Wine trails: Adelaide Hills, Australia

By | Category: Travel destinations

The hills are alive with the sound of kookaburras! South Australia’s most accessible wine region will welcome you with a range of cool-climate wines…

Think of all the tourist-board images of Australia: endless, red-rocked deserts, surfers on a cresting wave, perhaps a didgeridoo playing in the background. Now recalibrate – and welcome to a side of Australia that’s not often presented to the rest of the world. From the jacaranda-lined streets of Adelaide’s CBD, the M1 freeway climbs southeastward and the trees get thicker, the road quieter. You’ll probably pass a few cyclists out for a spin, and apple or cherry orchards. Just half an hour later you’ll be in the heart of the Adelaide Hills.

This part of South Australia was settled in the 19th century by Germans and Lutherans fleeing persecution and there’s a certain European feel to the pretty winding roads that link twee towns like Hahndorf. These days it’s a popular weekending destination for residents of the South Australian state capital, intent on trying and buying some up-and-coming wines from the Hills’ small-scale producers. This is a true cool-climate region; as other grape-growing regions in Australia wonder about rising temperatures, the Adelaide Hills enjoys ideal growing conditions for Sauvignon Blanc and a fresher form of Shiraz. There’s not much of a Germanic connection in the vineyards (Australia’s best Riesling is still found in Clare Valley) but some have had success with Grüner Veltliner. The Hills is a young, compact wine region but it’s growing up fast; only a few years ago, there were no signposts to the wineries on the roads – but that’s changing.

Adelaide itself is a city for gourmands, with one of Australia’s best food markets and a thriving farm-to-fork local produce scene. The only time the city gets busy is during the Adelaide Festival in March. The rest of the year, this sedate little city makes a great base.

Get there
Adelaide has the closest airport with car rental. Tours from the city are also available.

01 Golding Wines
Although Golding Wines’ first vintage was in 2002, the winery has close connections to the fruit-growing heritage of the Adelaide Hills; Darren Golding’s father was a local apple and pear merchant. Together they designed and built the cellar door with an Aussie aesthetic: a tin roof, bare wood, brick and stone.

They started with parcels of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc but quickly became more adventurous, including planting what they thought was Albariño. ‘The plants were given to Australia by the Spanish government,’ says Darren. ‘It was only a few years later that we were alerted that the Albariño was in fact Savignan,a grape from the Jura in France, where it makes vin jaune. Michael Sykes, Golding’s winemaker, uses it to make Lil’ Late (Harvest), a sweet wine with tropical flavours.

But the staples of the winery are the Handcart Shiraz, which shows the fruity spicy side of Shiraz, and a Burgundy-style Pinot Noir. ‘The cool nights in the Adelaide Hills preserve the acidity,’ explains Darren, ‘leading to vibrant, elegant wines, red or white.’ The Hills, reckons Darren, have a huge future. So where else would he  recommend in the region? ‘Head up to Mt Lofty Ranges,’ suggests Darren. ‘The wines are good and if you go out the back you can look over Piccadilly Valley.’; tel +61 08 8389 5120; 52 Western Branch Rd, Lobethal; 11am-5pm daily

02 Mt Lofty Ranges
‘All I want is to produce wines representative of this place,’ says owner Garry Sweeney, whose wife, Sharon, decided on the location for Mt Lofty Ranges. She chose well because the cellar door’s location is enviable, with views down into a small, verdant valley from its perch at 550m.
Growing grapes gives entry into a close-knit community. ‘Everyone lends a hand,’ he says. ‘If your tractor breaks down, someone will come round. In my first year I didn’t know how to prune and other winemakers came over to show me.’ Their lessons were learned: Mt Lofty Ranges’ Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay are delicious.
The tasting room features reclaimed materials, an open fireplace and a terraced decking that leads down to the vines. If you arrive any time from mid-March to early April you may catch Garry and the team among the vines, hand-picking the year’s harvest.; tel +61 08 8389 8339; 166 Harris Road, Lenswood; 11am-6pm Fri-Sun, 11am-5pm Thu & Mon

03 Bird in Hand
Set back from the road, the first impression of Bird in Hand winery is of the pair of ancient shutters that owner Andrew Nugent and his wife Susie brought back from France and which now hang on the cellar door. The entire venue has a French feel, thanks to a shady terrace. In the vineyard the winery hosts live music occasionally.
There’s plenty happening with the wine too, with three levels to taste: the Two in the Bush entry-level wines, the premium Bird in Hand range (which includes Shiraz, a Merlot Cabernet and a Montepulciano), and in certain years, the Nest Egg series for cellaring. The Shiraz, in particular, is an exemplary cool-climate red, fruity and spice without being overblown.; tel +61 08 8389 9488; Bird In Hand Rd & Pfeiffer Rd, Woodside; 10am-5pm Mon-Fri, 11am-5pm Sat & Sun

04 Shaw + Smith
Shaw + Smith is one of the larger cellar doors in the Hills. The focus is on four wines: a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Shiraz. For $15 you taste all four with a platter of cheese; the Sauvignon Blanc is the most successful, lying someway between a fruity Marlborough, New-Zealand style and a Spartan Sancerre from France.; tel +61 08 8398 0500; 136 Jones Road, Balhannah daily 11am-5pm

05 Hahndorf hill
At Hahndorf Hill, which is pioneering several Austrian grape varieties, you’ll not only be testing your tastebuds with interesting wines but also some tongue-twisting names. The warm days and cool nights of the Hills suit Grüner Veltliner, which owners Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson first planted in 2006; South Australia’s first Grüner Veltliner vintage was released in 2010. Blaufrankisch, the red version of the grape, has been grown at Hahndorf for more than 20 years – both benefit from the high mineral content of the blue slate, quartz and ironstone soil. The pair also make a pear-scented Pinot Grigio, and a great cool-climate Shiraz to try while enjoying the views over the vines and gum trees.; tel +61 08 8388 7512; 38 Pains Rd, Hahndorf; 11am-5pm daily


Where to Stay
At Amble’s country-luxe base in Hahndorf there’s the Fern studio, the Wren cottage and an apartment (Amble Over). Wren features a spa bathroom and private deck; Fern a private courtyard with a barbecue.; tel +61 (0)408 105 610; 10 Hereford Avenue, Hahndorf

The Franklin is the hip, new option in Adelaide, a much-needed meeting of demand for twee-free accommodation. The basic (‘deluxe’) rooms are small but so stylish that you won’t mind; pay more for bigger bathrooms and more inventive lighting in the premium and superior rooms.; tel +61 08 8410 0036; 92 Franklin Street

Where to eat
With local growers as suppliers, the chefs at Chianti, Adelaide’s longstanding and much-loved Italian restaurant, are spoiled for choice. And they could probably tell you where the crispy pig’s ear in the risoni con frattaglie or the garfish fillets in the pesce al cartoccio came from.; tel +61 08 8232 7955; 160 Hutt Street, Adelaide

What to do
Kangaroo Island is a popular excursion from Adelaide. It’s not only inhabited by kangaroos but lots of amazing marsupials, and, in the ocean, dolphins and seals.

The Adelaide area has not one but two annual festivals. In the summer, the Crush festival takes over more than 30 wineries for three days in January. It’s not just tastings; there’s food, music and an Alice in Wonderland-themed ball to finish the weekend. In winter, July’s Winter Reds Weekend has become a regular fixture, again with around 30 local wineries participating and plenty of log fires crackling.


Reproduced with permission from Wine Trails, 1st edn.© 2015 Lonely Planet. To purchase a copy of the book, please visit

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,