Touring the Claire Valley
14th July 2008
Australian Riesling is awesome, yet sadly it doesn't get the recognition it deserves here in Hong Kong. Even in Australia it's undervalued and the large number of bottles I've got stashed under my parents' house testify to the ridiculous prices it can often be had for. The Claire Valley, along with nearby Eden Valley, are the traditional homes of the variety in Australian and surprisingly were two areas I'd never previously visited. My mate didn't take much convincing and pretty quick my couple of days in Adelaide had become a couple of days exploring The Claire. It was a quick pie at the Gawler South Bakery before onwards to Riesling ...
Neagles Rock (website)
The first two places I wanted to visit - Grosset and Mt Horrocks - were both shut so we ended up at Neagles Rock. Established in 1997 they are a relatively new winery that's done a good job marketing their wines with some very cool labels. They had two vintages of Riesling on tasting though I preferred the fresh acidly and citrus flavours of 2007 to the 2006. Their Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was round and full with nice nutty characteristics; a pleasant wine. I liked the soft, bright Grenache Shiraz 2005 that had all the required red fruit and pepper, while the Sangiovese 2006 was a nice wine with a performed nose, good length and beautifully balanced fruit. I wasn't particularly taken with the Shiraz 2005, but I liked the Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 which was packed with varietal richness.
Our next stop was Mitchell Wines; a producer that I reckon unfairly slips through the net of popularity. The winery was established in 1975, but the cellar door is housed in a rustic old sandstone apple shed. There Riesling 2007 had sold out, but the Riesling 2004 they had open was a lovely aged release that was still vibrant, with a lovely long finish. The Mitchell Semillon 2006 was complex, yet good value and had a lovely herbal nose. Their GSM blend used Sangiovese instead of the usual Shiraz and had lush berries on the palate, a peppery nose and was soft and drinkable. The Cabernet was the highlight and Mitchells 2003 release had an awesome nose, rich flavour and good tannin structure. The Peppertree Vineyard Shiraz 2005 was a dark and intense wine, though I preferred the more complex and better integrated McNicol Shiraz 2000.
Kilikanoon is a Cornish word that travelled to South Australia with the immigrant tin miners who worked at nearby Burra a hundred and fifty years ago. While Cornwell's famous for exporting tin miners, pasties and my mother, Kilikanoon's renowned for it's Oracle Shiraz that was recently awarded the title of 'World's Best Shiraz' at the London International Wine Challenge. I enjoyed the citrusy Mort's Block Riesling 2007, but though the Mort's Reserve Riesling 2007 was a better balanced, more flinty and subtle wine. The tasty Barrel Fermented Semillon 2007 was all about pineapple and toasty oak, while the Prodigal Grenache 2005 had flavours of cherry and pepper with an herbal edge and lovely length and texture. My favourite wine at Kilikanoon was the Blocks Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2005; a big, well structured wine with a delicious nose and plenty of lovely fruit. The Covenant Shiraz 2005 was also a tasty tipple with an intense, spicy nose, silky tannins and a real moreish quality.
Located in the Claire township, Knappstein started life as a brewery. The cellar door is still located in the original stone brewery and they have recently re-released the fruity Enterprise Ale. I actually found the Hand Picked Riesling 2007 a little disappointing, though I did enjoy soft, sweet pear and apple flavours of the Late Harvest Riesling 2006. Half their selection required a fee to taste (something I'm not keen on paying), but of the wines I did try I enjoyed the Shiraz 2005 and the intense, sweet cherry flavoured Fortified Shiraz 2002. My mate was a big rap for their sparkling Shiraz, but by this stage I'd lost patience with a rude cellar door manager and had called it an afternoon.
For a wine region quality dinning options are relatively sparse in The Clare. We managed to get a nice coffee in Wild Saffron as they were shutting and then decided a bit of reconnaissance was in order. It only took a drink in each pub to decide that Bentley's Hotel was the option for dinner and settled for a reasonable counter meal. After a packed day and an early night was in order and it only took a brief reminder of how terrible Australian reality TV is to send me straight to sleep.