Exploring the Hidden Treasures: McLaren Vale’s Alternative Varietal Wines
McLaren Vale is famous for its signature Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache varieties. But there is energy behind bringing alternative varietals from the Mediterranean regions of the world to McLaren Vale.
So, the next time you head to McLaren Vale, step off the beaten path and seek out wine labels doing just that – experimenting with crafting alternative varietals that shine a new light on McLaren Vale wine.
Why McLaren Vale suits alternative varietals
McLaren Vale is the oldest wine-growing region in South Australia. With a history dating back to the late 1830s, this region holds over 180 years of winemaking experience. But the region’s growers don’t rely on heritage. McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s most progressive wine regions, focusing on innovation in environmental sustainability, winemaking techniques and experimentation with new varietals.
Battle of Bosworth was the first McLaren Vale wine business to convert vineyards to organic viticulture in 1995, when Joch was considered a little crazy for trying it. Since then, our mission has been to work with the environment to naturally produce the best organic wines, reflecting the unique nature of the Willunga sub-region.
Our philosophy includes choosing the varietals best suited to our Mediterranean climate. The Willunga sub-region benefits from low altitude, mild winters, warm summers with high sunshine, and the protection and cool breezes from being tucked into the slopes of the Mount Loft Ranges, which separate Willunga from the Adelaide Hills.
With an organic growing philosophy at the centre of everything we do, working with the alternative varietals best suited to the Willunga sub-region soils and micro-climate makes sense.
We’re sharing a little about the varietals we love working with the most.
What we like about Touriga Nacional: This think-skinned variety from the Douro Valley in Portugal, Touriga was originally used in port wines. It is also known for producing bold, lush, tannic red wines. We were one of the first to introduce Touriga to McLaren Vale, grafting it onto a parcel of our Willunga Vineyard over a decade ago. We take a different tact, crafting it into young, fragrant red wines, blends & fortified wine styles.
What Touriga Nacional tastes like: For our single variety Touriga, we pick early & mature it in older oak to make for a bright, fresh, aromatic wine. Medium-bodied with soft tannins, it’s deep-ish red with a tinge of purple. It has aromas of mulberry, blueberry, bright red fruits, lovely light floral characters, a balanced palate, remarkable length & persistence.
Drink Touriga Nacional with: Portuguese chicken cooked over coals, a good charcuterie board, or a bowl of mussels in a spicy tomato sauce.
What we like about Graciano: Graciano has grown in Spain’s famous Rioja region since the 19th century, where small quantities are added to the best blends to add concentrated black fruit aroma, acidity & tannins.
We are one of the few producers to grow it in McLaren Vale & we follow the lead of Rioja, using it primarily in our Heretic blend of 50% Graciano, 40% Touriga Nacional, and 10% Shiraz.
What Graciano tastes like: Graciano is fragrant, spicy, deeply coloured & moderately tannic with red fruits, black pepper & dried herbs flavours.
Drink Graciano with: Cured meats & hard cheese, take a leaf from Rioja and serve it with chicken and seafood Paella.
What we like about Malbec: One of the most commonly grown varieties in South America’s hot climates, especially Argentina, Malbec originated in Bordeaux, France. It’s still a minor player in Australia, with only around 600 hectares planted & a few growers in the McLaren Vale region. Malbec is known for bold, plush flavours & full-bodied reds that make a great alternative to Shiraz or Cab Sauv. It’s an exceptional blending wine & that’s how we use it in our 2021 Best of Vintage, a 67/33 Shiraz/Malbec blend.
What Malbec tastes like: Malbec has an inky purple hue with black & red fruit, spice, mocha & tobacco notes.
Drink Malbec with: Anything grilled over coals will be a winner, especially a good steak or gamier flavours like lamb or chorizo sausage. Slow-cooked meats are also great with Malbec in winter.
We are just on the cusp of converting a portion of our vineyard to Fiano & look forward to the wines we’ll be producing in the next couple of years.
What we like about Fiano: This is a southern Italian white wine variety from the warm coastal areas of Campania, Sicily. It’s drought tolerant (ideal for sustainable growers), holds acidity well in warm climates & adapts well to various environments, allowing for expressions in multiple styles.
What Fiano tastes like: In warm conditions like McLaren Vale, Fiano shows citrus -lime leaf, lemon & grapefruit, stone fruit of peach, pear or green apple along with more textural notes of honey, subtle almond & hazelnut character. This is a white wine that combines high natural acidity & structure along with stunning texture.
Dink Fiano with: Seafood, Asian dishes & soft cheeses.
Discover a new side to McLaren Vale:
Take a fresh look at the region’s alternative varietals. Growers like Battle of Bosworth’s commitment to alternative varietals is a testament to the region’s rich history and spirit of innovation.
The distinctive notes of Touriga Nacional’s bright reds, Graciano’s spicy depths, Fiano’s textured elegance, and Malbec’s bold character exemplify McLaren Vale’s commitment to experimenting with the varieties that work best with the Mediterranean environment.
Come for a visit to McLaren Vale. Venture beyond the familiar and discover the allure of these alternative varietals. They’re a taste of McLaren Vale’s future.