Digging into Clare Valley’s landscape

The role of soil and rocks in the production of premium wine in Clare Valley is the focus of a new interpretive project involving local industry groups.

Clare Valley Rocks aims to shed more light on the complex relationship often described as “terroir” – a descriptor which refers to the set of special characteristics which the geography, geology and climate of a certain place interacts with a grapevine’s genetics.

The project is a joint venture involving the Clare Valley Winemakers Inc and the Clare Region Winegrape Growers’ Association, which have joined with geologist Mick Roche of Stewardship Matters to survey the ancient geology of the Clare Valley and its importance to producing the region’s premium wines, including internationally renowned Riesling.

Clare Valley Rocks was launched on Tuesday 29 October as part of the annual Clare Wine Show Week activities.

It is the first time there has been a co-ordinated effort to develop a consumer-friendly explanation of the Clare Valley’s geological history and how it relates to the region’s current landscape and geography.

The project will also provide wine consumers and visitors with simple interpretive information to assist them with their understanding and appreciation of Clare Valley wines.

The geological survey results will be presented in several formats which will be readily accessible to the wine industry and the public.

These include:

• A brochure which explores the connection between wine and the earth below the vines

• A map showing distribution of geology, soil and vineyards

• Signs, strategically located at 12 sites around the valley, describing the geology and soil profiles

• Winery-specific soil profile displays

• Website with extensive technical information including the Clare Valley’s soils, climate, geology and groundwater.

More than 18 months in the making, the project was initially investigated with a feasibility study by Stewardship Matters and then jointly funded in September 2012 by two industry sponsors for full development with associated information and interpretive materials.

In May 2013 the project received further financial support from the federal government under the “Your Community Heritage Program”.

President of the Clare Region Winegrape Growers’ Association Troy van Dulken said the project was a great initiative with a coordinated effort from the winemakers’ and grapegrowers’ associations to develop such an exciting project in the Clare Valley.

“From a grapegrowing perspective, it is great to see what lies underneath the vines and gives visitors to the Clare Valley an insight to the enormous variation of soil types and the challenges this brings with it for growers,” he said.

“It also underlies the great job grapegrowers do in producing amazing quality grapes for the winemakers to turn into liquid expressions of the Clare Valley.”