Australia is consistently one of the top wine exporters in the world, and around half of its wine comes from South Australia. Good soils, temperate climate, and abundant sunshine to ripen fruit make for world-class wines. Hundreds of wineries ring Adelaide, with a host of fine restaurants and accommodations for an overnight or longer retreat. By car, the Barossa Valley makes an excellent day trip, which can include the Clare Valley. McLaren Vale is another easy escape, with easy side trips to the Fleurieu Peninsula or Adelaide Hills. Alternatively, tours run from Adelaide or from within the regions.
The Barossa Valley is one of the country’s premier wine districts, with over a hundred cellar doors within an hour’s drive northeast of Adelaide. Here you will find some of the big names in Barossa and Australian wine, like Jacob’s Creek with its huge visitor center, the decidedly old-world Chateau Tanunda, and Penfolds, producer of Australia’s famous Grange vintage. Peter Lehmann, Saltram, Seppeltsfield, Grant Burge, and Henschke are other well-known producers with popular cellar doors. Shiraz—known as Syrah in other regions of the world—is the signature grape, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Semillon all thrive here.
Many of the wineries offer dining, such as the feted Hentley Farm restaurant, and Maggie’s Farm Shop—run by Australian culinary celebrity Maggie Beer—a popular stop for gourmet goods. For those not driving, a host of tours from the Barossa Valley or Adelaide will show you around by car, balloon, plane, motorbike, or bicycle—the new Jack Bobridge Track is a popular cycling addition.
From the Barossa, drive one hour north on A32/B82 highway to the Clare Valley, centered on the towns of Clare and Auburn. Noted for outstanding Riesling and other cool-climate wines, the area is home to big-name wineries such as Annie’s Lane, Jim Barry, Pikes, and Taylors. The Riesling Trail is one of the state’s most popular bicycle rail trails for a leisurely tour of the valley and its wineries. You can contact the tourism center for organized tours. Half an hour from Clare, the colonial streetscapes and antique shops of Burra make for an interesting detour.
Heading south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale is only 40 minutes away on the Southern Expressway. The region is noted for its richly flavoured Shiraz, but it also produces Cabernet Sauvignon and a host of other varieties, with Spanish and Italian grape varieties gaining popularity. Established wineries with impressive cellar doors include d’Arenberg, Hardys Tintara, Rosemount Estate, and Angove. Chook’s Little Winery Tours samples the best of the boutique wineries. You can also explore the historic towns of McLaren Vale and Willunga, or fine beaches like Maslin, a short detour west.
Coonawarra, 250 miles southeast of Adelaide, is famous for its intensely flavored Cabernet Sauvignon, but it also produces fine Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay, and other varieties. Situated on a shallow limestone ridge, its terra rossa and mild climate produce unique fruit. This is an easy region to tour, with over 20 wineries on or just off the Riddoch Highway north of Penola, between the beaches and caves of the Limestone Coast. Wynns Coonawarra Estate is the original and best known of the wineries. For lunch with views over the vineyards, secure a table on the deck at popular restaurant Upstairs at Hollick.
Warning: If tippling more than touring is your focus, the courts impose severe penalties for driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.05 percent, and police all carry breath-testing equipment. Police can nab you riding on a bicycle while impaired, though the penalty is a much lower fine. All of the wine regions offer guided tours.