The Clare Valley - South Australia
Nestled within the South Australian bush land, the vineyards of the Clare Valley are some of Australia's finest. The softly undulating hills of the Clare Valley lie 130km North of Adelaide, and one hour's drive west of the Barossa Valley. Perfumed Riesling, delicate Semillon, aromatic Shiraz and elegant Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the highlights of this region. Located 136 kilometres north of Adelaide, the township of Clare is an ideal place to stay when exploring the thirty wineries which stretch from Emerald Estate in the north to Grosset Wines south of Auburn in the south. The west-facing, higher altitude vineyards are reputed to produce the finest wines.
Clare itself was first settled in the early 1840’s by Edward [‘Paddy’] Button Gleeson and was eventually named after County Clare his home in Ireland.
With wineries hidden in wooded vales and fed by four river systems, this is one of the most beautiful wine regions of Australia. Wine production in this area can be dated back to as early as 1852. Grapes were originally planted in the region in the 1840s, first by James Green, a servant to local pioneer John Horrocks, and later by the Jesuit Brothers at Sevenhill who had fled religious persecution in Silesia (Polish territory). Sevenhill Cellars by St. Aloysius Church is still operated by the Jesuit monks and much of the wine made there is produced for Catholic religious ceremonies.
Riesling is King in the Clare Valley. Nearly every winery in the Clare Valley produces it. Its regard is held so high that, towards the turn of the last century, a collaboration of local winemakers saw all Clare Valley Rieslings put under Stelvin screwcap seals to minimise any chances of defect.
The climate has a lot to do with the success of Riesling. A Continental climate with long hot days and cooling nights in summer contribute to the flavours and the crisp acid retained in the wine. Average summer temperatures hover around 29 degrees celsius, whereas the opposite is usual for winter. An average rainfall of 632mm (9.6 inches) and an average winter temperature of 13 degrees mean that the Clare Valley is one of mainland Australia's coolest wine-growing regions.
Cabernet Sauvignon also benefits from the region's terroir and the ensuing wines can be high in alcohol and body with deep colour and concentration of flavours. This grape variety is considered by many to be just as successful as the Riesling in the region.
Most of the region's cellar doors are located close together - making cellar door hopping easy.
An old railway line weaves through part of the valley and has been converted to the Riesling Trail, a 27km bicycle path that passes through the region from Auburn in the South to Clare in the North. Many of the winery cellar doors and restaurants are located along the way. Bicycles can be hired at Clare and Auburn at various locations.
Vintage begins in March and by the end of April; the later-ripening Riesling is harvested.