For many Australians, heading out to vote is synonymous with a cheeky democracy sausage. But in the Clare Valley, they’ll be honouring a different culinary tradition this weekend.
That’s because this year election day falls in the middle of the Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend. So as well as toasting the end of an interminable campaign they’ll be celebrating the end of vintage with Australia’s longest running food & wine event. And if you haven’t registered for a postal vote, there’s a booth at the Vineyard Lutheran School on Clare’s main street.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Gourmet Weekend, which has been imitated across the country and has now grown to include almost forty wineries alongside local breweries, food producers and artists. Not bad for a region that produces about 1% of Australia’s total wine output.
Old Names and New
Since the first vines were planted in the mid-19th Century, the Clare Valley has been synonymous with riesling, and few names loom larger than Jeffrey Grosset. As well as helping to normalise the screw cap across Australia, the three rieslings he releases are benchmarks for the industry. The Gourmet Weekend marks the launch of Grosset’s Autumn release wines and the opening of the maturation cellar stocked with back vintages that will be available for the first time.
The next generation of winemakers from the region might not boast the same name recognition, but wineries like Sussex Squire and Wykari are making some high quality drops. They’re two of the names being showcased at the Clare Valley Artisans event on the Saturday afternoon, which gives guests the chance to meet the winemakers and taste the future of the region.
Despite the Clare Valley’s long association with riesling, it’s actually not the most planted varietal in the region. That honour goes to shiraz, and there are several outstanding examples on show throughout the weekend.
Kilikanoon’s 2014 Oracle was awarded the trophy for best shiraz at last year’s International Wine and Spirit Competition (the 2001 and 2005 vintages also won top gong at international wine shows). Unsurprisingly, it will take pride of place at the Saturday masterclasses hosted by winemaker Kevin Mitchell, which will also include a selection of back vintage and new release wines.
Tim Adams is also focussing on shiraz, with a guided trip through back vintages of the Aberfeldy shiraz at the cellar door while Mt Horrocks is offering a more casual vertical tasting of six vintages of their nero d’avola alongside some older whites.
The Bubbly Stuff
O’Leary Walker’s Bottomless Brunch will kick things off on both Saturday and Sunday with coffee and a two-course brunch. And the bottomless part refers to the free-flowing fizz in the form of the aptly named Hurtle.
Clare Valley Brewing Company bottle a different kind of bubbles and they’ll be showcasing their latest beers alongside paella, tapas and sangria at Jeanerret wines. On Saturday a DJ and salsa dancers will set the tone for an energetic Fiesta while Sunday will see a slightly more relaxed Siesta atmosphere soundtracked by acoustic guitar.
Food For All
Alongside the wine there will of course be a number of themed meals, including a five-course degustation at Slate and several anniversaries – Skillogalee celebrates its 30th birthday while Taylors turns 50 this year and both are hosting dinners with live music.
For something more casual, two wineries are showing how well Clare wines can pair with Asian food. At Shut The Gate, Chinese fusion restaurant Concubine will mix the spices and flavours of contemporary Asian tapas with small-batch wines that include a number of classic Italian varietals. Sevenhill Cellars, meanwhile, will host local restaurant Indii of Clare as they bring Delhi-style street food to the region’s oldest winery.
It’s worth considering staying in the Valley for a night to make it a relaxing weekend. With the Adelaide Cup in March these days, it’s no longer a long weekend but plenty of cellar doors stay open on Monday with specials for those who stick around.
But if you’re planning a day trip a bus leaves from Plant 4 and visits three venues on the Saturday, while LinkSA also has busses leaving from multiple locations in Adelaide and shuttles that visit most of the participating venues.
Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend