Due to its prolific production numbers that translates into over 50% of Australia’s wine production, one might call South Australia the continent’s workhorse. The problem with that nickname, however, is that it may implies a priority of quantity over quality. On the contrary, South Australia is where many of the continent’s most respected world class wines are produced, including Henschke Hill of Grace, Torbreck The Laird, d’Arenberg The Dead Arm, and the most illustrious of the group, Penfolds Grange, all in great demand and commanding competitive market prices.
Located in the center of the continent, South Australia enjoys a versatile climate. From pleasantly warm temperatures in the Barossa Valley and the ocean-kissed McLaren Vale to the cooler climate of Adelaide Hills, the region has long retained its status as Australia’s leading wine producer by practicing meticulous care of and attention towards its vines. The dedication has paid
Often equated with California’s Napa Valley, the Barossa Valley holds claim to the greatest number of vineyards among all of Australia’s wine regions. Famous for robust, full-bodied, fruit-driven reds, its warm, arid climate and rocky terrain force its vines to develop strong deep roots that yield concentrated grapes. As with most of South Australia, Shiraz is the most abundant varietal, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, all producing deeply assertive wines. But oddly enough, within this hub of strong red vineyards is the Eden Valley which, by contrast, features higher elevations and a cooler climate, making it a perfect spot for adjacent Chardonnay and Riesling growth.
Langhorne Creek, which lies south of the Eden Valley as well as the Adelaide Hills near the Bremer River, is another home to both Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. What is unique to this region is its proactive research regarding heightened irrigation techniques. The effort was well-thought, as wine production in the area has grown exponentially as more and more land has become suitable for plantings. In tandem with the high-yield Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon harvests, innovation has taken Langhorne Creek by storm with the influx of smaller, independent wine producers intent on creating top-tier, artisan wines.
East of the Barossa Valley lies the Clare Valley, South Australia’s most northerly major wine district and one of its most charmingly diverse. Known for a quiet elegance due to a hot, dry climate, it enjoys the expected Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon harvests, but also successfully grows Riesling, Chardonnay and Semillon in its cooler sections, complementing the robust reds with delectably light, crisp and delicate whites.
South of the Clare Valley is the small but competitive McLaren Vale wine region. One of the more historic regions on the continent, McLaren Vale was the first area to be planted in South Australia by John Reynell, dating back to the early 19th century. Reynell paved the way for later winemakers to follow, including Rawson Penfold. Its rich history continues, existing in vines over 100 years old that are still producing superior grapes.
With an incredibly diverse soil and broad spectrum of microclimates, McLaren Vale can accommodate a diverse menu of varietals, and successfully grows Merlot, Grenache, Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc along with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. More recently, McLaren Vale has also pursued planting European varietals from both Italy and Spain, including Montepulciano, Nebbiolo and Tempranillo. Although it is one of the smaller winemaking regions, McLaren Vale’s contributions are exceptionally grand.