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Clare Valley: Australia's riesling wonderland

 

 

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Australia may be known primarily for its shiraz, but the country is home to a small handful of regions that reach outside that limited palate. Clare Valley is perhaps the best known of these, producing world class rieslings. Although the region still has scorching hot days on occasion, its high elevation allows for much cooler nights, and a more moderately temperate overall climate, both of which allow riesling to flourish. 

 

Clare Valley is home to only around 40 wineries, and produces less than 2% of the wine in the country – but wins close to 10% of the overall awards for the nation, a testament to the high standards and level of quality.

 

The region is excellent for tasting, with most wineries having tasting rooms (or open cellar policies). It is also a relatively-dense region, making a day of tasting much easier. The narrow corridor of tasting runs north to south, and the bulk of the wineries are located along this 40km strip. Towns are rarely more than a few kilometers apart, with each home to an assortment of wineries and fine dining establishments.

 

The local food scene has blossomed in Clare Valley over the past few years, with gourmet, artisanal restaurants that put a heavy focus on local flavors and ingredients. Wines from around Australia (and beyond) can be found on their wine lists, but most restaurants specialize in the wares of the Clare Valley, making dining out an excellent way to experience the best of the region’s wine selection.

 

There are a number of wine-related events throughout the year, but the best known is the Burra Heritage Passport. Centered on the small township of Burra, the festival is a historic meander over an 11km heritage trail. The passport comes with a guidebook that walks visitors through the historic buildings of the region, and visitors can stop in at local wineries along the way.

 

The riesling of Clare Valley is some of the best in the world. It starts out in a lean style, with only mild touches of the aromatic notes riesling is known for. Over time it develops into a creature all its own – most notably with a toasty characteristic unique to Clare Valley riesling. The wines are solid wines, which greatly benefit from being laid down for 10 years or more, and as a result they are popular collectible wines.