Adelaide Hills Regional Wine Association: www.adelaidehillswine.com.au
The Adelaide Hill is cool climate (by Australian standards) region, known for producing lean, often acidic wines closer to European styles than the full bodied fruity styles associated with South Australian wine.
The region runs along the highest parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges above the Adelaide central metropolitan area. The boundary between the slightly warmer Eden Valley to the north has been set at Gumeracha. To its south lies the famous McLaren Vale wine region and the rest of Fleurieu Peninsula.
Most of the area is above the 400m contour line and is subject to frequent winter and spring fogs. The annual rainfall averages 1120 mm but falls mainly in the winter-early spring which means that some summer irrigation is regarded as necessary.
It is an old region that faded but has revived in the last three decades. The first colonists in the 1840s quickly learnt that better wines could be grown on the hills rather than the baking Adelaide plains.
There was a thriving wine industry although the early vignerons tended to be on the viticulturally-wrong western side of the ranges to take in the magnificent views of the Gulf of St. Vincent. Most of the early wineries fell victim to the shift to fortified wines (suitable for overseas export) in the early 20th century, and the few survivors (such as Henschke and Yalumba) are now identified as Barossa or Eden Valley wineries.
Brian Crosser (with the financial backing of Len Evans) led the early 1970s revival of serious table wines in the region with Petaluma in Picadilly Valley. Since then there has been boutique winery boom in the region. This means that there are now over 65 vineyards and 25 cellar doors in the area. The main limit on expansion is restrictions on water availability for the often necessary late summer irrigation water when the heat really does crank up even at this altitude.
The cool climate for most of the year mean that the region made its contemporary reputation firstly with crisp and lively Chardonnays, and then intensely tangy Sauvignon Blanc with a distinctive blackcurrant regional twist. This is also the first South Australian region to produce good Pinot Noir with producers at the higest part of the Mt. Lofty Ranges such as Barratt's and Ashton Hills matching the best from Victoria.
It is also the most vino-diverse region in South Australia with Pinot Gris, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Viognier, Lemberger and Trollinger amongst the many varieties with a small but increasing presence here. Notably Arrivo is Australia's first winery solely devoted to Nebbiolo.
The warmer northern and eastern parts of the ranges are suitable for spicy cool climate styles of fuller bodied reds such as Merlot, Cabernet and Shiraz.
It is wine tourism at its best, arguably better scenically than the Yarra Valley. The steep slopes and valleys are full of cherry and apple orchards interspersed with the vines, the natural beauty of the pre-settlement Hills survives in the extensive national parks, there are the German hamlets full of arts, craft and cake stores and all that German beer and sausage (if you like that sort of thing), and occasional glimpses of the spectacular view across the Adelaide Plains and Gulf of St. Vincent. It is hard to successfully convey the panaorama with limited arc of our genxywines photos but we'll keep trying our best.
All this is only 20 minutes drive from Rundle Mall in the Adelaide CBD. But if you are going in a car you will absolutely need a designated skipper if tasting as the roads are very winding and also hazardous in the morning fogs - one notorious corner before the new freeway went in was called Devil’s Elbow if you get the drift. Enjoy one of Australia’s most scenic and classic cold climate wine regions, but do it sensibly. top