McLaren Vale branches out

d'Arenberg Dead Arm vine

When I worked the 2008 vintage in McLaren Vale, Shiraz was the meat and drink of the region. Thousands of tonnes of it move around the region at harvest time, journeying from pickers to tractors to hoppers to fermenters. Grenache and Chardonnay were reasonably common too, but varieties more exotic than that were fairly rare. 

But among the 50 McLaren Vale tasting notes I took at this year's Australia Day tasting in London, no fewer than 18 different grape varieties feature, from Aglianico to Zinfandel. McLaren Vale has enjoyed a great flourishing of interest in so-called alternative varieties over the...