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McLaren Vale

South Australia

where vines meet the sea

It’s a short 45-minute drive from Adelaide to McLaren Vale, a region with historic vines, exciting wines, and natural attractions.

With its wide range of wine styles and impressive quality across the board, McLaren Vale draws all manner of wine lovers to its shores. Its position alongside pristine beaches, mountain ranges, and national parklands is a bonus. 

welcome to mclaren vale

With nearly 200 years of winemaking history, McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions. But that doesn’t mean it’s set in its ways. One of the hallmarks of McLaren Vale is its inventiveness, with winemakers constantly pushing the boundaries and setting new benchmarks. Since its beginnings in the early 1800s, McLaren Vale has excelled with Rhone reds such as shiraz and grenache. Today, it is home to an eclectic mix of varieties that reflect its diverse influences and warm, dry climate.

The history of wine in mclaren vale

McLaren Vale has a relatively long history in the story of Australian wine, with the first vines planted by Englishmen John Reynell and Thomas Hardy in 1838. According to James Halliday, despite this early start, viticulture initially played second fiddle to wheat, and it wasn’t until the turn of the century that wine production really began to boom. “In 1903, over three million litres of wine, almost entirely red and fortified, was made by the 19 wineries in the district,” James says.  

Fast forward to now, and the riches of McLaren Vale have attracted top winemaking talent from around Australia, with backgrounds as varied as the wines. There are multigenerational wineries that uphold history while continuing to challenge the status quo, world-leading organic and biodynamic vineyards, and a whole raft of savvy newcomers. Experimentation spans the use of alternative vessels (i.e. clay amphora and ceramic eggs over oak and steel), the grafting of vineyards to robust Mediterranean grape varieties, and the creation of some truly surprising wines. 

THE climate and soils OF MCLAREN VALE

McLaren Vale is blessed with a warm, dry climate coupled with cooling breezes off the Mount Lofty Ranges and the Gulf St Vincent. The proximity of vineyards to the mountains or ocean, with their differing elevations, also creates unique microclimates, which means plenty of diversity in the resulting wines. Climate is one factor that contributes to the variety of wine styles in the region, and another is the fascinating geological tapestry under-vine. There is an array of soil types in McLaren Vale, and some of these materials date back hundreds of millions of years. An intensive piece of work has been done to map these, showing specifics about where in the region they exist, how old they are, as well as where McLaren Vale’s wineries lie in relation to them. 

Mclaren Vale wine types

The climate, soil diversity, and mountain and ocean influences mean a vast number of wine varieties are successfully grown and made in McLaren Vale. Shiraz in a sumptuous style dominates the landscape, but it’s McLaren Vale grenache that has industry insiders talking.

“Grenache is McLaren Vale’s secret weapon – not merely Australia’s best, but every bit as good as that of the Rhone Valley.” – James Halliday


McLaren Vale - Key Varietals of McLaren Vale


Shiraz

McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s leading shiraz regions. The styles it produces are marked by red and blue fruit, spices, and a signature hint of chocolate. McLaren Vale’s plush shiraz is popular for its approachability.

Cabernet sauvignon

Similar to McLaren Vale shiraz, cabernet from this region is favoured for its easy-drinking opulence. Typical characteristics are blackberry, bay leaf, cassis and dark chocolate.

Grenache

Grenache is the holy grail in McLaren Vale, praised for its perfumed, red-fruited complexity – particularly when it comes off old vines grown in sandy soils. James Halliday recently named a McLaren Vale grenache his Wine of the Year.

Chardonnay

While reds make up the lion’s share of plantings in this region, in part thanks to the warm climate, it is capable of making some lovely, medium-bodied whites. Chardonnay has the biggest presence and is typically made in a toasty, stone-fruited style.

Things to do in McLaren vale

McLaren Vale is a world-class destination with wine, and so much more. There is food to accompany the drink – stop into the Willunga Farmers Market on a Saturday to gather produce from the 80-plus stalls, grab a mid-morning snack at the Clarendon Bakery, and treat yourself to a long lunch or indulgent dinner at the award-winning Salopian Inn. If you need to work up an appetite in between, consider the eight-kilometre Shiraz Trail, which is shaded by gumtrees and follows the old train line past vineyards, olive groves, and cafes. And you can’t visit McLaren Vale without a trip to the beach – catch a sea breeze on the Port Noarlunga jetty, or else Sellicks, Maslin and Aldinga each have their own charms.

All quotes and facts in this guide are from James Halliday’s Wine Atlas of Australia.

Facts

Wineries 180
Tasting Notes 10457

Geographic

Latitude 34°14’S
Altitude 50–200 m
Heat Degree Days 1910
Growing Season Rainfall 180 mm
Mean January Temp 21.7°C
Harvest Mid February to late April