red wine picnic

A Guide to South Australian Red Wine

South Australia is a world-renowned wine region and the beating heart of wine production in Australia. Producing award-winning Australian red wines through a combination of amazingly varied landscapes, fertile soils, pristine landscapes and experienced and innovative winemakers, you can’t go wrong with a South Australian red wine.

The history of South Australia’s Red Wine Regions

South Australia is, without a shadow of a doubt, the Australian red wine capital. Renowned worldwide for its innovation, quality and variety of wines, South Australia boasts 18 different wine regions. South Australia is also a member of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network encompassing only the finest winemaking regions globally, including the likes of Bordeaux and Mendoza. The success of South Australian red wine (and in fact all South Australian wine) is primarily due to its rich soils, pristine environment and a multitude of microclimates meaning a diverse variety of high-quality wines come out of the region. While South Australia is known for its innovation and enthusiasm in trying new things when it comes to wine, they also boast some of the oldest vines in the world, thanks largely to rigorous biosecurity laws, protecting their grapevines from blight. South Australian red wines are incredibly pure; rich in prestige and provenance, they are wines with beautiful backstories. South Australia’s 18 wine regions can be divided up into four wine “zones”. 

Shiraz vines were brought to Australia in 1832 as a part of the Busby collection from the Rhône Valley in France. The very first Shiraz vines were planted in the Hunter Valley and still exist there today as part of the oldest and biggest collection of old-vine Shiraz in the world. Over the years, Shiraz has moved into new Australian Shiraz regions featuring cooler climates, creating different flavour expressions. Each new region puts a different spin on its classic punchy flavour.

Modern and Australian cuisine, and an evolving palate in general, has also moulded the way Shiraz is grown in more recent times. With food trending towards subtler and more nuanced flavours, table wines have needed to become more subtle and less “over the top”. Consequently, innovative wine producers in Australia have implemented various tactics to tweak the flavours of Australian Shiraz. These techniques include; harvesting the grapes slightly earlier to avoid qualities of over-ripeness relying less on oak to inform the wine’s character including the entire bunch (stem included) in the winemaking process to improve the aroma and texture and extending maceration times which allow for more supple tannins

 

Barossa and Mount Lofty Ranges Zone

Famous for its crisp, fresh and fruity wines, this zone encompasses probably the most famous of South Australia’s wine regions; the Barossa Valley. This zone is also home to Eden Valley, the stunning Clare Valley and one of the most important cool climate regions for Australian red wine in the country, the Adelaide Hills. The Barossa and Mount Lofty Ranges Zone is South Australia’s oldest wine region, the birthplace of South Australian red wine; with the first vines planted in the ground there within five years of European settlement. This wine zone cultivates varietals including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, Grenache, Pinot Noir and features numerous different climates; from hot, windy areas to cool creek-side landscapes. 2017 McGuigan Shortlist GSM is a fine example of a Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mouverdre, featuring 75% Grenache, 15% Shiraz and 10% Mataro grapes which gives the wine its complexity and richness of flavour.

 

The Fleurieu Zone

With an international reputation for sustainability and consistency, this is one of the most picturesque and awarded wine zones. Including regions McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Currency Creek, Southern Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island, this zone is believed to have the best possible climatic conditions for the production of wine. With its undulating hills and varying soil types, the Fleurieu Zone is the promised land for Australian red wines. The secret of this zone’s success is the interweaving of water into the landscape, bringing cool breezes and dropping the temperature in what would otherwise be a warmer area. The principal varieties grown in this zone are Shiraz, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache and Merlot, with the region famous more for its Australian red wines than its whites.

 

Limestone Coast Zone

Most of Australia's great Cabernet Sauvignon is produced on the Limestone Coast. McGuigan Personal Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a shining example of wines from the region, demonstrating how beautifully complex a Cab Sauv can be, with upfront aromas of red berry and blackberry balanced by pepper and tantalising herbaceous notes. Also producing Shiraz, Merlot and Chardonnay, the Limestone Coast includes regions; Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Mount Benson, Robe and Mount Gambier. From tiny family-owned vineyards to large established producers and featuring the Coonawarra region, which is on par with the Barossa as being one of the most famous Australian red wine producers in the country, the Limestone Coast has it all.

 

Lower Murray Zone and Far North Zone

Including the Riverland and Southern Flinders Ranges regions, the Riverland shadows the mighty Murray River as it makes its way to the ocean. This zone provides a whopping half of all the fruit used to produce South Australian wines and around a quarter of Australia’s wine fruit. The Riverland region is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon,Chardonnay, Muscat Gordo Blanco and Grenache. The Southern Flinders Rangers section of this zone is an extension of the Clare Valley, producing high quality Australian red wines, namely Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Types of Australian Red Wines

Australia produces a dazzling array of red wines, thanks to our varied climate, fertile soils, pristine environments and dedicated wine producers. Australian red wines cater to every taste, from Australian red wines with big flavour and bold aromas like Shiraz and Cabernet to medium-bodied red, which tastes spicy, like cool climate Shiraz and South Australian Grenache. Australia even produces many lighter-bodied red wines, which are approachable and easy to drink, like Pinot Noir.

 

How to choose red wine

When choosing an Australian red wine, consider the occasion, what you’ll be eating and who you’ll be celebrating with. If you’re headed out with friends for some light snacks or even a seafood meal, a Pinot Noir could be a great alternative to a white, or if steak is on the menu, you can’t go past a punchy Shiraz. It comes down to what flavours you like, whether you’re after a full-bodied, medium-bodied or light red and what you want to pair it with. And if all else fails, have a chat with the person behind the counter at your local bottle shop.

 

How many calories in red wine? Is Australian red wine gluten-free?

On average Australian red wine has about 625 calories, a little more than white wine. Australian red wine is predominantly made from grapes, free of gluten; however, additives may contain gluten, so it’s always best to check the bottle’s ingredients before consumption.