Praised for its rather elegant and contemporary wines, the Adelaide Hills is a marvellous destination with wine experiences aplenty, and just 20 minutes from Adelaide’s CBD, it’s simply waiting to be explored. The cool-climate region allows for fruit-forward chardonnays, exotic pinot noirs, and herbaceous sauvignon blancs to flourish – and they’re fascinating in taste and profile. Although it’s not only interesting wine that marks the Adelaide Hills as a favourable destination; European-influenced towns, cheese cellars, top-tier restaurants and local crafted goods are also to be found. Plus, with striking landscapes to also enjoy, it’s no wonder the Adelaide Hills is, in the words of James Halliday, a “truly outstanding region".
THE HISTORY OF THE adelaide hills
The history of the region isn’t quite the fairy-tale as although viticulture thrived through the Hills in the 1870s, the vines began to die off some years later. Slowly the vines vanished, one by one, until in the 1930s the last was removed. The region was then left empty of vines. It wasn’t until 40 years later that a promising new vine sprouted, in 1971, and viticulture recommenced, thanks to Leigh and Jan Verrall. As James Halliday shares, “The arrival of Brian Croser to found Petaluma in 1976 marked the birth of the Adelaide Hills region as it is known today.”
Climate and Soil
Climatic diversity across the region makes the Adelaide Hills an optimal growing destination for elegant wine. The diversity has produced soils that are not just highly variable, but structurally and chemically different too. They can be broken down into three categories: sandy loams, loams, and clay subsoils. Soils that unite can also be found, birthing shale and ironstone. Topography allows soil depth from the curvaceous hills to high slopes. This results in varying vine growth, and from that, interesting wine styles.
Adelaide Hills Wine Styles
The Adelaide Hills enjoys a high elevation, with sites between 400 and 700 metres above sea level. High altitude and cool conditions help to create grapes plump in flavour and varietal character, and allows the grapes to retain good natural acidity. Ample sunlight also means the grapes get adequate heat to produce sugar, and in turn, full flavour. Fresh, invigorating and contemporary wines then follow.
Pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are best known from the region, with sparkling styles of pinot noir and chardonnay also prevalent. However, the region has also been enjoying increasing success with other varieties, namely tempranillo, montepulciano and pinot grigio.
Showing all shades of elegance, chardonnay grapes grow throughout the Adelaide Hills. The natural acidity the soil minerals deploy allows for styles that are complex in character. Producers are achieving quality and longevity in their wines, which are also notably food-friendly.
The cool climate region that is the Adelaide Hills helps yield tropical aromas within its sauvignon blanc wines, particularly at night when the chill breezes by. This presents ideal growing conditions for sauvignon blanc in particular. James Halliday has said the quality and consistency has reached a point of excellence, where they are “one of Australia’s best, with great intensity and length”.
Of all South Australian wine regions, the Adelaide Hills is regarded as the finest producer of pinot noir. The melange of climate profiles available through the region produces a diversity of pinot noir styles. Everything from earthy, herbaceous and spiced styles to fruit-forward, fleshy and vibrant pinot noirs can be found in the Adelaide Hills.
A significant proportion of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes are grown for the creation of sparkling wine in the Adelaide Hills. When talking style, the region is commended for its purity, fine flavours and a lingering finish.
THINGS TO DO
With a region so wonderfully complex in all it produces, surrounding activities are just as enthralling. The European-influenced town of Hahndorf is first on the list of interesting finds. Settled by Lutheran migrants in the 19th-century, the sweet town is home to charming German-style architecture and tasty feeds, both equal parts modern as traditional.
On the traditional front, head to Hahndorf Inn, the town’s bustling Bavarian eatery that’s family run and more than 150 years old. The venue comprises a main dining restaurant, casual bar area, outdoor dining and a cosy saloon bar with an open fire. Try their Taste of Germany Platter showcasing the best of the cuisine. It’s a selection of authentic German meats, like smoke Gassler chop and Eisbein pork hock, with mashed potato, sauerkraut and fresh pretzels. Or, if you’re after something simpler, a classic Schweiner Schnitzel will do well, which works with Viennese-style crumbled pork and creamy potato salad. To drink, just choose from their array of German-style beers, they’re only the best in the world.
For something more modern, try Hahn & Hamlin, a humble cafe that embraces South Australian produce. By morning, they’re a forward-thinking breakfast spot with organic coffee and artisan pastries, and by afternoon, a perfect spot to enjoy local cheese and wine. Try their lunch menu too: saltbush pork and beef meatballs, lentil and feta spring vegetable salad, and grilled sandwiches (the falafel is sublime). If your love for cheese runs farther, visit nearby Woodside Cheese Wrights, the Adelaide Hills’ artisan cheese store running 18 years strong. Enjoy their wide range of cheeses, secret cheese cellar, or cheese-making classes if you’re looking to learn.
Plenty of wineries across the region offer fantastic food and fine wine. Pike & Joyce, Sidewood Estate and
Food aside, there’s plenty of art and culture to uncover. JamFactory is the centre of contemporary art and design. It’s free to enter and full of inspiration. The Royal SA Society of Arts is the oldest-running art society in Australia, since 1856, and showcases the best of emerging and established artists. And the Morialta Conservation Park provides wonderful hikes and forest treks if you’re after fresh air.
Adelaide Hills Accomodation
Although conveniently close to Adelaide’s CBD, some visitors enjoy experiencing the region by night, with a range of accommodation options. The Crafters Hotel is one of note, that’s just as sleek as its restaurant. The decor stays true to its 1830s heritage building, yet additions have created a modern element to its luxury and style.
Another fantastic recommendation is the historically renowned Mount Lofty House built by the great Arthur Hardy, a South Australian colonial settler known for a number achievements, including the planting of the Mount Lofty Botanical Gardens. The estate houses a restaurant and gallery, offers guided tours, and even includes a day spa. They also offer a number of rooms to indulge within – garden, valley, or entire cottage is your choice.
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Mid March to late April