Introducing South Australia
South Australian wine has arguably put Australian wine on the international fine wine map, and continues to be an iconic generalisation about style of red wines from Australia. Indeed, South Australian red wine, particularly from the Barossa Valley, is often the most recognisable wine style from Australia.
South Australian vineyards are some of the oldest continuously producing wine in the world. South Australian wine dates back to the 1830's with plantings in North Adelaide, and following development of various other wine regions occurred throughout the mid-1800's.
South Australian vineyards are planted to a myriad of grape varieties and produce a broad variety of styles, from cool climate viticulture and sparkling wines of the Adelaide Hills, through to bombastic, fruit forward red wine from warmer climates of Fleurieu Peninsula, McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley.
Where are South Australia Wine regions?
The capital city of South Australia is Adelaide which is regularly serviced by airline carriers. Adelaide is a handy hub to all of South Australian wine regions, with most within three-or-so hours reach by car.
South Australia Climate
South Australian vineyards enjoy a full breadth of climates and styles. The state is one of the driest in Australia, and inland wine regions like Riverland are intensely hot. Barossa Valley is a warm to hot wine region with modest rainfall, while the Adelaide Hills, known for its cool-climate wine styles, is set at elevation and notably cooler than most wine regions in South Australia.
Proximity to the coastline and ocean also influence climate of South Australian wine regions – McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Wrattonbully and other parts of the Fleurieu Peninsula, have heat and radiant warmth mitigated by ocean breezes and cooler nights.
Unique Characteristics of South Australia
Wine styles in South Australia wine regions vary greatly. Warmer regions produce concentrated, higher alcohol red and white wines, offering generous flavour and intensity of character. The Barossa Valley is renowned for powerful, smooth, rich Shiraz and red blends. Moderate wine regions like Coonawarra produce medium bodied red wines, with famed Cabernet Sauvignon the flagship. Adelaide Hills produces light to medium bodied red wines and fine, fruity white wines, and also holds the mantle of South Australian wines best region for increasingly excellent Sparkling wines.
Wines to try in South Australia
South Australian wine regions all lay claim to iconic grape varieties, but the basis for South Australia red wine fame would be Shiraz and blends of Shiraz. South Australian wine regions all produce Shiraz in varying styles, from medium weight, spicy, svelte styles in the cooler reaches of the Adelaide Hills, to the bold yet smooth textured examples from Barossa and Eden Valley. South Australia wine has also been instrumental in making the original Australian red wine blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon so prolific. South Australian wine is produced from a great breadth of grape varieties, and there are many fine white wines produced from varying South Australian wine regions. Riesling from Clare Valley and Eden Valley would likewise be at the upper echelon of South Australian wine.
Shiraz & Blends
South Australian wine produced from Barossa Valley Shiraz and blends of Shiraz with classic varieties Mataro and Grenache, are typically fuller bodied, smooth textured, rich in fruit and spice character, and mature well over a medium term cellaring.
South Australian Riesling from Eden Valley is world class, putting the region on the international Riesling map. Eden Valley Riesling shows with potent, citrusy, floral aromatics and flavours that offer great concentration, yet vibrant natural acidity. Eden Valley dry Riesling is famed for its longevity, and also its drinkability in youth.
South Australian Riesling made in Clare Valley is typically powerful and concentrated, imbued with high toned floral characters, penetrating, citrusy acidity, and set to leaner structure in youth. Clare Valley Riesling is often stoically acidic when young, but ultimately very refreshing, and ages gracefully over decades.
South Australian red wine from the Coonawarra wine region is arguably considered the preeminent style of Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia. The wines of Coonawarra are generally picked at full ripeness to produce medium to full bodied reds that are distinguished by dark fruits, soft spice, a firm tannin profile, and minty-herbal complexity. The vineyards of Coonawarra on Terra Rossa soils are typically gently savoury and display some earth-like mineral characters. They are approachable in three to five years after vintage, but will also cellar for decades in Coonawarra's best vintages.
Of all South Australian wine regions, original Adelaide Hills vineyards were planted with the intent of producing high quality and complex 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.
Adelaide Hills benefits from higher altitude and cool climate to ensure that flavour development and acid retention are inherent in growing grapes for Sparkling Wines which are generally elegant, very crisp and showcase the subtle power of fruit grown for Sparkling Wines.
Must See South Australia Wineries
Famed South Australian wine brands are some of Australia’s most notable, both locally and overseas. Historical South Australian wine producers are located in all South Australian wine regions. Household names for quality at varying price points include:
- Jacobs Creek
The list of South Australian wineries will be incomplete, but includes such high profile names as Dorrien Estate, Tolley, Stonyfell, Angove, Caudo, Hardys, Neil Mcguigan, Flourishing Monsieur Bephat, Grant Burge, Paragon, Forbidden Fruit, Gemtree Vineyards, Kilikanoon, Rothbury Estate, Sandford, Taltarni.
The future of South Australia Wine
South Australian wine brands are in a solid position to leverage their international reputation to show even greater diversity of South Australian wine offering. The sheer scope and scale of South Australia wine regions allow drinkers to explore a myriad of drinking styles, and an evolving scene that is increasingly rewarding smaller, grower-producers creating a new culture of fine wine. Stalwarts of well-known South Australia wineries are solidifying their reputation with new releases and consistency of wines, while younger generation producers are showing thrilling interpretations of South Australia vineyards.