With its vast diversity in geography and climate, South Australia is home to many a vineyard, growing a wide range of grape varieties throughout its spread of close to 20 different wine zones. From the big bold wines of hot and dry Barossa Valley to the crisp and delicate tipples of cool climate Clare Valley, the state produces more than half the total volume of all Australian wine. The best part, though, of South Australian wine is its accessibility.
Within just a few hours drive from Adelaide city, you can be cruising by the bucolic region of Adelaide Hills or sipping on a freshly cracked-open bottle of shiraz in McLaren Vale. Thanks to the 200 over cellar doors within easy reach, it’s no wonder Adelaide has been recognised as one of the Great Wine Capitals of the World. Even those pressed for time can just head over to the National Wine Centre of Australia — located close to the city centre — where you can not only learn about the winemaking history, technology and culture of the country, but also sample up to 120 different wines in their purpose-built tasting rooms. But if it’s more than an ordinary cellar door experience that you are looking for, here are some memorable wine vacation adventures to take part in.
For Fun Group Outings
More than just your normal wine tour, The Fruitful Pursuit was started by wine professional and South Australian wine proponent James Hopkins, who notes that this venture stemmed from his personal desire to explore the ever-dynamic South Australian wine scene. The Fruitful Pursuit started out as a closed Facebook group two years ago, with Hopkins organising wine tours for younger-generation wine buffs looking for more in-depth winery visits than regular cellar door tours.
With his knowledge and contacts, Hopkins is able to organise personalised and intimate wine tours visiting “renegade” winemakers responsible for small-batch, organic, biodynamic and minimal intervention wines. Many of these winemakers use less common grape varieties in Australia such as Montepulciano, Aglianico and Nero d’Avola, and modern winemaking styles, which participants then get to learn more about as they meet these craftsmen, take a peek inside their cellars, walk through the vines and get a much more educational and in depth experience.
Full-day experiences to any of the South Australia wine regions can be tailor made to a groups’ specifications — the better to take into account everyone’s differing preferences. Every aspect from the tastings, to the transport and even photography is taken care of, so you can indulge with assurance that the entire day’s magical moments are being captured.
For That Special Birthday
Celebrating a special birthday? How about spending it sipping on wine as old, or young, as you are?
Located in the famed Barossa Valley region, Seppeltsfield is one of Australia’s oldest wineries. It was founded in 1851 by Joseph Ernst Seppelt, who in 1866 planned to build a new cellar. While it was unfortunate that he passed on before the cellar’s completion, his son Benno finished it in 1878 and, in honour of the occasion, selected a single barrel of 1878 Tawny port, left it to mature in a special room within the cellars and gave instructions that it was not to be bottled for 100 years. This tradition of laying down a barrel of the finest wine from each vintage continued every year following and continues to do so today. Now the cellar comprises an unbroken lineage of every vintage from the current year back to 1878, hence earning its moniker of Centennial Cellar.
There is always a thrill of trying a vintage wine of your own birth year, as you contemplate on the years it took for that nectar to develop its distinct identity. Mark your turning of age by taking Seppeltsfield’s special Taste your Birth Year tour, where you’ll get the opportunity to enter the renowned Centennial Cellar and walk through the museum-like rows of barrels that carry the history of the winery. When you reach the barrel containing the delicious blend from the year that you were born, you’ll get to try your birth-year vintage Tawny straight from the barrel.
For Bubbly Lovers
The Adelaide Hills region is one of the coolest wine regions of mainland Australia and as a result, many high-quality, cool-climate wines are produced here — think crisp Sauvignon Blancs, elegant Pinot Noirs and naturally, some fresh and fruity sparkling wines.
Despite its boutique size, Sue and Sean Delaney of Sinclair’s Gully are producing some of the region’s top sparkling wines. When they purchased their 26-acre property at the Norton Summit in 1997, their passion for nature and the environment saw them spending much energy restoring the remnant bushland on their property, home to some 130 species of native plants and 66 species of native birds. It was a natural progression for the couple to adopt biodynamic viticulture practices for their vineyards that produces premium-quality low-yielding Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes from hand-tended vines.
The winery produces four different types of sparkling wine — Shiraz, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Pinot Meunier blend — as well as their single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend called Rubida. If you’d like to know more about how sparkling wines attain and maintain their bubbles, sign up for a Fizzology session and you’ll even be able to make your own bottle.
First up, a tasting flight of Sinclair Gully’s different sparkling wines, while the Delaneys enlighten you on how they make their wines. And don’t be surprised if Sean shows up with his sword to crack open his bottles sabrage-style. Next, you’ll get to flex your muscles as you hand-disgorge a sparkling Rubida, then decide on how you’d like to customise the dosage (amount of sweetness) to your preference. Then all that’s left is to cork, wire and label your very own bottle to take home.
For Behind The Scenes Peeks
While its famous cousin Barossa Valley might be home to more of the bigger wine brands and massive commercial wineries, McLaren Vale holds claim to being the home of South Australia’s viticultural origins. Grapes were first planted here way back in 1838 and some vines more than 100-years-old are still producing grapes and wine. There are currently more than 88 cellar doors in McLaren Vale, with the majority of them being small family-run operations and boutique wineries.
As such, not all of these operations have cellar doors, or are regularly open to the public. Thanks to Greg Linton over at Wine Diva Tours though, you’ll have the opportunity for a behind-the-scenes peek into these boutique wineries and have exclusive barrel tastings with the winemakers right in their sheds. As a wine enthusiast and passionate resident of McLaren Vale himself, Linton regularly susses out wineries in the region so he can better tailor his Barrel Tasting in the Vale tours to participants’ preferences.
A full-day tour with Linton would see you visiting about three to four wineries, as well as a local McLaren Vale restaurant for lunch. Groups are kept to an intimate maximum of seven to facilitate private tastings and interaction with winemakers. And depending on the time of your visit, you might even be able to catch these craftsmen at work.