Australia’s McLaren Vale: Trip to the Land Down Under

During March I was lucky enough to visit McLaren Vale in South Australia with my colleague Lucy where we spent the week at Kangarilla Road Winery.


McLaren Vale is located about 45 minutes drive south of the city of Adelaide in South Australia. It is an up and coming wine region which is best known for its red wines. The area has a similar climate to the Mediterranean, almost perfect conditions for vines. Long warm summers with plenty of sunshine and mild winters combined with a cooling coastal breeze means that the grapes have concentrated flavour and retain acidity. The vines are also not subjected to frost due to these conditions.

As well as the classic red varieties Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot which all grow well here, Italian varieties such as Primitivo and Sangiovese are also being grown with good results.

The geology of McLaren vale is complex as it is situated on an ancient fault line. With many different soil types and underlying rock, the wines from different vineyard sites in the region express subtle differences.

Because of McLaren Vale’s proximity to the coast, the wines have more of a ‘cool climate’ characteristic to them than South Australia’s other prominent wine regions (Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and Eden Valley), giving the white wines a fresher style, and the reds more subtlety and savoury notes.

If you ever visit McLaren Vale, I strongly suggest you visit some of the many eateries in the area, it is a gastronomic paradise and with such great wines on offer too you can’t go wrong. Many people travel down from Adelaide especially to visit the area’s restaurants.

The beaches are also superb and I did take a surfing lesson….and after many attempts and a lot of swallowed seawater I finally got the hang of it!


Kangarilla Road is a family owned, small boutique winery situated on the East side of the McLaren Vale. Kevin O’Brien has over 20 years winemaking experience and his wife Helen has experience in public relations and the fashion industry. They took over the winery in 1997, creating a state of the art winery and employing forward thinking winemaking techniques to create wines which stamp their own mark on the McLaren Vale style. Biodynamic techniques are widely used in Kangarilla Road and they are also beginning to use organic fruit.

We arrived towards the tail end of the 2013 harvest, a harvest which was earlier than usual due to sustained spells of warm weather. Temperatures reached as high as 41 degrees in the vineyards as we took samples of the last vines of Shiraz to be harvested… it was easy to forget the cold snap you were all experiencing back in the UK!

In the vineyards I was watching my step – it is not uncommon to encounter brown snakes, the second most deadly snake in the world. Despite seeing lizards, giant ants and hunter spiders, the snakes stayed away. Being rural Australia the vineyards at Kangarilla Road are frequently visited by a family of Kangaroos – alas I didn’t get a glimpse of them but could see they had left evidence from a recent visit.

As well as tasting samples of the fermenting and fermented juices from this harvest, we tried barrel samples of the previous vintage to see how the wines were developing before their bottling and release.

We were lucky enough to sample the entire catalogue of Kangarilla Rd wines including an Italian blend of Sangiovese, Primitivo & Nebiollo called ‘Terzetto’ and their ‘Scarce Earth Shiraz’ – part of a project involving McLaren Vale producers to celebrate and understand some of the region’s best Shiraz vineyards and the influence that the complicated geological makeup of McLaren Vale has on specific vineyards.

We also sampled the Majestic range of Kangarilla Road wines and I have listed them below:

Kangarilla Road Chardonnay
With fruit taken from both McLaren Vale and nearby Adelaide Hills, this Chardonnay has tropical fruit and citrus flavours, a well balanced acidity and a long creamy finish. Lovely with chicken in a creamy sauce.

2 Up Shiraz
A vibrant, easy-drinking Shiraz which is packed with blackberry fruit with smooth tannins. This is a great wine to take to a summer BBQ as it goes well with all manner of barbecued meats.

Kangarilla Road Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine has the classic Cabernet flavour of blackcurrant, mingled in with toasty oak and a hint of mint and cedar which add to the wine’s complexity. Velvety sweet tannins and full bodied robustness give this wine a warming finish. Would pair well with fillet steak and has ageing potential.

Kangarilla Road Shiraz
This wine has the typical warm spice character of Shiraz on the nose with a complex palate of dark berry fruit with a savoury edge. The elegance of this superbly balanced wine gives it a more ‘European’ feel than other Aussie Shirazes due to McLaren Vale’s proximity to the coast. This is a wine I highly recommend trying, especially with a traditional roast beef dinner!

1 thought on “Australia’s McLaren Vale: Trip to the Land Down Under

  1. Nice blog. Having lived in South Australia for the past 23 years I read with interest about Maclaren Vale.I hope you were able to sample other wines from South Australia whilst you were there and in particular those fabulous reds from Coonawarra, the wines from Kangaroo Island and of course the famous Barossa Valley wines. Be happy to talk to you about South Australia any time.

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