Wine & Other Stories

McLaren Vale Wine Region: Interview with Erin Leggat

Written by Veronica Lavenia

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Cover Image ©Blewitt Springs – Isaac Foreman-McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association

Located 45 minutes south of Adelaide, South Australia, McLaren Vale is home to sustainable winegrowing, resulting from a Mediterranean climate. Known for Shiraz, McLaren Vale also excels in producing the highest quality Grenache and Cabernet. Spanish and Italian varietals such as Fiano, Vermentino, Tempranillo and Sangiovese are also very suitable climatically and offer wine lovers an extra level of discovery.

The region’s 30 kilometers of breathtaking coastline and mountain ranges define the boundaries of the McLaren Vale and the distinct landscapes and environment within.

 Let’s find out more from the words of Erin Leggat, CEO of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association.

©Contours – Isaac Foreman-McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association

What are the peculiarities of the territory and its wines?

McLaren Vale is Australia’s most innovative and exciting wine region. Our region is famous and celebrated for its inventiveness; with our winemakers, grape growers, chefs and artisans constantly pushing the boundaries of their crafts and redefining excellence.

One of Australia’s oldest and most celebrated wine regions, McLaren Vale has a 185-year history of commitment to excellence in the production of world-class premium red wines. Our region’s Mediterranean-style climate and landscape – warm, dry summers, mild winters and an idyllic coastal location – provides ideal growing conditions for a vast array of grape varieties and is home to some of the oldest vines in Australia.

This winegrowing utopia attracts some of the most talented and creative minds in winemaking, whose innovative approaches are evident in the constant evolution of the region’s wine styles and diversity, bringing out the best expressions of not only our celebrated traditional varieties of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, but also of the burgeoning range of climate-appropriate grape varieties that thrive here.

McLaren Vale’s growers and producers are the Australian leaders in sustainable winegrowing and McLaren Vale is renowned as Australia’s most sustainable wine region. Our abundant natural assets, stunning coastal environment and commitment to making wines that have an unmistakable sense of place has sparked the widespread adoption of sustainable practices.

©McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association

What services/activities do you use to promote your wine region now and/or in the near future?

The McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association (MVGWTA), the peak body representing over 800 grape-growers, wineries and tourism providers of the McLaren Vale wine region, is responsible for promotion of our region’s premium wines and unique tourism offerings throughout the world.

In Australia, we run a number of special events and activities to invite visitors to experience our beautiful region and world-renowned food and wines, including Grenache & Gourmet in September and SummerVines in January.

We have two websites, one for Wine and one for Tourism, and two email newsletters – Wine and Tourism – to educate consumers worldwide about our region and exciting new developments and offerings from the region. We also have an active social media presence on Instagram and Facebook.

The Association and our Member wineries are very active internationally, attending a vast array of wine trade fairs, tastings and special events throughout the world every year.

©McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association Duy Huynh

Can you briefly describe the areas of cultural and wine tourism interest of the Wine Region?

Located just 45 minutes south of the capital city of Adelaide in South Australia, McLaren Vale is home to world-class wines and culinary experiences, pristine natural attractions, and unparalleled tourism offerings. McLaren Vale’s gorgeous coastal lifestyle, welcoming and generous culture, world-class wines and produce – both on the farm and on the plate – ensures that our region offers a truly unique and memorable experience.

McLaren Vale is host to more than 150 producers and almost 100 cellar doors! The famous d’Arenberg Cube is an icon of our region; combining incredible architecture with a cellar door, high-end restaurant, eccentric art gallery and Salvador Dali exhibition, this is truly an experience not to be missed. But our region has a cellar door to suit every taste. The beautiful views of the new Dandelion Wines Wonder Room and Chalk Hill Collective – a winery, gin distillery and Italian restaurant combined – contrast perfectly with the historical Kay Brothers Amery and Wirra Wirra wineries, the English gardens of Coriole Wines, and the rustic charm of Alpha Box & Dice and Battle of Bosworth.

With an enviable coastal location, abundant fresh seafood, dairy pastures, a Mediterranean climate, clean air and fertile soils, McLaren Vale growers, producers and chefs are blessed with pristine local produce. A strong farm-to-table ethos and a focus on native and seasonal produce, combined with the epicurean flair of our local Chefs and producers, means McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s premier food regions.

The expertly crafted synergy of food, wine and boutique spirits means every dining experience – from the fine dining degustation menus at MaxwellThe Currant Shed and Little Wolf Osteria to the fresh local produce celebrated in The Salopian Inn’s historical 1851 cottage and overlooking the ocean at The Star of Greece – offers a gourmet adventure as unique and as generous as our region itself.

The warm hospitality of our community in welcoming you into their cellars doors, restaurants, accommodation and indeed their family homes means that every interaction is an intimate and personalised experience, and it’s why we say that everyone who journeys to McLaren Vale “arrives as a visitor and leaves as a friend”.

©Range Road – Isaac Foreman-McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association

How many wineries are there in your Region and what type of wines are produced?

With a 185-year-old winemaking heritage, McLaren Vale is today home to approximately 120 wineries.

McLaren Vale has historically been best known for the production of ultra-premium Shiraz, and this remains our dominant variety. To augment this reputation, McLaren Vale’s commitment to  excellence means that it is now well-recognised as producing some of the best expressions of Grenache wines in the world; with Australia’s leading wine writer James Halliday describing Grenache as “McLaren Vale’s secret weapon”.

In addition, the increasing shift towards sustainable winegrowing practices in our region has led to increased planting of a range of climate-appropriate varieties, including Nero d’Avola, Fiano, Montepulciano, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and a range of others. Our winemakers are now stylistically shifting towards lighter and brighter red wines, and are experts in the production of exceptional food-friendly wines – both red and white – that pair incredibly well with diverse cuisines.

©McLaren Vale panorama-McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association

Why are the wines of the McLaren Vale Grape Region so special?

In addition to all of the above, McLaren Vale benefits from having some of the oldest and most diverse geology of any wine region in the world, encompassing more than 40 unique geologies that vary in age from 15,000 years to over 550 million years.

The Geology of the McLaren Vale Wine Region map was developed as a result of decades of investigation by geologists and other scientists and provides a key to the complex, constantly unfolding links between geology and regional wine varietals and flavours.

McLaren Vale is at the forefront of best practice in terms of soil surveying and our diversity of soils is well-respected, with a dedicated group of our region’s growers, winemakers and geologists forming a committee to further explore these differences. This ongoing study has uncovered that for McLaren Vale, taking into account topography, elevation and climate, there are pronounced similarities between vines that have the same soil type and underlying geology, and this is the basis on which the committee is currently working to define 19 regional sub-districts.

Viticulturists have long recognised the importance of soil types for grape production, and the rich and diverse soils and geography of McLaren Vale are supremely well-suited to grape growing. Combined with our enviable coastal location, our region provides ideal growing conditions for a vast array of grape varieties.

About the author

Veronica Lavenia

Writer, book author and magazine contributor, some of her works have appeared in the most popular International magazines.
Digital Content Manager and Communication Manager at "The Wolf Post", since the birth of the platform.

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