McLaren Vale, or the Vale, as it is affectionally called, is one of the oldest wine growing regions in Australia. Populated by family-owned wineries with long histories, biodynamic and organic vineyards and rife with top winemaking talent, there's a lot to love about the region.
Just a short 45-minute drive south from Adelaide, there's plenty to do in McLaren Vale. Be sure to check out the local recommendations from the four producers below if you're visiting the region.
Battle of Bosworth and Spring Seed Wines
The Battle of Bosworth and Spring Seed Wine Co cellar door is housed in a converted 1850s former chaff shed and stables, located at the end of a long, tree-lined driveway in the Willunga subregion of the McLaren Vale wine region. It is wonderfully rustic environment, with a slate terrace and a grassed area shaded by gum trees, and a newly enclosed area in the old stables – with the original cobbled floor. The cellar door staff pick and choose which wines they want to showcase each day – and these may include some of their Springs Road Kangaroo Island Wines.
Their wines are organically grown and certified (Battle of Bosworth’s vineyards were the first to be certified in the region), and they made some of the very first organic wines back in 2001 from their family-owned vineyards. The cellar door is open daily for tastings, no bookings required and because of their size, no groups!
Winemaker Joch Bosworth says: The region is well-known for being very friendly and collaborative, both in terms of winemaking and grape-growing. This regional spirit is embodied in our annual Bushing Lunch, which celebrates all things wines and vines in the region and has been running for 50 years. It’s a sit-down lunch in a giant marquee for 600 people. The trophy winners from the regional wine show are announced, and the Bushing King or Queen is crowned: the winner of the Bushing award for best wine of show. It’s a great day.
Joch's must-try wines: Try the Bosworth Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (my favourite wine) or venture into alternative variety territory by trying our Heretic, a blend of touriga nacional, mataro, graciano and shiraz.
Local favourite: Eats wise, head to the Salopian Inn in McLaren vale, the Victory Hotel at Sellicks for a great pub meal or for a dress circle location, the Star of Greece restaurant at Port Willunga.
Find out more | 92 Gaffney Road, Willunga | (08) 8556 2441
The site of Samson Tall's winery and cellar door is steeped in history. The cellar door is housed in an old Wesleyan church built in 1854, and on the property there is a historical cemetery, home to many of McLaren Vale’s pioneers, including Samson Tall himself.
All Samson Tall's grapes are sourced – they purchase from the same growers each year, even down to the same rows. The vineyards they source from are predominantly in Blewitt Springs and the varieties they produce (picpoul, grenache blanc, cinsault, mataro, grenache, tempranillo), excluding shiraz, are drought tolerant and love the sunshine, so the varieties are very well suited to McLaren Vale. The winery is on site, fully operational, and open to guests for viewing.
Winemaker and owner Paul Wilson says: Our winery and cellar door are small but beautiful. Featuring stunning views across neighbouring vineyards, with local artwork and sweeping lawns and gardens, our cellar door is the perfect place to relax in the sunshine and enjoy a tasting. We're dog-friendly too, so all dogs are welcome when you visit.
Paul's must-try wine: If you are visiting right now, in spring of 2023, I would recommend trying the 2023 Picpoul Grenache Blanc; it’s a very refreshing classic dry white.
Local favourites: Aldinga Beach for swimming, Onkaparinga Gorge for hiking, and The Little Rickshaw for dining.
Find out more | 219 Strout Road, McLaren Vale | 0488 214 680
Thicker Than Water
The exterior of Thicker Than Water's cellar door is modern and bold, a purposeful contrast to the surrounding vines and Australian native garden they have created. The aim for this bespoke design was to create an immersive experience that touches on all the senses and captivates the customer from the minute they arrive.
When you enter the building, you walk through ‘The Palate Cleanse’ a tinted purple glass cube that has a feeling of tranquillity. The stunning custom centre-piece table aims to deliver a more sociable and seamless experience for guests, and the tasting room mood is controlled by the retractable perforated steel screens. Depending on the time of day, these screens project a dabbling light affect across the tasting room reminiscent of being under water, or capture the gorgeous rolling valley views of McLaren Vale’s epicentre, the ‘McMurtrie Mile’.
Senior winemaker Campbell Greer says: When people talk about wine, appearance, smell, and taste are normal conversation, but texture is often overlooked. I believe texture is the fourth dimension and it’s instrumental in wine as it is in food and design. The beauty of a cellar door experience is we can add even more layers to that from the building design, the music playing and the RIEDEL wine glass selection option for the tasting experience.
Campbells's must-try wines: Try our 2021 Squid Ink Shiraz, winner of the AWC Vienna World's Best Shiraz trophy, or our Giant Squid Ink Shiraz, which is a three-time winner of the AWC Vienna World's Best Red Wine trophy.
Local favourite: Visit the Port Willunga beach and wineries by day and Port Willunga cliff top restaurant Star of Greece by night.
Find out more | 86 McMurtrie Road, McLaren Vale | (08) 7009 4425
As its Indigenous name infers, Wirra Wirra is nestled 'amongst the gums' in McLaren Vale, South Australia. Geographically central to McLaren Vale, the family-owned winery has a history in the region dating back to 1894 and a revered portfolio of wines that continue to exemplify the region’s heritage varieties of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and grenache.
Wirra Wirra offers visitors a multitude of experiences, from its award-winning cellar door – where seated wine flights are available for tasting – to Harry’s Deli, a providore style restaurant that mixes the very best of South Australian produce with Wirra Wirra’s exceptional wine list. The winery also offers a selection of behind the scenes experiences that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the historic old cellars at Wirra Wirra.
Wirra Wirra has long been a champion of sustainable viticulture and all estate vineyards are certified as biodynamic and organic.
Chief winemaker Emma Wood says: A great wine can only exist when the company and the environment it's enjoyed in matches what's in the glass. With this in mind, we renovated our cellar door in 2020, moving away from stand up tastings at the bar, to a seated experience. Guests can choose from a selection of curated tasting flights of our McLaren Vale reds and Adelaide Hills whites or make their own selection. Suitable for groups of one to 10 people, and starting from just $15.
Emma's must-try wine: Our Catapult Shiraz – the ideal example of McLaren Vale regional shiraz, with tannins perfectly matured and integrated. Perfect to enjoy now.
Local favourite: You can’t beat tasting our brand new Dry Grenache Rosé at the Star of Greece at Port Willunga, matched with freshly caught local fish. One of the most spectacular views over the ocean and a superb dining experience.
Find out more | 255 Strout Road, McLaren Vale | (08) 8323 8414