A GUIDE TO THE BEST WINE REGIONS OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The wine regions of South Australia are renown across the globe. Some of Australia’s very best drops come from this part of the country. If you are a wine lover planning to visit the South Australian capital, Adelaide, you have probably heard that the best wineries in Australia are on the doorstep of the city. Unless you have a month to spare, you are going to have to settle on visiting just a handful, so to make your job of choosing which ones to visit, we are going to give you a quick rundown.

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THE WINE REGIONS OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA

There’s nothing quite like sitting in beautiful surroundings, sipping on an exquisite glass of wine. And you don’t have to head to France to fulfil this dream; you just have to spend time in the capital of South Australia.

South Australia is home to 18 recognised wine regions

Adelaide is one of the nine Great Wine Capitals of the World. The city boasts internationally renowned wine regions not too far from its centre. In fact, there’s seemingly no end to the number of wineries on offer, with over 200 fantastic South Australia wineries within driving distance.

This success is because of South Australia’s variable climate, which offers the perfect grape growing conditions.

How to Decide which South Australian Wine Regions to visit

There are several things you should consider when deciding between the South Australia Wine regions, including:

How much time do you have?

If you have limited time, you will be best sticking to one of the areas closest to the city, such as Adelaide Hills or McLaren Vale. If you have a few days to spare a trip to Clare or the Barossa Valley will reward you well.

Your Taste in Wine

Everyone likes something different when it comes to wine. Here’s a quick guide to the best wine regions of South Australia for particular favourites:

  • If you like Rieslings, try Eden Valley or Clare Valley.
  • If you prefer Shiraz, head to the Barossa Valley or Coonawarra.
  • For a drop of Bordeaux style wine, head to Kangaroo Island in the Fleurieu zone, which is south of Adelaide.
  • For dessert wines, head to Langhorne Creek.
  • If you’re looking for a range of wines including Semillon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and red wines, try the Currency Creek region or McLaren Vale.
  • To get ahead of the crowds, spend your time in the Southern Flinders Ranges, an up and coming area that offers tasty Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz wines.
Seppeltsfield Road The centre of the wine regions in South Australia
Seppeltsfield Road Credit South Australia Tourism Commission

What other activities are nearby

Even if you are a wine buff, you might want to see more than some South Australia wineries (though maybe not). So, when you are trying to choose a wine region, have a look at the other attractions the area offers, such as:

  • The charming small towns in the Barossa Valley.
  • Stunning views in the Adelaide Hills.
  • Clare Valley’s historical buildings.
  • The beaches and vibrant food scene at McLaren Vale.
  • A quieter slice of local life and history at Langhorne Creek.
  • The Riverland Region, where you’ll find Banrock Station and the Wine and Wetlands Centre at Kingston on the Murray.

Once you’ve decided on your timeline, evaluated your wine tastes, and set aside some time to explore, here are some of the best wine regions of South Australia:

Clare Valley

Distance from Adelaide: 145km | View the top Clare Valley Tour

If you enjoy a tart Riesling, then Clare Valley is the destination for you. It’s just under two hours from the city and offers excellent South Australian wines in a historical setting.

The Clare Valley contains some of the oldest South Australia wineries and cellar doors, including Sevenhill Cellars, first established in 1851 by Jesuit priests.

St Aloysius Church Credit KaZKaptureZ Clare Valley
St Aloysius Church in the Clare Valley Credit:KaZKaptureZ

But what will strike you most about this region is the variety. Clare Valley doesn’t have the polished look of other regions. Instead, you will find yourself drinking wine in heritage buildings, farm sheds, stone cottages, and some achingly hip modern art structures.

The Reisling produced here is among the best in the world, be sure to include a visit to Jim Barry Wines to taste their range of Riesling it’s top of my list and this year won the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion ‘Winery of the Year’. I am keen to taste their Assyrtiko grown from cuttings imported from the Greek island of Santorini.

Tip: Rent a bike and cycle the 24km Riesling trail, which runs along an old railway line. Bikes are available to rent at either end of the trail. You can also join a 3 day cycling tour of the region. A great way to burn off all that indulgence!

Adelaide Hills

Distance from Adelaide: 25km | View the top Adelaide Hills Day tour

The Adelaide Hills is one of the most popular wine regions in South Australia for several reasons. It’s close to the city, so it makes for an easy day trip. Second, it offers delicious and prize-winning wines – from Pinot Noir to Chardonnay. And finally, the views in this region are simply stunning. It’s basically a trifecta of wine drinking.

Row of vines in the Barossa Valley - focus on sign post

There are more than 60 wineries in this cool climate region which was settled by immigrants from Germany. The area has a distinctly European feel however the wine is very much a modern Australian effort with lots of winemakers playing with new styles and varietals.

Leave some time to stroll the streets of Hahndorf which offers fantastic foodie shopping. Be sure to pop into Udder Delights cheeses for a tasting and something to take home for later.

Hahndorf is one of the best wine regions to visit if you don’t have a car – you can join one of the public bus routes that service the area (bus no 864 runs seven days) and use this self-guided walk (PDF) to taste your way around town.

Tip: As if that wasn’t enough, in January, the Adelaide Hills also hosts the Crush Festival, an annual celebration of wine and food. If you can time your visit to the festival, you’ll be able to make the most of your time.

The Barossa

Distance from Adelaide: 75km | View the top Barossa Wine Experiences

Most people have heard of the Barossa Valley: it’s one of the most famous wine regions in South Australia. There are over 80 cellar doors and 150 wineries in this celebrated region, but the area still retains a close-knit community feel.

Penfolds Magill Estate Credit Julian Cebo 800
Penfolds Magill Estate Credit: Julian Cebo

Just 90 minutes from the centre of town, there are lots here, so you’ll definitely need a guide in this area if you want to see everything, and most of it is too good to risk missing out on.

The Barossa Valley produces more than one-fifth of Australia wine.

The Barossa region comprises two smaller regions, The Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, each known for their own specialty wines. The Barossa Valley itself offers amazing Shiraz, and Eden Valley focuses on Riesling.

But the Barossa Valley is most famous for Seppeltsfield, one of the oldest wineries in the region and winner of the Best Wine Tourism Service at the Great Wine Capitals event in Portugal, November 2016. This one should be top of your list to visit.

There are three towns you should try to pop into; Angaston, Nuriootpa, and the centre of the region, the beautiful town of Tanunda. We have spent the weekend in Angaston and another in Tanunda and found both were great bases.

Some of our favourite wineries in Barossa are St Hallett – Their old block shiraz is delicious. Peter Lehmann winery offers a good overall experience and some excellent wines.

Tip: For an extra treat, don’t miss out on the annual Barossa Gourmet Weekend. It’s held at the beginning of spring and showcases the best the region offers.

McLaren Vale

Distance from Adelaide: 40km | View the top McLaren Vale tours

McLaren Vale is under an hour’s drive from Adelaide and one of the most popular wine regions in South Australia for warm climate wines. This is where you can sample amazing South Australian wines like Grenache, Chardonnay, Viognier, Shiraz, and more at one of the many wineries in the area.

dArenberg Cube Credit dArenberg Pty Ltd
D’ Arenberg Cube, art and food in the vineyards Credit: D’Arenberg Pty Ltd

McLaren Vale is also a great day-trip destination on its own. It’s on the coast, which means incredible beaches, and is known for its varied and delectable food scene.

With 74 cellar doors open in the region, you’ll want to spend more than an afternoon here. I loved the very picturesque Down the Rabbit Hole, which offered a delicious medium bodied Tempranillo and a crisp dry Rose that I wish I had right now.

Also on our list of favourite McLaren Vale wineries is Alpha Box and Dice, which offers a great range of Mediterranean style of wine and Wirra Wirra with its quality reds and an unusual attraction a giant catapult.

The area is also an perfect choice for those with a discerning palate with some excellent restaurants. Just book in advance if you have your heart set on something.

Tip: Visit on a Saturday and make a stop at the Willunga Farmers Market, the oldest in South Australia and a fabulous spot to sample some of the region’s local delicacies

Coonawarra

Distance from Adelaide: 370km | View a top Coonawarra experience

Red wine lovers will probably already have Coonawarra on the list. It is one of the smaller South Australia wine regions and quite a distance from the capital, but it’s worth the trip. Its fertile red soil is perfect for producing quality reds and its modest size means all the wine cellars are close together and easy to find.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate South Australia
Wynns Coonawarra Estate

In terms of wine, Coonawarra offers rich, playful drops that are colourful in the mouth and in the glass. Try the internationally renowned Cabernet Sauvignon or the Shiraz for the finest drops in the region and enjoy the richness that comes from the dense, fertile soil.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate is one of the largest in the region and makes several award-winning red wines. They have a fantastic make-your-own blend experience for any budding winemaker.

Once you have done tasting wine, you could visit The Mary MacKillop Interpretive Centre Mary MacKillop is Australia’s first saint and taught in Penola.

Tip: Download the Coonawarra walking trail app and get walking. The 5km track passes six vineyards taking about half a day to complete if you visit each one.

The Top Wine Tours from Adelaide

Sometimes it makes more sense to leave the car behind and not have to worry about who has to play the designated driver. Wine tours are also a good choice if you have not had time to do much research.

Here are a few we would recommend.

Barossa Valley Experiences

Exploring McLaren Vale

  • McLaren Vale & The Cube Experience from Adelaide – d’Arenberg Cube with its Alternate Realities Museum, Beresford Estate where you can choose between wine and spirit tastings and Wirra Wirra Vineyards
  • McLaren Vale Winery Experience – Explore the beaches of the Fleurieu Peninsula and onto the McLaren Vale wine region – you will visit a mix of boutique wineries which may include d’Arenberg, Serafino, Leconfield, Paxton, Wirra Wirra, or Fox Creek. A winery lunch is also included.
  • McLaren Vale Wine & Bike Tour – Cycle part of the famous Kidman Trail as you enjoy 2 wineries and 1 brewery tasting. Spot wildlife in the beautiful Kuitpo Forest along the way.

National Wine Centre

The National Wine Centre has a wide variety of wines from all the regions. If you are staying in the CBD, it is a worthwhile stop before you venture out to your chosen region. It’s also a great stop if you don’t have time to do any day trips.

at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide Taste by the glass and choose the pour size to suit your thirst
Taste by the glass and choose the pour size to suit your thirst

Along with a lovely restaurant, you can taste more than 120 Australian wines from over 55 regions. Even if you visit all the regions in the state, you will still enjoy a visit here. We almost skipped it on our first visit and I was so glad we didn’t. The food is fabulous and its a fun way to discover what you love.

Want more? Check out our guide to the best wine regions in Australia

Planning a Do it yourself SA wine trip

Most of the wine regions have food and wine trails on their official websites with suggested routes to maximize your visit.

Official sites:

If you love your wine, you absolutely must not miss the wine regions of South Australia. With spectacular views, great food, and amazingly tasty wines, it’s the perfect destination for anyone looking to get out of the city and indulge in the best that life has to offer.

Planning to explore more of the state? Check out our South South Australia Guide for ideas.

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