McLaren Vale is one of the great and oldest names of Australian wine. The birthplace of wine in South Australia, it lies just south of the capital city of Adelaide and offers a wide variety of soils which bask under a Mediterranean climate. Grapes were first planted in the region in 1838 and some vines more than 100 years old are still producing.
The McLaren Vale wine region has a distinct climate with four clear seasons. With a dry warm summer, December through to March or April, giving an easy change between summer and winter. It rarely experiences frost or drought due to its close proximity to the sea. Regular breezes from the slopes of nearby Mount Lofty and the Gulf St Vincent add to the climatic variety across the region, making each vineyard site unique. The cooling effect from the ocean creates substantial meso-climates. Exposure to or protection from ocean influence dictates success of varieties planted.
Potential hazards for the vigneron include frost and heavy rains in spring, fungal diseases, drought and heat waves. Parts of the Yarra Valley were impacted by the catastrophic Black Saturday bushfires of 2009.
Vines were first planted in the Yarra Valley in 1838 and its wines achieved international acclaim through the mid-1800s. Due to a range of economic and agricultural factors, viticulture increasingly fell out of favour and virtually ceased in the 1920s until its resurgence from the late 1960s.
Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the state capital and Australia’s second-largest city, the Yarra Valley is a mecca for day and weekend tourists and supports a thriving agricultural and boutique food sector.
McLaren Vale is home to many different soil types and this contributes to the wines from the area having different terroir. The vineyards are planted on soils including fertile red-brown earths, terra rossa, rendzina, soft sands and dark cracking clays. Overall the soils have one common trait; they are free draining which means they hold very little water. This feature helps to restrain Shiraz's natural vigour and produce intense flavoured fruit, and wine with a deep purple colour that can last decades in the bottle.
Today, although it has over 7,500 hectares under vine and with demand for its wines at an all-time global high, it retains much of the innovative spirit that it was born with. McLaren Vale wine region is home to one of the most progressive and environmentally conscious wine communities in Australia. It has become a leader in organic viticulture, with the highest number of certified organic and biodynamic vineyards of any Australian region.