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Wine regions - Adelaide Plains

Adelaide Plains   South Australia

The Adelaide Plains wine region is situated just 30km north of Adelaide amongst the market gardens and rose farms of Virginia and Angle Vale.

Harvesting Grenache

The Trombetta family have been growing
grapes on the Adelaide Plains for 50 years.

Bounded by the city of Adelaide in the south; the cooler climate Mount Lofty Ranges in the east where the Adelaide Hills wine producers are creating delicate wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir; the Barossa to the north with its long-held reputation for full-bodied, high-quality reds from Australia's oldest vines; and the Gulf of Saint Vincent to the west, creating a maritime Mediterranean climate that ensures hot summers with cooling afternoon sea breezes, and mild, wet winters.

For these reasons, the Adelaide Plains have often been overlooked as a wine region in its own right. That, and the fact that much of the grapes and wine produced was previously sent on to the Barossa Valley, or McLaren Vale in the south, to enhance the wines of the better-known companies. The fruit for the original Penfolds Grange Hermitage was grown in the Adelaide Plains in the 1950s. Even today, much of the fruit grown in this district is sent into other regions to top up better-known wines.

Migrants came mostly from Italy to the northern plains of Adelaide. Many European migrants lived in the region and ran the market gardens, and the Italian settlers owned most of the vineyards. In the 1970s, these pioneers began to make and label their own wine, and sell on to distributors (both domestic and international), and set up cellar doors. Names such as Dominic Versace, Joe Grilli (Primo Estate) and Joe Ceravolo are integral to the establishment, development and success of the Adelaide Plains wine region.

L-R Armando Verdiglione and Dominic Verace

R. Fine wine maker and renowed pizza chef
Dominic Verace with Armando Verdiglione
(President of the Adelaide Plains Wine Region)
serving pizza at Angle Vale

It has taken a long time. It wasn't until 2002 that the Adelaide Plains Wine Region won their GI, even though Old Plains Organic Winery in Gawler are producing wines from 100 year old vines.

The region is now producing high quality wine from low-yielding vines, and many of the winemakers are staying true to their Italian heritage, with Sangiovese, Moscato and Pinot Grigio the first of the Italian varietals to be produced.

This is a very warm district, and the dry heat proves resistant to the pests and diseases that cause grief in other regions. The low annual rainfall of 440mm (17.3 inches) means the vignerons must irrigate to ensure the fruit will ripen without raisining too early. The flat plains lie at 68m above sea level and consist of red-brown sandy-loam and alkaline subsoils over a limestone bed, typical of South Australia and much of South-Eastern Australia, and ideal for grape growing. Machine pruning and harvesting are achieved with ease due to the topography, leading to more and more viticulture in the region in recent times.


Although this region is irrigated, the vignerons tend to reduce their yield in order to enhance quality and concentration of the final wine. This region shows some spice in the Shiraz, reminiscent of wines from cooler regions, as well as luscious mulberry and plum fruits.

Cabernet Sauvignon

A medium to full style of wine, this region has long been producing rich ripe Cabernets, many of them to be blended with Merlot and Shiraz.


Mostly grown to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, the popularity of this luscious purple grape is seeing it more and more bottled as a single varietal, and more competitive with Cabernet Sauvignon as the second most favoured grape variety.


The Sangiovese of this region shows more body and luscious fruit than its forebears in the Northern Hemisphere. This variety is grown more and more by the descendants of the Italian settlers, and is often blended with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is also seen as a Rose-style with crisp, red berry juice, and a light refreshing sparkling wine.


Grown in nearly every region in Australia, the Chardonnay from this warm region shows typical characteristics of the climate. Full-bodied wines up to 13.5% alcohol display tropical fruits, peaches, figs, and rockmelon. Some winemakers have also dabbled with cooler, crisper unwooded chardonnays from earlier picked fruit, showing more citrus and green apple characters.


A lesser-known variety used extensively in the warmer irrigated regions of Australia where the wine in the box is generally not named, the Colombard of the Adelaide Plains deserves a special mention due to the perseverance and marketing by Joe Grilli of Primo Estate. Known amongst their labels as La Biondina, this Little Blonde is a multi-award winning wine.

Other varieties

Grenache, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Ruby Cabernet, Alicante Bouchet, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Pinot Grigio.

Many of these are being used for blending, and the Rhone-style Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre blend that is becoming so popular among red wine districts in Australia is showing itself in this region more frequently.

L-R Ross Trimboli of Hazyblur Wines and Domenic Torzi of Longhop Wines

L-R Ross Trimboli of Hazyblur Wines and
Domenic Torzi of Longhop Wines

Harvest time: mid February to late March.

Article by Julie Donnellan - Photography by Tim Freeland
January 2007

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