Saturday brings the penultimate stage of the Santos Tour Down Under, a bike race that premiered in 1999 and became part of the UCI World Tour (which includes the Tour de France, the sport’s most famous race) in 2008, the first non-European cycling event to do so. The 2016 Tour tests the riders through six stages, concluding Sunday. As of Friday’s finish in Victor Harbor, Simon Gerrans of team Orica GreenEdge held onto a slight lead that he will try to protect in Saturday’s hill climb up to Willunga.
Before then, however, the peloton will charge through the most excellent wine-producing area of South Australia, home to some of the oldest Grenache and Shiraz vines in the country. It is located on the Fleurieu Peninsula, pointing south from Adelaide toward aptly named Kangaroo Island. It was way back in 1838 that John Reynell, he of the famed Chateau Reynella, planted the first vines in McLaren Vale, where many of the vines are more than a century old.
Wine lovers, particularly those with a fondness for Shiraz, Grenache, and Mourvedre, hold a special place in their hearts for the juice that comes from McLaren Vale. Quite simply, these wines, whether varietal or blends, are aromatic, spicy, and elegant. The climate, which affords the vines a long, warm growing season, is the product of a unique situation between the mountains and the sea. Ripening is not a problem, and the cooling maritime breezes ensure that the grapes maintain enough acidity to keep the wines fresh.
What do they taste like? McLaren Vale Shiraz has scrumptious notes of blackberry, with earthy hints of olive, perhaps even ink or leather. Notes of coffee and chocolate are not uncommon. Doesn’t that sound delicious? And lucky for us, these wines are widely available almost everywhere, and at a range of prices. Some of the better-known producers in the area are d’Arenberg, Yangarra, Molly Dooker, and Tyrell’s, all of which will be easy to find. Ask at your local specialty shop about wines from smaller producers, too. There’s no better recommendation than one coming from a passionate and devoted shop owner who’s heard the wine’s story straight from the person who made it! Cheers – and enjoy the snow!