Unlike Australia’s bigger wine regions, most of the wineries in the Clare Valley are on a boutique scale – the person serving you at the cellar door may well be a family member!
Winemaking in the Clare Valley stretches back over 160 years and today there are more than 35 cellar doors in the region – each quite distinct in its approach to winemaking. Celebrated for its Rieslings, the Clare Valley also produces world-class reds, including Shiraz and Cabernet. Other varietals include Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Semillon, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tempranillo and Malbec. Estate-grown fruit accounts for about half of the Clare Valley’s total production. This allows winemakers to develop a distinct regional approach, fostered by a Mediterranean-style climate and alluvial soils.
To understand more about the unique combination of soil, geology and weather which helps produce such excellent wine, follow the Clare Valley Rocks self-guided tour, which takes visitors to 12 interpretive sites around the region. Brochures are available at visitor centres and at most cellar doors, or log onto www.clarevalleyrocks.com.au
Wineries in the Clare Valley have enhanced the cellar door experience for visitors by offering behind-the-scenes tours, personalised tastings and winefriendly fare. For example, Kilikanoon Wines offers a guided tasting of its premium wines as well as bike tours. Mr. Mick Cellar Door & Kitchen offers a tapas menu of shared plates, paired with its range of wines. Taylors Wines offers a behind-the-scenes winery tour where you can blend your own wine, and Paulett Wines offers a vertical masterclass while enjoying their stunning views.
Cellar doors range from the ultra-modern building at O’Leary Walker Wines to old stone cottages at Crabtree Watervale Wines and Eldredge Vineyards.
A chance meeting between Andrew Pike (Director and Viticulturist at Pikes Wines) and Mick Roche (Director and Geologist at Stewardship Matters) in April 2012 led to a discussion on the need to tell the story of the geology of the Clare Valley and its relationship to the grape growing and wine industries.
Mick went away and prepared a project brief which he called the “Clare Valley Rocks” project.
The two relevant organisations in the Clare Valley, namely the Clare Valley Winemakers Incorporated and the Clare Region Wine Grapegrowers Association, of which Andrew was a member of both, decided to pursue the feasibility of such a project and commissioned Stewardship Matters to undertake the study.
In September 2012, the two organisations decided to fund the four aspects of the Clare Valley Rocks Project:
Map and Brochure
Soil profile displays at participating wineries
In May 2013, the project received financial support from the Australian Government under the Your Community Heritage program. The Clare Valley Rocks Project was officially launched during the Clare Wine Show week at the end of October 2013.
Compared to other Australian wine regions, the Clare Valley is small, accounting for only 21,500 tonnes of grapes each year, yet its wines can be found on restaurant wine lists – and in private cellars – around the world.
Over the past few decades, winemakers from this region have won countless international awards. Regional producers continue to experiment with new varietals and wine styles while remaining true to their heritage. Behind the trophies and tributes, the Clare Valley’s winemakers strive for simplicity and authenticity in their wines.