The mofo guide to | Clare Valley Riesling

Nick Baum
By Nick Baum
4 months ago
5 min read

Chances are if you ask any vino lover for a shortlist of their favourite Aussie wines, there’ll be a riesling on it - and probably a Clare Valley riesling at that. This is why we love it, and why we think you will too.

What’s great about Clare Valley riesling

Incredibly food friendly, accessible, gorgeous wines that speak as much to place as they do to the maker - that’s the pitch on Clare Valley riesling for ya. And it’s a good idea for us to touch on the “where” as we unpack that a bit more.

Riesling loves a long, slow ripening period to fully develop its flavours, and boy does it get that here. Clare Valley is considered a “warm” climate considering its location in South Australia, so at first glance it might appear slightly odd that riesling does so well. But thanks to the diurnal swing here (the difference between day and night temps), riesling can go from strength to strength. Warm days allow for consistent ripening, and then cooler nights (sometimes up to 40°C cooler!) provide manna in the form of balance and complex flavour development. A lot of yum potential, whichever way you cut it.

Lets get on to the soils too, as they have a huge part to play here. Due to a geological upheaval that’s been happening since Precambrian Era (about 800 million years and change), the Clare Valley is a patchwork quilt of 11 different recognised soil types - everything from terra rossa (red loam over limestone, with excellent drainage) through to slate soils around Polish Hill River (where vine roots have to struggle for every drop of moisture). 

It’s why the word “terroir” gets thrown about a lot in discussing the nuance between expressions of Clare Valley riesling - those variable soils and aspects in the rolling hills and gullies produce rieslings that are identifiably Clare, but that can also speak to the vineyard they were grown in. Grosset’s Polish Hill vineyard, Clos Clare/Jim Barry’s Florita vineyard and Petaluma’s Hanlin Hill are perhaps the most famed, but there’s far more to discover amongst producers here.


What to expect with a Clare Valley riesling

That long ripening period and diurnal swing I mentioned packs Clare Valley riesling with its characteristic zingy, zesty lemon and lime citrus, and mouth-watering, lip-smacking racy dry acidity. Trying to describe a “typical” Clare Valley riesling feels like a fools errand but, generally they’re going to be fresh, vibrant, classically Clare - but also capable of being cellared to develop complexity and more honeyed, toasty characters - if you can keep your mitts off it. Stainless steel is often used in the winemaking from start to finish in order to lock in as much of that aromatic freshness and terroir expression - though don’t be shocked to see some more experimental makers producing Clare Valley rieslings in off-dry, sweeter styles, with oak influence, or a little lees ageing either. 

What temperature should I serve Clare Valley riesling at?

Because of that naturally high acidity, Clare Valley riesling will typically reward you best if they’re chilled to 7-10ºC (at least a couple of hours in the fridge before you plan to drink it). That way you’ll get the best of those citrus aromatics and a super refreshing zing carrying through on the palate - but if in doubt, check the notes on the bottle and see what the producer reckons.


What foods pair with Clare Valley riesling?

Like all riesling, Clare Valley riesling is a real all-rounder; you’ll find it recommended frequently when it comes to food pairings given its zesty freshness that can bring brightness and lift any occasion.

“Asian” is a lazy descriptor for the type of flavours what riesling pairs exceptionally well with - more specifically Thai or Vietnamese fare, especially if you’re heading to a BYO joint. Pair it to roti with satay sauce, chicken pad thai or prawn green curry; likewise invite it along next time you’re tucking into a lemongrass chicken banh mi. It’s also a great pairing option for Southeast Asian curries too.

Also see - fresh or grilled fish, sushi, sashimi, oysters, prawns - basically any seafood improved by a squeeze of lemon or lime over the top. Pour yourself a long, lazy glass if you’re planning a seafood bonanza on a sunny afternoon.

Our no bowties or bullsh!t recommendation though - Clare Valley riesling and fried chicken. Try it once, love it forever.


When should I be drinking Clare Valley riesling?

To us, it’s not so much a “when?” question, but a “why wouldn’t you?” A Clare Valley riesling is a great go-to pairing option if you’re stuck for ideas given how well it lends itself to most delicious stuff - it’s fun, fresh and lighthearted, but with heaps to discover and explore if you want to dive in further. A delicious Australian great for all kind of reasons and seasons.

Ready to discover the Clare Valley? Shop our latest arrivals.

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