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Cycle through vineyards on Clare Valley's Riesling Trail

Alia Parker's picture
O'Leary Walker Wines, Bicycling The Reisling Trail, Clare Valley. Cycle Traveller

In 1848, two Austrian Jesuit priests, having fled their homeland to escape religious oppression, travelled 120km north of Adelaide to set up a small congregation where they could enjoy religious freedom. What they found was not only the freedom they desired, but wonderfully fertile ground, perfect for growing grapes to make sacramental wine. As time has shown, the wine produced was of much too fine quality to be limited to sacramental purposes, and with that, the oldest winery in one of the world's award-winning wine regions was born.

Named Sevenhill after the Seven Hill district in Rome, the old stone church and cellar are now must-see destinations along The Riesling Trail, a scenic 35km crushed stone bike path that runs along a disused rail line between the towns of the Clare Valley.

Sevenhill Cellars, Clare Valley. Cycle Traveller copyright.It's late summer when I hit the trail; the grapes have been picked, barrels are fermenting, hints of yellow are beginning to appear on the vine leaves and the late summer sun provides a comforting warmth on our backs are we ride. The flat path curves its way through bush, farmland and vineyards, largely keeping us away from vehicle traffic and in a tranquil state of bliss. You can ride its length at a leisurely pace in about 2.5 hours, but why rush when there's so much to see?

We pop off the trail at intervals to visit the numerous wineries, historic sites and specialty shops along the way. We take the Father Rogalski Loop tril that runs off the main rail trail to reach the beautiful grounds of Sevenhill. Some in the congregation have set up a picnic under the shade of a giant tree creating a picture straight out of a book. If it weren't for the odd gum tree, you could easily be tricked into believing you were in France or Spain with the vine-covered hills converging on the old stone church.

The Clare Valley is famous for its Riesling, an aromatic white grape variety that originated in Germany, with the suitable soil and climate rightly making the Clare Australia's preeminent Reisling region. But the Clare also produces some outstanding reds, as I discover when I poke my head into the cellar door at Jim Barry, where I sample some of what has been recognised as the world's best Shiraz. I can honestly say the experience has changed me and I've developed a lust for a smooth drop of red like never before.

There are countless things to see and do along The Riesling Trail and it's the perfect side trip to work into a bicycle tour or weekend cycling trip. Not only that, but it's arguably the most pleasant way to visit the region's wineries. However, do be responsible and don't get drunk and ride your bike at the same time. The cellar doors have spit buckets there to keep you pedalling straight. Take a pannier because you'll most certaily want to take some wines home with you.

Bicycling the Riesling Trail, Clare Valley South Australia. Cycle Traveller copyright.If this sounds like something you'd like to do but you don't have a bike with you, bike hire is available at a number of places in the Clare. You can find more information, including a trail map, on this Riesling Trail brochure. It's also worth noting that the Riesling Trail also connects to another rail trail – The Rattler Trail – a 19km extension southwards, and is also part of the much greater Mawson Trail, which runs for close to 900km into the Flinders Ranges.

The Riesling Trail

  • Auburn to Watervale: 9km
  • Watervale to Sevenhill: 9km
  • Sevenhill to Clare: 7km
  • Clare to Barinia Road, White Hut: 10km

Images from top: 1. O'Leary Walker Wines, Clare Valley. 2. Vineyards at Sevenhill Cellars. 3. Bicycling on The Riesling Trail. Copyright Cycle Traveller.

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