Monday, May 27, 2024

The epicurean way: a four-day road trip around South Australia’s wine regions

In the four major wine regions surrounding Adelaide, there are over 500 wineries and nearly half as many wine cellars….

By Chan , in Travel , at April 1, 2024

In the four major wine regions surrounding Adelaide, there are over 500 wineries and nearly half as many wine cellars.

Even the most passionate oenophile will be baulked by the length of a four-day journey. But it’s the best way to discover what makes each area special. Because the distances are not too far apart, you have plenty of time to explore the region beyond the wineries.

Four-day road trip through the Clare Valley and Barossa Valleys, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, and Adelaide Hills

Day One: City to Rail Trail


Mick Mittiga is blunt: “I think you may need some help.” The owner of Clare Valley Cycle Hire only needs a few seconds to assess me before recommending an e-bike along the Riesling Trail.

Thanks to the Northern Connector, a wormhole that quickly funnels travelers through Adelaide’s north suburbs, I am able to spend plenty of time exploring the old railway line that runs along the Clare Valley.

I start my tour at the cellar door, which is synonymous with the most famous product in the region. After weaning Australians away from sticky dessert riesling, Grosset Wines focuses on distinct dialects, such as citrusy Watervale and powerful, steely Polish Hill wines.

As I ride in the direction of these sub-regions, I pass by cuttings of broken siltstone and dams that overlook vineyards where leafless, twisted vines still struggle to escape winter’s clutches. As I turn off the main road and take a route that gradually climbs upwards, I silently thank Mick for insisting on an electric bike.

Don’t miss: The Riesling Trail offers the easiest way to explore the region on foot or by bike.

Slate is the cellar-door restaurant of Pike Wines. It offers a wide variety of seafood dishes that go well with their zesty, bright riesling.

Stay Bungaree station was once a small village with stables, council chambers, and other amenities. It has been converted into comfortable accommodations. Starting at $182 per night.

Day two: Traditional tastes

The two-lane blacktop, which runs south of Clare Valley, is flanked by fields of barley, wheat, and tall enough gum trees to break the waves created by the wind. If not for the bright yellow canola crops that punctuate this landscape like exclamation marks, the landscape would be hypnotic.

The Barossa is Australia’s oldest wine region, and Dean Hewitson’s Old Garden is no exception. The smooth, delicious wine is made from fruit that was grown in an 1853 Mourvedre vine, which is said to be the oldest vineyard in the world. Europe’s vines had been wiped out at the end of the 19th century by phylloxera.

Greenock, a small village (worthy of its name thanks to a general store and the conspicuous absence of a supermarket), is the ideal base from which you can explore the valley. The village is small (and only has a general shop and no supermarket), but it still boasts four wineries, all within walking distance of a country pub. Here, farmers in flannel shirts toast their colleagues while winemakers drink Woodstock cans.

Don’t Miss: Experience the Barossa’s history in Seppeltsfield’s Centennial Cellar, where 142 consecutive vintages are maturing tawny.

Eat celebrates a celebrity of another vintage at The Farm Eatery. Maggie Beer’s daughter Elli offers old Pheasant Farm favorites alongside lighter dishes that honor local producers.

Stay Located in the heart of Greenock, the old Telegraph Station offers a convenient option. Starting at $190 per night.

Day 3: Into the clouds

Driving Time: One Hour 50 Minutes

El Estanco, a nearby restaurant, cures the Greenock’s hangovers with a giant stack of rich and piquant chilaquiles and onsite coffee roasting.

After a good meal, I crossed the valley and climbed through the pine plantations of Williamstown to the Mount Lofty Ranges. The vines are hidden under a thin layer of leaves, which confirms the change in climate.

The natural wine movement is gaining influence in Adelaide Hills. Its center, located at the western edge of the region on the Basket Range, has become a major force. These wines are highly variable in flavor and quality, which is echoed in the hyperactive topography of the Adelaide Hills. I am tempted by hidden valleys with cherry blossoms and lakes surrounded by dense bushland, but my eyes are always fixed on the road.

Don’t miss: Since many of the natural winemakers do not have cellar doors, the Summertown aristologist cellar door shared cellar is the best way to get a feel for the scene.

Eat: The most crucial decision to make at Mount Lofty Ranges Winery is which of the three levels of seating you will be occupying for a tasting as colorful as its surrounding valley.

Stay: Located on the other side of Mount Lofty Ranges is Longview Vineyard, which lives up to its title with views of Lake Alexandrina, the Coorong, and beyond from the suites. Starting at $154 per night.

Day four: by the sea

Driving Time: one hour and forty minutes

The dazzling waters of Gulf St Vincent and lush hills of McLaren Vale, bordered by the rising sun, look like the promised land.

The views from the valley are also spectacular. Chalk Hill, which is within walking distance of McLaren Vale but steep enough to discourage pedestrians, houses Never Ever’s distillery. The oily triple-juniper gin, with its pronounced ingredient, and the sweet cranberry-coloured “ginache” highlight one of the more notable varietals of the region.

McLaren Vale, despite being a region that produces wine before the Barossa, has always been more open to experimentation. This spirit continues at BrashHiggins, where the wines are made in clay amphorae of Sicilian style, with bellies striped by stains left from fermenting wine that has overflowed.

The riesling-semillon combines salt and lime to create a blend that is similar to a margarita. As the sun sets behind an old jetty in Port Willunga, it’s still on the back of my mind. The sea views are suddenly changing after four days of constantly changing scenery. In less than an hour, a completely different city awaits. But you can wait a little bit longer.

Don’t miss Break up your day by visiting Port Willunga. It is located just minutes away from most of the wineries.

Eat: The menu of the Salopian Inn is full of delicious dishes, including perfectly pleated king-prawn dumplings smothered in sweet, thick chili oil.