Grapes of Oz

Aaron Owen
Discover why South Australia's wine region is world-famous

Living in Adelaide - South Australia's capital city and widely regarded as the wine capital of Australia - means there's easy access to many not-too-far-away winery cellar doors, and to loads of reasonably priced world-class wines. From a Barossa Valley shiraz, through to the Adelaide Hills and its elevated, cooler-clime sauvignon blancs, there's a wine here for all situations.

Contrasted with the rest of Australia, Adelaide is perhaps home to more wine-swiggers than the usually conceived Aussie beer-chuggers and - I'll statetriotically say it - a local in South Australia has probably the larger tested palate.

As my recent first-time-to-Adelaide visitor companion found, most anywhere travelled in or outside of its suburbs invariably is, leads to, or passes by a wine region. For instance, just east of the city the beautiful modern curiosity of a thriving remnant vineyard and winery in suburbia is Penfolds, makers of the world-renowned Grange Shiraz - Australia's long-term premier wine - and also home to one of Australia's top restaurants, Magill Estate.

Close to Adelaide's north is Australia's most well-known wine region, the Barossa Valley - the largest and most productive wine area in South Australia. World-renowned, the Barossa, which produces many fine red wines, invites tourists from all walks and all countries, including other Australians. The area also comprises Eden Valley, which is known for its Rieslings - a historical German reminder of the tastes of the first vineyard planters, in the 19th century.

Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon: what's your poison? © UniversalImagesGroup

Given their extended poolside stay there last year, One Direction fans may note (and others won't understand, but it won't matter): the must-be-hip-enough Novatel Barossa hotel, which is centrally located in the region's biggest town, Tanunda. From the Novatel - with its own restaurant and, for the links-happy, neat adjacency to an 18-hole golf course - right down to an intimate bed-and-breakfast option, or perhaps something a bit luxurious and peaceful in between, such as the multi-award winning Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage - accommodation in the Barossa varies in price and style depending whether, for instance, you prefer the homeliness of a B&B or somewhere a little more fancy.

Found in the Barossa Valley is Australia's mostly widely recognised wine brand internationally - Jacob's Creek. If keen, you can stop at Jacob's Creek itself for an obligatory photo opportunity under its road sign. Where, as I did, you'll probably find it a little underwhelming: it being waterless, with a bone-dry creek bed scarred with cracks wider than a day-five WACA minefield. But the lack of water may come as no surprise as you're in South Australia, the often rain-deprived "driest state in the driest inhabited continent on earth". Note: no offence is meant to either Jacob, the Creek or our meagre rainfall.

The Barossa can also quench artistic thirst with places like the sweetly named Jam Factory, featuring resident artisans and free art gallery, or at the Barossa Regional Gallery, which includes many works of local subjects by local artists. In addition, many cellar doors feature local art for sale.

To quieten growling stomachs, tuck into some local German-influenced delectables such as mettwursts or delicious sweets - like the honey and cream wunder-cake, the Bienenstich (or "bee-sting"). There's also locally based culinary expert and national food icon Maggie Beer (one of my favourite TV chefs), who runs Maggie's Farm Shop - full of high-quality, locally sourced and made products, such as pâtés, which can be scrumptious with wines and cheeses of the region. Or if you're after a sit-down meal try matching recently discovered Barossa wines with dishes at some of the area's best restaurants - which I can attest for - such as ferment Asian, with its south-east Asian-born menu, or for a more varied "Australian" (whatever that means) selection, try the much-loved 1918 Bistro & Grill.

One of the Barossa's oldest wineries is Seppeltsfield, now primarily known for its 100-year-old Para Tawny port (you can even try some from your birth year), and for its delightful, vast lawned and shaded grounds. Go for a scenic wander with vines by your side, or relax, as we and many other families did, by picnicking and wining away a nice warm weekend day. Have some wine. Have a bat in a park cricket match. Do both.

Apart from the Barossa must-do wine region, you could also travel the short journey south from Adelaide to the Fleurieu Peninsula, among a few places in the region that reflect the influence that a fleeting French expedition during South Australia's early history had on its mapping nomenclature, if not its culture.

Australian sea lions laze on the beach on Kangaroo Island © UniversalImagesGroup

Tour-guided bus day trips and little getaways would be decidedly enjoyable at many of the peninsula's wine regions, such as McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Currency Creek and the Southern Fleurieu. Vineyards in these areas can experience vastly different rainfalls, temperatures and soil types, and so produce a large variety of wines - from Chardonnays and sparklings to Merlots and Rosés. Local restaurants and pubs will very often pair local wines and food for you - some even of the local fauna type, such as kangaroo dishes.

Speaking of which, another South Australian icon for holiday-makers, and home of many notable wineries and restaurants, is the exquisite Kangaroo Island. It features natural wonders galore - such as pristine beaches and scrubby forested areas - and hiking while spotting native flora and fauna is definitely worth the exertion.

I stayed at gorgeous Emu Bay on the island's northern side, but the equally picturesque, and more rugged, southern side is home to Vivonne Bay, one of Australia's finest beaches, with comfy accommodation starting from A$100 per night per person, through to the high-end luxury, $1000-plus per night of the Southern Ocean Lodge.

Wine barrels stacked outside a winery in Clare Valley © UniversalImagesGroup

On a cricket note there are enough local wines to enable the fan to pay cheesy respect to the game while swilling one of these: from the quiet Clare Valley - a former copper and silver mining district north of Adelaide, and now home to crisp Rieslings and deep reds - is where Jim Barry Wines make labels such as Cover Drive, First XI and Silly Mid On. Cricket-themed wines stretch through to the Adelaide Hills with Wirra Wirra's 12th Man Chardonnay, and onto McLaren Vale where Geoff Merrill's Botham Merrill Willis might bowl you over or hit you for six… arf arf.

And don't forget, Adelaide city is also home to Australia's National Wine Centre - where tastings are possible from a list of over 100 Australian-produced wines, including a sample of the pricey Penfolds Grange. Ooh la la!

Aaron Owen is a 37-year-old Sydney-born long-time Adelaide resident, writer and photographer

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  • Abid on February 6, 2015, 5:33 GMT

    I really Like future i have plan to visit Australia to see all these places....

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