A Guide To The Best Wine Regions Of South Australia

If you are considering a trip to Adelaide, you have probably heard that the best wine regions of South Australia are on the doorstep of the city. So to make your job of choosing which ones to visit we are going to give you a quick rundown.

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.

Adelaide is one of the nine Great Wine Capitals of the World, with more than 200 fantastic South Australia wineries within driving distance. So, make sure that you check out the amazing wine regions of South Australia when you’re in the area.

The Wine Regions of South Australia

Like all the other wine capitals in the world, Adelaide boasts internationally renowned wine regions not too far from the city. In fact, there’s seemingly no end to the number of wineries and wine regions on offer. This is mostly because of South Australia’s variable climate, which offers the perfect grape growing conditions.

How to Choose Between South Australian Wine Regions

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

Your Schedule

If you have limited time, try one of the regions closer to the city such as Adelaide Hills. But if you have more time, you have plenty more areas to discover.

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 Range, an up and coming area that offers tasty Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz wines.
Seppeltsfield Road Credit South Australian Tourism Commission
Seppeltsfield Road Credit South Australian Tourism Commission

Other Activities

If you’re visiting Adelaide, you probably want to see more than some South Australia wineries (though maybe not). So, if you’re 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.

The Most Popular South Australia Wine Regions

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

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 reisling, 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, it runs along an old railway line. Bikes are available to rent at either end of the trail.

Adelaide Hills

The Adelaide Hills is one of the most popular wine regions of South Australia for several reasons. It’s close to the city, so it makes for an easy day trip. Secondly, 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

Most people have heard of the Barossa Valley: it’s one of the most famous wine regions of South Australia. There are more than 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 is 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 is made up of two smaller regions, The Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, each known for their own speciality 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 very pretty town of Tanunda. We once spent a weekend in Angaston and found it a great base.

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 has to offer.

McLaren Vale

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 – once a restaurant but currently closed Credit: D’Arenberg Pty Ltd

As if that wasn’t enough, 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.

You’ll want to spend more than an afternoon here. The area is also an excellent choice for gourmets with some excellent restaurants.

Coonawarra

Red wine lovers will probably already have Coonawarra on the list. It is one of the smaller South Australia wine regions but makes up for that with its fertile red soil, which is perfect for producing quality reds. Its modest size is a bonus because it 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 winemakers.

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.

Resources for planning your trip

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

Official sites:

National Wine Centre on North Terrace in Adelaide

The National Wine Centre has a wide variety of wine 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.

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

The Takeaway

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.

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