Friday, 30 December 2011

Sipping the Southern Vales

Amazingly another year has passed and we’re back in Adelaide, Australia for Christmas. As usual the sun is blazing and the barbeque is in full swing. There is a golden turkey on the table and a nice drop of chilled local wine to accompany it.

Frankly, you couldn’t do much better, particular in regard to wines. Over the years South Australia has a built a worldwide reputation for fine wines that continues to attract tourists. This was particularly highlighted when we were in the UK, where local brands like Jacobs Creek, Wolf Blass and Leasingham were well established commercial brands sold in supermarkets everywhere. These particular wines come from the north of Adelaide in the famed Barossa and Clare Valley regions, however Jules and I have always had a particular bias toward the slightly lesser known Southern Vales region of McLaren Vale. This area was close to where we both lived in our younger days and over the years we have seen this region grow from a handful of small wineries into a prestigious wine growing area.

So with the Christmas celebrations over, we decided to take a trip down memory lane by revisiting the Southern Vales to sample the product direct from the cellar. The first stop was to one of our old favorites, Wirra Wirra Wines which continues to go from strength to strength, with it’s classic Church Block Red and Mrs. Wigley Rose. The folk here are particularly friendly and knowledgeable about their wines, however on this particular day we were looking for a champagne style white, which unfortunately they no longer produce. Their suggestion was to try the d’Arenberg Winery, that had just released a quite exceptional sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir. We had been to d’Arenberg a few years ago and had a wonderful meal at their restaurant called ‘d’Aary’s Verandah’, so we knew that it would be a quality wine ...and it was! After a confirming taste as we admired the view, a bottle was quickly purchased before heading off to explore the nearby Coriole Vineyards. This was a winery that we had previously brought visitors to from overseas, not only for its great wines, but also for its equally commanding views over the Southern Vales. Once again it didn’t disappoint, although it was now clear that many others had now also discovered this place, as it had noticeably expanded since the time we were last there.

Our final stop would be at Leconfield Winery, which is a relatively new name to the area, but certainly not to quality wine making. Originating at Coonawarra in the south east of the state, the brand has gained a reputation for producing some of South Australia’s most prestigious wines. However, it’s winemaking credentials were established way back in the 1800’s and with family connections through Hamilton Wines, a long established McLaren Vale winery, it’s expansion into the areas was inevitable.

As Jules and I sipped a nice champagne style Curvee Blanc and looked out over the acres of vineyards, we reflected on how well the southern wine trail had developed over the years. It had become not only a centre for fine wines, but also for quality cuisine. While the region had always been quietly well regarded by South Australians, it was now clear that the secret was well and truly out. We had always thought that it more than compared with its counterpart to the north of Adelaide, but now we felt that it could truly claim to be one of the great wine areas of the world.

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