December 17, 2021

Around South Australia in 20 wines

We can literally taste our way around South Australia with 18 official geographically defined wine regions – plus a couple of others – that attract visitors with their welcoming cellar doors.

North, south, east and west. Whichever direction you head in, there are vineyards and wineries that shape the way we live.

We’re so blessed with wine riches that Adelaide and its surrounding regions have been chosen to represent Australia in an elite international association known as the Great Wine Capitals Global Network. Not only is wine a significant contributor to SA’s economy, it has become one of our major cultural and tourism assets.

Wines from the Adelaide (Urban) and Southern Eyre Peninsula zones, which are not geographically defined wine regions, have also been included in this list and are marked in blue. Map courtesy Wine Australia.

Importantly, every region offers a different experience, both in its landscape, climate, history and the many variations we offer on a wine theme.

We’ve mapped out South Australia via the wines styles we are best known for. This collection pinpoints particular wine styles and varieties starting with their districts across the state, highlighting an extraordinary range of tastes. Where possible, the producers have been chosen also because they offer a cellar door experience in their region.

Start your engines, get on your bikes and trek your way around the juiciest map of South Australia you’ve ever seen.

Barossa Valley
Turkey Flat 2019 Shiraz ($55)
The Barossa Valley is the lower plains sub-region of the greater Barossa zone, often referred to as the valley floor, home to some of the oldest producing vineyards on the planet. It’s where most of the big-name winery attractions are located, where the towns and hamlets are still thriving, their Lutheran church spires recalling the region’s Silesian settler history. Among scores of cellar doors and wineries in the district, Turkey Flat’s is set on ancient creek beds near Tanunda, their shiraz and grenache wines typical of the famed rich and powerful reds of the region. This shiraz, the core of it from 1847 plantings, dark fruited, charry and flinty, with French oak maturation encouraging kitchen herbal notes like thyme and lavender over a solid base, is gutsy, full-bodied and classically Barossan.

Try also: Hentley Farm Shiraz, John Duval Wines, Alkina, The Cutting, and many others.

Eden Valley
Henschke Julius Riesling 2021 ($47)
Eden Valley lies up into the hills east of the Barossa Valley floor, with several small villages dotting the magnificent rolling landscape and picturesque vineyards, some also planted back in the mid-19th century. The altitude encourages cooler climate style wines, riesling the hallmark of the region, while distinctive shiraz also is a highlight. While there are only a few cellar doors in the district, many valley floor-based wineries tap into the region for their whites and finer shiraz styles. Henschke’s cellar door is a must visit – their Hill of Grace Shiraz from an ancient single vineyard is one of Australia’s most famous wines. The Julius Riesling has trademark regional citrus blossom and lime leaf and zest characters.

Try also: Yalumba Viognier from their historic estate on the outskirts of Angaston.

Clare Valley
Wines by KT 5452 Riesling 2020 ($29)
Situated north of the Barossa and rising into the northern Mt Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley is actually a series of smaller valleys between the towns of Auburn and Clare itself. Renowned for its awe-inspiring gum tree-dotted landscapes, two sub-regional names stand out for their reputation with the riesling variety, Watervale and Polish Hill River. Kerri Thompson (KT) is devoted to the region’s signature white wine, working with single vineyard variations as well as a district expression that carries Watervale’s postcode in addition to the grape’s DNA of gentle lime aromatics followed by a deft and welcoming handling of the fruit’s natural citrus-like acidity.

Try also: Clare isn’t just about riesling, with a great reputation for its cabernet, malbec and shiraz, Tim Adams, Pikes, Mitchells and Pauletts, Mt Horrocks and Grosset among them.

Adelaide Hills
Deviation Road Adelaide Hills Loftia Vintage Brut 2017 ($48)
Within just 30 minutes of the city, this region is a major local attraction, its hills and valleys offering fabulous vistas, eye-popping seasonal colours, and a huge tick-list of cellar doors and eateries. The vast area offers an extraordinary diversity for winemaking, cooler climate varieties such as chardonnay and pinot producing fine varietal expressions as well as a burgeoning reputation for elite sparkling styles. Nestled in the Heathfield/Scotts Creek district, Deviation Road has garnered a national reputation for several iterations of traditional method (Champagne-inspired) bubbles, this a deliciously mouth-watering aperitif style with classic citrus and creamed bun complexities.

Try also: Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, Ashton Hills Pinot Noir, Shaw+Smith Sauvignon Blanc.

Adelaide (Urban)
Patritti Marion Vineyard 2020 Grenache Shiraz ($40)
Vineyards surrounded the city of Adelaide from the late 19th century where now suburban housing rules. Only a few remain in production, such as Penfolds’ Magill Estate in the eastern foothills and –more surprisingly – in the Marion council district, where tiny pockets of old vines are tended by the Patritti family out of their Dover Gardens winery and cellar door. The most recognisable is their Marion Vineyard Grenache Shiraz from a more than 100-year-old block on Oaklands Road. It’s fleshy, juicy and spicy, displaying all the glorious mysteries of old-vine grenache first and foremost.

Try also: Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2019.

Adelaide (Northern Plains and foothills)
Tenafeate Creek Sangiovese 2018 ($30)
The Virginia, Gawler River and Two Wells district 30 kilometres north of Adelaide CBD has been a market garden and fruit production hub for decades, with pockets of old shiraz and grenache vineyards still producing for small labels. Up in the foothills in the One Tree Hill area, a couple of wineries also work their blocks, which fly below the radar without a popular geographic indication to lock into. Tenafeate Creek’s cellar door showcases the area, this Italianate offer exuding plenty of fuller-bodied varietal personality.

Try also: Old Plains Power of One Old Vine Shiraz, and Longhop Old Vine Grenache.

McLaren Vale
S.C. Pannell Old McDonald Grenache 2019 ($65)
There are two overriding reasons why people flock to the McLaren Vale district: the beaches and the wines, with scores of cellar doors, tasting rooms and restaurants to amplify the lifestyle vibe. Shiraz and grenache are the hero wines here; Stephen Pannell’s insistence on grenache as the variety that speaks (and tastes) of the place it is grown is witnessed here via old vines in sandy country in the elevated Blewitt Springs area. Enticing spicy aromas, red berry juiciness and a fine-grained palate texture ensure every mouthful is a delight to the senses.

Try also: A vast range of varieties including fiano, sangiovese, tempranillo, and touriga from Olivers Taranga, Gemtree, Coriole, Chalk Hill and Ministry of Clouds.

Langhorne Creek
Lake Breeze Arthur’s Reserve 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec ($48)
Cabernet and malbec are the hero varieties of this much treasured region, just an hour south of Adelaide. Old vineyards occupy the floodplain between the Angas and Bremer rivers, while Lake Alexandrina immediately to the south offers a shoreline drive and endless horizons, as well as a unique climatic influence for the region’s elegant red wines. This much-awarded, classic Lake Breeze blend captures the essence of fine cabernet aromatics with the blue fruits and rusticity of regional specialty Malbec.

Try also: Bleasdale, Bremerton and Kimbolton.

Currency Creek/Finniss
Shaw Family Vintners Stonemason Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 ($15.50)
The small region of Currency Creek sits west of Langhorne Creek close to the shores of the lower River Murray as it enters the Goolwa Channel. Just inland also lie several vineyards along the Finniss River as it winds up into the foothills. Cabernet and shiraz are the varieties that succeed best here, cooled during the ripening season by Southern Ocean breezes. This is a value-focused cabernet that’s typical of the grape’s everyday personality: black fruits with a note of dark chocolate and mint. The Shaw Family also run a weekday cellar door.

Try also: Salomon Estate Cabernet, Shiraz and blends from the Finniss district.

Kangaroo Island
Springs Road Cabernet Sauvignon/ Shiraz 2018 ($35)
The island escape South Australians love for its natural assets, pristine wilderness, dramatic coastline and amazing wildlife. Food and wine fits neatly into that space as well, the latter providing several cellar door locations along key travel routes. KI’s setting means a cooler maritime climate which delivers distinctive medium-bodied and bright fruit styled cabernet and shiraz, here with a black berried and mint note to the nose from the cabernet, followed with plummy, spicy shiraz fruit in the palate.

Try also: Islander Estate Vineyards Bark Hut Road and Boxing Bay red blends, and The Stoke wines.

Southern Fleurieu Peninsula
Tapanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 ($55)
The Southern Fleurieu wraps around the tip of the peninsula south of Adelaide, taking in the towns of Myponga through to Normanville, around the coastline and nearby hills to Victor Harbor and Port Elliot. There are just a few vineyards and producers here, the best known being Tapanappa at Parawa; illustrious winemaker Brian Croser choosing the cold site to aid the long ripening of his elite pinot noir. (The Tapanappa cellar door is located in the Adelaide Hills.) This Foggy Hill reveals blueberry crush and fragrant woody notes with a complex palate for pinotphiles to indulge in.

Try also: The Joinery Port Elliot Pinot Noir, a joint production of Charlotte Dalton and Ben Cooke, sourced from a vineyard up in the hills behind the popular tourist township where their cellar door is based.

919 Wines Organic Touriga Nacional 2018 ($42)
The Riverland is Australia’s largest volume wine producing region, tapped by many larger corporates for their commercial wines while several dedicated smaller enterprises are committed to showcasing Mediterranean varieties, often organically grown, that thrive in warmer inland conditions. 919 Wines is a leader in this space, across familiar varieties and new. Touriga nacional was most often used for fortified styles, though in the past decade it has been forging a place as a rich, well flavoured and complex table wine, here full of cherry and peppery spice characters, earthy and rustic in one sense while sweeter baking spice notes offer a warm-hearted finish. 919 Wines’ cellar door is in the Glossop district of the region.

Try also: Bassham wines, and Ricca Terra.

Raidis Estate Billy Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($35)
The jewel region of the greater Limestone Coast zone, Coonawarra is based around the town of Penola and tiny hamlet of Coonawarra to the north. Famed for a stretch of red clay soil over limestone, known as the terra rossa strip, cabernet sauvignon is its signature variety with distinctive blackcurrant and often mint chocolate characters. Shiraz, merlot and blends of the reds also are highly regarded, as well as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Raidis Estate is set on the edge of Penola, this wine carrying all the typical regional elements aromatically and in its palate feel, neatly medium bodied with a fine tannin taper.

Try also: Balnaves, Zema, Redman, Wynns.

Land of Tomorrow Barbera 2020 ($35)
Another of the Limestone Coast zone regions, between Coonawarra and the main town of Naracoorte in the north, where the famed limestone caves are the major district attraction. That geological phenomenon is also a critical factor for the vineyards which produce highly respected cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and merlot fruit for many larger companies. Brian Croser’s Tapanappa cabernet blends come from here, and are available at his home-base cellar door in the Adelaide Hills. So do Xavier Bizot’s red blends as well as his highly-regarded sauvignon blanc. There are no cellar doors in the district, though Land of Tomorrow offers by-appointment long lunches next to a glorious estate waterhole. This Italian-origined barbera red wine shows the next step into other varieties suited here, bright purple in the glass, crushed blueberry with distinctive violet and herbal fragrance, deliciously juicy with mushroom-like savoury notes.

Try also: Bellwether wines at their cellar door just south as you approach Coonawarra.

Mount Benson
Wangolina Originals Syrah 2020 ($32)
Mt Benson is a small region within the greater Limestone Coast wine zone in the state’s South East. Located between the towns of Kingston SE and Robe, the vineyards here are heavily influenced by the Southern Ocean, encouraging cooler climate styles of cabernet, shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, with a progressive move into gruner veltliner and other cooler Euro-regional varieties. A few small cellar doors offer a look into the styles, this carrying the alternative name to shiraz when showing a more cool-climate, medium-bodied, bright red berry approach to the variety, with a white peppercorn edge and minerally palate.

Try also: Cape Jaffa Wines.

Mount Gambier
Ottelia Pinot Noir 2018 ($38)

Mount Gambier is relatively young in regional definition, its vineyards planted mostly to the south of the city, where a few small cellar doors open to visitors. It’s definitely cool to cold with riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir working a treat, as well as a few good sparklings. Several wines from the area are crafted by Coonawarra-based winemakers such as Ottelia vignerons John and Melissa Innes, who steer this pinot in a light to medium style, fragrant with Asian spices, and a red-berry juicy palate and fine, powdery tannins to finish. It’s a terrific pointer to what lies ahead for the region.

Try also: Di Giorgio, Koonara, and Grey-Smith Wines.

Landaire Chardonnay 2019 ($37)
Padthaway is in the northern sector of the Limestone Coast zone, north west of the town of Naracoorte. With growing conditions similar to nearby Coonawarra, it has long been a source of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and chardonnay to many of the big wine corporations, while a small group of family-run enterprises have offered their boutique ranges through cellar doors. The jewel in the region’s crown is Padthaway Estate adjacent to the township, a historic homestead under restoration with shearers quarters and cottage available for stays, and a cellar door showcasing its eponymous set of wines, including the lauded Eliza sparklings, and also their Landaire range. This chardonnay is superbly crafted to show its varietal white stone fruit senses, a note of grapefruit, French oak derived spice and pencil case feels, with precise acidity prompting a salivating finish.

Try also: Morambro Creek, Farmer’s Leap, and Browns of Padthaway.

Karatta The Great CabSy Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah 2018 ($25)
Robe is best known as a coastal holiday destination; the ocean beaches a great attraction that also assist in the cooling of the fruit on a small number of vineyards in the district. Karatta owns two of them, with hero varieties of the Limestone Coast, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz (aka syrah) to the fore as well as malbec. This wine brings the first two together in a renowned South Australian blend, the cabernet lifting the wine’s initial aromatic appeal followed by a bright red-fruited medium to full bodied palate.

Try also: Governor Robe wines.

Southern Eyre Peninsula
Peter Teakle White Pointer Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($20)
Port Lincoln is best known as the capital of SA’s west coast seafood industry – as well as for attracting shark cage diving tourists. There are also several vineyards up in the hills behind the town, and also just north on the shores of Boston Bay. The Peter Teakle business operates a modern restaurant and cellar door, with wines like this suited to matching with the region’s ocean catch. Its aromatics are familiar to the variety, citrus-zesty and grassy, with refreshing acidity and salivating mouthfeel.

Try also: Boston Bay Riesling.

Southern Flinders Ranges
Bartagunyah Estate Shiraz 2018 ($25)
North of Clare, this region is known more for its landscapes and adventure travel opportunities, though a couple of vineyards do offer further experiences. Bartagunyah Estate, near the main town of Melrose and Mt Remarkable, offers a range of camping, four-wheel driving and mountain bike trails as well as a cellar door. Shiraz and cabernet are the main wine varieties that do well, here the former offering concentrated, full-bodied blackberry and sweetly spiced oak feels.


This story was first published in SALIFE FOOD+WINE+TRAVEL 2021


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