Less than a two-hour drive from Adelaide, the Clare Valley is considered one of the most picturesque wine regions in South Australia, with its ample vineyards and cosy cellar doors.  James Halliday has described the Clare Valley as one of Australia’s most beautiful wine-producing regions. Hills fold in on themselves, streamlets meander and lines of gumtrees are forever twisting through pockets of vineyards and around old stone houses. 

Situated in the northern Mt Lofty Ranges, South Australia’s Clare Valley was settled in the late 1830s, with the first vineyards planted and wines produced in the early 1840s. The same features that make the Clare Valley inherently beautiful are also the foundation of Clare’s famed vineyards. The climate features a warm to hot summer, but cooling afternoon breezes play a major role in slowing down the ripening process.  Some of Australia's finest Riesling is grown in the Clare Valley, and the region also produces many other wine styles, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.  

Regional Checklist:

  • Clare Valley ’s history as a winemaking region goes back 160 years.
  • The region has a diversity of soil, aspect and altitude. The resulting wines reflect this diversity.
  • The region is currently home to about 50 wineries.
  • Renowned for production of premium dry Riesling. 
  • The climate features a warm to hot summer, but cooling afternoon breezes play a major role in slowing down the ripening process. 
  • One of the most picturesque wine regions in South Australia.

Regional website:
www.clarevalleywinemakers.com.au 

Climate:
The weather data for the region points to a far warmer climate than is the case - cool afternoon breezes are the key and play a major role in slowing down the ripening process. Furthermore, altitude and position within the Valley, as well as aspect, lead to considerable variations in individual site climate. Overall, however, the climate is moderately Continental, with cool to cold nights and warm to hot summer days. The rainfall is winter-spring dominant, while relatively low humidity (and summer rainfall) means a low incidence of fungal disease.

Soil:
Soils of the Clare Valley range from classic terra rossa red topsoil over limestone in the Watervale district to the broken slate of Polish Hill River. The vineyards at the northern end of the valley are planted in deep fertile alluvial ground, where there is little or no need for irrigation. Vineyards in the Skillogalee Valley, to the west of the main valley, are planted into sandy loams with varying amounts of degraded quartz. Typically the soils from most areas of the valley are free-draining and hold enough water to only require the smallest quantities of supplementary irrigation during the hottest months.

Wines:
Riesling:
The Clare Valley is renowned as a premier producer of dry Riesling styles. The wines are characterized by juicy citrus characters, minerality and long, fine natural acidity. The best examples have been proven to age for 20-plus years. While many parts of the Clare Valley have been proven to make great Riesling, there has been a focus by many producers on the subregions of Watervale and Polish Hill River. The vineyards of Watervale are predominately grown on limestone and produce a juicier Riesling, whereas the vineyards around Polish Hill River are grown on mainly slate, producing more tightly focussed wines. 

Shiraz: The Clare Valley produces Shiraz that has fragrance, power, structure and finesse. Typical fruit characteristics are red berries, spice and chocolate. The wines are underpinned by powerful yet soft tannins and the best examples have long cellaring potential. 

Cabernet Sauvignon: The Clare Valley makes a distinctive regional style of Cabernet with dark berries, chocolate, a juicy mid-palate, cigar box and long fine tannins being typical characters. Cabernet Sauvignon from Clare can be particularly long lived. Cabernet Malbec blends are also considered a regional speciality.

Semillon:  Semillon grown in Clare shows lemon and/or tropical fruit characters. The wines have good fruit concentration and are rich in character with juicy acidity. The best examples can develop further richness with time in bottle.

Vital Statistics:
Map Coordinates:                                   33 50oS
Altitude:                                                400 – 500 metres (1312 -1640 feet)                                                  
Heat degree days, October - April:           1770 
Growing season rainfall, October - April:   200 millimetres (7.9 inches) 
Mean January temperature:                      21.9 C  (71.42 F) 
Relative humidity, October - April, 3 pm:   37% 
Harvest:                                                  February - April

Jeffrey Grosset, Founder and Owner, Grosset Wines, Clare Valley, South Australia

In 1981, Jeffrey Grosset established Grosset Wines in the southern tip of the Clare Valley.  Jeffrey is known for his unremitting dedication and immensely disciplined approach to winemaking.  Meticulous attention is shown at every stage of production, from the choice of the earth itself to the fine-tuning during pressing and fermentation. 

Grosset Wines has played a leading role in the quest to improve the closure of wine bottles. 

"The widespread use of an inert wine closure that works is exciting for those who love wine. No more pouring down the drain wine that the closure has made undrinkable! We can look forward now to enjoying great wine not just great bottles,” Jeffrey says.

But none of his openness to technology and innovation has been at the expense of tradition or of his most deeply held convictions about his craft. Hand picking prevails exclusively in his Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills vineyards. 

"Terroir is the French word for what some have known in Australia for thousands of years as pangkarra. Pangkarra is an Aboriginal word that represents a concept that has no English translation but encompasses the characteristics of a specific place – the climate, sunshine, rain, geology and the soil/water relations. About the closest we can get in English is to refer to 'the site', but even that doesn't cover the major components of terroir, or pangkarra, being the soil and local topography,” he says. 

Already his achievements for Grosset Wines have been translated into advantages for the Australian wine industry. As an acknowledged winemaker par excellence, he can – and unquestionably will – devote himself to the continuing challenge of seeking perfection for the wine lover.

 

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