Expand your mind and palate. McLaren Vale Winemakers are forging the way with exciting new varietals and blends.

There’s something special about the McLaren Vale wine region. It’s not just the spectacular sea-meets-vines location or world-class cellar doors. There’s a wave of innovation happening across
vineyards and wineries as well as in the minds of creative winemakers.

The Vale is best known for Shiraz and Mediterranean varieties including Fiano, Tempranillo and Sangiovese. Premium Grenache, Cabernet and Chardonnay continue to excel but there’s a world of options to choose from.

Innovation and experimentation is everywhere. Nero d’Avola, Vermentino, Sagrantino…the list goes on. The best way to try something new is to hit the cellar doors, chat to sta‘ff and sip.

Coriole is no stranger to the concept of wine innovation. Today, the winery leads the charge in Australia with Mediterranean variety Picpoul. They imported the first of its kind to our shores almost a decade ago and owner Mark Lloyd is delighted to show the wines to visitors.

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A lot has changed since the industry started in McLaren Vale back in the late 1800s. First, it was heavy, dry table wines, then fortifieds had their moment, and bulk reds and whites peaked during the nineties when export boomed. Mark has witnessed a particular shift toward innovation in McLaren Vale over the past ten years. He first planted Sangiovese at Coriole in 1985. “It was a vague thought of ‘why don’t we have Italian varieties? When we first presented Sangiovese people said ‘what is this?’ Nobody knew how to say it. So you’d explain where it came from and they’d say ‘Why don’t you call it Chianti?”

Mark continued to be inspired by Italian varietals as part of his European travels, particularly a trip to wine competition Vinitaly in 2000. “Those moments of tasting and going ‘wow, this is just so diff‘erent’ led to new interest in Nebbiolo and Barbera. These days, Mark says customers expect to have their tastebuds challenged at cellar doors. “It’s been fascinating on all levels,” he says. “Discovering what it’s like to grow those varieties here and what it means for the tastes and flavours on our table.”

Minimal intervention is also popular. “All of the new varieties are wonderful in the sense that they are almost just natural wine,” says Mark. “With Fiano you can pick, de-stem, crush and put in a barrel – that’s it.”

Like many of his peers, Mark plans to keep experimenting. “We’ve been endeavouring to produce a new variety every year. In 2017 we are focusing on Negroamaro and tiny bits of Montepulciano – it’s now about refining.”

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  • Angove Family Winemakers
  • Battle of Bosworth
  • Cradle of Hills
  • d’Arenberg
  • Gemtree
  • Kangarilla Road
  • Lino Ramble
  • Maximus Wines
  • Paxton Wines
  • The Farm Willunga
  • Spring Seed Wine Co
  • Wirra Wirra
  • Yangarra Estate

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Sagrantino is also a new kid on the McLaren Vale block. The varietal is rare in McLaren Vale and championed by Young Gun winemaker Rob Mack who runs Aphelion Wine with wife Louise. “It was the home of Sagrantino, Montefalco in Umbria, which really sparked our interest in the varietal. We source one tonne of premium and rare hand picked single vineyard Sagrantino fruit from a vineyard about halfway between Aldinga and Willunga to make our wine,” says Louise. To appreciate the different styles of Sagrantino, d’Arenberg’s and Oliver’s Taranga are great ones to try.

Visitors can also experience something new at the likes of Kangarilla Road (Savagnin), Gemtree Wines (sparkling Savagnin and Chard), SC Pannell (Tempranillo Touriga), Lino Ramble (Bastardo and Saperavi) and Yangarra (Roussanne or Grenache Blanc).

SC Pannell recently released a Barbara, a first for the winery. Owner and 2015 and 2016 Bushing King Steve Pannell also has a passion for Piedmont and plans to plant Greek varietals Xinomavro and Assyrtiko.

Brad Hickey also likes to mess with tradition. As an American sommelier, Brad’s first wine buying trip to Australia included McLaren Vale – he fell in love with the region and the coast. His Brash Higgins Nero d’Avola won the prestigious “Rule Breaker” award at the 2016 SA Hot 100 wine show in Adelaide. The Sicilian varietal is a new wine style that’s sweeping the nation. There are a number of cellar doors offering Nero d’Avola including Hither & Yon, Coriole and Lino Ramble.

“The McLaren Vale wine region is a great way to experience something new – the alternative varietals are exploding here,” says Brad.

Discovered a new wine or enjoyed a great tasting experience? Share it on social media using the hashtag #mclarenvaleguide

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