Chances are, if you’re a wine drinker, or know a wine drinker, you know how celebrated the wine regions of South Australia are.
From the Adelaide city centre, if you head North, East, or South, within an hour you will be in one of the country’s most well-known wine regions – Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills, and McLaren Vale.
While there is plenty to talk and learn about each of these regions, today, we want to focus on the distinct offerings of the Adelaide Hills wine region.
About the Adelaide Hills
The Adelaide Hills is located only a short 25–30-minute drive from Adelaide and is one of those places that those who have had the pleasure of visiting, cannot stop raving about.
Capturing the comforting community vibes only a country town has and combining them with the cosmopolitan convenience of the nearby city, the Hills is a place where people of all backgrounds find entertainment and solace.
Stunning landscapes are home to a rich history. The traditional custodians, the Peramangk Indigenous people, lived in the region for more than 20,000 years. Their influence and culture are still seen throughout the region today, with the names of many places and properties in the Adelaide Hills being derived from Aboriginal words.
South Australia was established as a colony in 1836, with colonists settling in the Adelaide Hills shortly after. Towns of the Hills, such as Norton Summit, Hahndorf, Crafers, Mount Barker and Oakbank, were some of the first to be established. Many of the early immigrants of the region were fleeing religious persecution, and the Adelaide Hills offered them somewhere to start afresh.
The influence of the Prussian immigrants is still seen today, with many towns still showcasing the traditional European architecture and cultural influences of these early settlers. Hahndorf is the most well-known of these towns, and when you step into this gorgeous village, you’ll honestly be surprised that you’re still in Australia.
The Hills is now home to variety of events, natural attractions, luxurious hotels, and of course, wineries and vineyards – which is what we’re here to talk about.
The Adelaide Hills Wine Region
From humble beginnings to a region that boasts more than 60 wineries, how did the Adelaide Hills wine region come to be?
The Beginnings of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region
The Adelaide Hills happens to be one of the oldest wine regions in Australia, and the first in South Australia. John Barton Hack is believed to be the first winemaker of the region, first planting his grapes in North Adelaide in 1837, before taking these plants to a larger property in the Adelaide Hills town, Echunga.
These plants were believed to be Syrah and Grenache and planted from European cuttings. He continued to plant more and more of these. until he had established a what was considered to be a commercial vineyard. He grew his grapes so that they followed the contours of the hills behind his home, and as the growth of his vineyard continued to thrive and allowed him to produce wine, he began to sell his grapes and vine cuttings to other settlers who were interested in starting their own vineyards. This resulted in more than 200 grape growers in the area between 1840 to 1900.
However, the early 1900s saw the end of Imperial Preference – where Australian produce, including wine, was exported to the United Kingdom – which meant that many of these wineries ended up going bankrupt from no longer being able to export their wines.
For the next 50 or so years, the Adelaide Hills land was used for dairy and cattle farms, as well as fruit and vegetable growing. Then the 1970s saw the rebirth of the wine region when Brian Croser saw the potential the cool climate of the area had. He planted the Tiers Vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley in 1979, leading the way for other winemakers in reviving the region and turning it into what it is today.
What makes the Hills different?
The Adelaide Hills wine region has been at the forefront of the evolution of Australian wine in recent times. The generally cooler climate and land diversity of the area provides winemakers the opportunity to create a diverse offering that cannot be replicated in other regions.
As the elevation of the land gets higher, the temperatures get lower, which has a fascinating effect on the grapes. As the grapes are ripening these cooler temperatures can enhance flavour compounds in the fruit and even preserve the colours.
During the growing season, temperatures will usually average around 18 degrees Celsius, and with the landscape offering a variety of different altitudes, these temperatures can change all throughout the region, meaning that all sorts of varieties of grapes are grown. Some varieties you will find include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Shiraz.
The cooler climate of the region seems to have an encouraging effect on the winemakers of the area, pushing them to push the traditional boundaries and continue to be recognised as one of the greatest wine regions in the world.
Notable Adelaide Hills Wineries
The Adelaide Hills wine region has grown to now include at least 60 different wineries, and while we could spend all day talking about all of them, let us tell you about some of them.
The Lane Vineyard
Sitting high up in the rolling hills, about 450m high, the vineyards of the Lane Vineyard were first planted back in 1993.
The warm days and cool nights of the region allow Chardonnay, Shiraz, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Franc vineyards to grow. The Lane specialises in producing small batch, single vineyard wines, but the aren’t afraid to make the most of the various microclimates the region allows for. They do this by working with other incredible grape growers in the region to diversify their offering.
With a tasting room, restaurant and only being about 3km from Hahndorf, the Lane Vineyard has been a hugely popular and unmissable winery to visit in the region.
Mt Lofty Ranges
Producing cool climate wines from hand-pruned and hand-picked grapes, the Mt Lofty Ranges winery is home to 19,000 vines and a luxurious range of wine that includes Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
It also happens to be sitting at one of the highest points of the Adelaide Hills, offering five-star views along with a 5-star cellar door. This family-owned boutique winery also values ethical local farming, and this is reflected in each dish of the on-site restaurant. Local produce is transformed into delectable meals that will leave you thinking about them for days.
Once an apple orchard in the 1950s, this charming vineyard was established in 1992, and produced their first wine in 1997. The following year saw the opening of the cellar door, and since then, there has been no looking back.
Shaw + Smith
Established in 1989, the Shaw + Smith winery has focused on making wines that are exclusively from the Adelaide Hills. Their sustainable approach to managing their vineyards means they focus on the quality of the soil and farm their blocks organically.
Their unrelenting pursuit of producing high quality wine means they hand-pick their grapes and ferment, age and bottle their wines on site at their vineyard in Balhannah.
The varieties on offer at Shaw + Smith include Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and at the tasting rooms on site in Balhannah you can taste each of these daily.
Since its inception, the Shaw + Smith team have continued to pursue growth, having purchased a second vineyard in Lenswood in the Hills. Their aim has been to create the best wine, using the best and most sustainable practices, and this approach will never change.
Specialising in sparkling and aromatic white wines, Deviation Road is one of the Adelaide Hill’s most popular wineries.
While of course the divine wine has something to do with this, the picturesque setting of Deviation Road certainly helps the cause too. The spectacular garden setting where you are surrounded by heritage listed bushland makes it’s a totally serene setting to indulge in some of the region’s most well-known wines.
Deviation Road focuses on traditional wine making techniques and are hand-crafted and vegan friendly. Using their mature vineyard resources, Deviation Road creates bottle fermented and aged wines that are elegantly balanced and certainly not to be missed.
Read more about the wineries of the region in our Guide to the Beautiful Wineries of the Adelaide Hills.
Experience the Adelaide Wine Region
If you’ve always wanted to discover the wine of the Adelaide Hills, why not spend an extended period time of in the region?
You could experience all the region has to offer while you base yourself at the luxurious and inviting Sequoia Lodge.
Luxury, private accommodation situated on the Mount Lofty Estate in the Adelaide Hills, Sequoia Lodge is the ideal destination to discover the world around you from.
In addition to an elegant private suite that overlooks the Piccadilly Valley below, at Sequoia you are on the same estate as Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant (an experience in itself), the Gatekeeper’s Day Spa, Spring-fed mineral pools, as well as a variety of fabulous facilities, with friendly, professional staff there to help you create the getaway of your dreams.
You can discover the local wines in a variety of different ways, where you get to spend an time with a local winemaker and one of Sequoia’s own sommeliers in an intimate setting; the Hills and Vale Private Charter, where you will visit two wineries in McLaren Vale as well as two of the highest wineries in the Hills; or the Ultimate Penfolds and Hills Private Charter, where you will visit the historical Penfolds Magill Estate and Deviation Road in the Hills.
These are only some of the ways you can discover the vineyards and wine of the region, you can read more about the exclusive experiences available to guests of Sequoia Lodge here.
Discover why the Adelaide Hills is a world-famous wine region with Sequoia Lodge today.