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Tuesday 3 September 2019

A peek behind the scenes at one of Australia's iconic wine producers

Change happens slowly, if at all, at Ashton Hills, one of Australia's finest producers of boutique pinot noirs. 

Established in 1982 on what was previously a Piccadilly Valley paddock growing brussels sprouts and potatoes, Ashton Hills was started by Stephen George, one of the pioneers in the Adelaide Hills wine region, right on the doorstep of the South Australian capital. 

Brian Croser was one of the few far-sighted vignerons to identify the potential of the region around the same time. 

George, who also makes wines for Clare Valley icon Wendouree, quickly established Ashton Hills as one of Australia's pre-eminent pinot producers, albeit in tiny quantities. 

In 2015 with no succession plan in place, he sold out to McLaren Vale-based Wirra Wirra, another company with a reputation for attention to detail. But George is still the winemaker, oversees the blending and still lives on the premises. 

About the only change is the new deck where visitors to the cellar door can soak up the sunshine, and the addition of talented young Liam van Pelt to the team.

Nowadays there are no fewer than 38 different clones of pinot planted on the three-hectare Ashton Hills site. 

The reserve and estate pinot noir and the estate riesling are all made exclusively from fruit grown on site, while the Piccadilly Valley chardonnay and pinot use fruit sourced from nearby growers. 

"With pinot noir, your first task is to get the fruit ripe," says George. His first vintage produced a wine that looked like dirty tap water. "Fortunately colour almost irrelevant to how pinot tastes."

George says his aim is a simple one: "to produce full-flavoured pinot noir with as little alcohol as possible".

The 2018 Ashton Hills pinots are about to the hit the market.

The 2018 Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir ($35) is fragrant, long and immediately approachable, probably best consumed within 10 years. 

The 2018 estate pinot noir ($55) is absolutely beautiful; elegant pinot perfection: stylish and supple, while the 2018 reserve ($85) is very complex but still a little closed and deserves a good lie down before being disturbed.  
A most impressive trio.   


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