McLaren Vale is a township in the wine region of McLaren Vale in South Australia. At the time of the 2001 census it had a population of about 2,583 people. The township was formed in 1923 from a merging of the two original villages of Gloucester and Bellevue, which were established in the 1840s by British pioneers.
The McLaren Vale wine region is well known for its dry red wines, especially those made from Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot are also grown. White wine varieties in the region include Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon blanc and Riesling. In recent years innovative wineries have begun using less common varieties such as Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Barbera, Cinsaut, Vermentino and Viognier. Children’s author Alexander Foxhall was born in McLaren Vale, as was Newsboys frontman Peter Furler.
It is now accepted that the town was named after David McLaren, the Colonial Manager of the South Australia Company, who arrived in the colony in 1837 and departed three years later. There is some dispute because some sources claim that town was named after a John McLaren who surveyed the area in 1839. Before either of them came along the local Aborigines reputedly called the area Myallina Dooronga. Until as recently as the 1920s McLaren Vale was applied to the region more than to the particular town and even today there is a feeling that the surrounding vineyards are really McLaren Vale vineyards even if they are some kilometres outside the town.
This is an area which has always been about grape growing. As early as 1850 the historic Hardy and Seaview wineries were in operation. It is widely accepted that Thomas Hardy’s purchase of the Tintara vineyard in 1853 is the symbolic beginning of the town. Today the fundamental raison d’etre of the district has not changed.