Food and wine tours through South Australia's countryside begin with travelers arriving at Adelaide
An underrated gem, South Australia’s Adelaide gets much less attention from international visitors than it deserves. The beaches and the port and the hills of the celebrated wine country are 20 minutes away. With the Indian Pacific and Ghan rail lines at its doorstep, Adelaide is a good starting point for travelers heading into the great Red Centre and further on to Northern Territory, or to the western city of Perth. Similarly, rail trips link the city to Melbourne and Sydney.
The city is small and sleepy. The center is quite walkable with some 17 hotels within a few short blocks of each other, all buffered by open shopping promenades and markets, restaurants, museums and grand gardens. It was created in 1836 as a capital of the free British. Named after Queen Adelaide, the German consort of King William IV, the region saw an unusual influx of Germans to its shores, mostly fleeing persecution from the Prussian province of Silesia (modern-day Poland). They settled in the hills north of Adelaide where temperate climes were perfect for the blending of Cabernet Sauvignon and later, some of Australia’s most coveted Shiraz labels.
Spread over 760 square miles, the Barossa Valley, home to six towns, is an oenophile's delight
A bit of German history remains in such towns as Hahndorf, seen in the fachwerk buildings and cafés serving German fare. But folks roaming through the Adelaide Hills and slopes of Barossa Valley have heard as much about the food as the beauty.
Australia is the fourth-largest exporter of wine in the world. It’s as big a part of the culture as economy and tourism. Visitors come for the kangaroos, beaches and wide open spaces but they also come for the wine.
Adelaide is surrounded by some of the country’s top wine regions: McClaren Vale, the Barossa Valley and Coonawarra. In the Barossa, about an hour’s drive north of the city, find what is considered Australia’s most famous winery—Penfolds, whose Grange is possibly the country’s most notable and expensive wine, pouring at a mere $125 a glass. The Shiraz (96 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon blend retails at more than $400 a bottle.
For oenophiles, a stop at Penfolds is a must. The winery has a laboratory where guests don white jackets, grab measuring flasks and bottles of Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet and set forth to blend their own labels, getting messy and silly as the session wears on. The winery is often included on tours and group itineraries as the perfect icebreaker and one that allows guests to take home their own creations.
The towns and stops along the routes of compact Barossa Valley are easy to negotiate. The 760-square-mile area, with six towns no more than 20 minutes from each other, has 70 cellar doors. Although all attractions here concern tasting, be it wine or food, one is still in for a surprise at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop.
Maggie Beer is considered the Martha Stewart of Australia, although with a much warmer appeal. She gained fame when she opened the Pheasant Farm Restaurant on the site, working magic with game and plying creative uses for her verjuice, which she sells at her farm store. From her shop and restaurant she tapes shows and offers cooking demos of handpicked recipes. The stop is as popular with groups as it is with individuals, especially when cooking sessions are involved. Agents can call 011-61-885-624-477 for more information.
Travelers will find other attractions along the byways: Lyndock Lavender Farm, Jacob’s Creek Visitors Center, The House of Olives, Barossa Farmers Market (Saturday mornings), Mengler Hill Lookout and the Williamstown Whispering Wall. It’s all put together with a South Australia Tourism concept called Butcher, Baker Winemaker Trail, in maps and value cards to highlight what the Barossa does with local ingredients. The trail leads to local wineries, bistros and dining venues and farm shops that serve up intimate and traditional food and wine experiences. It comes with access not only to retailers and artisans but also special tours and gourmet-themed programs, ongoing and seasonal. Brochures and maps can be found at visitor centers in Adelaide and Barossa.
Closer, to the east of the city, the Adelaide Hills make for a lovely drive through 19th-century European-style villages and historical mining towns. Mount Lofty Summit has the views over Adelaide Plains, complemented by a botanical garden.
Nearby, Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary has the potoroos, the platypuses, the bilbies, bandicoots and bettongs and, of course, kangaroos. Food lovers will want to visit Birdwood Wine & Cheese Centre for samplings of artisan cheeses and boutique wines, and have lunch at the Locovore Restaurant in Stirling, where only foods grown, made or distilled within a 100-mile radius are served. From the artsy village of Stirling it’s an easy drive to Hahndorf for quality crafts and galleries, and delightful cheeses. Beyond its nearly three dozen cellar doors, the area is dotted with a smattering of unusual finds—Fairyland Village in Lobenthal, the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, Melba’s Chocolate Factory at Woodside, the 54-foot-high rocking horse at Gumeracha—all about 20 minutes from the center of town.
Life is a Cabernet organizes tailor-made tours from Adelaide into McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and the Barossa with great guidance from local wine and food lovers who are personalities in their own right. Rates for customized private tours run $71 USD per hour, minimum four hours. Call 011-61-883-628-884 for details.
A Taste of South Australia provides full-day food and wine tours of the Barossa and McLaren Vale for around US$350. It also offers comprehensive multi-day tours with car and driver and entree to some exclusive spots. An unusual option with plenty of appeal is a gourmet dinner in the home of a local. Groups can reserve the local dinner option for $79 per person with a minimum of
8 guests (maximum 16), including transfers. However, guests are asked to bring their own wine. Call 011-61-883-713-553 for more information.
For more information, travel agents can contact The South Australia Tourism Commission at 011-61- 884-634-547.