There are some 70 defined wine regions in Australia.
More than you thought?
We are an island about 4000 kilometres across. There’s a lot of countryside between Sydney and Perth. Most in the middle are not ideal for grapes, but we have been quite dedicated in planting vines through a southerly swathe from the Indian to the Pacific ocean.
Our vineyards straddle a vast landscape of different soils at different altitudes and latitudes, facing the bunch-altering forces of varying rainfalls, sun exposure and prevailing winds. It’s enough to confuse most plants but the mighty vine is able to produce wine-worthy grapes in almost any conditions.
However, it presents its best when it settles down in a special place.
How special is Clare!
Of course, many people claim many special places but we’re talking today to Tim Adams about his beloved Clare Valley a couple of hours drive north of Adelaide.
“If I have been away I always get goosebumps when driving back into the district, I love it that much.”
It has been his place of work for decades and the winemaking history of his region goes back to the early 1840s.
Most importantly in 1858, the 18-year-old Joseph Herman Knappstein arrived in the Clare from Germany. By 1895 he was running the Stanley Wine Company. He died in 1919 and the company went into management until his sons took over again in 1935. Shortly after a decision was made that transformed the company’s fortunes.
Home to a special grape variety
Cuttings were taken from the best of an old patch of vines, and acres were steadily replanted. The grape was Riesling and over the years, leading with refrigeration, closed and controlled fermentation, the Company pioneered one of the wines for which the Clare is now famous.
In 1962 Joseph’s 11th child, his son Karl, now known as Mr Mick took over. The name Knappstein became one of the most revered in the Valley. As was the winery at Leasingham, since the 1890s the largest in the Valley.
One of Mr Mick’s wise moves was to apprentice a young Tim Adams in the early 70s and appoint him as winemaker in 1982.
“Mr Mick, as a winemaker, tops the list of those I admire. I worked with him for 12 years and can seriously say I loved every minute. I learnt 90% of what I know today in those years.”
Establishing the Adams name
Fulfilling a dream in 2009, Tim Adams bought the 80 hectare Rogers vineyard where the legendary Leasingham bin 56 Cabernet Malbec was sourced. He followed that in 2011 buying the venerable Leasingham winery.
“The wines that made me really want to make wine were the 1971 Leasingham Bin 56 and the Bin 7 Riesling that Mr Mick made while I was under his guidance.”
Tim now makes a number of wines under the Mr Mick label a tribute he says is his affordable expressions of Clare.
He also releases his finest wines under the Tim Adams name.
In another important purchase with more than a tinge of nostalgia, Tim bought Number 7 Dominic Street in the heart of the township of Clare. This is the place where JH Knappstein set up his first facilities in 1894.
This classic building now houses the Mr Mick Cellar Door and Kitchen… a splendid place to settle in and sample the Valley’s pleasures in food and wine.
The Special Vineyard Range
We tasted two of Tim’s Special Vineyard wines sourced from premium fruit from single vineyard sites.
The ‘Ladera” Tempranillo 2016 and the “Schaefer” Shiraz 2014.
(Also in this series are the ‘Skilly Ridge’ Riesling 2018 and the ‘Watervale’ Cabernet Malbec 2015.)
The Tempranillo produces tiny crops of very small berries giving a dense tannin structure and an intense fruitfulness. The success today of this savoury grape originally from Spain proves Tim’s choice to plant it in Clare was truly visionary.
The ‘Schaefer’ Shiraz exhibits strength and elegance. With two years in new French oak, it has density and power but with a ‘gentleness’ only Clare can offer.
These wines under his own name are drinking proof of his winery’s philosophy. “… we prefer to guide the fruit from vineyard to wine rather than making it into something else. We want our wines to taste like the varieties from which they are grown.”
More news on the way
As they continue with the adoption of new varieties they are hoping to surprise us with a Fiano in 2020. This is an Italian white grape known for its clear bright flavours, a fuller-bodied white with nuttiness amongst its bright citrus.
Go, Tim! There are some stirring times ahead for a maker we’ll keep our eye on.