About half of the wine Australia produces every year comes from South Australia, the enormous state just west of Victoria. As a wine-making region, it is characterized by great diversity in climate and soils--from the cool-weather Clare Valley to warm-weather Barossa Valley. The region encompasses many of Australia's most recognized and renowned wine sub-regions.
The Adelaide Hills face the ocean and the vineyards sit up above the warm valleys below--cooling conditions that make this a prime appellation for growing white grapes like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Adelaide Hills are also producing a crisp style of Shiraz.
Settled by German immigrants in the 19th century, the Barossa Valley is a warm-weather region that has earned a reputation for powerful, ripe reds, mainly Shiraz, Grenache, and full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. The Shiraz vines are some of the oldest in Australia. Old vines are prized because, with age, vines tend to loose some of their youthful vigor, which leads to smaller yields and more complex flavors.
Eden Valley is just east of the Barossa Valley. The vineyards here are slightly cooler than Barossa and are elevated on windy low-lying hills. These conditions help Eden Valley make some of Australia’s best Rieslings.
Try with an Eden Valley Riesling:
Just to the northwest of Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley is set amidst rolling hills on slate and limestone in a climate similar to Eden Valley's. The cool breezes that come in off the coast make it a prime place for cool-weather-loving Riesling. Here as in Eden Valley, Australians are taking this old German grape and teaching it new tricks. Their style is dry and steely with fruit flavors that range from citrus through apple and peach. One interesting note, since 2000, Clare Valley producers have bottled all of their Rieslings with screw caps. The practice is catching on elsewhere in Australia.
Try with a Clare Valley Riesling:
Just south of the city of Adelaide, McLaren Vale sits in rolling hills above the Gulf St. Vincent. The best wines from here are chocolaty Shiraz, juicy raspberry-flavored Grenache (many from old vines planted on hillsides), and fruity Chardonnay.
Try with a McLaren Vale Shiraz or Grenache:
The Limestone Coast
The Limestone Coast is situated in the southeast corner of South Australia, where temperatures are kept cool by the proximity of the ocean. The region is divided into several sub-appellations, including Coonawarra and Padthaway. Coonawarra is a sub-zone famous for its thin red soil (known as terra rossa) laid over limestone. It is a top spot for minty Cabernet Sauvignon.
Read more about Australian wine country and find recipes for pairing: