Clare Valley Grapes and Wine History
Founding of the Clare Region
The first known European visitor to the Clare region was a Mr Hill who came upon and named the Hutt River.
Shortly thereafter, in May 1839, the explorer Edward John Eyre passed through this Hutt River area en route to the head of Spencer Gulf and beyond.
On his return to Adelaide, by a more easterly course, he chanced upon another river in the Clare region and, perhaps with a sense of symmetry, named it Hill River.
Of the surrounding country, Eyre wrote that it was "... by far the best land yet seen excepting the Mount Barker district."
This glowing report prompted John Ainsworth Horrocks, an energetic 21-year old who had arrived in the colony in March 1839, to go and look for himself.
He soon established a property called Hope Farm and it was here that one of his servants, John Green, first planted a few vines.
Lutherans who left Germany in the 1840s in search of religious freedom established the Barossa wine industry.
Just as did the Lutherans, a group of Catholic Germans, with an Austrian Jesuit chaplain, landed at Port Adelaide in December 1848 and settled in Clare.
They were joined shortly after by two more Jesuit Brothers, George Sadler and John Schreiner.
In 1851, a property known as Open Ranges was bought by Fr. Kranewitter SJ and renamed Seven Hill, after Rome with its Seven Hills, complete with a creek they named the Tiber.
The vineyards at Sevenhill flourished. In 1855, Sevenhill village was founded on land purchased by the Jesuits, with funds sent by a Catholic Society in Munich.
Father Kranewitter's brother opened the Black Eagle Hotel in 1863 and, at about the same time, work commenced on St Aloysius Church.
The Northern Argus in 1884 described about 30 houses, one third with thatched roofs .... a pub ... a shoemaker's and butcher's shop ... about a mile east is St. Aloysius College.
One J.J. Symons reported — For a Iong period, St. Aloysius had a unique choir.
There was a blend of Irish, German and Polish voices.
Those Polish voices belonged to a group who had migrated to South Australia in 1844.
By 1856, their names were appearing in official records at Sevenhill.
Soon the valley at the head of Hill River became known as Polish Hill River.
In 1871, they opened their own church school, St Stanislaus, at the centre of their small community.
By the 1880s, the northern areas were supplying their own needs although declining soil fertility almost extinguished the wheat production.
By the end of the 19th Century, the custom of supplying harvest wine to labourers was no longer practised.
- There was, however, a growing demand for table wines at home and overseas,
- and vineyards established during the planting fever of the early 1890s produced another crop of wineries, built on a larger scale than those of the pioneering era.
A distinct wine producing district was emerging, extending 15 miles from Stanley Flat near Clare through Watervale to Auburn.
Grape Growing and Winemaking
Grape growing in the Clare Valley region began with John Green's small vineyard on Horrocks' Hope Farm in 1839.
That same year Horrocks briefly returned to England seeking funds for exploration and, en route, arranged for a variety of cuttings to be shipped to Adelaide, including some from the island of Madiera.
Here Sturt announced a Government subsidy for the importation of vines from the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1851, the Jesuits established Sevenhill.
Vine cuttings were obtained from the Hawkers and rough cellars were excavated.
The SA Weekly Chronicle, on the 16th October 1858, reported the development of "... seven acres of vines ... yielding upwards of 1 000 gallons of wine".
With an entry of this wine, Sevenhill College won First Prize at the Auburn Horticultural Exhibition of that year.
In October 1858, The Chronicle observed, "The winemaking is conducted on the same principle as in the Tyrol and Northern Italy generally, crushing the grapes, skins and stalks together and leaving them in the Vat ... until fermentation has entirely ceased."
The winemaker was Br. John Schreiner (also the colony's sixth licensed distiller) and he remained at Sevenhill College until 1884 by which time the vineyard had grown to 27 acres and production to around 4,000 gallons of Mataro, Shiraz, Madeira and Verdelho.
The Kapunda Herald of 7th May 1904 recorded that Valentine Mayr planted four acres of vines on the southern outskirts of Watervale in 1852 and made his first wine in 1856.
He later planted vines south of Watervale, as did John Ward to the east (in 1853) and again later at Leasingham.
The vines that Francis Treloar planted at Spring Vale in 1853 were acquired from his neighbour, Reuben Solly.
After a brief departure from the district, Treloar returned in 1862 and purchased Prospect Farm next door to Spring Vale.
He once again established vines, recording in his diary on the 15th July 1862, that five acres of cuttings had been planted.
Vine Varieties and the Wine Industry Grow
Walter Hughes soon had Treloar in charge at Spring Vale, and The Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia noted that it was on Treloar's recommendation that Hughes engaged Carl Sobels in 1868 to be his manager and winemaker.
Sobels was a coppersmith by trade when he came to Spring Vale in 1868.
He had learnt winemaking from his father who had been winemaker for William Jacob, one of the pioneers of the Barossa Valley.
Between 1866 and 1869, Hermann Buring, Carl Sobels' brother-in-law, worked under Benno Seppelt at Seppeltsfield.
Then in 1890 Buring and Sobels went into partnership and purchased Spring Vale from Hughes' heir.
By 1892, there were 120 acres under vine at Leasingham and Watervale.
In May 1895, The Observer reported that "the principal varieties grown are Cabernet, Shiraz and Malbec".
In 1896, a young Leo Buring, the gold medal winner at the recently opened Roseworthy Agricultural College, returned to Spring Vale from viticultural studies at Geisenheim and Montpellier.
At around this time, the German translation of Spring Vale made its appearance as the brand Quelltaler, with particular renown soon attaching to the Riesling labelled as Quelltaler Hock.
Both a 'claret' and a 'burgundy' style were produced from the plantings of Cabernet, Shiraz and Malbec, mentioned earlier, along with a brace of fortifieds — port, sherry and frontignac.
In the late 1920s, Leo Buring visited Spain and brought back to Quelltaler flor yeast spores in a handkerchief for a flor fino sherry and the subsequent birth of 'Granfiesta'.
St Andrews vineyard was established in 1892, with 70 acres planted.
By 1897, The Australian Vigneron and Fruit Growers Journal was recording that 115 acres were planted with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Mataro.
These were also the varieties planted by A.P.Birks in 1893, making his first wine at Wendouree Cellars in 1895.
1895 also saw the opening vintage at the newly formed Stanley Wine Company, with Alfred Basedow of the Barossa wine family as manager and winemaker.
He was trained in Montpellier with subsequent winemaking experience in Germany, Spain and Portugal.
His first wines were Prize Winners at the Adelaide Show.
In 1896, 13,000 gallons were made, including 7 000 gallons of Claret made from Cabernet, Shiraz and Malbec, and 900 gallons of Chablis, from unspecified white grapes. Again they were prize winners.
A little before Sobels imported his must pump from France, Basedow reported to the Company "my refrigerator works very well.
I have had a blower fixed up to blow a big draft of air onto the pipes, and I reckon I can now cool 1 000 gallons of wine 10oF in a little over an hour with 1,000 gallons of water."
The first plantings of Crouchen, which became known as Clare Riesling, were made in the early days of the Jesuits at Sevenhill with cuttings from the Cape and that encouraged its historic and once prolific distribution in the district.
True Riesling, however, was the variety planted at Spring Vale and that was the reason for the pre-eminence of the Quelltaler Hock "for most of this century".
Maturity of the Region
For both pastoralist and vigneron the 20th century began in Clare in boom.
In the 1950s, the Stanley Wine Company established and assisted extensive Riesling plantings at Watervale and Leasingham to supply Lindemans and others with wine.
The Stanley wines of the '60s were enormously successful with Riesling once again a star performer in the hands of Peter Weste and then Tim Knappstein.
Tim's grandfather had acquired full control of Stanley by 1911 but the family sold the business to H.J. Heinz in 1971 under whose ownership the name was changed to Leasingham.
That name subsequently passed to the BRL Hardy Group in the mid 1980s.
In the 1930s, Clarevale Cooperative was formed and operated for 50 years.
Following its acquisition by Kaiser Stuhl/Penfolds in 1980 operations at the cellars dwindled and ceased.
These companies, along with A.P.Birks, were those which weathered the changing markets and wine styles, depression and boom and which constituted the entire winemaking fraternity of Clare until the 1970s.
With its extensive Riesling plantings, the region was well placed for the white boom of the 1970s and early 1980s.
With these Cabernet plantings and the district's first fully drip-irrigated vineyards, Taylors anticipated both the red boom and the 1990s viticultural focus on the supply of water.
"Sir Walter Watson Hughes was one of those strong-spirited, clear-headed men who carve out their own fortunes by dint of untiring energy and self-reliance."
1975 & the Name is Clare Valley
Also in 1974, Jim Barry established his family winery on the ridge north of Clare, overlooking Stanley Flat.
Mitchell Cellars crushed its first vintage in 1975.
A year later, Skillogalee launched its label which achieved overnight success with its Rieslings.
These were made by Tim Knappstein at his Enterprise Winery which had opened in 1976.
In the next year, Len Evans in conjunction with Petaluma acquired the Hanlin Hill vineyard whose fruit was vinified at the Petaluma Piccadilly winery.
Wolf Blass established his first vineyard anywhere, at Polish River in 1980.
The government sponsored vine pull of the mid 1980s eliminated some old vineyards, but the loss was mainly restricted to poor varieties in unproductive circumstances.
Of more significance to Clare was the struggle of Riesling against the onslaught of the fashionable Chardonnay and the use of the varietal name riesling to describe a cask wine style made from other varieties.
This practice has been debated within the industry and is due to cease, by agreement, at the close of the 20th Century.
Since the mid eighties a number of vignerons have established labels and attractive cellar door operations and small winemakers have established themselves in the Skilly Valley, at Watervale, Mintaro, Penwortham and Clare.
The 1990s have seen the acquisition of Tim Knappstein Wines by Petaluma, of Quelltaler by Mildara Blass and, as in the case of other viticultural regions in Australia, extensive plantings of red grape varieties.
The Story of Clare's Wineries
Chapter 1: Pioneers of Clare Wine Making
Chapter 2: The Boom in Clare Wine Making
Chapter 3: Clare Wines between the Wars
Chapter 4. Clare Wineries in the post-War Boom
Chapter 5: Clare Wineries boom in the late 20th Century
The 1890’s saw a wine boom in Australia.
The Clare Valley Region
The Clare Valley Winemakers' Association decided that it would place a Geographical Indication Application for --
a well-defined area in the Clare Valley district to be determined as having the geographical name Clare Valley officially applied.
The submission is an extensive and interesting document and the submission was accepted and a determination made.
The boundaries set down in the document were voted on and approved by the Clare Valley Board of the South Australian Farmers' Federation, Winegrape Section at a meeting held on Monday, 13 September 1997 and by the Clare Valley Winemakers' Association at a meeting held on 4 December 1997.
This submission was prepared by a subcommittee appointed by the Clare Valley Winemakers' Association Inc. with two co-opted members from the Clare Valley Board of the S.A. Farmers' Federation, Winegrape Section..
The proposed boundary for the Clare Valley Viticultural Region was set by a consideration of five major parameters:
the current and accepted viticultural usage which includes all producers extant in the region.
the land associations as mapped by PISA 1997 so as to include all those associations currently used and some of their undeveloped extensions.
the underlying geology which is important inasmuch as it affects the pedogenesis and topology of the area.
the mean annual rainfall of the area which, with the water restrictions of the Proclaimed Area, is a determinant of the style of grape production.
the boundary of the Proclaimed Water Resource Region which largely predicates the style of viticulture possible.
Obviously the boundaries of all five seldom exactly coincide although:
There is a good general agreement between Geology and Land Associations, as would be expected.
The artificial Proclaimed Water Area Boundary was constructed to match the Region Boundary as nearly as practical.
The Annual Rainfall isohyets correlate well with the northern, eastern and western boundaries of the region.
[The explanation for this lies with the history of development in the region.
Initially, with totally dry land viticulture methods, vineyards were limited to the wetter areas (say the 600mm, per annum isohyet) but, as irrigation opened up further land for development, the vineyards moved to progressively lower rainfall areas.
The active region now is broadly constrained within the 450 mm isohyet.]
The Region is discrete and, within the ranges described in detail in this submission, homogeneous.
Obviously this homogeneity is less substantial than would be possible to define within subregions of the Clare Valley.
Together with its history and its isolation and climatic differentiation from other grapegrowing areas, the Committee believed that the cluster of features described in the submission defined the Clare Valley as a unique Australian Viticultural Region.
Both altitude and sea breezes are cooling factors in the viticultural climate of the region.
Once irrigation released viticulture from the higher rainfall area, vineyards could be established on the higher, if drier, sites to take advantage of the cooler climate there.
As Gladstones writes, in support of his statement about the wide variety of altitudes and latitudes of Clare Valley vineyards:
"... there are also many [vineyards], particularly the newer ones, at higher altitudes or some way south of the town, or both.
For instance, Petaluma's Hanlin Hill vineyard, just east of Clare, is at 470 to 500m, compared with 398m for the town weather station.
The vineyards further south at Sevenhill and Penwortham also reach 500m or more."
"Those further south still, around Watervale and Leasingham, average only about 400m; but the general trends of temperature with latitude ... suggest that this area should be appreciably cooler than Clare at comparable altitudes."
"Enough anecdotal evidence of sea breezes exists for Gladstones to acknowledge their existence and to accept that "... they may well be enough to benefit vines substantially and enhance their end-of-day photosynthesis and ripening conditions, as compared with more truly interior regions".
Wines, having the quality which the French call 'Typicitie', are wines which can be immediately recognised as wines of a particular area.
Clare Valley Typicity
Regarding the Clare Valley and typicity, James Halliday has written:
"... nowhere else in the world is riesling made in the same style as the Clare Valley. ... the wine is typically shy and reserved in its youth, with the palest imaginable straw-green colour, and aromas and flavours which do little more than hint at the glories to come."
Because it is dry, crisp and fresh, much riesling will be consumed within a year of vintage.
There may be touches of passionfruit and citrus, a whiff of lightly browned toast, an echo of wild herbs or of the stones through which those herbs grow.
They will be fleeting and unobtrusive, and it will take an effort to analyse and identify them.
But after three, four or five years, a miraculous transformation will start to take place.
The colour will gradually intensify, and appear to be driven by an unseen light from within.
First lime juice and then more toasty aromas will develop, and perhaps a kerosene-like bite: an off-putting but time-honoured (and accurate) description of a character which, against the odds, is very pleasant.
The flavour will build and the acid will appear to soften (in fact it won't, in chemical terms the acid level remains constant in the wine as it ages).
The delicacy of youth is replaced by the full-on power of maturity, yet it is a power utterly different to that of, say, chardonnay.
There is no oak; the alcohol will be significantly lower; and there will be none of the phenolic characters which are the bane of many bottle aged white wines.
Although we have had to rearrange some of the sections in the submission because of its nature as an application document, the above sets the scene of the submission and what follows will surely be accepted as a fine collection of history and historical material about viticulture in the Clare Valley.
Qualification Criteria - Clare Valley Appellation
In making the application for the name of Clare Valley, five wineries met the qualification criteria required for the submission.
The requirements were that
the wineries held a minimum of five hectares of grape vineyards with the region described in the submission as Clare Valley and
together they produce a minimum of 500 tonnes of wine grapes per year.
The five producers were —
Vineyard Area and Grape Production figures for the region were contained in the document, together with affidavits from the five producers.
The Geographical Application was accepted in late 1998 and early 1999.
Clare's over-representation in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VII illustrates their range, juxtaposing: