South Australia - McLaren Vale - heart of the Fleurieu wine zone
By Sam Russell
Vineyards and wineries dot South Australia’s arcadian Fleurieu Peninsula as it stretches south from Adelaide to the Murray’s mouth. Here vignerons rub shoulders with grazing, horticulture, dairy and crop producers. It is a generously endowed part of the continent.
The centre of gravity of Fleurieu gastronomy is undoubtedly McLaren Vale. Perhaps Australia’s most accessible wine destination you can drive there from Adelaide’s CBD in under 45 minutes.
McLaren Vale is well recognised for fine red wines, especially shiraz and grenache. There are almost 80 cellar doors here, 130 vineyards and numerous memorable fine-dining restaurants.
The region rewards the visitor at any time -- but here’s a plan for visiting the Vale in one easygoing unrushed day. As ever you’ll find trading days and times vary widely. Check the websites as you plan.
Stop 1 - Breakfast at Willunga Farmers' Market
It is a weekly phenomenon, so if you're in the area on a Saturday make sure you stop here for breakfast and browsing. Legions of locals join the Adelaide hordes at this Saturday morning outdoor celebration of fresh regional produce. Arrive at 8, head for the Relish Sisters’ hearty breakfast, skip the queues for coffee (see Stop 2) then dawdle through Vogue Australia’s 2009 ‘Outstanding Farmers’ Market.’ 70-odd local producers qualify to sell here. Talk to them all. Try before you buy.
Open every Saturday 8 am to 12.30 (but not Christmas Day),
Willunga Town Square,
Main Road, Willunga
Tel: 08 8556 4297
Stop 2 - Coriole cellar door for wine olive oil, platters
It is a languid scenic drive from Willunga to the high northern slopes of the Vale. The views are spectacular and the road-signs read like a wine list. Family-owned Coriole makes notable wines and an equally notable contribution to cultural life. The annual Coriole Music Festivals are legendary.
Cellar door open 10 to 5 weekdays; 11 to 5 Sundays and public holidays.
Tel: 08 8323 8305
Stop 3 - Maxwell Wines and Meads
At this striking winery set into the chalk hillside above the township, Maxwell makes rich classic exemplars of the McLaren Vale wine types. Sampling the shiraz and cabernet styles alone makes a visit worthwhile. But did you know Australian mead sets world standards? A medal and trophy winner at overseas mead competitions, Maxwell also makes three illustrious meads. Try them.
Cellar door open 10 to 5 daily.
Tel: 08 8323 8200
Stop 4 - Lunch at Salopian Inn
The Salopian is a southern vales dining institution. The building has been there for 150 years. The same family has run it for – well, not quite as long. The menu is local, concise and imaginative and the cellar fully reflects the region. You have had a busy morning. Now for a reflective meal with some decent regional wine. They all are, of course.
Open for lunch daily except Wednesday. Open for dinner Friday and Saturday nights.
Corner Main and McMurtrie Roads,
Tel: 08 8323 8769
After lunch - stroll to Primo Estate for wine and olive oil tasting
This makes an excellent post-luncheon stroll from the Salopian. Visit this striking contemporary structure, taste the Italian-heritage wines and olive oils and admire this bold statement of the Grilli family’s confidence in the long-term future of McLaren Vale.
Open daily 11 to 4
Tel: 08 8323 6800
Stop 5 - Wirra Wirra
From the 1970s the legendary and now-late Greg Trott, rescuer of this derelict 1902 ironstone winery from its state of near demolition, leveraged this rejuvenated brand into the public eye with a shrewd blend of assured winemaking and astute marketing. Trott’s stamp is found everywhere in this fascinating winery.
Open Monday to Saturday 10 to 5; Sunday and public holidays 11 to 5
Tel: 08 8323 8414
Stop 6 - Dinner at Fino
One well-known wine writer called this the best restaurant in South Australia. Perhaps he’s right. There is one simple way to find out. Book.
Open for lunch Tuesday to Saturday; for dinner Friday and Saturday; and for breakfast on Saturday from 8.30.
8 Hill Street,
Tel: 08 8556 4488
- Fleurieu Peninsula (SA)
- Fleurieu (including Kangaroo Island) (SA)
- McLaren Vale (SA)
- Mount Lofty Ranges (SA)
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