Memories of McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale is situated 35 km south of Adelaide in South Australia. The nearby Barossa often overshadows McLaren Vale in reputation, but if you do get the chance to visit this wine region, you will quickly find out what a gem of a place it is. (Tasting notes are at the bottom of the page). So after purchasing a few flight tickets and organising an apartment to live while in Adelaide, I was off to South Australia to soak up the wine region of McLaren Vale.

Entry into McLaren Vale Adelaide
Entry into McLaren Vale Adelaide

The region derives its name from either David McLaren, the colonial Manager of the South Australia Company or John McLaren, who surveyed the area in 1839. Within the same year the area was surveyed, the first vines were planted. McLaren Vale has a Mediterranean climate with gentle long warm days and short cool nights. The region seldom has frost or drought due to its close proximity to the sea. This climate is perfect for producing quality red wines, with Shiraz being the star. It is the most widely planted grape in the region and the most important. McLaren Vale is also home to many different soil profiles, creating a broad selection of terroir.

Abandoned Tractor d'Arenberg
Abandoned Tractor d'Arenberg

The soils are predominantly fertile red-brown earths, terra rossa, rendzina, hard clays and soft sands. The majority of the soils are free draining which allows accurate control by the viticulturist through the method drip irrigation. The region with its thin soil, limited water and warm summers are perfect for the Shiraz vine, producing intense flavoured wines that have depth and concentration. The region is home to more than 3000 hectares of Shiraz vine, accounting for more than 50% of the total crush. The other major grape varieties grown include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Verdelho, Zinfandel and Viognier.

Samuel's Gorge Winery
Samuel's Gorge Winery

McLaren was a fantastic place for food, wine and art. With over 65 cellar doors, art galleries and well-known restaurants, it is no surprise that McLaren Vale is the new darling of the Australian wine scene. Restaurants such as d'Arry's Verandah Restaurant, Fino and Chapel Hill offered regionally inspired food with the freshest seasonal produce. Chapel Hill exhibited various works of art from Fleurieu and South Australian artists.

Wira Wira Cellar Door
Wira Wira Cellar Door

Overall the two visits I had to McLaren Vale were awesome. The wonderful weather, unique landscape, dusty soil, friendly people and great wine combined to leave a memorable impression on me. I look forward to my next visit!!

Below are tasting notes from my two recent visits to McLaren Vale.


Wirra wirra Church Block 2008

14.5% alcohol. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot. Deep plum red hue. Aromas of blackberry, raspberry and leather. Palate of black fruits, spicy wood, and velvety tannins. Holds a refreshing acid structure. 93/100



Wirra wirra 12th Man Chardonnay 2009

Bright yellow and green. 13.5% alcohol. White peach and nectarines on the nose with nuances of spicy oak. Rich and creamy mouthfeel with stonefruits and french oak. Wonderful wine. 90/100



Wirra wirra Catapult 2008

Bright crimson red colour. Beautiful perfumed nose with notes of plum and blackcurrant. Made from Shiraz and Viogier. Full velvety mouthfeel. Soft tannins with big round dark fruits, plum and cedar wood. Superb wine 95/100



Wirra wirra Woodhenge 2009

100% Shiraz. Burgundy red with crimson edges. Spicy nose with mocha, cinnamon and chocolate notes. Dark red fruit flavour, cinnamon, chocolate and round tannins.14.5% alcohol. 90/100


d'Arenberg The sticks and stones 2008

Nose of floral violets and spicy plum. Medium bodied wine with red fruits and tobacco nuances. Made from Tempranillo, Grenache, Tinta Cao and Souzao. 14.5% alcohol. 89/100



d'Arenberg Laughing Magpie 2008

14.5 % alcohol. Aged in French and American oak. Savoury, spicy nose with dark blackberry. Palate has great intensity with blueberry and blackberry flavours. Silky tannins. Good wine to cellar for 10 years. 91/100



d'Arenberg The Dead Arm 2009

Deep crimson red colour. 14.5% alcohol. Floral nose with blackcurrant and black pepper. Palate of seductive plum and cherries. Spicy cedar wood notes with acid structure. Perfect wine to cellar 20 years. 93/100


Samuel's Gorge Shiraz 2009

14.8% alcohol. Deep garnet red colour. Wild spicy nose, fennel with scents of wet clay. Flavours of blueberry, plum and chocolate. Satisfying concentrated wine here. 90/100


Samuel's Gorge Grenache 2009

14.6 alcohol. Nose of liquorice, chocolate and raspberry. Palate shows berry fruits, olives, chocolate pudding and hints of tobacco. Interesting wine. 89/100


Samuel's Gorge Tempranillo 2009

13.9% alcohol. Explosive nose with medicinal properties. Flavours of cherries, tobacco and dark stone fruits. Herbal notes with unique flowery flavours. 90/100


Fox Creek Short Row 2009

Highly awarded wine, very popular with the locals. Rich and powerful aromas of blackcurrant, toast and red fruits. Classic McLaren Vale Shiraz with delicious blackcurrant, cedar wood, olives and black cherries. Infusion of vanilla oak with firm earthy tannins. Great wine to cellar for a few years. 95/100


Fox Creek JSM Cebernet Sauvignon-Cabernet Franc 2008

Deep red cherry colour. The nose reveals dark plum, cherry and roasted nuts. Fruit driven palate with dark mocha and vanilla nuances. 90/100


Chapel Hill The Vicar 2008

100% Shiraz. 14.5% alcohol. Nose of liquorice, fennel and nuts. Delicious stone fruits. Good balance of structure. subtle wine. 90/100


Chapel Hill Chardonnay 2008

Warm fig and citrus flavours. Perfumed stone fruits on the nose. Fine toasty oak nuances. 89/100


Hugo Wines Reserve Shiraz 2008

Deep ruby red colour. The bouquet has dense fruit with ripe plums and raspberries. Flavours of blackberries and vanilla nuances. Quality wine. 89/100


Hugo Wines Grand Tawny

Golden hue. Bouquet of lifted raisins. Delicious plum flavours with some savouriness. 90/100


Scarpantoni Black Tempest Sparkling Shiraz

Rich plum and cherry flavours with hints of chocolate. Fun wine to have with friends. 88/100


Maxwell Honey Mead

Delicate bouquet with marmalade aromas. Refreshing palate with honey and apricot. Nice fresh finish. Unique wine to serve chilled. 90/100


Maxwell Ellen Street Shiraz 2008

Opulent dark fruits with plum and blackberry. Nuances of dark chocolate and spice, with mocha adding complexity. Long fine tannins, excellent length and a unique level of complexity and balance. 90/100


Willunga Creek Black Duck Merlot 2006

Attractive spicy nose with lashings of black fruits. Concentrated flavours with dense round tannins. Fine wine here. 93/100


Willunga Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Deep inky red colour. Intense aromas of blackcurrant and capsicum. Flavours of red berries, vanilla and spicy tobacco. Age worthy wine. 89/100