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Part I: Talking terroir with Petaluma

Publish Date: 13 Apr 2017

Authored by: Sponsored content

In the first of a three-part series exploring the taste of place, we ask Petaluma’s senior winemaker Andrew Hardy what makes a certain spot in the Clare Valley so right for riesling.

Why did Petaluma select Hanlin Hill (pictured) for its now-benchmark riesling?
“When our vineyard in the northeastern hills of the Clare Valley was planted in 1968, a commitment to planting the right varietal for individual sites within a particular region was far from the norm in Australia. Reaching up to 550 metres above sea level, it’s one of the highest riesling vineyards in Clare. [Petaluma founder] Brian Croser predicted that vines planted in the red loam soil over slate parent rock, and nurtured by the sunny days and cool nights of March, would produce late-ripening dry riesling with a backbone of natural acidity and intense lime flavours. And he was right.”

How influential is the continental climate on wine style?
“The mesoclimates of the Clare Valley are numerous and changeable so we have to respond to what each vintage offers up and rely on our experience rather than a pre-determined formula. Hanlin Hill only receives around 225mm of rain during the growing season on average, though this summer was wetter. Last year, berry size increased by a third because spring was really dry, December extremely hot and then we got some much-needed rain in late January. We have high hopes that this year will go down as one of the great vintages as Hanlin Hill produced outstanding fruit and the ferments are spectacular.”

How do you safeguard the integrity of the land?
“We are focused on managing our vineyards without harsh chemicals in order to maintain a balanced natural biodiversity, and work in tandem with local initiatives to limit our environmental impact on the surrounding. This aligns with my winemaking philosophy that the fruit should do the talking. We maintain that our vineyard is already great, so we just have to help with basic nurturing and look after it. We treat the old vines as individuals and enjoy relatively consistent crops.”

How would you describe the Clare Valley to someone who has never visited?
“Clare is like an oasis that gradually materialises once you get a couple of hours out of Adelaide, where farmers and grape growers work side by side. Hanlin Hill is a classic contour-planted vineyard on a beautiful rocky outcrop, which can get quite windy up top, and the views to the Clare township and neighbouring vineyards are something special. My favourite spot for sampling a glass is on the top of the block looking west over the adjoining vineyards. One of the best times to visit the area is during the Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend, which takes place May 19-22 this year.”

For a full overview of Petaluma’s vineyards in South Australia, check out this aerial footage on the Petaluma Wine Facebook page.

Last chance to win a weekend away with Petaluma!
Petaluma is giving one lucky reader and a friend the chance to tour the Adelaide Hills in style and go behind the scenes at its five-star Woodside winery. Click to enter the competition before Monday April 17.

Photos: Milton Wordley

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