Introducing Clare Valley
The Clare Valley is one of the prettiest wine regions in Australia. Boasting natural and manmade beauty from its vineyards to the Bluestone buildings, it is perhaps slightly unfair that the region also produces such wonderful wine. Breaking away from city or suburban life for a holiday and taking a bike ride along the Clare Valley Riesling Trail is enough to inspire selling up and moving to this glorious part of the world. South Australia is famous for its wine regions, most notably the Barossa, however, it is in the Clare Valley to the north that the states oldest winery can be found.
Jesuit brothers established the Sevenhill winery in 1851 to produce sacramental wine. Today the cellar door is open and connoisseurs can even buy wine online from the brothers. History is important in the area, with villages dating back to settlement but innovation and enterprise has always been part of the Clare Valley spirit.
New vines have been planted and wineries in the region are responding to demands and trends. As such, many of the wineries in the Clare Valley have outgrown their best-kept-secret status to become household names.
Where is Clare Valley?
Clare Valley is located about 100 kilometres north of the Adelaide city in South Australia. Beyond the Barossa Valley, approximately 130 kilometres north of Adelaide is the Clare Valley. The Clare Valley map shows it is as close to a straight run north as can be with a short right turn before the town of Clare.
Clare Valley Climate
The climate in the Clare Valley brings heat during the day but that is countered by cooler nights. The ripe fruit from the warm days is given essential balance of acidity when the sun goes down and the temperature drops. The climate is cooler than state neighbours McLaren Vale or the Barossa Valley hence the popularity of white wines in Clare Valley.
Unique Characteristics of Clare Valley
Young Clare Valley Riesling is austere with notes of limes and passionfruit. Many examples of this wine will be found to feature steely acidity and mineral freshness and are long-lived. With age, the wine develops some notes of brown toast as well as the unusual but very welcome hint of kerosene.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the other great Clare Valley red wine. Unlike some Cabernet Sauvignons from warmer regions that can tend to overpower or be too intense, wines from the Clare Valley hold back to offer more balance.
Wines to try from Clare Valley
Wherever wine is grown in Australia Chardonnay will number among the varietals and the Clare Valley is no different. It is also home to Riesling, for which the region best known. In addition, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer can be found in many vineyards as well as some cracking Semillon.
As for Clare Valley red wines, it would not be South Australia without Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Malbec being abundant. There are also plenty of the smaller names, many of which are part of the new wave such as Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Grenache and the difficult but rewarding Nebbiolo.
Must See Clare Valley Wineries
The number of wineries producing high quality Clare Valley estate wines is impressive. While Riesling is the standout wine from this region, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are all big hitters as well.
In the Clare Valley, from the historic Sevenhill winery producing heavenly reds and whites to Petaluma’s stable of high-scoring stars, the quality wine both is high and consistent. While Jim Barry and Grosset may compete for bragging rights with some of the best Rieslings the region has to offer, ultimately, everyone is a winner with James Halliday awarding points in the high nineties to both. Those are to highlight but others include:
- Taylor - Kilikanoon
- Ryder - Dolan Family Wines
- Hidden Gate - Willowbrook
- Pandora's Box - Optica
- Honour Roll - Maggies Song
- Mockingbird Hill - Annie's Lane
- Tim Adams
Key Clare Valley Wine Event
Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend
The Gourmet Weekend has been celebrated for over 30 years and was the first food and wine event of its kind in Australia. Visitors are given the chance to meet with winemakers and learn first-hand what makes the wine and the region so special. More than 20 wineries participate and not only provide spectacular wine but also regionally inspired cuisine and live music creating a very unique experience. The event takes place annually over a weekend in mid May when the natural beauty of the region is at its finest.
The future of Clare Valley Wine
For Clare Valley, the future looks good. While the Barossa to the south remains the jewel in the South Australian crowns of tourism and wine, the Clare Valley rewards the more adventurous spirits who want more than the obvious. The more than 150 year story of this region is one of rewarded diligence and successful innovation, in that respect little will change in the Clare Valley.
- Clare Valley
- South Australia