With its sinuous folds of fertile hills, rustic villages and breeze-tousled wheat fields brushing its bucolic canvas, South Australia’s Clare Valley could have been plucked straight from the Tuscan countryside.
Clare Valley is located 120km north of Adelaide. While this wine region may be smaller and less visited than its Barossa Valley neighbour, it is no less alluring. Intimate, welcoming and seductively photogenic, the Clare Valley is home to some of South Australia’s most celebrated vignerons and food producers.
Dotted along its slender expanse between Auburn and Clare, around 40 cellar doors sit like a 40km-long daisy chain, each with individual personality and charm. In the towns, you’ll find butchers, bakers, and – not candlestick makers, perhaps, but farm gates, weekend markets, locavore diners and providores at the top of their game.
The Clare Valley comes steeped in history too. The Burra Burra “Monster Mine” is today a protected archaeological site. It reveals relics of buildings around its open-cut copper mine, and dugouts along the Creek where squatting migrants somehow lived and worked.
Even more impressive is nearby Red Banks Conservation Park, one of Australia’s most significant megafauna sites. Diprotodon fossils excavated from here are on display at Burra Railway Station. And just outside Mintaro is Martindale Hall: the grand 19th-century home of pastoralist Edmund Bowman Junior. It houses parquetry floors, a blackwood staircase and Mintaro’s famous slate. It also featured in Peter Weir’s unnerving movie adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Best hotels in Clare Valley
Skillogalee House is one of three luxury boutique sleeps belonging to the eponymous winery. Tucking in up to six, its stone farmhouse has been sensitively restored with contemporary furnishings while preserving its historic fabric. Featuring an open fireplace, a freestanding bathtub, and local gourmet breakfast provisions, it comes complete with a private garden and vineyard views.
Thorn Park by the Vines
Antiques and artworks reside within stylish suites at Thorn Park by the Vines in Sevenhill. Gourmet breakfasts follow sweet sleeps, curated from produce plucked straight from the property’s vegetable gardens. And dining is divine here too, cooked up by owner and esteemed Clare Valley chef David Hay, who also offers guests inventive cooking classes.
If an intimate B&B in Clare is more your cup of tea, then head to Trestrail Cottage. It lures you in with a bush shower and sauna, and an outdoor double bed (fly-screened) on a dreamy stringybark-surrounded deck. You’ll be counting the stars until the kangaroos come home.
Best restaurants in Clare Valley
Skillogalee Winery Restaurant
Housed in an old settler’s cottage, Skillogalee Winery Restaurant sits sun-dappled with a mature olive tree and vine-draped veranda, overlooking its award-winning Riesling terroir. Its changing seasonal menu includes charcuterie platters for two, Cabernet-infused wallaby shank and duck breast in brandy and orange sauce.
Wild Saffron café in Clare
Food cravings will spike when hitting the Clare Valley’s gourmet food scene. Wild Saffron café in Clare is a weekend breakfast hangout, with smoked bacon and saltbush sausages filling plates. The prized sausages can also be found at three-time National Sausage King winner: Mathie’s Meat Shoppe. The Clare-based butcher offers 45 varieties of snag, sending local barbecues into a sizzle.
Best wineries in Clare Valley
Sevenhill Cellars is home to the Clare Valley’s first vineyard, planted back in 1851. It’s still owned and run by Jesuit winemakers, who today produce distinctive table wines as well as altar wine. A visit to the chilly underground cellar will thrill, as will tiptoeing into the crypt at St Aloysius’ Church, where 41 Jesuits are interred.
Winner of the IWSC Australian Wine Producer of the Year in 2018, Kilikanoon Wines offers not just tastings in the 19th-century farmhouse, but self-guided Wine by Cycle tours.
At the southern gateway to the Clare Valley is quirky Claymore Wines. Its unorthodox, music-inspired labels include Dark Side of the Moon (Shiraz), Joshua Tree (Riesling) and London Calling, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.
Mad Bastard Winery
Humour is also harvested in the Clare Valley. Forget online quizzes: whether you head for the tasting notes at Mad Bastard Winery or Good Catholic Girl Wines will be the ultimate personality test.