The wine region of South Australia, such as the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale are well-known around the world for producing high quality wines. Yet it is sometimes hard to believe that some of the big labels are located in my backyard. Quite literally in the case of McLaren Vale which is a short hop away.
A 40 minute drive from the city of Adelaide, McLaren Vale is the birthplace of South Australia’s wine industry. The home of up to 70 wineries, with the very first grape vine planted back in 1838. You will find many of the world’s oldest vines here. Although it is hard to imagine, but there are many boutique and independent vineyards in the region.
Vineyards such as Wirra Wirra, Rosemont Estate, Coriole, Chapel Hill and Woodstock are all within driving distance. These wineries specialise in all the big names: chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, merlot, sauvignon blanc and riesling. The most famous grape grown in the area is the Shiraz which thrives in the Mediterranean climate of the Vales.
Only a few of these wineries do lunches, such as Coriole where I recently visited for my birthday. But most will offer up wine tastings and on the weekends it is not unusual to see many people out and about. During the warmer months, one can sit out on the patios for lunch al fresco style.
The view of the vineyards is breathtaking and you may be forgiven for thinking you are in the Italian countryside. The soft rolling hills of the Vales truly do resemble the region of Tuscany. Why push through the crowds in the city when you can enjoy local dishes, good company, great wine and a view to die for?
What could be more enjoyable than a perfect Tuscan landscape of unspoiled, natural beauty?
When you have finished at the wineries, there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy over a long weekend. Perfectly located between the Hills and the beautiful southern beaches, there is no shortage of activity to keep everyone happy. There is walking, cycling and horse riding on the Shiraz trail, a scenic route along the old railway line between McLaren Vale and Willunga.
McLaren Vale itself has a complex naming history. There is much debate of whom the town was named after. Some say it was a Colonial Manager of the South Australian Company, David McLaren, who arrived in the colony in 1837. Others claim that Scottish surveyor, John McLaren, was the namesake of the town as he surveyed the region in 1839. Perhaps the answer can be found at the local museums in the township? It may open up a lively dinner discussion with friends over a local bottle of Shiraz?
Today McLaren Vale is a major regional hub with approximately 2000 people living in the area. However, like all of South Australia, it was settled as a colony by the British. Originally it consisted of two tiny villages, Gloucester and Bellevue, back in the 1840’s when the migrants arrived to start a new life. Walking through the town, you can still see evidence of these old buildings.
Quite often we do not appreciate what is in out own backyard until it is seen through someone else’s eyes. Many tourists have marvelled about the unspoiled natural beauty of Australia. McLaren Vale is no exception. It is continuously visited by many tourists and locals alike.
So to escape the city and enjoy a day of Tuscan countryside,the perfect place to head is for the hills.