Adelaide hills vineyards

A Guide To South Australian Wines

South Australia is our nation’s wine heartland. From our much-loved crisp, vibrant and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc produced in the high altitude, cool climate of the Adelaide Hills, to the rich and full-bodied reds made in the Barossa Valley sunshine – South Australia produces the perfect wine to suit any preference, style, meal or occasion.

Home to some of the world’s oldest vines and most famous wineries, South Australia has joined the table of the nine Great Wine Capitals of the World, proudly seated alongside the likes of Bordeaux in France, Rioja in Spain and California’s Napa Valley.

We truly are spoilt for choice when it comes to the seemingly bottomless barrel of South Australian wine available to us. There are 18 stunning wine regions sprawled over green hillsides, spectacular coastlines, and historic towns; and each one has distinct differences in climate, terrain and terroir that all work in harmony to produce a wide range of premium wines that vary in complexity and character.

Here is our quick guide to five of South Australia’s most famed wine regions and the varietals they are renowned for.

BAROSSA VALLEY

Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache

Steeped in history and tradition, many of Barossa’s grape-growing families span six or seven generations. Located a one-hour drive north of Adelaide, the Barossa Valley is a wonderland for red wine lovers. The Mediterranean climate, characterised by warm summers and mild winters, and the area’s rich farming heritage, are a winning combination for producing some of Australia’s most iconic and internationally acclaimed Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.

 

CLARE VALLEY

Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon

Drive 90 minutes north of Adelaide and you will find yourself in the Clare Valley. The Clare Valley has warm summers, but cooling maritime breezes can drop the temperature quite dramatically in the evening, slowing down the ripening process of the grapes. Clare’s unique climate is perfect for producing the crisp, dry, and citrusy Riesling that it is celebrated for. It’s also known for its exceptional Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

COONAWARRA

Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot

Coonawarra is a small wine region on the Limestone Coast in the south-eastern corner of South Australia, about four hours from Adelaide. Coonawarra is known as Australia’s red centre and is revered for its sacred strip of rich “terra rossa” red dirt. This prized soil, when blessed with dry heat in the summer and freezing winters, creates ideal growing conditions for the king of Coonawarra wines, Cabernet Sauvignon. Alongside Cabernet, it also produces outstanding Shiraz and Merlot.

 

MCLAREN VALE

Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon; plus smaller varieties such as Tempranillo, Marsanne, Rousanne and Sangiovese

Located just a short 40-minute drive from Adelaide and tucked between the stunning Fleurieu Peninsula coastline and the Mount Lofty ranges, McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions. While the region is best known for its Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is fast emerging as the home of Grenache. McLaren Vale’s Mediterranean climate has also inspired lesser-known European varietals including Tempranillo, Marsanne, Rousanne and Sangiovese.

 

Adelaide Hill Nepenthe Vineyards misty morning

 

ADELAIDE HILLS

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Shiraz

The Adelaide Hills is the heart and soul of Nepenthe Vineyards. Our winery was one of the first to be established in the region and our collection of premium wine, created at the hands of master craftsmen, is a true reflection of the spirit and character of our home.

Built over lush and leafy hills and valleys, the Adelaide Hills is nestled up high in the Mount Lofty Ranges, just a 35-minute drive east of the city. This picture-perfect region produces some of the best cool-climate and sparkling wines in Australia. The diverse landscape and unique microclimates enable an array of grape varieties to thrive, particularly early-ripening varieties including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Shiraz.

Here are two of Nepenthe’s most-loved and esteemed white wine varieties that showcase the unique provenance of our cool-climate home. Like all our wines, they are especially made to be shared and inspire moments of real connection among friends and loved ones.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is Australia’s most popular white wine varietal. While the Marlborough region in New Zealand may still be the world’s biggest producer, we believe that the Adelaide Hills sets the benchmark for Sauvignon Blanc.

Unlike New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc which has a distinct herbaceous aroma and is zesty and citrus on the palate, Sauvignon Blanc produced in the Adelaide Hills is less aggressive in acidity and is an elegant, vibrant wine with notes of citrus, tropical fruit and herbs.

Nepenthe Altitude Sauvignon Blanc has notes of passionfruit and guava with a clean citrus-like finish. This delicious, easy-drinking premium wine recently received 91 points in the 2021 Winestate Magazine Awards. It is the perfect bottle to have free flowing during a dinner party with friends.

Suggested food pairings: Spicy stir-fry, goat’s cheese salad, fresh prawns.

Grüner Veltliner

The Adelaide Hills is also home to the small town of Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest German settlement. It’s no surprise then that the region boasts Australia’s largest planting of Grüner Veltliner, a white wine grape varietal that is indigenous to Austria and thrives in cool climates.

Awarded 94 points in the 2021 Winestate Adelaide Hills Challenge, the 2020 Nepenthe Altitude Grüner Veltliner vintage is a shining example of why this lesser-known, relatively new varietal in Australia is starting to gain momentum. It has an enticing and distinctively peppery aroma balanced with notes of white nectarine, dried pineapple and hints of honey, which gives way to a long, zesty finish. This delightfully elegant and contemporary South Australian wine is sure to get the conversation flowing the next time you serve it over a shared meal.

Suggested food pairings: Chicken schnitzel, grilled fish, spicy Thai curry.