The Pawn Wine Co. had its beginning in 2002 out of necessity when vignerons and winemakers Tom Keelan and his wife Rebecca Willson had a small parcel of 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 the right varieties grown in the right location. They set out to make small hand selected parcels of wine from alternative varieties grown in the Adelaide Hills and Langhorne Creek. 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 and Langhorne Creek 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 and Rebecca have set out to identify other idyllic viticultural sites and hand selected parcels of fruit within the Adelaide Hills and Langhorne Creek 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 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.
Like the 2019 Australian Federal Election, V19 will certainly be talked about for some time into the future. And like the election, there were 2 clear choices, there was a foregone conclusion and there is a whole lot of hype about the outcome.
And although the results are in, many are still scratching their heads about the what, the who and the why.
The 2 clear choices were centred around the decision to harvest pre or post the hottest day on record. With the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse riding into town on January 24th, there was the potential of fruit super-ripening in a matter of days or growers could wait until the sting was taken out of summers tail, when the vines had time to recover and recharge.
The choice to go early was to cash in your insurance policy with what little crop you had. The other option was to sit back and wait for the inferno to pass, which meant crossing toes and fingers to see what emerged from the other side, and hopefully what little remained would reward the risk.
Or like many, a little bit of both.
The hype was all around the low yielding vines. The lower crops throughout South Australia were the outcome of dry conditions throughout winter and spring which threatened already depleted soil moisture levels, not seen since the drought conditions experienced in the late 2000’s.
Compounding this was the frost in some regions in early spring, then came the cool, windy conditions throughout November, which reduced the likelihood of a successful fruit set.
Fortunately, from a disease viewpoint, the below average rainfall meant our vineyards had minimal to no disease pressure.
The equation seems simple – low rainfall + bad fruit set = low crop + high quality.
The reality can be somewhat different, especially if you are growing premium grapes –
Low rainfall + more irrigation x increased electricity cost = low crop x high demand X high grape prices = unhappy growers
The foregone conclusion was that January 24th would be the day of reckoning for many grape growers in South Australia. A day so hot, that no vineyard would come off unscathed. Temperatures soared into the high 40’s across the state, with some areas recording 50 degrees +
We go into these periods now hoping for the best, but expecting the worst, however due to a function of being in a cool climate region with a lighter crop load, the precision irrigation techniques we use and the ability to have 10-day forecasting tools at our fingertips, many growers got through the hot period in relatively good shape.
March and April saw calmer climatic influences bringing balance back to the force, with both flavour development, acid retention and sugar ripening reflecting the rewards of growing grapes in the cool Adelaide Hills.
Wines that show incredible colour, true varietal characters, with moderate alcohols, bright fruit, softer tannins and balanced acidity.
The Pawn’s Vintage 2019 will be remembered for a few things other than grapes, but we have been able to see the makings of beautiful elegant wines – just not a lot of them.
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.