

The wines – latest releases

Ashton Hills Estate Riesling 2019 – $30

Unique Riesling, unlike anything else from Australia. Exotic aromas of lychee, pear, baked apple, white flowers and cinnamon. Beautiful, tensile palate with lemon zest, gala apple, apple skin and nutmeg. There is tension between the supple, barely perceptible sweetness and the racy vibrancy coiling the fruit. Wonderous wine.

 

Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay 2018 – $30

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 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. Incredibly complex aromas of lime, grapefruit, cashew, cherry, white chocolate, coffee and stone fruits. The wine is opulent yet elegant, full bodied, textural and pulsing with energy. Succulent yellow peach, ginger and ripe limes and crunchy green apple. Absorbing Chardonnay, and ludicrously underpriced.

 

Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir 2018 – $33

Immediate greetings from the glass, with an almost overwhelming aromatic power. Very complex, with wafts of plum, rhubarb, cherry, cola and aniseed. There is a real immediacy on the palate, with bright, juicy flavours that include sappy spice, lavender and a compote of red, blue and black fruits.

The 2018 Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir from Ashton Hills is a medium-bodied, layered Pinot. The Cemetery Block provides fleshy texture from the warmer clime, and the finely structured tannins come from the Ashton Hills Vineyard. The wine has a delicious, pulpy texture and ripe firm tannins. Incredible complexity and character for a wine at this price.

 

Ashton Hills Vintage Sparkling Rose 2016 – $38

I have tasted this wine 3 times now, and it just gets better and better. Subtle biscuit, red apple, cherry, spice, strawberry and raspberry aromas. The palate is quite full bodied, juicy and balanced. Elegant and rich flavours of baked apple, spice, rhubarb and red cherry. One of the best fizzy pinks from Australia. No doubt.

Piccadilly Valley’s cold climate provides ideal conditions for this cracking 100% Pinot Blanc des Noirs. This 2016 Vintage Sparkling Rose was hand-harvested and whole-bunch pressed, with the free-run juice drained to tank for settling. Fermented in tank, racked and blended before tirage. Disgorged after two years on lees. It starts off all lifted and fruity – fresh cherry, strawberry and raspberry, before subtle hints of damask rose and creamy, biscuity notes add complexity. The palate is bright and frothy and juicy yet still with lees-aged and dosage-driven texture. Sweet fruit and refreshing, natural acidity each play their part. Terrific for the money.

“Hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed. Delicious fresh-cut strawberries and red cherries, when you taste the fruit you think it will be sweet, but it’s not, it is utterly hedonistic, with further development on cork if you so wish.” 96 points, James Halliday, winecompanion.com.au

 

Ashton Hills Estate Sparkling Shiraz 2013 – $48

All the fruit for the stunning Ashton Hills Sparkling Shiraz is sourced from the esteemed Wendouree Estate in the Clare Valley. The 2013 has dark plums, cherries and redcurrant on the nose. Throw in some Christmas cake spice with cinnamon and clove. Notes of earth, leather and roast game. Savoury tannins and a steady bead are balanced by ripe and luscious fruit sweetness. One of the most elegant wines of the genre.

 

Ashton Hills Estate Pinot Noir 2018 – $48

Again, you cannot escape the attention grabbing aspects of the 2018 Ashton Hills wines. Massive nose of bright florals – lavender and dried flowers, and rhubarb, red cherry, five spice and cassis. Mouth filling, with sappy/slipperiness from the whole bunches. Everything here is integrated, from the bunches, to the oak, to the creamy red fruit compote, and the imperious tannins. Bold, sexy and ethereal.

This is a hit of the vintage, delivering an impression of freshness with great depth and drive. The nose has an assertive array of fresh red cherries and berries with lightly webbed spice and a blueberry note. The palate has abundant fleshy, sweet and rich red-fruit flavors with length and weight at the finish. Balanced and satisfying pinot. Drink now to 2026. Screw cap. 93 points, Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com

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 at bottling.

 

The wines – back vintages

Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir 2017 – $34

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 Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 – $48

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 Riesling 2017 – $29

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.

 

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