High on my rather long list of weaknesses is a fondness for good red wine and fresh produce, which means that visits to South Australia tend to result in a considerable amount of indulgence. Now with the excuse of having something to blog about, a visit to at least one of the wine regions is positively necessary! This trip that region is McClaren Vale and I toured with my mother and aunt, both highly … experienced (!) wine appreciators.
So lets start with my sweeping and highly subjective assessment of Australian wine – South Australia produces the best wines in the country and therefore are among the best in the world (see rant below for my opinion on our global standing). I have to admit a significant bias of course, having been born and raised here but one could also flip that around to say that at least its an educated opinion! The wineries of the Southern Vales sneak just ahead of Clare, the Barossa and the Adelaide Hills to be my favourites. If I had a bajillion dollars, I’d go buy a hobby winery there, build beautiful gardens to host weddings and other special functions in, and pay people to do all the boring work so that I could swan around talking to people, eating and drinking fabulous food and wine and generally enjoying the lifestyle. Given my lack of funds, I guess I’ll have to settle for visiting similar places on holidays.
McClaren Vale has some stunning wineries, restaurants and cellar doors hidden between the vines. Old favourite wineries in the area include Coriole (mostly for the food and gardens!), d’Arenberg, Kangarilla Road, Ekhidna, Tapestry, Pertaringa, Ulithorne and Maxwell for their mead. Red Poles and the Salopian Inn are unbeatable for excellent food, and despite not being in love with the rest of my very expensive meal, the lavender creme brulee at The Currant Shed changed my life. Its a trap to keep going to the same ones every time though so we try to discover new places each visit now. This day we made it to four – Ekhidna, Samuel’s Gorge, Oliver’s Taranga and Battle of Bosworth – and a bakery in the centre of town for a simple lunch.
Ekhidna was quick stop to pick up some more Grenache as we already know and love them, but we invariably got delayed chatting and enjoying ourselves at the cellar door – it has a most welcoming atmosphere.
Samuel’s Gorge has one of the most spectacular views from their courtyard and informal cellar door, and friendly staff will deliver tastings wherever you choose to settle, inside or out. Their wines are usually good, though I was a little underwhelmed this visit and felt that they were releasing their current range too early. Give them a couple of years and they’ll likely be excellent – 2010 and 2012 vintages look to be superb all across the region for reds. A highlight was a newly released straight Mourvedre, which I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted outside a blend. They also provided us some excellent recommendations for the next two wineries.
Oliver’s served up a suite of excellent wines and some superb olive oil but their flagship wine, 2008 HJ Reserve Shiraz, made us moan with pleasure. My aunt bought me a bottle to be drunk somewhere beautiful when I feel like I’ve rediscovered myself through my travels. Fair motivation I think.
The final winery Battle of Bosworth is an organic winery with some nice enough wines, featuring a preservative free wine that had an … interesting nose (something between sweaty sneakers and raw meat) but had a particularly stunning sticky semillion – my only purchase of the day in an attempt to stick to my shoestring travel budget. Thankfully all of these wineries deliver and I’ll be referring back to the websites when I’m home and have an income again.
So what does one do after an afternoon of wine tasting? Why, go back to my aunt’s ocean view house for a platter of cheeses, dips and fruit and another bottle of wine of course! We watched the sunset over the water and contemplated life as only one can after many glasses of fine wine. Many thanks to my mother for her chauffeur service.
Best – Ekhidna Wines
There are many things to love about this winery. Ekhidna is starting to emerge as a producer of full-flavoured, *BIG* red wines featuring a 94 point Shiraz and my favourite 96 point Grenache but what is a surprise is that they still very affordable (one might even say underpriced) at around $20 a bottle. I can’t imagine that this will last given quality, but I intend to make the most of it. Talented winemaker Matt Rechner is often at the tasting bar chatting to customers and is fascinating to talk to. If you’re not so keen on wine, Ekhidna also produces hand-crafted, award-winning beers, ciders and ginger beer, and past the bar is a fantastic restaurant with excellent tapas style food. Matt and his team are young, enthusiastic and progressive in their use digital and social media – a little unusual what is a fairly old-school industry – and they bring a great vibe to the restaurant and bar. They also have some good specials available to people on their mailing list, though I like to go in there when I’m in Adelaide. Well worth a visit – website:, or check out them out on Facebook:
Worst – Australia’s chronically mismanaged wine export industry
In the two years I spent living in the UK and in travels around the US last year, I was staggered to see what kind of rubbish Australian wine was available for consumers. Its all very well for us to be parochial about our wine and some Australians might think this is fabulous – we keep the best for ourselves and get rid of the swill – but its actually a terribly unwise strategy all around. Australia produces far too much wine for us to possibly drink ourselves and needs the international community to buy it for our wine industry to survive. With woefully inadequate regulation, wine that should never have been made from inferior grapes and inexperienced producers have been exported overseas to countries who now believe that this is indicative of the quality of our wines. The emerging markets therefore turn to countries in Europe, the Americas and New Zealand rather than us for middle to top end wines. If the Australian wine industry together can’t find some way of clawing our international reputation back and make the most of countries such as China, Japan, Singapore and India beginning to consume wine in earnest, the industry will crash and many of our talented and experienced winemakers will be forced to close up shop.