Without question, South Australia is home to some of the world’s finest wines. Many visitors make a bee-line for the Barossa or McLaren Vale thanks to their close proximity to the city, and the big, well-known wineries. But those with a bit more time on their hands and adventure in their hearts (and a yearning for sumptuous white wines on their tongues), are usually keen to make tracks northwards to the secluded and somewhat magical, Clare Valley. And on their arrival, their travels are truly well-rewarded.
The Clare Valley holds a rich and fascinating history – from grand old homesteads of the European settlers, the relics of the region’s rich mining era, and of course the vineyards, it is a microcosm that almost perfectly reflects the state as a whole.
The region is home to some of the oldest wineries in Australia – many of which are still picking fruit from the age-old vines that form the centrepiece of their historic vineyards. The stories surrounding the origins of the vineyards and wineries are often as captivating as the wines themselves, so well worth a ‘natter’ with the locals.
Throughout the valley, the heritage of the region and many of the homesteads has been lovingly preserved, with numerous century-old buildings finding new life thanks to modern-day tourism, wine, commerce and the arts.
Dotted amongst the patchwork of rich pastoral land, are the unique towns and villages that service the region. Each town is notable for its unique history, character and setting – from the poetic connections of Auburn, and Sevenhill’s Jesuit beginnings to the agricultural, horticultural and viticultural heritage of Clare, Penwortham and Watervale.
Naturally, there is no shortage of boutique wineries in the Clare Valley offering wines that will excite the taste buds. Without doubt, the region is most often recognised for its world-class Rieslings, that are typically crisp and balanced, often expressing fresh citrus notes and minerality when young, but mellowing to offer richer honey and toast characters with cellaring – often over a decade or more
Lovers of red won’t miss out though, with Shiraz, Cabernet and many Italian varietals also on offer, together with a growing list of non-Riesling whites.
Given that Riesling is heavily influenced by its terroir – the conditions in which the vines are grown – no two Rieslings are the same, so when visiting cellar doors don’t forget to chat to your host and ask about the microclimates and unique terroir of the vineyards from where the grapes have been sourced.
“Riesling is a variety that strongly reflects and represents where it's grown so if you are a believer in drinking wines that have a really tangible connection to where they come from, wines that have a real sense of place, then Riesling is the variety to seek out.”