McLaren Vale – Since 1838
McLaren Vale is one of the great and oldest names of Australian wine. The birthplace of wine in South Australia, it lies just south of the capital city of Adelaide and offers a multiplicity of soils which bask under a Mediterranean climate.
Best known for shiraz, McLaren Vale is forging a reputation as being home to some of Australia’s best grenache. Thanks to the maritime climate provided by the St Vincent Gulf, McLaren Vale is also fast becoming a home away from home for some really interesting Mediterranean varieties like tempranillo, touriga nacional and fiano.
The colony of South Australia was founded in 1836 and McLaren Vale was established two years after following a survey conducted by John McLaren.
John Reynell and Thomas Hardy planted grape vines in 1838 and the Seaview and Hardy wineries were in operation as early as 1850, however it was not until the 1970s that table wine grew in popularity and within the same decade, over 25 new wineries were established. Today, McLaren Vale is host to more than 190 producers.
The Southern Freeway that first opened in 2001 brought McLaren Vale within 45 minutes of the centre of Adelaide. The only quirk/catch was that it was a reversible one way freeway – the longest of its kind in the world. It operated in each direction for 10 hours every day, and after a closure to allow all lights, road signs and boom gates to be changed over, everything and everyone went the other way. The duplication to allow for dual direction travel was completed in 2014, so you now no longer have to time/plan your trips to take advantage of the freeway.
McLaren Vale is roughly triangular in shape and land bordered on three sides. Adelaide city to the North, Adelaide Hills to the East, and the Southern Fleurieu to the South, with St Vincent Gulf to the West.
The proximity of Mt Lofty and the Gulf of St Vincent play a very important role in moderating the climate of the region.
McLaren Vale’s climate is Mediterranean and characterised by warm summers, moderate winters with winter-dominated rainfall – the ever popular, but now sadly defunct, Sea and Vines festival over the June long weekend was guaranteed to have at least one extremely wet day.
With some of the oldest vines in Australia producing exceptional wines with depth of flavour that is hard to match elsewhere in the country, McLaren Vale is spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a grape to focus on. Whilst other regions are defined by just one grape; Clare and riesling, Coonawarra and cabernet, for McLaren Vale to focus on just one grape would be to discount one of its greatest features, that so many varieties grow so well.
Whilst shiraz and to a lesser extent, but definitely one of the Cru’s favourites, grenache have historically been the regional heroes, in more recent times winemakers have championed some lesser known (also known as alternative) varieties from regions near the Mediterranean that share similar climates.
Coriole took the lead back in 1985 as the first to plant sangiovese and now a whole host of Italian varieties thrive including barbera, vermentino and fiano.
From Spain and Portugal, tempranillo and touriga nacional have found a home away from home, and Steve Pannell is leading the charge with the S.C. Pannell Tempranillo Touriga in this pack inspired by both the climate and lifestyle of the Iberian Peninsula.
Says Steve of touriga nacional “A lusty red variety that produces medium-bodied yet powerful wines with pungent fruit characteristics of fruit-mince or plum pudding. It blends well with red fruit, earth and cocoa of tempranillo and may just be the variety and wine for our times.”
All this innovation is not at the cost of the traditional favourites of shiraz and grenache, thanks in part to such amazing old vine stock and also the skill of the winemaking talent that calls McLaren Vale home. A roll call of Corrina Wright, Andrew “Ox” Hardy, Steve Pannell, Peter Fraser, Mike Farmilo and Paul Smith brings this all together in spades to showcase why McLaren Vale produces some of the best wine in Australia in the McLaren Vale Discovery Pack.