The Pawn Wine Co. had its beginning in 2002 out of necessity when 2 mates – winemaker Tom Keelan and vigneron David Blows had their fruit deemed ‘not good enough’ by a particular nameless, soulless wine monolith. They had now become mere Pawns in the global wine game, doomed to be played and moved around, and ultimately sacrificed.
So the 2 rolled up their sleeves and decided to show the corporate colossals what can be made from fruit grown in their neck of the hills. They set out to make small hand selected parcels of wine from alternative varieties grown in the Adelaide Hills. They had seen that alternative grape varieties were being used as blending tools by the bigger corporate wine companies and that the potential of “old world” wine styles was not being allowed to shine.
Like Pawns, these varieties were ignored or sacrificed by the dominating wine corporates and not being used as stand alone artisinal Adelaide Hills wines of provenance.
This first vintage of The Pawn received so many accolades, that it only seemed fair to start the crusade and take on the global wine giants, stand up for the little guy and rebel against the corporate players of the wine industry.
Tom has set out to identify other idyllic viticultural sites and hand selected parcels of fruit within the Adelaide Hills to produce wines that are not only a bit unconventional, but enjoyable to drink, incredibly food friendly, and made in a style that reflects their true origins – the ultimate in hand crafted, Adelaide Hills, Artisinal wine.
With the ever increasing centralisation of the wine industry, I, like you, could be forgiven for thinking we were all just pawns in the big wine company game. The release of the Pawn is a manifestation of my resolve to amend this situation by releasing wines hand crafted from small parcels of premium fruit from the Adelaide Hills.
With this philosophy as my goal, I have embarked on a crusade to produce Artisinal, hand crafted wines from varieties such as Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Fiano, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, Shiraz, Montepuciano and Sauvignon Blanc.
Wines created to be consumed young and fresh and with food as their ultimate cohort.
Despite extremes in weather during the V2018 growing season, the final stages of both flavour development and sugar ripening combined to result in wines that will reflect the advantages of growing grapes in the Adelaide Hills.
Dry conditions in June 2017 threatened depleted soil moisture levels, not seen since the drought conditions experienced in the late 2000’s. However, welcome rains in July corrected this deficit which was fortunate as the growing season rainfall was only 69.1% of the Long-Term Average.
Bud-burst was late for the V2018 season, almost as late as recorded in the wet and cold conditions in the unusually late V2017. However, soil temperatures rose steadily resulting in an even bud-burst, although shoot growth was significantly slower than usual. For the second consecutive season, the fruit zone was compact and shaded, and it was not until the second week of November that the rate of shoot growth returned to normal. Fortunately, from a disease viewpoint, rainfall was below average and most vineyards reported minimal disease pressure.
Fruit set throughout the region was average to above average. Canopies developed to be as large as V2016 with full capacity to ripen crop loads. January, February (equal to V2013 and V2015) and April were the warmest recorded in the last eight seasons. Fortunately, a cooler than average March enabled ideal night temperatures for colour and flavour development. A long slow ripening, particularly for red varieties, resulted in wines that will be remembered for their depth of flavour and colour.
In South Australia we have become accustomed (some say immune!) to our heatwaves during January and February. This season was both exceptionally dry and cool, with only 2 days in our vineyard spiking above 40 degrees, but incidentally on those 2 days, night time temperatures dropped below 8 degrees – stunning ripening conditions.
At Pawn HQ, we had some definite highlights during vintage, one in particular was the white varieties, with the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner and Pinot Grigio all being harvested during the cool nights and requiring no additions in the winery – gorgeous balance of acid, sugar and flavour which will see some amaze-ball wines for spring release.
The first El Desperado Pinot Noir was harvested early March and will be a valuable addition to the pawnfolio, made from 8 different clones of Pinot Noir, this will be released in Spring 2016.
We did have some trouble ripening our Sangiovese for our Gambit due to the cooler condition, with it obviously enjoying the cooler days, hanging out there on the vine – but got there in the first week in April.
Another exciting ingredient to V16 was the Shiraz and our very small block of Montepuciano, both relished in their milder surroundings. The Shiraz seemed to have a restrained elegance on the vine, somewhat of a complex mix of perfumed berries and pepper, with striking tannin profiles not seen for many years. The Montepuciano had mind boggling colour, and the fact that it was just there was a relief as in the previous 3 vintages had only managed a teaspoon of fruit off the block.
Our Vintage 2018 will be remembered for a few things, beautiful elegant grape and wine quality, lots of rain in Spring, no super heatwaves in Summer and a slow tempered ripening period over 3 months.