McLaren Vale is the birthplace of South Australian viticulture. Founded in 1838, its abundance of fertile soils and fresh water alongside an almost Mediterranean climate, inspired John Raynell and Thomas Hardy (still one of the most famous wine names in the world) to plant grapevines immediately. They established the first winery in 1850 with huge success, exporting Shiraz and Grenache to the UK and sating Europe's appetite for bulk, table wines (and later fortified wines) up until the 1950's.
This renown for Shiraz and Grenache is still present today (55% of wine produced is Shiraz), but alongside new immigration from countries including Italy in the mid 20th century, investment due to success, and diversification, McLaren Vale now brings a wider selection of wines from numerous small wineries with an ethos of quality over quantity. There are over 80 wineries, many of them small and independent with a plethora of international awards between them. Working hand in hand with over 300 independent grape growers, there are over 7k hectares of vineyards growing Mediterranean favourites such as Montepulciano, Fiano, Barbera, Vermentino and Nero D'Avola.
The warm summers and mild winters are complimented by good autumn rainfall, a diverse range of soils with excellent natural drainage, up to 150m vineyard elevation and cooling breezes from the gulf and slopes. The variety of plots shows in the region's produce. For instance, a Shiraz can be classically rich and full showing spice, chocolate and berries, or medium with more fruity raspberry. McLaren Vale Grenache remains one to rival the Rhone Valley, with red berries and white pepper flowing on to the palate.
Producers in the region are at the forefront of modern wine making and technological experimentation. Not afraid to try something new in order to achieve perfection. There is no better example than next generation winemaker Charlie O'Brien of Silent Noise. The son of famed Kangarilla Road winery founders, Charlie grew up with wine making throughout his childhood, living and breathing the sounds and smells of the winery and vineyards which embedded within him an immersive love for the industry. Silent Noise's ethos is simple; to treat the whole vineyard (soil, vines and grapes) with the utmost respect, and to create wines with total care and attention.
The wines speak for themselves, with a Shiraz (14.5% £15.30) that is deeply perfumed and elegant showing multi layered aromas of earthy beetroot, game, sweet citrus and a delicate hint of creme patisserie. The Montepulciano (14.5% £15.30) sings of sweet dark berry fruits, fragrant green peppercorns, freshly grated beetroot and touches of black coffee crema, whilst the amazing blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Zinfandel (SGZ 14% £14.20) is all about berry fruit and spice. Bright red mouth-filling fruit flavours with undertones of savoury dusty dark berry fruits, spice, and a touch of orange oil.
Battle of Bosworth pride themselves on grapes that are "organically grown, traditionally vinified", with a focus on balanced, flavoursome single vineyard wines. Taking their name from a moment that ended the War of the Roses; a battle on Bosworth Field in Leicestershire, its roots are in one of the first McLaren Vale vineyards planted in the early 1840's. Family owned ever since, it converted to organic, sustainable viticulture in 1995 and was established as Battle of Bosworth in 2001 by current wine maker, Joch Bosworth. The vines in use today are those planted from original 1970's vines, bringing a concentration and depth to the grapes that is expressed in the wines through minimal interference during vinification.
Their unoaked Puritan Shiraz (14.5% £16.50) is a youthful, expressive wine. Grapes are picked when just ripe to retain lots of red and black berry fruit flavour, with a soft yet vibrant palate of plum, blackberry, bramble and violet.
Do you have your favourite picks from McLaren Vale? Let us know!