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Vineyards in Clare Valley
|Sub-regions||Polish Hill Valley|
|Size of planted vineyards||40 km2 (15.4 sq mi)|
|Grapes produced||Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon|
- See also Clare Valley (disambiguation).
The Clare Valley is one of Australia's oldest wine regions, best known for Riesling wines. It lies in the Mid North of South Australia, approximately 120 km north of Adelaide. The valley runs north-south, with Horrocks Highway as the main thoroughfare.
The first European to reportedly explore the region was John Hill, who arrived in South Australia on the Currency Lass in 1837. He explored the Clare Valley district in April 1838, discovering and naming the Hutt River. Its nearby twin, the Hill River, was later discovered and named in his honour. On returning to Adelaide, he reported his findings of potentially good farmland to his friend and associate, Edward John Eyre. Eyre in turn informed John Horrocks, who had only arrived in the new colony in March 1839. Eyre later explored the Clare Valley on the return journey from his second 1839 expedition to the northern regions of South Australia. Horrocks set out with his servant, John Green and established himself in the area now known as Penwortham. This became the first permanent settlement in the valley. By 1840, Edward Burton Gleeson had set up the Inchiquin pastoral run to the north which was later developed into the town of Clare and in 1848, Jesuits were settling into the place which would become the town of Sevenhill. Settlers from England and Ireland, as well as more diverse places such as Poland and Silesia continued to progress into the region during the 1840s, producing a rich heritage of architecture and villages, which remain largely intact. Vineyards were planted alongside those first villages and winemaking has continued ever since.
The Clare Valley Region today hosts a vibrant, diversified rural community and economy. The delightful rolling hills create beautiful landscapes, dotted with wonderful stone buildings. Notable among the nearby ranges are the Skilly Hills. The Region attracts many discerning tourists, both domestic and international, who delight and relax in the friendly environment. Major attractions include the unique, boutique wineries and cellar doors, treed landscapes that can be easily accessed on The Riesling Trail, the fine stone buildings and homes, and the excellent local cuisine. Regular markets create opportunities to mix with the locals and immerse yourself in unique activities. On 16 February 1983, the Clare Valley was devastated by bushfires during the Ash Wednesday disaster. Although there were no fatalities in the area, over 6,100 hectares were burnt out, causing $5 million worth of damage. The railway line between the Clare Showgrounds and Penwortham was severely damaged, and resulted in its eventual demise. The old rail route has since been transformed into a popular bicycle riding track known as the Riesling Trail. This 35km sealed trail links the villages of the valley.
Soil and climate
The wines are planted from 400 to 500 metres (1,300 to 1,600 ft). The climate is moderately continental, with cool to cold nights and warm to hot summer days. The higher altitude, compared to other wine regions in South Australia, ensures cool nights even during the heat of summer allowing the fruit to ripen more evenly and slowly. Rainfall is predominantly in winter - spring (June - September) with an annual average of around 630 mm. Summers are dry and make irrigation desirable but also ensure a minimum of fungal diseases. Varied soil types throughout the valleys are another feature, ranging from red to brown grey over basement rock.
The most important white variety is Riesling, with the Clare Valley regarded as its Australian home.
Principal red varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. They make a range of styles of varietal wines, reflecting different approaches to winemaking as well as the influences of the various sub-regions and micro-climates in the valleys. Many other lesser varieties are also grown, including Chardonnay, Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Grenache.
The Clare Region contributes around 2% of the Australian national grape crush, but wins over 7% of all medals awarded for Australian wine.
The region has more than 40 wineries, most of which are small and produce only bottled wine.
- Area planted: 40 km²
- Annual production: 1999: - 19,694, 2000:- 12,444
- Noye, Robert J. (1980). CLARE – A District History. Hawthorndene, South Australia: Investigator Press. pp. 216–218.
- Stratton, J., (ed) (1986). Biographical Index of South Australians 1836 – 1885 Volume II. Adelaide, South Australia: SA Genealogy and Heraldry Society. p. 741.
- "26 years on, Clare remembers Ash Wednesday". ABC North and West SA. Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Oz, Clark. Australian Wine Companion. Time Warner Books. pp. 54–57.
- Clare Regional History Group
- Clare Valley Tourism
- Clare & Gilbert Valleys Council
- Clare Valley South Australia
- Clare Old Police Station Museum