Clare, 130 km north of Adelaide, is probably our most distinctively Australian-looking wine region.  Written by Nick Ryan.  It’s a strikingly Australian landscape, rugged hills, towering eucalypts, grazing sheep, and was one of our earliest wine growing areas with the first vines planted around 1850.

Among the earliest winemakers in the Valley were Jesuit priests and brothers who fled religious persecution in Silesia, now part of Poland, and established the St. Aloysius church at Sevenhill. Wine continues to be made here under Jesuit supervision today. It’s well worth a visit just for the fact that it’s likely to be the only winery you’ll ever visit that has six former winemakers buried in a crypt under the church, next to their favourite drop.
Sevenhill, named by the Jesuits for the seven peaks of Rome, is one of five sub-regions within the 35km stretch of the Clare Valley. The  others are Clare, Watervale, Polish Hill and Auburn. The region is a series of interconnected smaller valleys. This offers the vigneron a vast array of soil types and micro-climates to play with.
 

"It’s well worth a visit just for the fact
that it’s likely to be the only winery you’ll ever visit
that has six former winemakers
buried in a crypt under the church,
next to their favourite drop."

The Clare experiences scorching summer days but the region’s fruit maintains good acid levels and freshness of flavour thanks to elevation and cooling ocean breezes from the Spencer Gulf.
The Clare is legendary for Riesling. It’s generally accepted to be Australia’s best and is a unique style revered around the world. Bursting with zesty citrus, vibrant blossoms and shimmering minerality as a young wine, it also has a proven capacity to age tastily for decades.
 
Clare is home to some serious old shiraz and cabernet sauvignon vines capable of producing densely structured wines with rippling muscles and ironstone spines.
The wine lover wanting to taste the best of Clare would be wise to seek out wines from Grosset, Mt. Horrocks, Mitchell, Taylors and the almost mythically rare Wendouree.
An exciting new breed is emerging in the valley too, most of them don’t have cellar doors but a quick call or email (using our old friend google again) to arrange an appointment will generally get you some face time with the guys at the forefront of the new Clare.
 
I’d highly recommend seeking out the always vivacious Kerry Thompson of KT & The Falcon, Rasa Fabian at Crabtree Wines and Jennie Gardner and Col McBryde at Adelina. Just don’t be put off by Col’s full sleeve tatts. He’s about as scary as a toothless Labrador.
 
If you’re hanging for a palate cleansing beer head to the Knapstein winery in Clare’s centre. After tasting a cracking line up of wines follow it up with one of Australia’s best craft beers brewed right there on site.
The last half a dozen times I’ve been in Clare I’ve ended up laying my foggy head on fluffy pillows at the beautiful old Rising Sun Hotel in Auburn. The fact it has one of the valley’s best front bars, some really good pub food and great fry-up breakfasts, and was a very long time ago the local knocking shop, is really only coincidental.
 

The Details

KT & The Falcon //
ktandthefalcon.com.au
Crabtree Wines //
North Terrace, Watervale (08) 8843 0069
crabtreewines.com.au
Adelina //
Wendouree Road East, Clare (08) 8842 1549
adelina.com.au
Knappstein Winery //
2 Pioneer Avenue, Clare (08) 8841 2100
knappstein.com.au
Some Young Punks //
(08) 8842 3773
someyoungpunks.com.au
Rising Sun Hotel //
St Vincent Street and Main North Road Auburn (08) 8849 2015