McLaren Vale - Vineyards and Cellar Doors
McLaren Vale wine-growing has little of the large scale production that is typically seen in Adelaide's northerly neighbour, the Barossa Valley. On the whole, it encompasses a mix of small and medium-sized companies, with some that grow grapes for others as well as for their own range of premium wines.
In 2007, McLaren Vale’s total vineyard area amounted to 6249ha of vines. That’s 60 percent of the planted area of the Barossa.
Along with the Barossa, McLaren Vale vineyards have some of the world’s oldest collections of shiraz vines, thanks to the absence of the vine-killing bug called phylloxera that decimated France’s Rhone Valley in the 19th century.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the region is famous for its well-structured reds - and stylish chardonnays. Roughly 80 percent of McLaren Vale’s total vineyard area is planted to red wine varieties. Shiraz accounts for almost 50 percent of its vines. Next comes cabernet sauvignon in order of planted area, then chardonnay, grenache and merlot.
In days gone by, fortified wines – known colloquially as sherry, tawny port and vintage port – played an important role in meeting the demands of local and international wine markets. Relatively recent changes in domestic wine consumption have seen that decline, and of course the names themselves will soon disappear from Australian parlance.
And while ‘new wave’ varieties like viognier, sangiovese and tempranillo account for little in terms of vine numbers, many show considerable promise for the future.
McLaren Vale provides a home for many of Australia’s best known producers of premium red wines. Hardys, d’Arenberg, and Pirramimma lead the way among the region’s longest established names. Highly-regarded recent arrivals are in relative abundance, with Chapel Hill, Clarendon Hills, Gemtree, Geoff Merrill, Mitolo, Mr Riggs, SC Pannell, and Wirra Wirra likely to be among the shortlist of favourites among critics and wine judges.
The main threat to the region is encroaching urbanisation, combined with recent droughts and reduced ground water from its suburban surrounds. This is far too important a wine region to Australia to see choked by tile and asphalt. It's less than an hour from Adelaide and should be a must-visit for every foodie and wine lover visiting South Australia. You can cram a good sample into a day, but better still, stretch out this itinerary and make a weekend of it »
- Fleurieu Peninsula (SA)
- Fleurieu (including Kangaroo Island) (SA)
- McLaren Vale (SA)
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