McLaren Vale: Fruit abundance, paired with elegance
Just 35 kilometres south of Adelaide city centre, a seemingly Mediterranean wine and culinary scene has established itself. In addition to wine, olive oil, cheese and other gourmet products are produced in McLaren Vale. In a Mediterranean climate, full-fruited Shiraz vines are grown in sparse soils. But Chardonnay and many specialties also succeed exquisitely. Viticulture here is steeped in history more than anywhere else in South Australia. The first vines were already planted here by 1838.
Red wines from McLaren Vale
Wine pioneer John Reynell managed not only to have a street, but even a locality, named after the Château Reynella that he founded. No wonder: with his vines planted in 1838, he is considered South Australia’s pioneer of viticulture. The imposing buildings with extensive cellars are thus also monuments of wine history.
The McLaren Vale wine region starts directly behind the vast beaches lining Gulf Saint Vincent, and extends to the gently rolling hills of the Mount Lofty Range. Thanks to this privileged location, the growing area has become a magnet for visitors. Around 7,500 hectares of vines are planted here today. Nearly 70 wineries contribute to the excellent reputation of this region; there are also around 200 farmers in the region who also cultivate vines.
The complex Mediterranean climate becomes a bit cooler in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Range. This chain of hills, along with proximity to the Pacific, creates a special thermal, making for constant wind. Soil conditions are thoroughly diverse. A geological map developed especially for the region indicates over 40 different soil types. In general, however, distinctly sandy loam on a limestone base dominates. At 500 millimetres per year per square meter, precipitation is sufficient. Summers here are quite hot but not too dry.
Viticultureis conducted in McLaren Vale between 50 and 250 metres above sea level. The hilly areas produce excellent Chardonnays and well-structured Cabernets, among others. The undisputed leading role, however, is played by Shiraz, which occupies roughly 50 percent of vineyard area here. Indeed, the region produces a wide range of alluring Shiraz selections, which impress with intense fruit and prominent but very fine-grained and soft tannins. Rhône varieties like Grenache or Mourvèdre are gaining ever greater attention. Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Fiano, Barbera and Tempranillo are also in vogue.