It gets hot in the Clare Valley. I've sat on the open verandah of a winery in mid-summer when the temperature easily exceeds 42 degrees Celsius and listened to tree branches cracking in the arid heat. It's like being inside a pizza oven. Vines seem to like it. Oddly enough, the Clare is famed for its rieslings. These grapes were transplanted to the dry, sunny South Australian climate from the foggy banks of the Rhine, and the change has transformed them. The delightful, full-bodied rieslings with enormous reservoirs of flavour are exceptional. They differ significantly from their great-grandfather vines from Europe. Well, why wouldn't they? The genetic make-up of the vine remains the same, but the environment is enormously different, with ample sun and heat, a red soil over limestone base and plenty of winter rain. It's ideal for vines. So well does riesling adapt to this climate that there is now a Riesling Trail snaking 27 kilometres through the Clare. It passes through the tiny farming hamlet of Watervale where Mitchell Estate has a plot. At an altitude of about 450 metres, the climate can be as cold and chill in winter as blistering in summer. The white produced on these low undulating hills is notable for stunning intensity of flavour. The wines of Mitchell have been gaining plaudits since 1975 when Andrew and Jane Mitchell converted an old sandstone barn used to store apples into a tasting room. They uncorked some of their new wines, and the world started to take notice. Clare is largely overlooked, even by connoisseurs of South Australian wines. The state's image is dominated largely by the Barossa, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale regions. To many, however, the wines of Clare are supreme. Wine has been grown in Clare since the first settlers arrived in the 1840s, but it came in prominence as a region producing outstanding varietals only in the 1970s. Growers favoured grenache and semillon as well as cabernet sauvignon. Shiraz is also produced by many wineries. But if you mention Clare today, the image that comes to mind is rieslings. The 1998 Mitchell riesling ($107) now on sale through Kedington Wines (fax: 2898 9183) is simply superb. It's crisp and snappy, with a toasty aroma. This is a perfect wine to go with any sort of fish dish. I had it with a grilled garoupa. Also on release is the 1996 Mitchell cabernet sauvignon which comes from the Sevenhill Vineyard. This is elegant and voluptuous. It's a big wine with a lot of berry flavour and full in the mouth. At $150, this gives you classic Australian character with a bonus of sophistication. However, if you're opening their generous red at home, make sure you take out the cork a couple of hours before you eat. It goes wonderfully with any red meat, although I had it with a chicken with a heavy herb-spice stuffing.