Your teeth begin to hum an your mouth begins to water about 10 kilometres out from Clare Valley, such is the anticipation of arguably Australia's best region for Riesling growing. There are more premium producers of the variety in Clare than anywhere in Australia, and the powerful, tightly wound whites are some of Australia’s most interesting wines. Tooth aches from all that high acid wine tasting aside, there is much to enjoy about Clare – it is steeped in history, has very very old vines and prides itself on being very capable at producing premium wines across a raft of varieties.
But Riesling is the king. Mineral inflection, intense focus, laser-like acidity and wonderful floral perfumes are all key to the variety in the region. Grosset sits at the apex of producers from the region for Riesling and has gained international acclaim for his wines. A raft of producers are creating wonderfully expressive, almost transparent wines that reflect their unique sites with detail and complexity. One of the greatest assets of Australian wine is the Clare Valley Riesling – such is its ability to express the elusive ‘terroir’ of a site from which the grapes are grown. And contrary to popular opinion, these are often searingly dry, fresh wines that have nothing in common with the flabby, sweet Rieslings of yesteryear.
But the Clare has more talents. Shiraz, Mourvedre, Merlot and even Cabernet Sauvignon have a life here. The varieties enjoy the baking heat of the summer months and show depth of flavour and richness akin to the Barossa Valley, but with a greater purity from the elevation of sites. Too much heat and the red wines of the region struggle, but in great years these wines sit in the top echelon of all Australian red wine.
It's a region worth visiting for its historic cellar doors, tiny pubs and small villages, but the lure of the mouth-puckering Riesling is stronger still. While by no means a one-trick-pony, Clare does have an allure for it’s ongoing love affair with one of Australia’s best suited and individual grape varieties.