When one envisions Australian wine, the mind often conjures images of luscious, deep fruity reds and velvety, creamy oaked whites – flavours that undoubtedly deserve their own place in the spotlight. However, it is crucial not to overlook the fact that Australia is a vast country, boasting a multitude of latitudes, altitudes, aspects, and soil types. This rich tapestry of geographical diversity gives rise to an exquisite array of microclimates, each contributing to the distinctive character of grape grown in the various regions.
In celebration of Australia Day, we invite you to embark on a journey with us to explore some of the regions and styles that grace our glasses.
McLaren Vale, South Australia’s inaugural wine region, established in 1838 is situated just south of the vibrant city of Adelaide. Nestled between the Mount Lofty Ranges and the pristine, sandy beaches of the Gulf St. Vincent, the region offers a diverse range of meso-climates, ideal for cultivating a variety of wines.
Blessed with warm summers and refreshing breezes from the coast, McLaren Vale provides the optimal conditions for grapes to attain perfect ripeness and balance. The region showcases an extensive array of soil types, ranging from red-brown sandy loams to uniquely sandy soils. These distinct soil compositions contribute to the creation of wines with unique terroirs within the region. No two McLaren Vale wines can be considered the same with the multitude of aspects and soil types this rich land provides.
Predominantly focused on red wine production, McLaren Vale sees a majority of its vines dedicated to varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache. However, winemakers are not confined to these classics, as the region embraces diversity with plantings of other varietals that thrive in Mediterranean climates. Noteworthy examples include Fiano, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo that are making their mark in this dynamic winegrowing region.
Boasting the highest number of certified organic and biodynamic wineries in Australia, McLaren Vale leads the way in promoting sustainability and adaptability amid our ever-changing global climate.
Situated just 130km north of Adelaide, amidst the picturesque Mount Lofty Ranges, lies the enchanting Clare Valley – a small yet highly esteemed wine region. With distinctive geological features, Clare Valley crafts a diverse range of wines, from robust reds to delicate whites.
Bathed in warm daytime temperatures, the region experiences a continental climate that transitions into very cool evenings, fostering a broad diurnal range. This temperature change not only slows down the ripening process but helps to maintain a higher level of acidic balance. Elevations span from 250 to 550m, allowing the cultivation of varietals requiring cooler climates at higher altitudes.
Claire Valley is produced mostly by modest, family-run vineyards, prioritizing the quality of its fruit and the refinement of winemaking techniques. Renowned for its signature wine styles – Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz – the region’s Riesling stands out as truly unique. Thriving in slate and limestone soils, these wines exhibit a light to medium-bodied profile, dry with lively acidity, and distinct notes of lime zest and blossoms. In contrast, the reds, while displaying a touch of restraint compared to their warmer counterparts, are celebrated for their age-worthy character and profound depth.
A relative newcomer to the world of wine, the Margaret River Region has been crafting exceptional wines since the 1960s. Located a three-hour drive south of Perth in Western Australia, this enchanting region stands one of the most isolated regions in the world, and is surrounded by water on three sides. The warm summers are tempered by refreshing cool breezes, while the well-draining limestone soil, creates ideal conditions for cultivating grapes.
Boasting a Mediterranean climate with maritime influences, Margaret River is often likened to Bordeaux, France. Wines crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon in this region exhibit a remarkable interplay of structure, depth, and complexity. Additionally, the white blend of Bordeaux also reigns here with wines crafted from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. These whites commonly present notes of passionfruit and herbaceous undertones, capturing the essence of this captivating terroir. Chardonnay is also vastly planted here and is produced in a variety of styles.
The area is well known for its natural beauty, with pristine beaches, ancient forests that contain rare plant life, and world-class surfing spots. Amidst this breathtaking backdrop, numerous winemakers have wholeheartedly embraced organic and biodynamic practices. With such a stunning canvas to work on, the prevailing philosophy in viticulture is one of minimal intervention, allowing the natural beauty of the area to shine through in the wines produced.
Just a stone’s throw away from the bustling city of Melbourne lies the vibrant and enchanting Yarra Valley. This dynamic wine region, nestled between the Great Dividing Range and the Dandenong ranges, boasts a kaleidoscope of landscapes that can be neatly divided into the Upper Yarra and Lower Yarra. A picturesque scene with sprawling vineyards, the majestic Yarra River weaving through, and a diverse range of altitudes that create a patchwork of terroirs and meso-climates.
What makes the Yarra Valley truly unique is its ability to produce cooler climate varietals. Exposure to the Southern Ocean and its weather patterns, along with variations in altitude make this one of the coolest areas in Australia for wine production.
Yarra Valley Pinot Noir takes the spotlight here, showcasing a dynamic spectrum of styles but with a focus on aromatic intensity and textural appeal. Chardonnay, another star of the show, graces glasses in a multitude of styles. The focus on fruit purity and capturing the citrus zing and mineral elegance of the region is not lost though.
If one ventures into the warmer pockets of the region and you will find more robust reds. Shiraz can be blended with Viognier in the spirit of the French style, creating a symphony of aromatics and adding to the complexity. Winemakers in this region are earning global acclaim for the wines produced here because of their intensity and depth.
*All photos are credit to Wine Australia*