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Vines were first planted in the Clare Valley by John Horrocks in 1840 and expanded until around 1903. A resurgence of interest in the 1980s saw a similar expansion of wineries and large investments. Located north west of the Barossa Valley at a slightly higher altitude, the Clare Valley’s typography consists of a series of broken valleys, hills and gullies. The best sites are orientated west, at higher altitude, and the soils have significant limestone components. The most important sub districts of the southern Clare Valley are the two distinct sub-regions of Water Vale and Polish Hill River. The areas of Leasingham, Watervale and Auburn with soils of predominantly rich red clay and loam over limestone. Polish Hill River on the other hand is slightly cooler, thus ripening up to five weeks later.
While the majority of vines planted are red with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz leading the way, paradoxically, Clare is perhaps best known for Riesling; the most planted white variety. Clare Shiraz is full bodied, dense and powerful, with notes of ripe fruits and characteristically powerful tannins, outstanding producers are Wendouree, Gaelic Cemetery and the Jim Barry Armagh. Clare Cabernet is similarly powerful, with firm but ripe tannins. Outstanding producers are Knappstein, Leasingham, Taylors and Wendouree.
Riesling is the most internationally recognised variety of the Clare Valley and is dry, with distinct floral and citrus (lemon and lime zest) characters and good acidity which develop into complex toasty characters with extended bottle age. The two districts of Polish Hill River and Watervale differ in their expressions of Riesling, with Watervale Riesling slightly softer and more floral than the intense, concentrated Polish Hill River wines. The Clare Valley is the heart of Australian Riesling production and the wines are unique among the Rieslings of the world and extraordinarily long lived and incredible value. Outstanding producers include Grosset, Mount Horrocks, O’Leary Walker and Pikes, though this is by no means and exhaustive list. Clare Riesling producers were at the forefront of the screwcap revolution when a number of them decided to bottle their 1999 Rieslings under screwcap.
James Halliday's Wine Atlas of Australia, James Halliday
The Oxford Companion to Wine, (ed) Jancis Robinson
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WillaKenzie Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017
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