IMBIBING THE SOUTH
Perambulations through South Australia and its vinous regions
Perambulations through South Australia and its vinous regions
The Great Wine Capitals Global Network (GWCGN) consists of major global cities that all share a key asset: their internationally renowned wine regions. It is the only such network to encompass the Old and New Worlds of wine, and aims to encourage travel, education and business exchanges among the prestigious wine regions, including the likes of Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Porto and Mendoza. The 10th and most recent city to join this exclusive membership is Adelaide, with its renowned wine regions in South Australia.
Five times the size of the United Kingdom, this southern state contains 18 distinct wine regions including the Barossa, Coonawarra and McClaren Vale, spanning warmand cool-ripening conditions, and a variety of climates that is almost unmatched except for a few other regions in the world. It is planted with a diverse collection of grapes, from Chardonnay to some very tasty surprises like Italian grapes more commonly found in the Le Marche region, also growing off some of the oldest vines in the world as they were not subjected to phylloxera, the pest that wiped out most of France’s wine production in the 19th century. This combination of mature vines and a large variety of grape varietals give its wines a broad appeal… and that is a good thing indeed.
The Limestone Coast offers beautiful landscapes, historical tours, aqua sports and even a volcano walk. But with six distinct winegrowing regions, it would be a shame not to take advantage of a tipple or two.
If you journey to the compact Coonawarra about halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne, it is possible to take in six wineries by lunchtime. Only 27 kilometers long north to south and less than two kilometres wide, this region is home to the famous terra rossa or red soil that you can see, touch and even dig into at Katnook, the oldest winery in Coonawarra. Terra rossa is not only robust and able to retain its nutrients for centuries, but also incredibly fertile.
Coonawarra was founded by Scottish immigrant John Riddoch who recognised the potential of this unique soil and rightly surmised that when combined with the cool maritime climate, would lead to great things. The first vintage of the Coonawarra region was produced in 1896, and they haven’t stopped since. Highlights at Katnook (katnookestate. com.au) are their Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon and the Prodigy Shiraz, but as they grow 11 varietals including Tempranillo, Riesling and Malbec on the property, you very possibly may have your own favourite.
From there, head to Wynns Coonawarra Estate (wynns.com.au), whose head winemakers were recently crowned winemakers of the year by their peers. There, taste some award-winning wines or for a more interactive experience, sign up for their ‘Make Your Own Blend’ programme. The first of its kind in Coonawarra, this tour allows visitors to be winemakers for a day. With their laboratory as your temporary base, blend your own wine from Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot, which you will then get to take home.
While you are in the region, visit the Naracoorte Caves, South Australia’s only World Heritage site and where you can see one of the world’s most important fossilised remains. This lies in Wrattonbully, a lesser known wine region no more than 30 minutes’ drive north of Coonawarra.
While it is not every day you can put the words ‘whalebone’ and ‘wine’ in the same sentence, here in Wrattonbully you can— because of the 35-million-year-old whale skeleton fossil discovered beneath Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard (tapanappa.com.au). While that may just be an interesting fact, a greater incentive may be the high quality wine produced here due to Wrattonbully’s temperate climate. You could try a fine Merlot Cabernet Franc at Tapanappa, a terrific Botrytis Viognier at Yalumba (yalumba.com), plus more than a dozen other wine producers to choose from in this area. If you want to continue exploring beyond the wine world, you could head west to Mayura Station (mayurastation.com) about an hour and a half’s drive away to sample the award-winning wagyu beef at their restaurant, The Tasting Room. Here, receive the ultimate paddock-to-plate experience in addition to other fantastic produce such as cheese and organic olive oils from local farmers.
For a very different interactive experience, head to Seppeltsfield Winery (seppeltsfield. com.au), about an hour’s drive northeast of Adelaide. Sign up for their Cooper for a Day workshop with resident master cooper Andrew Young, where guests get to make and engrave their own barrels. It is quite an experience— hands-on, primal, dramatic with a tinge of
fiery danger and ultimately so satisfying when the barrel is finished and filled with some of the vineyard’s bounty. Or you can take it empty and fill it with beer, balsamic vinegar—as your heart so desires. One of the most unique experiences anywhere is Seppeltsfield’s Birth Year Tawny Tasting. The Centennial Cellar houses the only continuous collection of single vintage Tawny since 1878. Have a tasting of port there from the year you were born, try the Moments in History tasting tour, sample something from the year man landed on the moon, or when the Titanic sank.
After all that, you need to be fortified on more than just wine, so head to the highly popular Fino restaurant (fino.net.au), conveniently situated on site at Seppeltsfield Winery, where you would have wisely booked ahead. Let Sharon Romeo, restaurant manager or ‘pocket rocket’ as she’s fondly known, guide you in both your food and drink selections and demonstrate true hospitality. She is helpful, friendly yet professional and genuinely wants you to enjoy your experience. Chef David Swain’s seasonally driven menu is not necessarily groundbreaking, but dishes such as quail, chicken hearts and vegetable escabeche, or pipis, leek and sherry, are well thought out, using fantastic regional produce—which ultimately makes pretty much everything enjoyable.
Then head over to the JamFactory (jamfactory.com.au) next door, a unique notfor-profit cultural organisation where local artisans can practice and show off their trade, from ceramics and leather to knife-making and more. Located within the Seppeltsfield estate in a renovated stables building from the 1850s, the JamFactory serves as a craft and design hub for the Barossa and comprises studios, a gallery and a shop so you can satisfy your artistic and cultural needs.
For a place to stay, you could not do much better than The Louise (thelouise.com.au), a beautiful property overlooking the valley with picturesque views. You’d be forgiven for not wanting to leave your suite. It takes a while to go through the sizable room, but all the luxuries you would expect (and more) are there. Everything from a king bed with fine linens, a spa tub for two, a fireplace, Bose iPhone docking station, original artwork to a private sunset terrace are yours to enjoy. But when you eventually do step out, brave-hearted souls will do good to book ahead for a session with the kangaroos. Whilst many know that the Barossa is wine country, few are aware that it is also home to a large conservation park for local flora and fauna. Simply ask the staff at The Louise to arrange a morning stroll and breakfast to observe the kangaroos in their natural habitat in the park, just a quick 20-minute drive away from the hotel.
Everyone knows you shouldn’t drink and drive, so fittingly, there are travel options aplenty for when you want to go wine tasting at different vineyards. For starters, you could pretend you are royalty and travel around in a beautiful 1962 Daimler (barossadaimlertours.com.au) with a very knowledgeable guide. If you always fancied yourself more of a free spirit, hop on a trike but not as you know it. These modified motorcycles can carry up to four people including the driver. For a bit of nostalgia, choose a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible to transport you around the Barossa Valley with an undeniable amount of retro charm.
One last recommendation: when you head back to Adelaide before your flight home, reserve a table at Restaurant Orana (restaurantorana.com), which means ‘welcome’ in aboriginal language. Here you will have an amazing experience where indigenous ingredients are elevated to fine dining in the best sense of the word. The wine pairing is also stellar with primarily small producer bottles. With the skillful use of produce procured directly and fairly from the aboriginal tribes and other local producers, you’ll be treated to the likes of goolwa pipis, succulents, dorrigo pepper, quandong, mountain pepper and warrigal greens. But if fine dining is not your thing, Orana’s sister restaurant downstairs, Blackwood (restaurantblackwood.com), offers the native ingredient concept in a bistro format.
So there you go, a few suggestions to tempt you, whatever kind of traveller you may be. One thing is for sure, this is but the teeny tiny tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to do in South Australia. The combination of fine food and wine, indoor and outdoor experiences is one you won’t find anywhere else, so no matter what options you decide, you are going to go away wanting more. Guaranteed.
Vineyard in Coonawarra, Limestone Coast
Below Terra rossa—the famous redhued soil found in Coonawarra
page Sample the great diversity of South Australia, starting with some refreshing rosé