Clare Valley

South Australia

About

The Clare Valley produces a wide range of exceptional wines, best known for its hallmark riesling, as well as a selection of other styles with distinct personalities.

In the esteemed sites across the Clare Valley, the region’s vignerons combine Old World philosophies with contemporary winemaking techniques to get the most out of their quality fruit. From the valley floor upwards and between hilly slopes, this wine country is framed with vineyards, cellar doors and fine eateries to explore.

The region’s diverse climate and fluctuating terrain explain its ability to yield floral, vibrant riesling styles as well as rich cabernet sauvignon and malbec grapes, plus other distinctive red styles such as shiraz. The variation of soils, including the underscoring limestone minerals and recurrent streamlets, create the Clare Valley’s geographical advantage for viticulture and agricultural success.

Seek out Clare Valley’s many picturesque lookouts, explore galleries, sample from local produce stalls and enjoy a laidback getaway. An extensive cycling trail in the region is one of its best-loved attractions, taking cyclists of all levels around the countryside for unmissable cellar door experiences or picnic options between vineyard settings. Travellers can expect to arrive in the Clare Valley within a 90-minute drive from the neighbouring Barossa Valley or a two-hour drive from Adelaide.


James Halliday on the Clare Valley


More than any other district, the Clare Valley throws into question the accuracy of the heat summation index as a measure of climate, although it still remains the best shorthand method we have. The HDD summation is 1770, the same as that of Rutherglen and in excess of the 1710 for Nuriootpa. The style of the wines is inconsistent with a climate seemingly so warm; the continental climate and cold nights in the growing season provide the answer. More than 60 per cent of the annual rainfall is between May and September. The growing season rainfall, of a mere 200 millimetres, makes irrigation highly desirable, although the absence of groundwater makes this difficult to supply in many parts of the Clare Valley, and the vines have traditionally been grown using dryland farming techniques. The low humidity means fungal diseases are seldom a threat, but water stress late in the growing season may lead to partial or total defoliation of the vines, and occasional ripening problems with riesling.

Clare was founded by an extraordinary Englishman, John Horrocks, when he established Hope Farm in 1840 and planted the first vines. Minerals provided the first surge in population shortly thereafter: copper was discovered at Burra in 1845, and at Wallaroo and Moonta between 1859 and 1861. When the first flush of minerals was depleted, a wheat boom started, creating great wealth in a short time. High-quality slate was then discovered at Mintaro, and in 1885 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was formed to mine silver at Broken Hill. Clare was the town through which much of the trade and the food (and the people) generated by these developments passed: it became known as ‘The Hub of the North.

Vineyards (and wineries) grew steadily. Sevenhill planted its first vines in 1852, those of Spring Vale (later to become Quelltaler) in 1853. By 1890 there were 100 hectares of vineyards, but expansion (at a rate reminiscent of the late 1960s in the Hunter Valley) lifted hectareage by almost 500 per cent in the next seven years. By 1897 there were 580 hectares under vine, and in 1903 the Stanley Wine Company produced 450 000 litres of wine (mostly exported to London), the same quantity as Penfolds. The 20th century slowed the rate of growth, and a number of the 19th-century wineries disappeared. The Stanley Wine Company and Quelltaler dominated production, but Sevenhill and Wendouree both continued to make and market wines to a small but appreciative market.

The 1980s saw significant corporate investments and ownership changes. Hardys now owns Stanley Leasingham, Beringer Blass owns Quelltaler Estate (now known as Annie’s Lane) and both Beringer Blass and Penfolds have established major vineyards on the Polish Hill River side of the valley. But the atmosphere has not changed, and the Clare Valley vignerons remain one of the most dedicated and harmonious of groups. One of many achievements has been the annual wine and food weekend held in May, at which the public is given the rare opportunity of tasting the weeks-old wines from the current vintage (on the Saturday) and touring the wineries on the Sunday (when each winery teams up with a prominent local or Adelaide restaurant to provide a matched glass of wine and small plate of food).

Facts

Wineries 77
Tasting Notes 4815

Geographic

Latitude 33°50’S
Altitude 400–500 m
Heat Degree Days 1770
Growing Season Rainfall 200 mm
Mean January Temp 21.9°C
Harvest Early March to late April