Clare Valley Winemakers

The secret trilogy of shiraz, cabernet and riesling

Nestled high in the Mount Lofty Ranges, at the gateway to the Flinders Ranges, the picturesque Clare Valley has a secret.  In truth, the undisclosed is revealed quickly through understanding the region’s geology and climate.  This terroir, a combination of surprising elevation and ancient sedimentary soils, blesses our famous riesling grapes, but less known is the equally exceptional shiraz and cabernet sauvignon from the region.  A unique viticultural trilogy.

Since explorer John Horrocks planted Grenache in Penwortham in 1840 and the Jesuit Brothers founded Sevenhill Cellars for sacramental wine in 1851, the Clare Valley has unassumingly gone about its business. Its fine red and white wines varying from delicate and elegant to powerful and formidable.  Our over representation in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VII illustrates this range, juxtaposing the elegance of Grosset’s Polish Hill Riesling, against the mystery of Wendouree’s shiraz and cabernet and the power of Jim Barry’s The Armagh.

While famous for 1056-hectares of outstanding riesling, our region, in fact, has significantly more shiraz (1886ha) and cabernet sauvignon (1135ha) vineyards[1].  Together these three varietals comprise almost 80% of Clare Valley’s wine production.  At 5060 hectares of vineyards, Clare Valley is about half the size of the neighbouring Barossa Valley (10,460ha[2]) but bigger than the Yarra, Mornington and Tasmania combined.

The Clare Valley is series of valleys and villages, an oasis of walking and bike trails and hills rising high above the surrounding agricultural plains.  A place where farmers tend wheat in winter, vines in summer and livestock in between.  Varying altitudes to 608m (Mt Horrocks) cause wide diurnal temperature variation from summer’s day to night – the secret to why these three varieties prosper in the Clare Valley.

Notwithstanding, a history boasting Australian legends including Leo Büring, Carl Sobels, Mick Knappstein, Jim Barry, Bill Taylor Jr and Mort Mitchell, Clare Valley is a region which prides itself on the understatement.  How else do you explain the unrecognised skill of grapegrowers who consistently, and without celebrity, provide some of Australia’s best shiraz fruit, including to Penfolds’ Grange and St Henri and Leasingham’s Classic Clare Shiraz, the 1995 Jimmy Watson Trophy winner.

Ours is a region dominated by small growers and winemakers.  A contrast with many of the world’s large and famous appellations with their big brands, huge wines and giant personalities.  Here the requirement is authenticity – of character, relationships, provenance and sustainability.

In 2018, Clare Valley grapegrowers and winemakers determined to bring their talents together in a single association.  We have a history of resilience; to floods, bushfires, droughts and gluts – and the future will bring new challenges.  And now, with a shared focus on quality, transparency and collaboration, our region is well-prepared.  We are building future skills and capabilities and tackling risks head on to enable our region to reach its full potential.

We realise we must shrug off our modesty, proudly share our standing as small and boutique and better tell the red wine story alongside our hero.

‘Under clear skies and cool nights cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and riesling have a unique home in the Clare Valley.  Modern wines on ancient soils.’ This is our story.