by Paullette Gaudet
McLaren Vale—the birthplace of South Australia’s wine industry—is located 45 minutes south of Adelaide, yet has a distinctly Mediterranean feel. An artsy enclave of wineries, boutique breweries, and innovative culinary gems, McLaren Vale’s breezy beach lifestyle is focused on local producers and sustainability. The region’s warm, dry climate and wide range of soil types have allowed it to produce not only famed Shiraz wines, but also world-class Grenache and Cabernet. Named for surveyor John McLaren, the region has produced wine since its establishment in 1838, making it home to some of the oldest grape vines in the world. McLaren Vale wineries produced drier, heavy wines until the 1950’s, when wineries began bottling smaller batches of more select wines, and started offering cellar tastings. Also during this time an influx of Italian immigrants introduced olive and olive oil production to the area, an early harbinger of the region’s current bounty of almonds and rich local dairy products.
The close ties between fresh regional produce and stellar wines can be found via the excellent food pairings offered by virtually all local restaurants. McLaren Vale built Australia’s first and largest reclaimed water network; 100% of the region’s irrigation stems from a sustainable source other than river water and significantly reduces pressure from the natural groundwater. But even with all of this ecological innovation, McLaren Vale remains a relaxed outpost of taste and low-key refinement. Take a hearty sip of a spicy McLaren Vale Shiraz while trying to figure out what time it is Down Under; we think it’s a safe bet that right now the surf is up and the corkscrews are down!