The weekend edition of the Advertiser ran a 4 page spread rating the different wine regions:
McLaren vale came out tops! Only 12 minutes drive from where I live...
WHEN it comes to South Australia’s big-top attractions, wine is the crowd-pleaser in the main ring. No other state does it so much or so well. No other capital city is enveloped by it like Adelaide.
On the foothills to the east Penfolds Magill Estate overlooks the city majestically – but within an hour you can be in any number of hundreds of cellar doors in the greater Fleurieu Peninsula, taking in McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek, as well as the Adelaide Hills and the greater Barossa region.
Just a little further and Clare beckons, while for greater escapes, the Riverland offers its unique doorstep to the Outback experience, and the Limestone Coast is a serious away game. Even the southern Flinders Ranges and Port Lincoln offer occasional wine moments.
All of that adds up to close to 75 per cent of Australia’s premium wine production, the total statewide industry generating more than $1.9 billion in revenue in the 2012-13 year.
The public face of it is tourism gold. In the past financial year, more than 130,000 international visitors to SA visited a winery, as well as more than half a million domestic visitors.
But what do they get for their adventure? Is it just about the wines? How important is the dining experience? Where do visitors stay? Each of the regions offers its own charms, from unique landscapes to hero wine styles. Some are all about the wine, nothing but the wine. At others, cellar doors take their place in a great tourism package.
McLaren Vale lies just south of Adelaide. Picture: SA Tourism Commission
The vignerons of McLaren Vale love to talk about the wind off the sea that cools their grapes on a hot summer day. For the visitor, the proximity of the coast is also what makes this region special, whether it’s spotting that band of deep, steely blue on the western horizon from the crest of a hill or just the air that seems fresher, more invigorating than it is inland. And those nearby beaches – Aldinga and Port Willunga – also mean the kids can have their fun.
Throw in some of our favourite regional restaurants all just a short trip up the now two-way Southern Expressway and it’s a wonder that it’s still easy to escape the crowds.
The best bits of the Mediterranean, without coughing for the airfare, plus the gums and yakka of the Aussie bush. Drive in via Clarendon and the gentle vine-clad slopes and olive groves could be Tuscan. Climb higher and look over the escarpment of Onkaparinga Gorge for the rugged beauty of Provence or even Andalusia.
The hulking curve of the Sellicks Hill/Willunga range, to the north and east, is a constant presence, wrapping the Vale in its protective embrace. And in the other direction is the sea.
While the town of McLaren Vale is functional more than memorable, Willunga has a charm all of its own.
Simon Wilkinson (left) and Tony Love with Samuel's Gorge wine maker Justin McNamee in McLaren Vale. Picture: Calum Robertson
The McLaren Vale map is a pin cushion of cellar doors, with close to 70 of them within a 15-minute drive.
To avoid choice paralysis, limit yourself to a sub-region on each visit, for instance the run along McMurtrie Rd where you’ll find Primo Estate, Wirra Wirra and Hugh Hamilton, as well as the Salopian Inn (see below).
Another option is Olivers Rd with Chalk Hill, Maxwell, d’Arenberg, hipster favourite Alpha Box & Dice, and SC Pannell where a brand new tasting room and deck has killer views and Spanish-accented nibbles.
Coriole offers a good introduction to the Italian varieties that seem a natural fit here, as well as a stunning garden that’s a lovely place to linger, while Samuel’s Gorge has a unique outlook, both in scenery and the wines of Justin McNamee.
Erin Rogers serves Tony Love (left) and Simon Wilkinson at the Victory Hotel at Sellicks Beach. Picture: Calum Robertson
Is this Australia’s best regional dining destination? With at least a dozen brilliant restaurant options to pick from, plus a host of more casual options, we reckon it just might be.
Passionate chefs seem drawn to the Fleurieu’s backyard bounty of fabulous produce grown by equally passionate farmers and gardeners. If you want to see what they are on about, visit the Willunga Farmers Market on a Saturday morning.
Fino’s David Swain captures all this potential as well as anyone, his plates a masterclass in seemingly effortless combinations that make you wonder why no one has thought of it before.
Salopian Inn has a cheerful demeanour that will make you want to hang around long after you’ve finished Karena Armstrong’s delicious blend of eastern and western favourites.
Coriole, d’Arry’s Verandah, Elbow Room, Ellen Street and The Currant Shed all have their own take on a winery restaurant with gorgeous vineyard settings.
Or do like many of the locals and head to the Victory Hotel, where you’ll be equally welcome to sip a beer as a burgundy as you watch the sun go down.
From beachfront properties that will make you feel like you’ve joined the jet set, to cabins in the caravan park, there is accommodation available in all shapes and sizes. In between are a host of B & Bs in a variety of settings with all the competition guaranteed to keep standards up. Make sure you book ahead during festivals or other busy times. If you want to leave the car behind on your travels, Chook’s Taxi Alternative at Willunga is recommended by many locals.
If you want to be reminded just how special this region is, taken an overseas visitor for the first time and watch the reaction. There is a magic about this place you won’t find in many other parts of the world.
The complete package
None we can think of
Cellar doors 9
Staying over 8
X Factor 9