South Australia – Riverland – along the Murray

By Sam Russell
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Banrock Station - Kingston On Murray, Riverland, South Australia

Banrock Station - Kingston On Murray, Riverland, South Australia

Waikerie, Riverland, South Australia
Renmark, Riverland, South Australia
Riverland Wine and Food Festival, Riverland, South Australia
Murray River, South Australia

 

It’s no secret the Murray riverlands have been doing it tough. There has been limited water for irrigation and until recently rain has been rare. But for the wine traveller – take heart. Our once-mighty Murray remains studded with visit-me towns and attractions, and recent rains will bring it all back to life.

There are wine regions on both sides of the Victorian border with plenty of wineries, mammoth and minuscule, worth visiting. Good accommodation abounds and first-class local produce underpins some excellent restaurants.

The Riverland wine region, downstream from the South Australian border, straddles the tranquil river on its languid winding course. It is a convoluted waterway, often looping and backtracking to reveal unexpected watery vistas. It is a splendid region to visit.

At Renmark is a dinki-di Australian wine icon -- the nation’s 11th largest wine exporter, still family-owned in these days of multinationals. Angove’s, founded almost 125 years ago near Adelaide, is today known as a key producer of Riverland wines but the broad-ranging cellar door also offers a host of wines and spirits from elsewhere. Angove’s distils the notable St. Agnes brandy and visitors will even find the legendary Stone’s Green Ginger Wine. James Halliday rates Angove’s a four-star operation.

Also at Renmark is the world-renowned rose garden and nursery Ruston’s Roses which boasts 40,000 bushes and 4,000 varieties. This is a glorious operation, never better than in Spring and viewed from the lookout tower. Espresso coffee, light meals and – for devotees of the internal combustion engine – a collection of historic racing cars, motorbikes, tractors and suchlike including a 1926 Amilcar, a 1956 Lotus Mk VI and a prosaic 1948 Bradford lorry.

Further downriver at Berri is a fine example of the glass-half-full syndrome – in this case several glasses of specialty fortifieds and table wines. Just four years young, 919 Wines shows tough times breed tough people. The tough people here are not newcomers to the wine game. They have a 25-year winemaking history and a concern with that much-neglected corner of the market – fortified wines. Already a Halliday four-starred operation, the owners use organic and biodynamic methods to cultivate small quantities of uncommon varieties especially for fortifieds. 919 Wines is close to the Sturt Highway – but it’s wise to study the map on their website or use the GPS coordinates shown there.

One can think of Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre as the environmental conscience of megalithic Constellation Wines – said to be the world’s biggest wine company. Found at the end of a sweeping unsealed driveway at Kingston-on-Murray between Berri and Waikerie, the Centre is winner of many awards including a Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award. Banrock pays more than lip-service to corporate environmental responsibility.

The Banrock website relates the damage of early unenlightened settlement – of river banks eroded by the wash from paddle steamers; of mallee scrub and ancient redgum forests denuded for firewood for their boilers; of native species competing unsuccessfully with exotic flora and fauna; of salinity buildup in the river. As though in partial compensation, here is a fine education and interpretive centre; up to eight kilometres of boardwalk trails through the rehabilitated wetlands; a cellar door; a restaurant – and an experience that should be compulsory for everyone concerned about the degradation of our once-great river systems. Everyone should visit at least once.

Illalangi is a small producer of premium products with an outlet on the main road near Waikerie. Their wines, olive oils and gourmet foods make them worth a visit.

In the town, close to the ferry landing, is the delightful Havenhand Chocolates overlooking the riverside park where there is first-class coffee, light meals and a small classy array of fruit-themed fine handcrafted chocolates.

The Riverland is a rewarding wine region to visit. Be you a serious wine-drinker, an enthusiastic hedonist or simply a traveller seeking a reason to break your journey, you will have no regrets about time spent in these idyllic Murray riverlands.

Some of my favourite spots are …

 

Regions

  • Riverland (SA)

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August 26th, 2010
 
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