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Friday 24 September 2021

Retirement proves short-lived for riesling maestro

What started as a little retirement project for leading Clare Valley winemaker Neil Pike is turning into a booming business. 

Pike launched his Limefinger label in 2020, shortly after taking an early mark from family business Pikes, where he did 40 vintages. 

He started with one wine, a Watervale Riesling, but that proved so popular that the brand has expanded from the 2021 vintage. 

"This year I have added a Polish Hill River Riesling to join the Watervale Riesling in the Limefinger range," Pike says.

"The fruit for the Watervale “Learnings” has again come from 20-year-old vines on the St Clare Gardens “Honey Home” block just a few minutes drive from the Watervale township, while the fruit for the Polish Hill River “Solace” wine has come from 30-year-old vines on our “Home” block planted around our house.

"A cool winter of average rainfall in 2020 preceded an average budburst time of mid-late September. Slightly below average rains in October and November saw flowering commence just a little earlier than usual and completed by third week of November.

"Conditions during the all important summer months were almost perfect - there were very few days in the upper 30s and into the 40s and rain stayed away during the lead-up to ripening; apart from 10mm just prior to veraison in mid-January.

"Lower yields than normal were reported in the southern end of the valley due to some poor fruit set during flowering. The lower crops and healthy canopies saw rapid ripening and winemakers had to be on their toes to ensure the fruit was harvested before sugar levels accelerated away from them. Thankfully acidities held on nicely and adjustment was rarely necessary.

"No such problems at Polish Hill River where yields were above average and the fruit ripened slowly in the beautiful late summer/early autumnal conditions. Sugar levels moved slowly and the acidities stayed high allowing us to pick at the desired flavour level."

Pike says the two wines display obvious regional characters. 

"Their respective sub-regional characteristics are on full display," he says. "The Watervale “Learnings” shows fragrant “limey” florals and is soft and full flavoured, whereas the Polish Hill River “Solace” is quite lean, tight and displays a good lick of grapefruit and the slatey characters typical of this vineyard.

Both wines were fermented dry - the Watervale to 3.1 g/L and the Polish Hill River to 4.4 g/L residual sugar.

Just over 1,250 bottles of the Watervale wine were produced and just over 2,000 bottles of Polish Hill River. They retail for $37.50 each.  

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