The standard tour that I would run around McLaren Vale when I resided there, would start with d'Arenberg, then onto Chapel Hill, before the amazing Samuel's Gorge. There might occasionally be a new opportunity stop, such as Woodstock, but really they were just speed bumps on the way to Hahndorf for lunch, but you have heard about that before.
I recently got the opportunity to have a deeper look at the region, 30 km South of Adelaide. The region is firmly rooted in viticulture, grape-growers with a purpose and a region with a sense of place. The story of the region goes beyond the 1838 Reynell first plantings to geological formations and change of the order of 1.6 Billion years history. The remnant soils on geology are attributed with many of the unique characteristics displayed by McLaren Vale wine. No more clear than the abundant citing of perfume arising from the sand on clay from Blewett Springs.
But geology and soils are but a part of the oft misattributed terroir. Climate and geography are critical components too. McLaren Vale, bounded by the Gulf of St Vincent, from Hallet Cove to Sellicks Beach sees coastal climate-moderating effects typical to the Mediterranean, where the southern Mount Lofty Ranges crash into the sea. The border of the region runs up the foothills along Willunga Fault until it reaches the Adelaide Hills region at around Clarendon. The belly of this approximate triangle is undulated and diversity of terrain, incorporating:
- Ancient Rocks,
- Sand and Sandstone
- Limestone Country,
- Clay Plains of Aldinga,
- The Piedmont,
- Talus Slope, and
- Alluvial Flats.
To round out this introduction to McLaren Vale, I should probably introduce the wines. Based on 2008 figures, the region produces approximately 80% Red Wine of which it is dominated by Shiraz (66.4%) with some supporting roles by Cabernet Sauvignon (15.9%), Grenache (6.7%) and Merlot (5.2%). In the White Wines, the usual suspect of Chardonnay (54%) is the major, supported by Semillon (12.3%), Sauvignon Blanc (11.9%) and Riesling (4.7%).
I promise we will eventually get to the wines...