Introducing Adelaide Hills
Adelaide Hills vineyards are set amongst a mosaic of orchards, verdant farm land, bushland, dairy farms and historical landmarks that conspire in one of Australia’s most scenic wine regions.
Adelaide Hills wineries found in this remarkable setting are more broadly surrounded by the Barossa and Eden Valley in the north and McLaren Vale to the south. Adelaide city is mostly west of the Adelaide Hills. The region is defined by its cool climate, on average four degrees cooler by day, and eight degrees by night, than neighbouring Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
The Adelaide Hills is home to some of Australia’s great new-wave wine grower and producer stories, with first plantings dedicated solely to fine wine under the watchful eyes of industry legends. Indeed, the replanting of the Adelaide Hills in the late 1970's and early 1980's was pivotal in Australian wine culture, particularly for sparkling wine, Chardonnay and cool climate Shiraz.
Where is Adelaide Hills?
Adelaide Hills is located east of Adelaide in South Australia. Adelaide Hills vineyards are a mere 20-minute drive from the Adelaide CBD, and makes for an easy and spectacular day trip. Public transport is available, with local bus services travelling at various times daily as well as affordable taxi services.
Adelaide Hills Climate
The Adelaide Hills climate zone is intrinsic to Adelaide Hills vineyard definition. The boundaries of the wine region include all areas in the Adelaide Hills above 300 metres. Temperature and rainfall are also defining factors in Adelaide Hills wines.
The Adelaide Hills wine region is delineated as a cool climate growing area. The cool, dry summer and cooler Autumn ripening conditions enables grapes to mature slowly and build concentration with relatively high natural acidity.
Unique Characteristics of Adelaide Hills
Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc is noted for its vitality, fruit freshness and brisk acidity, while Adelaide Hills sparkling wine is often fine, frisky and brisk. Adelaide Hills red wine is generally set between light and medium bodied, with Shiraz and Pinot Noir the most notable of red grape varieties. Adelaide Hills red wine has often strayed into ‘dry red’ territory, but fine wine producers have long created wines of elegance and restraint from red grapes in the region.
Wines to try from Adelaide Hills
Adelaide Hills vineyards are mostly planted to Sauvignon Blanc, with significant plantings of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Adelaide Hills red wine is produced mostly from Pinot Noir and Shiraz, though there are Adelaide Hills wineries using a breadth of other red grapes, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.
Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc wines are arguably Australia’s best known and best performing Sauvignon Blancs. While the cool climate of the Adelaide Hills vineyards is notable, Sauvignon Blanc ripens well, producing wines of intense fruitiness and high natural acidity. Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc is typically highly perfume with passionfruit, and tropical fruit fruitiness accompanied by herbal notes and grassiness. The wines are generally zesty and refreshing to taste, generally produced with no or low new oak to ensure fruit character is preserved.
Adelaide Hills Chardonnay is known for its elegance and finesse, where power of fruit flavour is matched to leaner, yet flavoursome fruit profiles. Adelaide Hills vineyards produce naturally high in acid Chardonnay grapes that bolster the longevity of wines grown and made in the wine region. These wines tend to be increasingly more about fruit flavour, rather than the buttery, honeyed richness that comes with oak maturation and malolactic fermentation.
Original Adelaide Hills vineyards were planted with the intent of producing high quality, complex Adelaide Hills Sparkling Wine. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, alongside some Pinot Meunier, were the staples of original Adelaide Hills vineyards, with clones selected for best growing conditions for Adelaide Hills Sparkling Wines.
The higher altitude and cool climate ensure that flavour development and acid retention are inherent in growing grapes for Sparkling Wine. Resulting wines are generally elegant, very crisp and showcase the subtle power of fruit grown.
Must See Adelaide Hills Wineries
New pioneers of the Adelaide Hills wine region included Brian Croser, Stephen George, Geoff Weaver, Michael Hill Smith and Martin Shaw, who had seen the potential of the Adelaide Hills climate zone and began the renaissance in the 1980's. Their wineries included famed, long term producers Petaluma, Croser, Ashton Hills, Geoff Weaver Wines, Shaw + Smith, amongst other projects.
Adelaide Hills wineries now number in excess of 40 cellar doors and a myriad younger-generation wine producers making small batches in shared winemaking facilities. Wine producers from the region of note include:
- Tomich - Wolf Blass
- Bird In Hand - Fox Gordon
- Herloom - Mr Riggs
- Tolley - Elysian Springs
- Pandora's Box - Vinaceous
- Tash - Optica
- Hide And Seek - Dimension Hills
Key Adelaide Hills Wine Event
Adelaide Hills opens its cellar doors over the course of a long weekend where visitors can indulge in wine tastings, degustation menus, art, markets and much more. Crush is more than just a wine and food festival, it is a celebration of life in the spectacular Adelaide Hills region. The festival usually brings in around 20,000 people throughout its duration and features over 50 events across 30 odd venues. Crush takes place on the last weekend of January each year, be sure to check it out.
The future of Adelaide Hills Wine
The Adelaide Hills is well positioned to capture further attention and excitement of Australian wine drinkers. Adelaide Hills eateries showcase gourmet foods, alongside Adelaide Hills apple cider and a vast array of local produce that sits perfectly alongside the Adelaide Hills wine offering – it’s this mesh of food and wine culture, and proximity to Adelaide city, that has created a perfect environment for increased interest in the region.
In pure wine terms, Adelaide Hills wineries have the benefit of classically styled, elegant wines of fine wine making culture set alongside a new breed of avant garde, natural wine producers – in equal measure, this combination of winemaking influence and culture has spawned intense interest and scrutiny on the wine growing area, and brought about increased attention to the potential of the wine region.
The future is very bright, indeed, the region may be one of Australia’s brightest lights from this matrix of new and old, where vanguard wines of high drinkability and unique personality, sit next to wines of finesse and elegance.
- South Australia
- Cool Climate