If you think South Australia’s McLaren Vale is all about super rich, high alcohol reds, now is a great time to challenge your preconceptions. According to wine critic Huon Hooke, McLaren Vale is “alive with a new surge of vitality and is making superb wine.” (Red Means Go in the Vale by Huon Hooke, Good Food, SMH, 6 August 2013)
The seeds for transformation were sown around 15 years ago when the region’s top wineries began shifting their plantings to better suited, mainly red wine varieties. But confidence really started to surge about five years ago, coinciding with the release of the area’s first detailed geological map!
First detailed geological wine map released in 2010
In 2010, after decades of research, geologists confirmed what top winemakers like Clarendon Hill’s Roman Bratasiuk had long intuited. McLaren Vale was an incredibly ancient land with an unusually diverse range of soils and underlying rock formations that are capable of imbuing the wines with very individualistic characters.
The map identified nineteen distinct soil and rock districts within six geological and mesa-climate subregions: Blewitt Springs, McLaren Flat, Seaview, McLaren Vale, Willunga and Sellicks. According to Wine Australia’s regional director Aaron Brasher, no other Geographical Indication (GI) in Australia has been so extensively mapped!
Scarce Earth Project promotes terroir-focused wines
To prove that these subtle and not-so-subtle differences in soil type, climate and elevation can find expression in the wines, a group of the region’s most prominent wineries formed the Scarce Earth project in 2010.
Participating wineries were asked to isolate single blocks of land planted to shiraz (the vines must be at least 10 years old) and produce wines representing a true reflection of their terroir or sense of place. Now in its fifth year, wines are submitted for blind-tasting to an expert panel of winemakers and critics. For the 2012 vintage, 37 of the 55 wines tasted were approved.
By necessity wines that show too much oak or alcohol are rejected by the panel because typically high levels of both can mask regional or vineyard expression… [Read More]