South Australia’s McLaren Vale is not just a place, it’s a sensory experience. Known for its lush vineyards and world-class wineries, it’s a destination that every wine connoisseur and avid traveller must tick off their bucket list. But the magic of McLaren Vale extends beyond vineyards and wine glasses. Let’s uncover the best of what this region has to offer.
Sublime Sips: Top Wineries in McLaren Vale
Visiting McLaren Vale without indulging in wine tasting is like visiting Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. The region boasts over 65 cellar doors, each with its own unique charm.
Here are a few standouts.
The d’Arenberg Cube:
Wine tasting becomes a surreal experience at the d’Arenberg Cube. Situated in the heart of McLaren Vale, the Cube is a distinctive five-storey structure that marries the worlds of art, gastronomy, and oenology in a wonderfully creative way. From the outside, its Rubik’s cube-like appearance draws visitors in with an intriguing sense of mystery.
Walking into the Cube feels like entering another world. With its eclectic art installations and quirky furnishings, the Cube’s interior mirrors the creativity and bold innovation of d’Arenberg’s wine production. The tasting room on the ground floor offers an array of their classic and premium wines, including the celebrated ‘Dead Arm’ Shiraz, along with an opportunity to create your own blend.
For an unparalleled sensory journey, head to the Alternate Realities Museum within the Cube. This unique space offers a mix of engaging and interactive wine-themed exhibits designed to educate, entertain, and evoke your senses.
As you ascend to the top level, prepare for the grand finale. The d’Arenberg Cube Restaurant offers degustation menus where dishes are designed to harmonize with their wine selection, providing an exquisite culinary experience. Overlooking the rolling vineyards, the restaurant offers panoramic views, making for a memorable dining experience.
The d’Arenberg Cube stands as a testament to d’Arenberg’s innovative spirit, and it’s a must-visit when in McLaren Vale. Beyond wine tasting, it offers a captivating journey into the world of wine, proving there’s no boundary to creativity and art.
There’s something incredibly special about Coriole Vineyards that sets it apart in the panorama of McLaren Vale wineries. Nestled in the rolling foothills of McLaren Vale, Coriole occupies some of the oldest vineyards in the region, some dating back to 1919. Walking into Coriole feels like stepping into a seamless blend of past, present, and future.
Coriole Vineyards is renowned for its pioneering spirit. It led the way in introducing Italian wine varieties like Sangiovese and Fiano to Australia. Their Sangiovese is now acclaimed as one of the finest in the country, creating a perfect balance of depth and brightness that reflects the region’s rich terroir.
Another standout in Coriole’s lineup is their Shiraz. McLaren Vale is famed for its Shiraz, and Coriole’s rendition is a testament to this reputation. Their Shiraz offers a masterclass in complexity and elegance, boasting a full-bodied richness that is the signature of McLaren Vale.
However, it’s not just the wines that make Coriole a must-visit. The vineyard itself is a vision, with its 19th-century ironstone buildings and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. The onsite restaurant offers a stunning gastronomical journey, with a menu that champions local produce and complements the wine selection brilliantly.
Moreover, Coriole hosts a series of events throughout the year, including wine masterclasses and music festivals, offering wine lovers a holistic and immersive experience.
In essence, a visit to Coriole Vineyards is more than a wine tasting; it’s a rich journey that encapsulates the heart of McLaren Vale’s winemaking tradition while embracing the excitement of the new and uncharted. It’s no wonder that Coriole has carved out a special place in the hearts of both locals and visitors alike.
Wirra Wirra Vineyards:
Steeped in history and an unwavering commitment to quality, Wirra Wirra Vineyards is a must-visit for any wine enthusiast exploring McLaren Vale. Founded in 1894 by Robert Strangways Wigley, a former cricketer and eccentric personality, the vineyard has a rich history that adds a unique character to every bottle produced.
After a period of dormancy, the vineyard was restored to its former glory in the late 1960s by cousins Greg and Roger Trott. They reconstructed the old ironstone cellars from the ground up and transformed the once-quiet estate into a vibrant and innovative winery that quickly captured the attention of wine aficionados worldwide.
This 120-year-old winery is famous for its handcrafted, biodynamic wines, most notably, the Church Block, a scrumptious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot. Each visit offers an insight into their careful wine-making process, allowing visitors to appreciate the intricate steps taken to create the perfect bottle of wine.
What sets Wirra Wirra apart is the immersive experiences it offers. Not only can visitors sample exquisite wines, but they can also take part in interactive masterclasses, blending their own wine to take home. Their picturesque vineyard is the perfect backdrop for a picnic while enjoying a Wirra Wirra wine, naturally.
And for the adventurous, there’s the ritual of ringing the historic 3/4 tonne Angelus Bell, which was cast in the same foundry as the bells of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. The bell rings out across the vineyards to signal the end of a hard day’s work or to celebrate special occasions – a quirky tradition that embodies the whimsical spirit of Wirra Wirra.
To complete the experience, the Harry’s Deli on the winery grounds provides gourmet local platters that perfectly complement Wirra Wirra’s impressive wine list. It’s the perfect spot to unwind and drink in the beauty of the McLaren Vale region. So come, taste, explore, and ring the bell at Wirra Wirra Vineyards, a place where tradition meets whimsy, quality meets passion, and every visitor leaves with a story to tell.
Beyond the Vine: Best Things to Do in McLaren Vale
Not a wine lover? Worry not. McLaren Vale’s offering extends beyond the vineyard.
McLaren Vale Farmers’ Market: The best way to start a Saturday, indulge in locally-sourced produce, baked goods, and artisanal crafts.
Walk the Shiraz Trail: The 7.5 km track from Willunga to McLaren Vale gives a delightful perspective of the region’s stunning landscape.
Visit the Almond Train: A unique experience, this vintage train car converted into a shop offers almonds in every flavour imaginable!
When to Wine and Wander: Best Time to Visit McLaren Vale
McLaren Vale has a Mediterranean climate making it a perfect year-round destination. However, for a vibrant experience, consider visiting during the ‘Sea & Vines Festival’ in June, when the region comes alive with gastronomic celebrations and events. Spring (September-November) is also a great time to see the vineyards in bloom.
Did You Know? Fun Facts about McLaren Vale
McLaren Vale is not only a hub for wine lovers but is also steeped in rich history and intriguing trivia.
Historic Namesake: Named after David McLaren, the Colonial Manager of the South Australia Company, the area has been a site of viniculture since 1838. McLaren, a Scotsman, made substantial contributions to the development of South Australia’s wine industry.
Preserving the Past: Home to some of Australia’s oldest grape vines, McLaren Vale boasts vineyards with vines over 100 years old. Many of these vineyards still produce grapes for making wines, offering a sip into history.
Sustainability First: Leading the way in eco-conscious wine production, McLaren Vale has numerous wineries practising organic and biodynamic farming. These sustainable methods contribute not only to the region’s high-quality wines but also to the preservation of McLaren Vale’s unique ecosystem.
Varietal Variety: While McLaren Vale is best known for its Shiraz, the region actually cultivates more than 20 different grape varieties. This diversity stems from McLaren Vale’s varied soil types and microclimates, resulting in a vast array of nuanced wines.
Art and Wine: Did you know McLaren Vale hosts one of the world’s greatest art prizes for landscape art, the Fleurieu Art Prize? Many wineries in the region also showcase stunning artwork and sculptures, making your wine journey an artistic adventure too.
The Birthplace of Australian Zinfandel: McLaren Vale is believed to be where the first Zinfandel vines in Australia were planted. Although not as widely grown as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, the Zinfandel from McLaren Vale is highly prized.
These fun facts not only make for great conversation starters but also enhance the appreciation for this beautiful wine region. So, when you next raise a glass from McLaren Vale, you’re not just sipping a wine – you’re partaking in a rich, vibrant and sustainable history. Cheers to that!
In the enchanting McLaren Vale, every visit promises a blend of fine wine, scrumptious food, beautiful vistas, and unforgettable memories. Isn’t it time you savoured a taste of South Australia’s wine country?