McLaren Vale & surrounds, SA

Top SA red wines & their wineries

By Jacqueline Alanne

September 11, 2020 | 5 minute read

South Australians really are spoilt rotten when it comes to red wine. Regardless of whether you’re an old school, big Barossa Shiraz drinker, a new-wave, Italiano mad McLaren Vale swigger, or just a nice human that simply either likes it or they don’t  …  there’s something for you in just about every region. 

Here are some current highlights for your drinking pleasure, but reader beware - you may find yourself booking a trip to South Australia before you can say “I must have more!” 

* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.

Turon Wines Pinot Noir - Adelaide Hills

You might argue that there are two kinds of Pinot people - those who like it because it is light, inoffensive and easy to drink, and those who hunt for that perfect balance of savoury and floral; that ponderable style that smells like ‘Oh yeah’ and tastes at once so complex but converged you stare into your glass and wonder how in the hell they did it. 

Turon produce the latter, and have recently been rewarded by a Top 10 place in SA's Hot 100 Wines for 19/20 for their Single vineyard, single barrel 2018 Lenswood Pinot. Pretty yet headstrong, every Pinot Turon makes is a darn good ride. 

Ministry of Clouds Grenache - McLaren Vale 

Ministry of Clouds prove that the bold and the brave will be rewarded. Leaving comfortable corporate roles to live with their proverbial heads in the clouds, partners in love and life Bernice and Julian are mad for McLaren Vale and the integrity of this humble yet bountiful land. While all their wines are worthy of celebration, their Grenache stands up vintage in and out as a wine worthy of celebration. 

Riding the waves of the season and ensuring every vintage speaks of the 365 days passed, Julian and Bernice tinker where necessary, but let the vines shine through, producing delicious and juicy, well-structured Grenache bursting with red berries and spice. There’s never a day I’d say no to this wine.

Pikes ‘Los Companeros’ 2016 Shiraz Tempranillo - Clare Valley

One of the oldest booze paddlers on the SA map, based in the Clare Valley, Pikes have a long history of whetting the palates of thirsty South Australians, beginning with a brewery in 1885, before incorporating cordials and soft drinks in the 1940s, and finally releasing their first vintage of Riesling in 1985. 

Pikes now grow 20 varietals on their land, including the Shiraz and Tempranillo that form Los Companeros. Despite a very humble price tag, this tidy little blend from the Clare Valley brings together the heart of Shiraz with the spice of a little Tempranillo to deliver a medium-bodied, bright and lifted red with ample juicy fruit and just enough savoury characters. 

Jericho Wines 2016 Syrah - Adelaide Hills

Ah, Syrah, the identical twin to Shiraz with the very different personality. Nature versus nurture and all that jazz will have you contemplating “but if you choose to grow it in a cool climate, it’s nurture, not nature, right?” This cool climate (relative to the rest of SA) Adelaide Hills Syrah is smooth and savoury, with bright blackberry and spice notes, and a leaner structure than your classic Shiraz. It’s refined and delightful. Brought to you by the Jericho family, they’ve got their finger on the pulse regardless of varietal. 

Heartland Wines Shiraz- Langhorne Creek

Langhorne Creek is the unsung hero of many an SA wine. While not reputed by the masses in the same way as McLaren Vale or Barossa regions, you’ve probably unknowingly enjoyed a handful of LC drops already. Cellar doors are appearing left right and centre, and this slightly cooler climate produces whites as well as reds - but Heartland is all red soul. 

An amalgamation of SA talent, Heartland is owned by Ben Glaetzer, Scott Collett (Woodstock wines) Grant Tilbrook and Nick Keukenmeester, and produces reds that display skill and soul. Not exactly modern, but not exactly old school, their Shiraz is timeless, round and structured without slapping you in the face after one glass. Well worth a visit and a try! 

Samuels Gorge 2017 Tempranillo - McLaren Vale

Hidden overlooking a gorge in McLaren Vale exists a collective of friendly souls with a passion for strong, communicative reds. While some of the youngens are keeping their Temps lean and light, Riley and the team are making Temp that tastes more like Rioja than most - true to form, the recommended cellar is 8+ years. Still under cork, serious, and seriously enjoyable. 

Chaffey Bros Pax Aeterna Grenache - Barossa Valley

Chaffey Bros love to give people a run for their money, and true to form, you could be forgiven for thinking this modern Grenache out of the Barossa is a decidedly McLaren Vale vibe, creating a decidedly drinkable wine suited to our climate - yet the Chaffey guys and their new wave Barossa wines are giving everyone a run for their money. 

Find yourself a bottle of the new release 2018 Pat Aeterna, a 30% whole bunch flurry of life stemming from 84 year old 'survivor' vines. While you're at it, get your hands on the 2018 Vita Aeterana Mourvedre, its Mataro equivalent. Unfiltered, it is delicious bottled energy.

So many regions, and so many gems to uncover… You could take a whole lifetime (or retirement!) to visit every cellar door! All of these varietals are available at the wineries’ online stores by the bottle, so you can give them a whirl before you visit the region(s) and plan your trip to South Australia!

We think you should know

The Weekender's travel guides are independently written by real travellers. We do not receive any money from, or have a sponsorship arrangement with, any of the entities listed in or referred to in this article.