Australia is a dynamic wine producing country with approximately 60 wine regions and 103 "defined geographic indications" or GI zones. Across Australia, just shy of 400,000 acres are planted to vineyards. Although wine is produced in every state, most activity takes place in the southern, cooler parts of the country - South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. The wine regions in each of these areas produce a wide variety of types and styles that reflect Australia's vast climatic differences, topography and soil types – in short, Terroir. For More information about the specific regions represented by Epicurean Wines, please explore the map to the right.
For more info about these regions and those that Epicurean Wines does not currently represent, please visit Wine Australia.
The first vines in South Australia were planted in approximately 1845 in what is now metropolitan Adelaide, South Australia’s largest city. Largely because of climate and soils South Australia is ideally suited to the production of full-bodied wine making it the heart of Australia’s wine production since those first vines took root.
Click on the region names below to view more information about each region.
This is a region of rapidly growing importance for the production of super-premium table and sparkling wines. The Adelaide Hills area is very beautiful, particularly in autumn, and is still a largely undiscovered treasure. Twisting and turning, rising and falling, the roads offer cameo vistas with bewildering frequency. But no one should venture into this region without a detailed road map, for it is impossible to navigate by simply using one's sense of direction.
The Adelaide Hills has two registered subregions, Lenswood and Piccadilly Valley.
The Barossa Valley begins 50 kilometres east of Adelaide at Gawler and stretches for 40 kilometres encompassing the Towns of Nurioopta, Tanunda, Angaston, Lyndoch and Gawler, and a few smaller towns set in the valleys of the northern Adelaide Hills. The Barossa Valley is at the heart of the Australian wine industry. Most of the country’s largest wine companies are headquartered here; for more than 150 years, grape growing and winemaking have been the principal occupations of its residents. Early German settlers recognized the potential of the climate and soil for the production of wine grapes. The area prospered until 1979 when a trend toward white wines and a contraction in the fortified market led to vine pull schemes and a loss of confidence in the industry. In the late 80’s, a shift occurred and red wine returned to favor.
Situated in the northern Mt Lofty Ranges, South Australia’s Clare Valley was settled in the late 1830s, with the first vineyards planted and wines produced in the early 1840s. The region is now home to about 50 wineries, with the region producing around 2% of the Australian grape crush.
The same features that make the Clare Valley inherently beautiful – steep north-south ranges rising from the flats to the west, deep narrow gullies, high windswept plateaus, wide open valley floors and austere slate escarpments – are the foundation of Clare’s famed vineyards.
While a traditional region of great history and mature vineyards, the winemakers of Clare could not be accused of resting on their laurels. In a co-operative effort, they decided to start producing their Riesling sealed with a screwcap in the late 1990s. Their pioneering work has seen this type of wine bottle seal widely adopted in many other parts of the world.
The Coonawarra region is located in the far south-east of South Australia. Neighboring wine regions include Wrattonbully and Mount Benson. The region is only 60 kilometres (37 miles) inland and a predominantly maritime climate prevails, with the dry and moderately cool summers ripening most grape varieties to perfection. Its maritime location does not, however, prevent the occurrence of spring frosts that are occasionally quite severe. The extensive cloud cover that moderates the most important ripening period temperatures also sets the region apart from others.
To the untrained eye, Coonawarra appears completely flat, but in fact the red soil is situated on a slight but all important limestone ridge. The terra rossa of Coonawarra is Australia's most famous soil, although it is not unique to the region (many parts of the Limestone Coast Zone have similar soils, hence its name), nor is it of volcanic origin, as some believe. Vivid red in color, it is either friable subplastic clay or a shallow friable loam derived from and lying on top of a bed of soft limestone. There are two other soils present in the region. The first is the groundwater or black rendzina soil lying to the west of the limestone ridge. Because of its poor drainage this soil does not favor the production of quality red wine fruit. The other is the brown rendzina or "transitional", as it is called in the region. This is similar to terra rossa in all respects and is planted to red grapes quite successfully.
The high country of Eden Valley has a long history of viticulture, equalling that of the neighbouring Barossa Valley. Joseph Gilbert planted the first vines at his Pewsey Vale vineyard in 1842. Eden Valley covers an area as large as that of the Barossa Valley proper, but is less intensely developed. It is justifiably famous for its Riesling, which vies for supremacy with that of the Clare Valley.
Altitude is all-important in determining mesoclimate, although aspect and slope are also important in this hilly terrain. Thus, at an altitude of around 500 metres (1640 feet) at the southern end of the Eden Valley are appreciably cooler than the more northerly Heschke vineyards at an elevation of 380 to 400 metres (1247 to 1312 feet) around Keyneton. Overall, of course, growing season temperatures are significantly lower than those of the Barossa Valley, and the final stages of ripening and harvesting take place in much cooler conditions. Wind is a major factor, too, in restricting both growth and yield on the typically exposed hillsides. Water availability is a limiting factor in the expansion of vineyards.
Langhorne Creek has a history of viticulture dating back to 1860 and is known for its flat, river delta landscape. The growing season climate is predominantly shaped by the onshore southerly winds blowing directly from the Southern Ocean across Lake Alexandrina. While intermittently broken by periods of very hot weather associated with northerly winds emanating from central Australia, the prevailing southerlies normally reduce daytime temperature fluctuations. These southerlies also decrease sunshine hours and overall summer temperatures, while increasing the relative humidity. The winter-spring rainfall pattern persists. Irrigation is universally practised, in part by the unique method of diverting the Bremer River and deliberately flooding the land in late winter. Newer vineyards also use conventional drip irrigation.
Langhorne Creek’s fertile soils are predominantly deep, alluvial sandy loams that vary in color from red-brown to dark grey, with patches of black, self-mulching clays. All soil types promote vine vigor, generous canopies and cropping levels.
The McLaren Vale Wine Region is located just to the South of Adelaide, on the beautiful and geographically diverse Fleurieu Peninsula. The township of McLaren Vale, which gives its name to the region, is only 37 km from the center of Adelaide and can be reached in approximately 45 minutes by car. The region is bordered by the Sellicks Hill Range on the south, extending to the eastern side of Clarendon, including the area around the Mount Bold Reserve. To the North, the region extends just past Reynella (most vineyards are South of the Onkaparinga River), and on the West, to the waters of Gulf St Vincent. McLaren Vale is also very close to the South coast with its wonderful beaches and crystal clear waters.
All regional descriptions were provided by Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation.