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Less than an hour's drive south from Adelaide is the picturesque McLaren Vale. With its combination of gently rolling hills and stunning coastline, the Vale is one of the most beautiful wine regions in Australia. It's situated on the northern part of the Fleurieu Peninsula, and runs east to the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges, abutting the Adelaide Hills region. It also happens to be one of the oldest and most highly regarded in terms of quality wine production.
McLaren Vale is one of the oldest and most highly regarded wine regions in Australia. Although the Barossa is often touted as South Australia's oldest wine region, vineyards in the McLaren Vale were actually planted several years before the Barossa Valley, in 1838. This gives the Vale the title of South Australia's oldest continuous wine growing region, and one of the oldest in Australia as a whole. But despite this early start, it wasn't until the turn of the century that viticulture and winemaking really took off in McLaren Vale.
Fast forward to today, and McLaren Vale is one of the most exciting and innovative regions in Australia - steeped in history, but home to some of the most forward-thinking growers and winemakers who are constantly evolving and changing, shaping the viticultural landscape for years to come.
McLaren Vale is blessed with a warm Mediterranean climate, but its proximity to the Mount Lofty Ranges to the east, and the Gulf St Vincent to the west, means that it gets much needed cooling breezes throughout the growing season. It is low in altitude (the highest vineyards sit around 300m above sea level), but 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.
The McLaren Vale is one of the most geologically diverse regions in the world. The Vale is said to have over 40 distinct geologies, with the oldest dating back 500 million years, and the youngest a mere 15,000-year-old. Red-brown sandy loams, grey-brown loamy sands, distinctly sandy soils, patches of red or black friable loams and yellow clay subsoils interspersed with lime are all found throughout the region. Such is the diversity of soil types, that McLaren is often divided into nineteen specific sub-regions. Though it is important to note that these sub-regions are not formally recognised as GI regions.
McLaren Vale grows and produces outstanding Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the undisputed star of this region is surely Grenache. According to James Halliday, the Vale produces Grenache that is not only Australia's best, but good enough to rival the Rhone. Hyperbole aside, they are indeed incredible wines. Varying styles are produced throughout the region, with the older plantings producing richly flavoured wines with varietal perfume and spice.
Shiraz from McLaren ranges in style from lighter, red fruit wines, to darker black fruits and spice. Cabernets produced here are usually full-bodied and rich with good structure that allows for cellaring.
Alongside these core varieties, many innovative growers and producers have started to look towards alternate varieties, many of which are suited perfectly to the warm Mediterranean climate. Grapes such as Nero d'Avola, Montepulciano, Barbera, Sangiovese and Tempranillo thrive in the warm, sandy soils of the Vale. Alternate whites such as Vermentino and Fiano are also produced here to great success.
Yangarra, Rockbare, Battle of Bosworth, Inkwell Wines, Brash Higgins, Poppelvej, Coriole, Coates, Bondar, Jericho, Dub Style Wines, SC Pannell, Samuel's Gorge, Primo Estate, Paxton Wines, Olivers Taranga, d'Arenberg.