South Australia boasts a surprisingly diverse wine portfolio, led by red wines from the Barossa Valley and Coonawarra regions. Cabernet Sauvignon is the region’s star, but shiraz and grenache are also well represented.
Drink your way through the state’s historic wine regions and enjoy local delicacies at cellar doors and quaint villages. Sleepover in a farmhouse or go glamping on a vineyard.
The Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s most historic wine regions, and known worldwide for its intense and concentrated Shiraz wines. The region is home to some of the oldest surviving vines, and has earned the distinction of being phylloxera-free. The region is divided into several sub-regions, with Tanunda at the heart of it all. Its vineyards are spread out over gentle hills draped in vines as far as the eye can see, and its wines are characterised by their deep colour, high levels of ripeness, and complex flavours of fig, prune, and cocoa accompanied by polished tannins.
The region is located an hour north of Adelaide, and it’s easy to reach by car. There are plenty of tours that leave from the city, and you can also take a bus or train to Gawler before catching a taxi into the region. You can also take a scenic flight to get sweeping views of the vineyards from the air.
One of the best places to start is at Lambert Estate in Angaston, where you can enjoy a structured wine tasting and some local seasonal produce from gourmet platters. From here, you can visit Henschke Hill of Grace, one of Australia’s most famous single vineyard wines.
Another great option is Peter Lehmann, a legendary cellar door that’s been around for more than 100 years. Their Stonewall Shiraz is a classic of the Barossa, and their cellar door has a shady lawn and a welcoming atmosphere. They also rescue kangaroos, which you can see in their pen as you sip your wine.
Often overshadowed by the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills wine regions, McLaren Vale is nevertheless one of Australia’s most celebrated regional wine areas. A short drive from the city of Adelaide, it’s known for producing some of Australia’s best Shiraz wines. It’s also home to Mediterranean varietals such as Sangiovese and Vermentino.
While grapevines are a major draw for visitors, the food scene here is equally as appealing. Influenced by waves of Italian migration, the local cuisine is rich in both traditional and modern Australian options. Some of the region’s most famous restaurants are located on winery estates, and provide a range of tasting menu options.
There’s also a strong focus on sustainable viticulture in the McLaren Vale wine region, with local producers leading the way in terms of organic and biodynamic vineyard practices. A dedication to sustainability has led the wine industry in South Australia to be internationally recognised for its work in this area.
Whether you’re visiting the region for its wine, food or both, it’s a good idea to find an experienced tour guide who can create a custom-made itinerary for you. North Carolina native Jon Overcash leads small group tours that offer exclusive access to cellar doors, breweries and distilleries throughout the Fleurieu Peninsula and beyond.
Journey Home Wines founder Jodie Hill has created the SummerVines: Donkey Sunset experience, a unique opportunity to enjoy wine tasting and take in the awe-inspiring scenery of McLaren Vale at dusk. The highlight of the tour is Jodie’s pet donkey Agatha, who loves making new friends and is more than happy to lead guests through the vineyards (if she can be persuaded). Join this winery-hopping adventure on January 21st to see for yourself.
A narrow strip of rich, red terra rossa soil on top of limestone sits at the heart of the Coonawarra Wine Region, a picturesque area famous for bold Cabernet Sauvignon wines. With more than 24 cellar doors, this area of the Limestone Coast is a quiet, uncrowded wine region with a true sense of community and a welcoming country atmosphere.
The Coonawarra Wine Region lies southeast of Adelaide and north of Mount Gambier, bounded by Naracoorte Caves National Park. The landscape is flat and the climate is moderate to cool, influenced by the Southern Ocean. The combination of sea and sun produces wines with soft tannins and a fine structure.
While shiraz was once the region’s most prominent grape, cabernet now makes up over double its hectarage. This is probably a reflection of the fact that while many regions can produce great shiraz, it takes more skill to create excellent cabernet sauvignon on Coonawarra’s prized soils.
One of the best ways to experience Coonawarra is to drive the Riddoch Highway, a winery trail that winds through the region. Wynns Coonawarra Estate is the region’s oldest winery and was founded in 1891 by John Riddoch, who recognised the potential of the region’s unique terra rossa soils. The estate’s beautiful, limestone-faced cellar is still in use today.
Other top producers include Brand’s Laira and Hollick, both of which have cellar doors in the heart of the terra rossa district. Rymill Wiery is another highlight and is an impressive winery set among luscious vineyards. This winery’s gorgeous building is also home to the restaurant, which offers a tasting menu of contemporary Australian cuisine.
For those who prefer to let someone else do the driving, there are local tour companies that offer customized wine tours of the region. Renting a car is a straightforward option from Adelaide Airport, about a four-hour drive away, or Mount Gambier Airport which is only a 30minute flight. There are limited hotels and motels in the area, though the town of Penola is central to the majority of wineries.
Just a short drive from Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills are a young region that’s playing an important role in the evolution of Australian wine. It’s renowned for crispy cool-climate classics like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay but is also pushing the boundaries with alternative varieties like Pinot Noir and Shiraz. The Hills’ landscape inspires creativity in winemakers, with winding roads and picturesque villages at every turn.
The region is also home to a variety of boutique wineries that offer personalised experiences. Visit Shaw + Smith for a limited release wine flight experience or enjoy a glass of fine wines at Penfolds Magill Estate. Other top wineries include Bird in Hand and Hahndorf Hill.
A trip to the Adelaide Hills will reveal a surprisingly diverse range of vineyards, with many producing a multitude of grape varieties. The Hills’ higher altitude and land diversity make it ideal for differentiating wine styles, allowing producers to express their personality with each sip.
Wine is more than just a drink in South Australia; it’s an experience and a lifestyle. Whether you’re seeking an adventure in the McLaren Vale, tasting wines at The Lane, or exploring historic pubs (including one with a 4,000-bottle floor-to-ceiling cellar), you’ll find something special here.
South Australia’s wine regions are a feast for the senses and there’s no better way to explore them than on a luxury Adelaide Hills Wine Tour from Sequoia Lodge. Book yours today.
The Riverland region is Australia’s biggest wine producer. It produces more than a quarter of all Australian wines by volume and is known as a bulk-producing powerhouse. Many of the grapes grown here are used in cheaper labels. And, for the most part, the region’s name isn’t even printed on the bottle – it is often blended with wine from other regions.
Nevertheless, there are some very good wines coming out of the region, and a new generation of producers is pushing for change in the industry. They’re embracing alternative varieties and experimenting with sustainable viticulture practices to create wines that are unique to the region.
It’s a tough time to be a grower in the Riverland. Oversupply of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon has hit the regional market hard, and high input costs are straining the local economy. The recent floods have only served to exacerbate the pressure.
One of the region’s most prominent young producers is Ashley Ratcliff, a Barossa boy who bought his first Riverland vineyard in 2002. He says that he did it partly because it was cheaper than the Barossa, but more importantly he wanted to “remould” the culture of the region.
Riverland’s winemakers are focusing on producing quality over quantity, and some of its best wines come from the old vines that dot the landscape. It’s a great place to taste smoky, spicy, and rich shiraz, and it is also home to some of the country’s most renowned GSM red blends (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre), which are major blending grapes in French Southern Rhone wines. The best wines from the region are those that showcase its rocky, clay-based soils and its cool, dry climate.