McLaren Vale, SA
Warm climate/Elevation 50-200m
John Reynell began a tradition of viticulture and winemaking in 1838 by planting the first vineyard at Reynella in South Australia. Thomas Hardy, who was employed briefly by John Reynell in the 1840s, bought the Tintara winery at McLaren Vale in 1876 from Dr A.C. Kelly. A quirk of fate saw Hardy’s (now BRL Hardy) buy Chateau Reynella in 1982. In 1912, Joseph Osborn, a teetotaller and director of Thomas Hardy and Sons, purchased the well established Milton Vineyards in the hills just north of the townships of Gloucester and Bellevue, now just known as McLaren Vale. Climatically this region is warm and maritime with elevations of between 50m to 200m. Temperatures do vary around the region.
The best sites are those protected from the prevailing afternoon southerly breezes. Rainfall is relatively low so supplementary irrigation is used, although there are many dry-grown vineyards. There are three distinctive soil types: the sandy loams of Blewitt Springs; the darker soils of McLaren Flat; and the terra rossa over limestone soils further back near Chapel Hill. McLaren Vale, sometimes called the Southern Vales, is often referred to as Australia’s mid-palate because of the mid-palate richness of its Shirazes. Famous for its Shiraz, this region also makes good Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. Langhorne Creek (a short distance south) is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions.
Significant plantings during the 1990s now makes it Australia’s third largest wine producing region. BRL Hardy, Orlando-Wyndham and Southcorp all operate vineyards here. Located on rich alluvial soils, flood irrigation (from the River Bremer) is still used in some vineyards. The cooling breezes from Lake Alexandrina make this area marginally cooler than McLaren Vale. Some of the shiraz fruit has been used for Penfolds Grange. Noon Winery also sources fruit for its reserve Shiraz from this region.
The McLaren Vale region is often called Australia's middle palate because of the mouth-filling nature of its Shiraz. The best have immense blackberry and licorice aromas, often modified a little by American oak, fleshy palates with concentrated, ripe tannins, not dissimilar to Barossa Shiraz. Coriole Lloyd Reserve is a beacon of quality. d’Arenberg and Chapel Hill follow slightly behind, while Clarendon Hills is re-defining McLaren Vale Shiraz with individual vineyard wines. Hardy's Eileen Hardy Shiraz has a proportion of McLaren Vale fruit and is making strong progress in the investment market. Rosemount Balmoral already impresses with its opulent fruit, American oak and ripe tannins. The tiny Noon winery is also making spectacular Shiraz (from Langhorne Creek fruit) and has developed a cult following in the US.
Andrew Caillard MW, Langton's