South Australian wine

South Australian wine

The South Australian wine industry is responsible for more than half the production of all Australian wine. The state of South Australia has a vast diversity in geography and climate which allows the state to be able to successfully produce a wine range of grape varieties-from the cool climate Riesling variety in the Clare Valley to the big, full bodied Shiraz wines of the Barossa Valley. Like with most agriculture in Australia irrigation is a vital component to the success of the South Australian wine industry. Some of Australia's most well known wines like the Penfolds Grange, Jacob's Creek, Yalumba and Henschke Hill of Grace are produced here as well as many of Australia's mass produced box wines. T. Stevenson "The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia" pg 578-581 Dorling Kindersley 2005 ISBN 0756613248 ]


The earliest recorded evidence of vine planting was in 1836 by a settler named John Barton Hack in Chichester Gardens, North Adelaide. Following the spread of urban development, those vines were pulled up and Hack planted a new vineyard at Echunga Springs near Mount Barker. In 1843, he sent a case of wine made from the vineyard to Queen Victoria, being the first Australian wine to reach the Queen.

Climate and geography

Located in south central Australia, the state of South Australia is bordered by all five other states of the Australian mainland with Western Australia to the west, Northern Territory to the north, Queensland to the north east, New South Wales to the east and Victoria to the south east. The Great Australian Bight forms the region's southern coastline. The climate of the region varies greatly with the more interior regions like Riverland being intensely hot and growing cooler as you get closer to the coastal regions like Adelaide Hills. Across the region there is low annual rainfall which necessitates the need for irrigation to curb the threat of droughts.

Vines are grown at types of altitudes in south Australia from the low valley regions of the Barossa and the Riverland area up to the 1,970 ft (600 m) vineyards at Pewsey Vale in the Eden Valley. The soil type is also varied across the region from the well known terra rosa of the Coonawarra region, the limestone-marl based soils of the Adelaide and Riverland area, to the sandy, clay loam based soils of the Barossa.

Wine regions

Since the 1960s, Australia's labeling laws have centered around an appellation system that distinguishes the geographic origins of the grape. Under these laws at least 85% of the grapes must be from the region that is designated on the label. In the late 1990s more definitive boundaries were established that divided Australia up into "Geographic Indications" (GI) known as zones, regions and subregions. South Australia added a fourth classification known as super zones which include multiple number of nearby zones. Currently only the Adelaide region which includes the Barossa, Fleurieu zones and the area around the Mount Lofty Ranges is designated as a "superzone". J. Robinson (ed) "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 47-48 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0198609906 ]

Barossa zone

*The Barossa Valley is one of South Australia's oldest and most prestigious premium wine producing regions, known internationally for its Shiraz production. The area's climate is very hot and dry with most of the area's white wine plantings of Chardonnay, Riesling and Semillon being located on the higher altitude hill sides around the valley where they can be cooled by the ocean breeze. In recent times the area has found some success with plantings of Rhône varietals including Grenache and Mourvèdre. Due to the hot climate, the grapes can become overripe, which requires the winemaking to limit the maceration time to prevent the wines from being overly tannic. J. Robinson "Jancis Robinson's Wine Course" Third Edition pg 312-317 Abbeville Press 2003 ISBN 0789208830 ]

*The Eden Valley wine region includes the High Eden sub-region and is known for its rockier, more acidic soil than the neighboring Barossa Valley. The area has a higher elevation (in the 1,300-2000 ft (400-600 m) range), and thus has a colder, wetter climate. The Eden Valley is home to the Hill of Grace vineyard with its 130+ year old Shiraz vines that are behind the world renowned Henschke Hill of Grace wine. The Eden Valley has also gained international attention for its limestone noted Rieslings.

Fleurieu zone

*The Currency Creek wine region extends from shores of Lake Alexandrina to Port Elliot and includes vineyards on the islands of Hindmarsh, Mundoo, and Long Island. Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon blanc and Semillon grow here.

*The Kangaroo Island wine region is located just off the coast of South Australia and is known for its Bordeaux style wines. Most of the vineyards are found on the ironstone and sandy loam soils near Kingscote.

*The Langhorne Creek wine region is located southeast of Adelaide along the Bremer River. Orlando Wines sources many of the grapes for its Jacob's Creek brand from this area which has also developed a reputation of its dessert wines.

*The McLaren Vale wine region is located south of Adelaide and extends to the south of Morphett Vale. With the area's 22 inches (56 cm) of rains and diversity of soil types from sand to clay to limestone, this area produces some of the widest ranges of wines in South Australia with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon blanc being the most widely planted.

*The Southern Fleurieu region is located on the southern end of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The area's sandy loam and gravel based ironstone soil is home to Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Riesling and Viognier plantings.

Mount Lofty Ranges zone

*The Adelaide Hills include Lenswood and Piccadilly Valley sub regions. Located convert|9|mi|km|0 from the coast, winds from the Gulf Saint Vincent has a tempering affect on the mediterranean climate of this region making it one of the coolest in South Australia. While the first vines were planted in this area in the 1840s, it didn't gain much attention from the international wine community till the influx of boutique wineries in the 1970s introduced the area to successful bottlings of sparkling wine, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot noir. In recent times, the area is starting to see success with Cabernet franc, Merlot, Sangiovese, Sauvignon blanc, Semillon and Shiraz. The cool climate of this region encourages winemakers to use malolactic fermentation to help tame some of the wines naturally high acidity.

*The Adelaide Plains is one of the hottest and flattest wine regions in South Australia. The area's Magill vineyard use to provide the grapes for the production of Penfolds' Grange but is now its own bottling.

*The Clare Valley is one of South Australia's most northernly districts. Despite its hot and dry climate many of the vineyards in this area are not irrigated which helps to reduce yields and concentrate the flavors in the grape. The region is know for its ability to produce Chardonnays, Semillons, and Rieslings that range from full body and luscious to light and delicate.

Far north zone

*The Southern Flinders Ranges has been planted with vineyards since the 1890s but has only recent started to gain the attention of the international wine community. Located along the Goyder's Line the area receives ample amount of rainfall and tends to harvest earlier then the neighboring Clare and Barossa valleys. The area is best suited for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz.

Limestone coast zone

*The Coonawarra is the most southerly wine district in South Australia and is known for the world renowned Cabernet Sauvignon grown in its terra rossa soil. For years there was disputes within the Coonawarra region about what vineyards could rightfully be considered "Coonawarra" and what lands were just outside the boundaries. The soil itself became the deciding factor with the lands with red terra rossa soil being distinguished from the black soil found interspersed throughout the region. In addition to Cabernet, the region has also found some success with its Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot noir, Riesling, Sauvignon blanc, Semillon and Shiraz.

*The Mount Benson wine region is located in the southeastern part of the state near the Robe wine region. The area has seen an influx foreign investments including the well known Rhône wine estate M. Chapoutier and the Belgium Kreglinger winery. The wines made here tend to be more fruitier and less tannic than Coonawarra.

*The Padthaway wine region is slightly warmer than Coonawarra but is more well known for its white wine production-particularly Chardonnay. The wines here are known for the balance of their natural acidity and fruit.

*The Robe wine region is located near Mount Benson in the southeast part of the state. The area is a developing wine region currently producing fruit for the Foster's Group SouthCorp division.

*The Wrattonbully wine region is located between Coonawarra and Padthaway and had its first commercial vineyards established in the area in 1968. The climate of the region is similar to Coonawarra but vineyards in the Wrattonbully region tend to be higher elevated and on better drained soils. The soil is of the area includes clay, sand and loam on top of limestone with some patches of terra rossa. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are the most popular plantings.

Lower Murray zone

*The Riverland wine region is the highly irrigated land where many of Australia's bulk and box wines are produced, similar to the Riverina region in New South Wales. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec and Riesling are some of the largest plantings in the area.


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