Wine tasting visit to McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills in South Australia

McLaren Vale wine region

A very enjoyable trip to South Australia's famous McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills in late December 2017 to sample wines from some iconic wineries. I have to say the Aussie's do the whole wine tasting experience very well. Friendly hosts, great deli's and restaurants next to the tasting room, pairing wine with cheese etc. Makes it a real wine and food experience, especially with all the locally grown produce in South Australia. 

I stayed in Aldinga Beach, south of Adelaide, for easy access to the wine regions. Lovely beach too which goes on for miles. 

Aldinga Beach South Australia

Battle of Bosworth, Gaffney Rd, Willunga SA 5172

Battle of Bosworth Wines, Willunga, McLaren Vale

Battle of Bosworth wines in Willunga is to the south of the McLaren Vale township.

Edgehill Vineyard was established in the early 1970s by Peter and Anthea Bosworth. Willunga itself was settled in approximately 1837 and the Bosworths have been growing grapes in the district on and off from the late 1840s. In 1995, Edgehill went organic.

Battle of Bosworth Wines was established in 2001 by Joch Bosworth, son of Peter and Anthea, and partner Louise Hemsley-Smith (who looks after sales, marketing and the tasting room) and wines are made from vines that were planted in the early 1970’s by Joch’s parents.

Following successful study at Charles Sturt University in New South Wales in viticulture Joch went on a world tour spending a season working for Robert Mondavi in the Napa, he then went on to do a vintage or harvest in Oregon, at Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Returning home, Joch was drawn east of the border to Goona Warra, a small Victorian winery in the Sunbury wine region, where he worked for several years. After three years as resident viticulturist and winemakerJoch returned home to Edgehill Vineyard in 1995 to take over the reins from father and founder, Peter.

Joch’s commitment to organic principles in the vineyards began with an increasing sense of discomfort about using synthetic chemicals on his soils.

Battle of Bosworth wine tasting room

It was a comprehensive tasting experience with Louise in the tasting room, trying their full range of wines including Touriga Nacional, Graciano, the Amarone style White Boar, 2012 Best of Vintage, 2014 Chanticleer Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Puritan Preservative Free Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Great to taste top quality organic wines after having the Wild Boar Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon back in the United Kingdom. The canes are cut once the grapes are flavour ripe, and then the grapes are left to dry and concentrate on the vines for 10-12 days. The grapes are slightly shrunken but rich in flavour and acidity. Then there  is a slow fermentation (the beaumé or grape sugar is pretty high) and then maturation for about 20 months in big old oak barrels before bottling.

Penny's Hill, 281 Main Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171

Penn'y Hill winery McLAren Vale

In 1988 Tony and Susie Parkinson acquired land east of McLaren Vale. The 32 ha (80 acre) grazing property with commanding views over the waters of Gulf St.Vincent, promised all the elements for a great vineyard.

Named Penny’s Hill Vineyard after the hill at the base of which it is sited, the property was planted to vines in 1991 to a unique narrow-row configuration to maximise vineyard productivity and grape and wine quality.

Further vineyard acquisition followed. In 1993, the newly-planted Malpas Road property was purchased, followed in 1996 by an adjacent highly prized hay-producing paddock that was planted to vines and named Goss Corner.

In 1998, the original Goss family homestead, ‘Ingleburne’ was added to the Malpas and Goss properties to reconnect what had originally been one entire holding.

Launched with its first vintage of 141 cases of 1995 Shiraz, Penny’s Hill now offers a range red wines produced from estate grown fruit from McLaren Vale vineyards totalling 105 acres. Fruit for Penny’s Hill white wines are sourced from nearby Adelaide Hills vineyards they call ‘estates of mates’.

Penny's Hill winery McLaren Vale

The tasting room has an adjacent restaurant overlooking the vineyards.

Another great tasting experience with a chance to try Skeleton Key Shiraz, Footprint Shiraz, Edwards Road Cabernet Sauvignon and The Experiment Grenache.

Very friendly host with a wealth of information. 

d'Arenberg, Osborn Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171

D'Arenberg exit

d’Arenberg was started in 1912, by Joseph Osborn (making it 105 years old), a teetotaller, who bought 25 hectares of land and began selling fruit to local wineries. In 1928, the property’s own cellars were completed and red and fortified wines began to be made and mainly exported to Europe.

The name d’Arenberg came to prominence in 1959 when Joseph’s grandson Francis d’Arenberg Osborn, known as ‘d’Arry’, took over the running of the business and renamed it in honour of his mother’s family name. 

In 1984, d’Arry’s charismatic son Chester d’Arenberg Osborn, having graduated and spent time exploring European vineyards and wineries, took over the winery as chief winemaker and viticulturist. 

In 2009 d’Arenberg joined Australia’s First Families of Wine, a trade alliance of 12 family-owned companies. T

The estate's iconic wines are The Dead Arm Shiraz, The Coppermine Road and The Ironstone Pressings.

All d’Arenberg estate and leased vineyards are NASAA Certified for organic and biodynamic processes. Great!

D'arenberg McLaren Vale

The Cube at d'Arenberg just opened in December 2017. It’s been called Willy Wonker’s Wine Factory, the Mad Hatter’s House, and Chester’s Folly. It was inspired by a Rubik’s Cube and is the brainchild of Chester Osborn, fourth generation grape grower and Chief Winemaker. An amazing structure set within the vineyards and boasting wine experiences and a restaurant with tasting.

But rather than heading into the Cube, I decided on a late brunch at Polly's on the veranda. Bottle of the Noble Mud Pie 2017 dessert wine purchased with Botrytis Cinerea affected Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes.

Polly's D'Arenberg

Shaw + Smith, 136 Jones Rd, Balhannah SA 5242

Shaw+Smith views from tasting room Adelaide Hills

Shaw + Smith was established in 1989 by cousins Michael Hill Smith MW and Martin Shaw. They make wines exclusively from the Adelaide Hills, from varieties that suit the cooler climate: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. Shaw + Smith own two vineyards, in Lenswood and Balhannah. 

Shaw + Smith’s first vintage was in 1990, and the early vintages were made at Wirra Wirra and Petaluma. In 1999 they purchased a property at Balhannah, where they planted vines, and built the winery and tasting room in time for the 2000 vintage. In 2012 they purchased an established 20 hectare vineyard in Lenswood. 

Although grapes were planted as early as 1839, it was not until 1979 that viticulture was revived in the Adelaide Hills. Located in the Mt Lofty Ranges thirty minutes drive from Adelaide, the elevation varies from around 350 metres, to over 710 metres at Mt Lofty. The Adelaide Hills is bordered to the North by the Barossa and Eden Valleys and McLaren Vale to the South, but due to its altitude, the Adelaide Hills is significantly cooler and wetter.

Had a chance to taste the full flight including an extra of the Balhannah Vineyard Shiraz 2015. There Shiraz wines are mighty good. Great tasting experience with an informative conversation with the tasting team.

Hahndorf Adelaide Hills

On the way back from the Adelaide Hills to McLaren Vale I passed through the quirky little town of Hahndorf with its German roots. Seemed a good place to stay as lots of restaurants including beer halls, sausage and all things German. Touristy but good base for wine tasting I would think with Shaw+Smith right on the doorstep.

Primo Estate, 50 McMurtrie Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171

Primo Estate tasting room McLaren Vale

The story of Primo Estate began in 1953 when Primo Grilli arrived in Australia from the Le Marche region of Italy with a vision of growing grapes. He planted the family's first vineyard in 1973, just north of Adelaide around a small township called Virginia.

Primo's eldest son, Joseph, studied Oenology at South Australia's Roseworthy College and he took over the estate from his father. The culmination of Joe's passion for winemaking is the JOSEPH range, which combines modern Australian know how with Joe's Italian winemaking heritage. As Joe says, "To introduce some rustic qualities from the old world and blend them with Australia's hi-tech skills; you can end up with some fabulous stuff, wines that are better than either of the extremes."

Since the 1980's, Primo Estate has grown with the planting of new vineyards in Clarendon and McLaren Vale. In 2006 it opened a  new McLaren Vale cellar door and tasting room.

Joe has the final word, "I remain swept up by the romance of it all. More than anything else Primo Estate celebrates la dolce vita, Australian style!"

Good tasting of Joseph range: Nebbiolo, Sparkling Red, Moda Cabernet Merlot (Amarone Style) and Angel Gully Shiraz. Plus the Tuscan Shiraz Sangiovese and Zamberlan Cabernet Sangiovese. 

Super tasting experience, very nice wines with the Italian twist and friendly hosts set in a very nice and modern tasting room surrounded by the vineyards.

Other wineries passed by but no tasting. 

Mollydooker, Copper Mine Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171

Mollydooker wines McLaren Vale

Wirra Wirra, McMurtrie Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171

Wirra Wirra winery, McLaren Vale