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Clare Valley

South Australia

The Clare Valley Wine Region in South Australia

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 South Australia’s Clare Valley, the region’s vignerons combine Old World philosophies with contemporary winemaking techniques to get the most out of their quality fruit. 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. Travelers 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.

Clare Valley Accommodation

While it’s possible to visit the Clare Valley on a day trip from Adelaide, this beautiful region has much to offer, so it’s definitely worth booking accommodation for a couple of nights and taking your time to explore it. There are a range of options available to accommodate all styles of travelers and whichever kind of trip you are looking to have in the region. If you’re visiting for a romantic getaway, consider one of the area’s luxurious hotels, unique bed and breakfasts or cosy cottages full of character. Groups of friends may enjoy the country club which has an adjoining 18-hole golf course or self-contained apartments where you can create your own feast from the local delights you find. Families might prefer a stay at one of the local caravan parks which have recreational facilities to keep the kids entertained.

The Best Time to Visit The Clare Valley for Wine Tasting

With its moderate, Mediterranean-style climate, the Clare Valley escapes some of the more dramatic temperature extremes faced in other wine regions of Australia. For the majority of the year, the area is pleasant and comfortable to visit. Visit in spring and summer to enjoy your riesling outdoors amidst warmer temperatures and colourful vines. Winter is a great time to experience crisper airs during the day and warm yourself by an open fire with a full-bodied red. The Clare Valley region plays host to a number of events which may influence your decision on when to visit. The Clare Valley Gourmet weekend is held in May every year, and celebrates the region’s award-winning wines and local produce with plenty of special events or degustation dinners at wineries around the area. Local farmers markets, concerts, and festivals can also be a great drawcard for tourists at various times throughout the year.

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 81
Tasting Notes 5166

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