The flush Adelaide Plains wine region lies just north of the state’s capital city and contributes to South Australia’s illustrious reputation of grape-growing and being top suppliers of red and white wine.
Viticulture thrives in the Mediterranean-like climate here, with hot dry summers followed by mild winters and low rainfall. Most grapes leave the area to find their way into other regions for production, but there are some notable cellar doors and labels to explore. The key varietals to note include the wonderfully juicy shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. It’s not just about rich red wines though – the region has fantastic opportunities to wander through parklands or experience local events.
Within a 30-minute drive from Adelaide city, expect to also discover exceptional produce. Largely pioneered by Italian migrants, freshly pressed olive oil is in hot supply, alongside a range of other artisan goods. Visitors moving further east will venture into Barossa Valley territory for further wine exploration.
James Halliday on Adelaide Plains
Laws relating to the sale of alcohol have never been rational, and are unlikely to ever become so: there are too many competing forces – ranging from neo-prohibitionists to governments wishing to extract ever-increasing tax revenue. But Walter Duffield must stand as one of the great martyrs: in 1844 he sent a case of ‘Echunga Hock’ to Queen Victoria, and was promptly prosecuted for making wine without the requisite licence.
Notwithstanding this bizarre start, viticulture flourished in the Adelaide Hills, with over 530 hectares of vines in bearing in the 1870s. For the same reasons which bore down on other cool-climate regions across South Australia and Victoria, vines slowly but surely disappeared until the last were removed in the 1930s. When viticulture recommenced in 1971, it was in the warmest north-western corner of the region, courtesy of Leigh and Jan Verrall, but the arrival of Brian Croser to found Petaluma in 1976 marked the birth of the Adelaide Hills region as it is known today.
From the outset, the 400-metre contour line circumscribed the southern and eastern boundaries, and continues to do so. This might suggest a neat parcel of climate, soil and wine type, but in fact there is considerable climatic variation between the northern and central areas. In the northern vineyards spread around the hamlets of Paracombe, Birdwood and Gumeracha (and most notably those with a west-facing tilt) heat summations rise substantially, and full-bodied red wines are made. In the centre, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are dominant, producing fine table wine.
But even this constitutes a dangerous generalisation, for site selection is all- important: as Brian Croser has handsomely demonstrated at Petaluma, Chardonnay grown within the Piccadilly Valley subregion is profoundly influenced by the aspect of the vineyard, with north-, east- and west-facing slopes producing wines with markedly different aromas and flavours.
This subregion, and the adjacent Lenswood subregion, are particularly attractive. The roads twist and turn, rise and fall, offering cameo vistas with bewildering frequency. It is exceedingly beautiful in autumn, yet is still a largely undiscovered treasure. Although it is less than 30 minutes’ drive from the centre of Adelaide, no one should venture into this country without a detailed road map, for it is impossible to navigate by simply using one’s sense of direction.
Further south still is the Kuitpo area, not far from the escarpment leading down to McLaren Vale. Here are some of the largest vineyard developments – notably those of eminent viticulturist Geoff Hardy and that of Rosemount Estate – and the accent swings to Semillon,Shiraz,MerlotandSauvignonBlanc. There is a distinct change in the character of the countryside, more akin to that of the north, and the wine style follows suit, even though ripening is very late.
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Mid February to early March