The mofo guide to | Clare Valley
Clare Valley - is there no end to your talents? A unique mish-mash of soil types and growing conditions, thrown into a melting pot of vibrant, exciting and innovative winemaking. Where do we even start? Here’s a run down of the need-to-know.
We’ll spare you the full geological history covering just, you know, a casual 800 million years - but the real secret of the Clare Valley is amongst the 11 different recognised soil types in the region, formed by rocks that have broken down, eroded, weathered and settled on a repeat cycle since Precambrian times.
Although technically the picturesque rolling hills sit in a “warm” climate, the relative altitude, and therefore colder nights (seriously, sometimes a difference of 40°C between day and night temperatures!) means it’s capable of developing complexity and balance in the grapes. If you’re wondering why aromatic white wines fare so well here, you’ve just got your answer.
Shiraz and riesling lead the way in the Clare Valley, together representing two-thirds of all plantings. Cabernet sauvignon is another popular kid here, with about 20% of the plantings, followed by merlot and chardy together representing a further 10%.
So what’s the remaining slice of the pie? That’s part of the fun of Clare - with all of those different soil types and altitudes contributing to the generous growing conditions, there’s a wide variety of grapes that make up the rest: grenache, malbec, pinot grigio, grenache, semillon, tempranillo and sangiovese are just a few of the varieties making the region’s diverse picture. Imagine the winemaker's joy with so many varieties at hand to showcase the great possibilities of this region’s terroir.
Given what we’ve told you about the region so far, it kind of feels like sacrilege to try and describe a “classic” wine, given the possibilities and variations of the growing conditions, never mind what the winemaker is trying to create. That being said, here’s a rough guide of what you can expect to find.
What's Clare Valley renowned for, if not for rizza? Well, maybe also its shiraz, but we’ll get to that in a sec. That long ripening period and cool nights fill Clare Valley riesling with its classic zingy, zesty lemon and lime citrus, and mouth-watering, lip-smacking racy acidity. Stainless steel is often used in this style of winemaking from start to finish in order to preserve as much of that freshness as possible. Fresh, vibrant, classically Clare - but also capable of being cellared to develop complexity too, if you can wait that long.
Fact to nerd out on: Producers in the Clare Valley were the first in Australia to move to screw cap closures, before it became the standard.
Shiraz in the Clare Valley makes the most of those warm day in the SA sun to develop its juicy fruit character (think blackberry, black cherry, plum) , but here it gets the chance to cool off during the cool evenings, ensuring it retains that balancing acidity which gives Clare Valley shiraz a typically lighter spectrum of flavours and higher levels of delicate aromas than those big guns of the Barossa. Did someone say age-worthy? That’s right, that natural acidity and abundantly complex flavours mean that these wines need very little help to ensure they’ve got the stamina to endure a long cellar time.
One of those 11 soils types in the Clare Valley is “terra rossa”, aka. the red dirt you might also come across in Coonawarra, one of the most iconic homes for Australian cab sav. In the Clare Valley cabernet sauvignon has the same classic profile you’ve come to expect: cassis, blackberry, dark cherry - although with a bit more restraint thanks to that altitude and cooler nights. You might find it by itself, or paired up with some blending buddies too. Did we mention the iconic Clare Valley blend - cabernet malbec?
Keen for some Clare Valley specials? No worries - browse out latest gems in stock here.