Region Insight: Clare Valley

HOME OF AUSTRALIA’S PREMIUM RIESLING

Located some 100km north of the Barossa and 140km north of Adelaide, this region produces some of Australia’s premium Riesling. The fruit produced here makes delicious wines with great depth and intensity. Elevation is one of the factors that make Clare such a prime region for grape growing – particularly for Riesling and Shiraz. Although not technically considered a ‘cool-climate’ area, most of the vineyards are planted at between 400 and 500 metres above sea level, meaning cool to cold nights during the growing season. Given its distance from the ocean, the region is also quite continental, so warm to hot during the day and quite dry while the vines are ripening their fruit.

Although Clare Valley is more famously known for its Riesling, it’s the same climatic conditions that help to produce its unique style of red wine with the three top varieties being Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache. Clare Valley reds present a delicious contradiction. On one hand they’re big and bold, yet on the other, underlying acidity creates beautiful elegance. Pikes and Knappstein are two of the better-known producers from the area.

Regional Wine Shows, Special Purpose Shows & Competitions

Regional Wine Shows

While capital city shows accept entries from all over the county, the (smaller) regional shows are limited to the wines from their region. For instance the Royal Hobart Wine Show is a national show, while the Tasmanian Wine Show is limited to the Island’s wines. The Royal Adelaide Wine Show is national, while regional wine shows are run in the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and the Limestone Coast, which incorporates Coonawarra. The National Wine Show of Australia only accepts entries that ‘qualify through Australian regional & capital city wine shows, and special purpose competitions’ and is essentially looking for the best of the best.

Special Purpose Shows and Competitions

While the agricultural and regional wine shows are run on a not-for-profit basis, there are a number of commercial wine shows. The Australian & New Zealand Boutique Wine Show, the Sydney International Wine Competition, the National Cool Climate Wine Show, Australian Small Winemakers Show, the Canberra International Riesling Challenge and the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge are just a few of the names out there. All are professionally run, but consumers may be baffled by the difference between a small winemaker and a boutique one.

How important are these competitions for winemakers and vineyards?

While the winning of these awards can create a splash in the media, it is certainly not mandatory for winegrowers to enter into wine shows — and is actually a very costly process in terms of dollars, time and wine for the winemaker. Often small prestige producers with limited stock would rather sell via their cellar door. Large companies and those new to the business can gain attention by boasting of their gold medals and trophies, but on the flip side, a cult maker may not want to tell their dedicated customers their latest chardonnay scored just 14 points!! It happened to one of our iconic winegrowers and he’s never entered a wine show since.