Clare versus Eden Valley riesling

Eden Valley vineyard vista. Taste Eden Valley

If someone put two glasses of riesling in front of you, one each from the Clare and Eden valleys, would you be able to pick the difference?

These two regions are Australia’s earliest great riesling regions and have cheerfully vied for supremacy for over 60 years.

Inevitably, the subject of regional differences surfaced during my recent Clare and Eden Valley riesling tasting for The Real Review LIVE.

These two regions are Australia’s earliest great riesling regions and have cheerfully vied for supremacy for over 60 years. Several wineries make a riesling from each region, which can be fascinating to compare. The Hesketh family’s Vickery is one; Leo Buring is another.

Many other regions have arisen as great riesling sources in more recent times, such as Tasmania, western Victoria, WA’s Great Southern, and the Adelaide Hills.

I asked senior Penfolds winemaker Kym Schroeter what he felt were the differences between Eden and Clare. Penfolds makes an Eden Valley riesling, Bin 51, but no Clare, which may betray its preference.

Schroeter says:

“Eden Valley hallmarks to me have always been florals, spring flowers and rose petal perfumes along with a wet-stone minerality due to a lot of rocky/shaley soils. Eden Valley is also much more elegant than Clare with a stronger, more pronounced acidity. I think this is mostly due to the elevation of up to 550 m giving cooler late afternoons.

In Clare, I’ve always seen slightly fuller styles, more on the citrus spectrum (lemon/lime) and more of a talcy, sometimes softer, acidity. The climate is much warmer than Eden Valley.”

I tend to agree but I’m less extreme in stating the differences viz more or less elegance, higher or lower acidity, etc. Also, I don’t think the altitude is as different as all that. Clare also goes roughly from 400 to 550 metres.

I find it fascinating that in both regions, riesling is the most widely planted grape variety. Greater than shiraz and cabernet and, in Eden’s case, equal to both combined. This really surprised me.

Clare ValleyEden Valley
39%33%Riesling’s share of the 2020 grape harvest

Let’s look at altitude next (the figures are rounded):

Clare ValleyEden Valley
160-600 m220-630 mAltitude

So Eden is slightly higher, but I suspect riesling vineyards tend to be at the higher end of the range.

Clare ValleyEden Valley
18951730Growing season degree days for the last 30 years (an index of temperature which sums degrees Celsius from October to April)
22.4 °C21.4 °CMean January temperature
(a good guide to growing season temperatures)

So, by both indices of heat, Clare is clearly warmer. (All Wine Australia stats)

But wait. As soon as you make a pronouncement about wine, any wine, something will come along that shatters your assumptions.

Here is the list of wines we tasted on The Real Review LIVE:

The Hentley Farm was, at least in this context, quite a big, full-flavoured riesling, despite its low alcohol, while the Limefinger (Neil Pike’s new solo label) was super-restrained, delicate, refined and backward, promising to be a long-liver. There were often lime-citrus in the Eden wines and floral notes in the Clares.

Good luck if you were trying to pick the regions blind!

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