The McLaren Vale wine region, in the north-west of Fleurieu Peninsula, is located approximately 35 kilometres (22 miles) south of Adelaide. It is by far the most important wine-producing area in the Fleurieu zone and is also regarded very highly throughout Australia and the world.
A wide array of grape varieties can be successfully grown here. The best wines come from very old vines, some planted more than 100 years ago. These are prized for producing low yields of extremely concentrated fruit. Shiraz leads the region's list of award-winning wines, making McLaren Vale a favourite place to grow this grape. Cabernet Sauvignon is another prominent grape variety, along with Grenache and Mourvedre, which, together with Shiraz, make up some of the most acclaimed GSM blends here. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc dominate McLaren Vale's white grape varieties, with a plethora of other regional and international specialties such as Merlot, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Viognier also making their mark.
The diverse portfolio of grape varieties reflects the region's varied grape-growing conditions, due to topographical factors and proximity to the cooling influences of the Gulf Saint Vincent. Altitudes differ markedly according to the location, and different mesoclimates are created as a result of varying degrees of exposure to the Mount Lofty Ranges in the north and the Sellicks Ranges in the south. Overall, the climate is Mediterranean, with fresh sea breezes helping to moderate temperatures during the growing season. Chilly winds from the hills also cool the grapes on specific vineyard sites, helping to retain acidity and structure. The summers and most of the autumn season are dry, which keeps vine diseases at bay. McLaren Vale vineyards also boast a wide range of soil types, with localized specialties.
The region acquired its GI (Geographical Indication) status in 1997, but wine-growing traditions here are amongst the oldest in the country. Pioneers such as Thomas Hardy and John Reynella, both iconic names in the Australian wine industry, can be credited with this achievement, having realized the region's potential in the early 19th Century when the first vines were planted.
The proximity of McLaren Vale to the city of Adelaide provides plenty of custom for local wine producers' cellar door operations.