The Clare Valley is assuredly one of Australia’s most highly regarded wine appellations, yet its name remains unfamiliar to many American wine lovers. What a shame! On second thought, the Clare’s relative obscurity outside of Australia may be to the advantage of every savvy American wine drinker. For starters, the Clare bears little resemblance to the more famous names in Australian viticulture: Barossa, Hunter, and McLaren Vale to name a few. In the Clare, there is no glitz, no glamour, no smoke or mirrors, no tour buses and most of all no Disneyland like atmosphere, and perhaps that may be precisely what keeps the crowds away and allows the wine makers to do what they do best – make wine. The Clare Valley supports a host of expert winemakers and a treasure trove of fine wines at affordable prices. In short, the Clare Valley offers wine lovers fine wine at prices that the average person can happily afford to purchase more than once a month.
In almost all respects the Clare Valley is one of the most Australian of the continent’s viticultural areas. The landscape is sweeping and riveting, higher and even more captivating than the nearby Barossa. Moreover, there are still sheep and cattle ranches, undulating expanses of wheat and rye, towering Gum trees (Americans call them Eucalyptus) to stand sentry along the narrow roads and half-dry stream beds, and even some stands of uncut bush that seem to highlight the hilly, well-tended vineyards of the Clare and nearby Gilbert Valleys.
In Australia, the Clare Valley has become synonymous with the continent’s finest Riesling, producing racy, full-flavored wines with a distinctive lime twist that rarely appear too austere or too sweet, even when young. Yet, it is the Clare’s splendid Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines that captivate international audiences. Within a year or two in the bottle, these magical wines reveal a haunting bouquet and an easy, full flavored charm. Most assuredly, Americans will one day “discover” the virtues of the Clare Valley’s magical wares.