Give me an R.
Give me an O.
Give me a C.
Give me a K.
Give me an S.
Come on everyone; put your hands together and let’s make it a big welcome for Clare Valley Rocks.
And folks, we are not just talking about any old rock and roll show here.
The Clare Valley’s Rocks make the Rolling Stones look like a kindergarten band in a gravel pit.
The Stones may go back decades, but Clare Valley Rocks goes back millions of years.
Hundreds of millions of years even.
And a new project has drawn a line straight from the depths of the NeoProterozoic period to that delicious glass of Clare Riesling you enjoyed last weekend.
Geologist Mick Roche has spent the past year researching, crawling over and digging into land the length and breadth of the Clare Valley to come up with the complete picture of the earth beneath the valley’s vines”.
First and foremost Mick (Roche, not Jagger) wants to set the record (or CD) straight.
The Clare Valley isn’t. A valley, that is.
“It is a region, made up of a series of ridges and valleys,” Roche explained.
To prove it he pulled out the latest release from Clare Valley Rocks – a brochure cum map which not only shows where every winery in the region is, it explains what types of soils they are sitting on.
And where those soils came from.
“Clare started off somewhere between 500 and 800 million years ago as sedimentary layers as much as 15km deep,” Roche said.
“Then the pressures of tectonic plate movement forced those layers up into a mountain range which would have dwarfed the Himalayas,” he said.
“Over the next 100 million years weather eroded those mountains away and left Clare with the rich soils it values so highly today.
“The dirt which washed away actually became the eastern states, which I think explains a lot about them.”
The role of that soil and those rocks in the production of the region’s premium wine is the focus of a new interpretive project involving local industry groups.
Which will see geological interpretive sites the length and breadth of the region – there will be one in Woolies’ car park and another at Neagles Rock Lookout for example – so people drinking their way along the Riesling Trail can get, for the first time, the full story of Clare Valley wine.
Roche said the project aims to shed more light on the complex relationship often described as “terroir”.
Although it is actually “goût de terroir” which means, literally, a taste of the earth.
“My backyard has terroir,” Roche said.
“The Clare Valley, however, really does offer a taste of the earth through its many beautiful wines,” he said.
“Goût de terroir is a descriptor referring to the set of special characteristics the geography, geology and climate of a certain place, interacting with a grapevine’s genetics, expressed in wine.”
The project is a joint venture involving the Clare Valley Winemakers and the Clare Region Winegrape Growers’ Association, which recruited Roche, of Stewardship Matters, to survey the ancient geology of the Clare Valley and its importance to producing the region’s premium wines, including its internationally renowned Riesling.
Clare Valley Rocks was launched on October 29 and is the first time there has been a co-ordinated effort to develop a consumer-friendly explanation of the region’s geological history and how it relates to the current landscape and geography.
The project will also provide wine consumers and other visitors with simple interpretive information to assist them with their understanding and appreciation of the wines of the Clare Valley(s).
The geological survey results will be presented in several formats easily accessible to the wine industry and the public:
- A brochure which explores the connection between wine and the earth below the vines.
- A map showing distribution of geology, soil and vineyards.
- Signs strategically located at 12 sites around the valley, describing the geology and soil profiles.
- Winery-specific soil profile displays.
- Website with extensive technical information, including the Clare Valley’s soils, climate, geology and groundwater.
Clare Region Winegrape Growers’ Association president Troy van Dulken said the project was a great initiative with a coordinated effort from the winemakers’ and grapegrowers’ associations to develop such an exciting project in the Clare Valley.
“From a grapegrowing perspective, it is great to see what lies underneath the vines and gives visitors to the Clare Valley an insight to the enormous variation of soil types and the challenges that this brings with it for growers,” van Dulken said.
“It also underlies the great job grapegrowers do in producing amazing quality grapes for the winemakers to turn into liquid expressions of the Clare Valley.”
That potential was unearthed at 61 pits Roche dug throughout the valley – going down a metre at each site to uncover the full story.
Several cellar doors in the Valley now have acrylic tubes or boxes with the dirt from those pits showing the bands of soils in which their vines are growing.
As Roche puts it, the work helps people to complete their own wine stories.
“When the brief for this project was done, it was not about proving you have this to get that at the finish because it doesn’t work that way.
“There are so many different aspects to the wine in the glass you hold and the final factor is you, from your mood to the setting to the time of day and your own appreciation of the wine itself.
“Because in the end, wine is a matter of personal taste,” Roche said.
“What we have done is just provided people with the whole story to the history of this area, and done it in basic English so everyone will understand it.
“But I can say, from firsthand experience, the Clare Valley Rocks”
Phone 61 417 146 511.
Clare Valley Winemakers
Phone: 61 8 9943 0122.