A Winning Merger of Gold and Wine: Barossa Valley’s Thorn-Clarke Winery

Thorn-Clarke wines is the result of a marriage between families of grape growers and gold miners in South Australia.

A combination of gold and wine can’t be bad. The Australian winery Thorn-Clarke, noted especially for its fine Barossa Valley shiraz wines, is effectively a merger of gold-mining and grape-growing families. Its wines, fittingly, have been scoring gold medals.

It all began in the mid-1800s, when earlier generations of the Thorn and the Clarke families emigrated from England and settled in Barossa Valley, the now-famous wine region in South Australia. In the 1870s, the Thorns put down roots there as dairy farmers and orchardists, and even though they had no experience with viticulture, they cultivated the shiraz vineyard on the land they had bought. It is thought to have been planted in about 1854, and after 170 years it is still producing grapes, although a much-reduced crop.




As the Thorns began farming, there was a gold rush in the Barossa Valley. One James Goddard, who had arrived in Australia as a 16-year-old sailor, discovered the first gold deposits there in 1870, and he opened his own gold mine. Goddard’s daughter married a man named Frederic Clarke, and a later marriage brought the Thorns and the Clarkes together. It was descendants of that family who bought vineyard land in the Barossa Valley in 1987. Initially, they were growers who sold their grapes to wineries, but in 1998 they took the plunge and began to make their own wine under the Thorn-Clarke label.




Thorn-Clarke now owns vineyards in the Barossa Valley and the Eden Valley. Each vineyard has its own climatic conditions that favour specific varieties and wine styles. The floor of the Barossa Valley is warm with low rainfall and is ideal for shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. In contrast, the Eden Valley is one of the coolest vineyard sites in South Australia. Chardonnay, riesling, and pinot gris flourish there, and Thorn-Clarke grows them all, along with other varieties, including pinot noir and merlot. They make varietal wines and blends, such as their pinot noir-chardonnay sparkling wine and Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Quartage, which brings together cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and petit verdot.

Given its Barossa base, it’s understandable that the winery’s shirazes, such as Thorn-Clarke Sandpiper Shiraz and Terra Barossa Shiraz, have won gold at international wine competitions. But so have other varieties, such as Thorn-Clarke William Randall Cabernet Sauvignon.





These are high-quality wines across the board. Although their settler roots took hold nearly two centuries ago, the Thorn-Clarke family’s wines go back only an eighth of that time. But they have quickly established their place in the crowded field of Barossa wines.

Thorn-Clarke wines

Thorn-Clark Barossa Shiraz

Thorn-Clarke Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling Wine

Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Quartage

Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Shiraz