Right next door to the Barossa Valley is the home of Australia’s finest Riesling. There are more than 40 cellar doors in this wine region, which stretches over a narrow corridor that’s about 40km long. The area was first explored in 1838 and by 1840, a settlement had been established based on the good farmland. In 1848, Jesuits arrived and set up house at Sevenhill, while other immigrants from Poland, Ireland and Silesia arrived, all of which has influenced the culture and architecture of the area.
The region has a Mediterranean climate that receives good rain in the winter and spring, cool nights due to elevation of 400m above sea level and heat during summer. There is also a variety of soils and topography that yield a great range of wines.
Clare itself is a humble town with pleasant people and a pretty landscape. We noticed that there are lots of hairdressers in town, as well as one or two bakeries and a few pubs. The old historic buildings give the town a bit of charm.
The first winery in Clare Valley – established in 1851 by Austrian Jesuits who came to South Australia as chaplains to a group of 130 Catholics fleeing Europe to escape religious and political oppression. The group settled in Clare and the Jesuits were impressed with the fertility of the soil, purchasing 100 acres and naming the land Sevenhill, after the Seven Hill district in Rome.
The winery was initially built to produce sacramental wine to the emerging catholic parishes around Australia and it is the only remaining Jesuit-owned winery in Australia. The winery’s Riesling is named after St Francis Xavier, ordained in 1537. He is one of the first companions of the founder of Jesuits, St Ignatuis. Sacramental wine is still being produced at Sevenhill Winery, one of Australia’s oldest wineries.
On the property is the St Aloysius Church, a grand building that was completed in 1875, and South Australia’s first catholic secondary school, which was built between 1854-1886. These days, the school building acts as a retreat centre for Jesuits.
The cellar door was spectacular – huge, oval barrels full of wine, and the tasting room had a very traditional feel. There was a museum at the rear of the tasting room, with access to the dusty, ancient cellar downstairs. We sampled a few wines, and here are our favourites:
- 2012 Four Buckets Rosé – beautiful rose pink, with a youth and vibrancy that is still smooth and warm. Fresh strawberries rule the palate.
- 2010 Four Buckets Touriga Shiraz Malbec – deep ruby and garnet, this wine had gorgeous sweet aromas of raspberries and currents. It has a silky entry that is warm with cedar and a slightly dry finish that was succulent and fruity with a bit of burnt fig.
- Liqueur Verdelho – golden caramel syrup with marmalade and honey, it was slightly viscous with a spirited bloom and nutty rancio finish.
- Altar Wine – also known as sacramental wine, it was a light garnet colour with a hint of toffee and smelt of raisins and apricot. It was very light, slightly spirited but has a clean, sweet finish. It was almost like a light port.
Jim Barry Wines
Three generations of winemakers work on this vineyard and produce high quality wines from fruit that comes only from the family vineyards. Jim Barry started the winery – he and his wife purchased the property in 1959 and planted their first vines in 1964. The cellar door was officially opened in 1974 and since then, Jim Barry Wines has been enjoyed throughout the world.
We have a wonderfully hosted tasting session, and even got to meet Peter Barry, the son of Jim Barry. We had a great chat and he was proud to tell that his sons are continuing the family business and represent the third generation of Jim Barry Wines.
- 2012 Watervale Riesling – clear with a tint of green, there was plenty of lemon and lime with nectarine. It was crisp and tangy with a hint of ginger on the clean finish.
- 2010 Lodge Hill Shiraz – crimson and purple with berries and spearmint on the nose, it was easy to drink with a subtle minty sweetness and smooth blackberry finish.
- 2010 Clover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon – rich, dark garnet with black forest fruits and cedar, it was smooth, spiced and succulent with a long finish of blackcurrant and chocolate.
- 2008 The Florita Botrytis Riesling – the happy accident of the noble rot has turned this Riesling into a sweet delight. Citrus and melon with a smooth entry and a fresh strawberry and mandarin finish. Delicious!
Named in honour of winemaker Mick Knappstein, this winery is owned by Mick’s apprentice Tim Adams and aims to reflect the passion and quality that Mr Mick valued. Mick Knappstein was the son of Joseph Knappstein, a German immigrant who came to South Australia in 1876. He came to Clare to become a merchant and within 30 years, he was managing the Stanley Wine Company. In 1962, Mick took over and became managing director of the Stanley Wine Company.
The cellar door is set in a beautiful, old building and there is a kitchen onsite that oozed delicious smells that got our juices going, but we were there purely for the tastings, and here are our notes of the favourites.
- 2012 Rosé – caramel pink with strawberries and raspberries, it was crisp and acidic with a smooth raspberry finish.
- 2009 Tempranillo – rich ruby with purples, a scent of French oak and cherry, smooth entry with an aniseed bloom and clean, longlasting finish.
- 2009 Cabernet Shiraz – rich ruby red with purple hues, aromas of cherry, currants, vanilla and mulberry. It was beautifully smooth and warm with fine tannins and and long juicy finish.
Tim Adams Wines
Tim Adams grew up in Clare so it’s no wonder that he decided to become a winemaker. He wrote a letter to Mick Knappstein and secured a position as a winery cellar hand in 1975. He graduated in 1981 and opened up his own winery in 1984. We tasted a few of his creations and these three were our favourites:
- Pinot Gris – stone fruit characteristics with a crisp entry but smooth finish that ends in subtle pear.
- The Fergus – a blend of Tempranillo and Grenache, this wine has sweet, red berry smells with an initially smooth entry that blossomed with spice and cedar and a juicy finish.
- Botrytis Reisling – a very sweet dessert wine that is balanced with citrus acidity. Floral and grassy characteristics with a clean finish despite the sweetness.
Knappstein Enterprise Winery and Brewery
Established in 1878, the Enterprise Brewery began during a copper mining boom in the area. As the copper industry began to slow down and a referendum in 1915 introduced shorter hotel trading hours, the brewery shut down. Knappstein Winery moved in during the 1960s and in 2006, Knappstein opened a microbrewery onsite and produces a Reserve Larger.
Here are our tasting notes:
- Sparkling Riesling – a light yellow wine with a fruity scent of apple, pear and creamy cashews, it was smooth with a subtle sweetness and clean finish.
- 2011 Three (Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris) – a smooth, oily smell that is a characteristic of the gewürztraminer grapes, it had a spritz of crispness with pear and mandarin.
- 2011 Rosé (Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon) – rose petal pink with a splash of red, there were cherries, strawberries and cranberries on the nose, with a refreshing entry, fresh spice and slight dryness before a berry finish.
- Sparkling Shiraz – oak and cherry with the distinct smell of black olives, it was lush with fruity cherries before a velvet finish.
- Reserve Lager – crisp and fresh, but yeasty with floral hops, it was thick and rich – a great appetiser.
Clare Valley Visitor Information Centre
Cnr Main North Road and Spring Fully Road, 08 8842 2131