McLaren Vale Wine Region
Bordered by mountains and sea, the McLaren Vale wine region provides interest for the traditional and intrepid wine lover alike, with its wineries serving up classic wines, surprising styles and impressive quality across the board.
As the first place vines were planted in South Australia, McLaren Vale is a well-established wine region with a wealth of haloed, ancient sites. And with its wine trail offering a huge range of producers experimenting with all manner of varieties and styles; landscapes stretching from the Mount Lofty Ranges through undulating vineyards and out to the sea; and cellar doors dishing up experiences from the casual to the conceptual, it’s a dream destination for travellers.
McLaren Vale has many secrets waiting to be discovered, from the folds of its ever-changing landscape, to its small restaurants and cellar doors and the spectacular d’Arenberg Cube. – James Halliday
If you’re touching down in the city, it’s a short 45-minute road-trip from Adelaide to McLaren Vale. Adding to its appeal, McLaren Vale is within easy reach of the Fleurieu region’s breezy beaches, made inviting by the typically temperate weather, and if you have some extra time it could be worth tacking on the drive and ferry ride to visit the dramatic, deserted coves of Kangaroo Island. That said, with McLaren Vale’s charming heritage architecture, tempting restaurants, 80-plus cellar doors, and producers of food and drink from cheeses to spirits, olive oils, honey, chutney, chocolate and more, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied.
Go to section: The history of McLaren Vale | McLaren Vale's soils | The wine varieties of McLaren Vale | McLaren Vale Winemaking | The sub-regions of McLaren Vale
McLaren Vale's history
With nearly 200 years of winemaking history, McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions. But this doesn’t mean it’s set in its ways. In fact, one of the hallmarks of McLaren Vale is its inventiveness, with winemakers constantly pushing the boundaries and setting new benchmarks. Since its beginnings in the early 1800s, McLaren Vale has excelled with Rhone red varieties such as shiraz and grenache, but it was with an influx of Italian migrants that the food and wine scene here really spread its wings. Today, it is revered as a home of food-friendly varietals that reflect its mix of influences and warm, dry climate.
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A cutting-edge experience at the d'Arenberg Cube
The d'Arenberg Cube is a landmark piece of architecture that offers experiences spanning art, dining and, of course, wine. Find out more >
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Wines and wildlife at WOODSTOCK Wine
WOODSTOCK combines wine and food with wildlife and nature. Sample at the cellar door, dine at the restaurant, visit the onsite sanctuary and take part in daily kangaroo feedings. Find out more >
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A relaxed vibe at the General Wine Bar and Kitchen
A collaboration between Mr. Riggs Wine Company and Zonte's Footstep, this cellar door has an expansive drinks list, including cocktails and beers, and various dining options. Find out more >
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Beach adjacent tasting at Angove Family Winemakers
Situated in the family’s historic and trophy-winning Warboys Vineyard, the Angove McLaren Vale Cellar Door has spectacular views over the mature shiraz vines, a mix of great value wines and a location 10 minutes from the beachfront. Find out more >
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Nature and wines combine in McLaren Vale
McLaren Vale offers not only diverse wine experiences, but also an array of natural attractions.
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A vineyard in McLaren Vale
A distinctly Australian scene, with a view to the vines through the gumtrees.
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McLaren Vale's warm, dry climate means diverse varietals can be grown here.
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A stone's throw from the sea
Mix up big days of wine tasting with beach walks and ocean swims.
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A haven for red wine lovers
McLaren Vale is famed for its red wines, particularly shiraz and grenache.
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A palette of possibility
McLaren Vale is fortunate to be able to grow myriad different grape varieties.
The story of McLaren Vale's soils
McLaren Vale’s climate is a contributing factor to its diverse wine styles, but that’s not the whole story. The success of its wine is linked to an intricate geological story under-vine. Up to 50 sub-soils can be found across the region, some dating back 550 million years, and they each contribute to the character of its sub-districts and wines. An intensive piece of work has been done to map these, showing specifics about the soil types, where in the region they exist and how old they are, as well as where McLaren Vale's wineries lie in relation to them.
McLaren Vale’s sub-regions
McLaren Vale is demarcated by its various elevations and soils into several distinctive sub-regions. Their proximities to the mountains and sea also create particular microclimates, which in turn influence the styles of their resulting wines. Of these, one of the most celebrated is Blewitt Springs, with sand over clay soils and a location alongside the southern part of the Mount Lofty Ranges that’s sacred for winemaking. According to James Halliday, the wines here “have a unique structure, texture, flavour and style, elegant yet highly aromatic and effortlessly flavoured”. Others sub-regions of note are Willunga, Sellicks, Seaview and McLaren Flat.
McLaren Vale's wine varieties
The Mediterranean climate, mixed with the cooling influence of the Mount Lofty Ranges and the coastline, means an array of wine varieties are successfully grown and made in McLaren Vale. Shiraz in a complex, sumptuous style dominates the landscape and its cabernet sauvignon competes with some of the best, but it’s McLaren Vale grenache that has industry insiders talking. In addition to these note-worthy reds, there’s a throng of wines that thrive here – especially Italian and Spanish varietals that are suited to the environment.
“Grenache is McLaren Vale’s secret weapon – not merely Australia’s best, but every bit as good as that of the Rhône Valley.” – James Halliday
McLaren Vale’s winemaking
The riches of McLaren Vale have attracted top talent from around Australia, with backgrounds as varied as the wines. The industry includes savvy business people who have come here for a creative, country change; sommeliers putting their knowledge to the ultimate test; well-known wineries opening their brands up to more playful styles; successful winemakers taking their crafts in fresh directions; and eco-warriors with organic, biodynamic and sustainable wineries that lead the way worldwide. There are also those who have always been here. Multi-generational wineries that uphold the history of the region play an integral part. In addition to Mother Nature’s influence, the hand of the winemaker is not lost on McLaren Vale’s wines. Experimentation spans the use of alternative vessels (i.e. clay amphora and ceramic eggs over the traditional oak and steel), fermentation with wild yeasts to create surprising character and impressive texture, the grafting of vineyards to less-known varietals, and the puzzling together of those less-known styles into blends that are truly idiosyncratic wines.
Learn more about the singular diversity of McLaren Vale
More than wine
McLaren Vale has an embarrassment of riches to offer its visitors. Not only do its cellar doors deliver a smorgasbord of wines and dining, but it also has beautiful beaches to play on, historic streets to stroll along, nature trails to follow, and a variety of locally made treats to take home or back to your stay.
Read our five must-do activities on a trip to McLaren Vale
Recommended places to stay from our friends at Beautiful Accommodation
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Beautiful Accommodation: The Australasian Circa 1858
This award-winning guesthouse in the seaside town of Goolwa (30 minutes from McLaren Vale) offers five contemporary suites and Asian-inspired dining. Find out more >
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Beautiful Accommodation: Mt Bold Estate
This one-bedroom, two-storey apartment set within a private vineyard offers stunning views over the Southern Vales as well as a spa, tennis courts and balcony. Find out more>
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Beautiful Accommodation: McLaren Eye
This two-bedroom hilltop villa provides one of the best panoramas on the Fleurieu Peninsula, plus a helipad if you prefer to fly than drive the 45 minutes from Adelaide. Find out more >
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Beautiful Accommodation: Lush Pastures
Receive a complimentary bottle of wine when you stay in one of the three cottages at Lush Pastures, which share a guest lounge equipped with comfy couches and a fireplace. Find out more >