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


Angove Winery  D'Arenberg  The General Wine Bar  Woodstock 

Discover the cellar doors of the McLaren Vale wine region.

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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.

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.

Fast Facts

  • Latitude:
  • Altitude:
    50–200 m
  • Heat degree days:
  • Growing season rainfall:
    180 mm
  • Mean January temp:
  • Harvest:
    Mid February to late April
  • Chief viticultural hazard:

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.

McLaren Vale key varietals

“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

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