McLaren Vale is not only the most exciting region in Australia, but also the most geologically diverse. This diversity has been assiduously detailed following research by geologists and the great wine writer, Philip White. Their efforts manifest as the Geology of the McLaren Vale Wine Region map, first published in 2010 and updated in 2019, showing expanses of several soil structures including red brown sandy loams, yellow clays smattered with limestone, pure sand in prized zones such as Blewitt Springs and red and black friable loams. More poignant from a wine lover’s perspective, this research has helped unravel the complex notion that geological constructs influence a wine’s flavour and textural profiles.
Comprehending the confluence between a region’s mesoclimates, their topographies, soil structures and capacity for water retention and drainage, facilitates the appropriation of grape varieties and wine styles best served by them. This awareness has helped instill the sort of confidence in craftsmanship and respect for nature that serves as foundation of the world’s great wine producing regions and their strong regional patrimonies.
McLaren Vale's better expressions of Mediterranean white grapes are among the most exciting wines in the country.
While the learning process is ongoing, confidence inspires foresight, a candid openness, and a palpable spirit of collegiate adventure among McLaren Vale producers, asserted as the highest number of certified organic and biodynamic wineries in Australia and groundbreaking initiatives including self-imposed water restrictions and the country’s first water recycling program, responsible for more than 50 per cent of vineyard irrigation.
While a select swag of the region’s grenache is truly world-class, the region’s other top wines prove the lazy expression ‘alternative varieties’ to be a laughable anachronism. McLaren Vale’s better expressions of nero d’Avola, aglianico, mourvèdre (mataro) and solo and blended riffs on grenache blanc, gris, picpoul and other Mediterranean white grapes are unequivocally among the most exciting wines in the country. Clearly of place, these cultivars are sturdy, water resistant and robust. They produce wines of weight and structural latticework that tones excessive fruit sweetness while imbuing poise and a sense of freshness. They are responsible for great wines elsewhere as they increasingly are here. They are meant to be grown in the Vale and if anything is alternative, it will soon be the so-called classic French varieties that many of us have been weaned on. Onwards!