Pioneer Vineyard High in the hills surrounding the Barossa Valley lies Pewsey Vale, Eden Valley’s first vineyard. Its founder, Englishman Joseph Gilbert, arrived in South Australia after seeing an advertisement in the London Times announcing the vessel, The Buckinghamshire’s imminent departure for the colony. Land was up for grabs and Joseph wasted no time grabbing it, just four months after his arrival - 15,000 acres of rugged high country in the then-wild and remote Barossa ranges, some 40 miles from Adelaide.
By 1841, just two years after his arrival, Joseph, the 38 year old son of a well-heeled English landowner, had built a fine homestead and planted Pewsey Vale’s first grapevines. The vines were of a table grape variety, but an idea was starting to take shape...
In 1847 Joseph planted a one-acre vineyard, establishing Eden Valley’s pioneer vineyard and one of Australia’s first high altitude, cool climate vineyards. At the same time, several hundred feet below, Johann Gramp was planting the Barossa Valley’s first commercial vineyard.
The pioneering Joseph Gilbert trialled many different grape varieties at Pewsey Vale, later distributing cuttings to aspiring vignerons in surrounding areas. His experimental approach to viticulture and winemaking helped lay the foundations for the wine industry that would become so important to the region.
During the 1920s, Pewsey Vale succumbed to the fate of so many of Australia’s early vineyards, falling into disuse as a result of the severe economic hardship of the Great Depression. The vineyard’s potential was rediscovered at a time when only the history books recorded the existence of the original vineyards.
In 1961, Pewsey Vale’s then-owner, Geoffrey Angas Parsons, became aware that his property had once incorporated the region’s earliest vineyard. Excited by his discovery, he wasted no time in paying a visit to his good friend Wyndham Hill Smith of Yalumba with a proposal to restore the Pewsey Vale vineyard.
Parson’s proposal was timely indeed, coming at a time when several of the larger, more innovative wine companies were considering potential vineyard sites with cooler ripening conditions than could be found on the Barossa Valley floor. Wyndham Hill Smith, convinced of the potential of the area, needed no further persuading and work at Pewsey Vale began soon after. Riesling was planted as a matter of course - initially 56 hectares planted in contoured rows.