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Australia - February 2018

South Australia 

South Australia covers some of the most arid parts of the country, with a land area of 983’482 km2, it is the fourth-largest of Australia's states and territories. The population is the most highly centralized of any state in Australia, with more than 75% living in the capital Adelaide.

The state's colonial origins are unique in Australia as a freely settled, planned British province, rather than as a convict settlement. 

The South Australian Company established a temporary settlement on Kangaroo Island (26 July 1836), five months before Adelaide was founded. The guiding principle behind the settlement was that of systematic colonization. The goal was to establish the province as a center of civilization for free immigrants, promising civil liberties and religious tolerance.
Today, it is known for its fine wine and numerous cultural festivals. The state's economy is dominated by the agricultural, manufacturing and mining industries. The principal exports are wheat, wine and wool.


Fowlers Bay – Streaky Bay – Elliston – Coffin Bay – Whyalla (850 km and 5 days) 

The Head of Bight is one of the few places where you can see the ocean from the towering 80m high Bunda Cliffs. The Head of Bight is located 20 kilometers east of Nullarbor Roadhouse and is on aboriginal soil. Between June and October of each year more than 100 Southern Right Whales frequent this area of the South Australian coastline to breed and give birth to whale calves, the largest congregation in Australia. Would be incredible to watch that but we’re definitely too early !

The Great Australian Bight is believed to be the longest line of sea cliffs in the world. It’s stretching 1160 km from Cape Pasley in the west to Cape Carnot near Port Lincoln in the east.

After Yalata, you can observe the sudden transition from the treeless plain to a coastal mallee scrubland. It occurs where the Nullarbor’s soil changes from a limestone-base to loam.

We’re nearly at the end of our Nullarbor journey and with this weather, the detour to Fowlers Bay should be memorable. This township was once the home of a whaling station in 19th century and is located within the white sand dunes and rugged cliffs of Fowlers Bay Conservation Park.
With its endless sand dunes right a the bottom of the village, we can at last access the dunes and walk right on them under the sun. We explore the area for a few hours and kilometers almost reaching Scotts Bay on the other side. What a treat! Alone in the desert… indeed, great memories ...

After close to 1400 km (from Esperance) comes Ceduna, a major town after Nullarbor but rather unattractive. You want to get there quickly but once there, you only think of leaving. You really don’t want to stay longer than the time it takes to fill up your diesel tank… And that’s the end of the famous Nullarbor road trip!

But our journey is far from over. From Streaky Bay, we head to Surfers Beach on Sceale Bay, a magnificent endless secluded beach with turquoise shallow waters between Cape Blanche and Speed Point. Apart from a mum and her son, we’re the only people on this beautiful stretch of sand… feels like paradise … too bad the water is so cold !! But we need to get going. Next is Westall way loop and its coastal scenic drive. A stop at the stunning Yanerbie Sandhills is a must. Of course, we go and explore the area as usual but under the scorching sun, it’s dreadful! Along the way, the Yanerbie Beach is of incredible beauty.

We’re now down in Coffin Bay, renowned for its world famous oysters and situated on the western tip of the Lower Eyre Peninsula. Right on time for lunch, so we go to the Oysters Bar 1802 supposed to be the best place to eat oysters. Bad luck, it’s their closing day … thus we head to the Beachcomber instead. No regrets, they serve the oysters fresh from their own oysters farm and we also had a char-grilled fish, a premiere in Australia ! After this nice lunch, we can now venture into Coffin Bay NP. As we’re ardent 4WD enthusiasts, we’re taking the track across the sand dunes to Gunyah Beach. This is a 4WD track directly crossing the soft sand dunes, so you better be equipped!!! Guess what, after all we’re not that adventurous and we do not attempt to cross the sand sunes to reach the beach. We stop just in front of the highest dunes when the track disappears in the deep flying sand and decide to go explore by foot… much safer… We escalate the highest dune in order to enjoy the 360 degree panorama of the amazing surroundings with a sunny cloudless blue sky.


Whyalla – Roxby Downs – Adelaide Semaphore (1060 km and 4 days)

We’re continuing our trip through the Eyre Peninsula known as the Seafood Frontier… Haven’t seen much restaurants serving delicious local seafood such as abalone, southern rock lobster, grilled tuna apart from the boring fish & chips.

Just arrived in Whyalla, the town has a long association with mining and steel production. The beach is like in Brittany or Normandy where the tide is so low that you can walk kilometers in the water.
It’s really nice walking in the afternoon on the beach and then into the sea at low tide, kilometers away from the shore. We manage to reach a small sandy “island” full of birds … Well, a bit too late … Just few seconds left to take our shorts off before the waters completely submerge the “island”. The birds knew that was coming! Got a heartbeat as we are in the middle of the ocean with the high tide on its way. We have to walk back to the shore very quickly if we don’t want to swim and wet all our bags and valuables ... Can be really scary to see the waters going up so suddenly!
After a nice dinner, we admire the colorful sunset over the ocean (on the dry side this time).

Around Whyalla, between May and August there’s an annual aggregation of Australian giant cuttlefish arriving in their tens of thousands in the waters. Hard to time perfectly those natural wonders in our plan to be there at the right time.
Nonetheless, the lookout of Hummock Hill offers nice panoramic views on the Whyalla foreshore across Spencer Gulf to the Southern Flinders Ranges and the major steel plant still active at Port Bonyton.

Back to the heart of the Australia’s outback where our fly net are priceless! We’re crossing the Stuart Highway to go to Lake Hart. From Pimba as we travel north, we’re passing by some stunning salt lakes such as the huge Lake Gairdner. We take the track to Lake Hart leading in front of the railway tracks. The heat is on, there’s no wind and there’s no shade !!! Under the scorching sun and the unbearable heat, it’s extremely hard to stay outdoors. But, we’re brave to go and explore the salt lakes in the region. Lake Hart is incredible … an endless salt area and it’s so hot that the remaining water is boiling! Walking out onto pure white salt plain… the lake is actually part of a prohibited defense area and you risk up to 6 months in prison.

Back at the caravan park: it’s impossible to stay in the campervan because it’s so hot (around 45 degrees in the shade but inside we have probably more than 70!), let alone sleep!!! A promising night in sight ...
Had a horrible night, it was awfully hot and with no fan – it was hardly bearable.
Anyway, after a nice cold shower we’re heading to Andamooka, the opal mining city. Smaller and more authentic than the well-known and touristic Coober Pedy. The city is built around the mining excavations with its authentic frontier feel and unique lunar-like landscape, it’s like a movie.
At lunchtime, it’s like a ghost town with no one on the streets due to the heat in summer time. During winter, the main street, the “Opal Creek Boulevard”, is transformed into a river due to rain flooding.
You can drive and freely explore all the mining excavations as you wish as long as you do not stop on the areas where there are opal claims. We toured the mines, explored the flat top mounds of the Breakaways and the White Dam with the tin shanty "Ettomogah Pub" nearby. We also checked out Duke's Bottle House (made entirely from beer bottles) and the semi-dugout homes on the main street.

The Andamooka opal deposit was discovered in the 30's and is still worked by lease holders who use bulldozers to strip away layers of dirt in their quest for "color". As well as surrendering unusually hued opals, the field gave up a 6 meter opalised plesiosaur skeleton in 1968, now on display in the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.

After our day trip, we’re back again at our caravan park in Roxby Downs and spend the rest of our afternoon and beginning of the evening in the cooler kitchen camp. Another hot night in sight ...
As we wake up, we have to face the joys of the outback, we’re completely encircled by millions of very aggressive ants – even underneath our campervan and on the street … and they do bite and climb on your legs!!! We have to run away ... Bye bye outback … so though to live there. Luckily, today is transfer day! A rather “short” trip based on Australian standards, a mere 800 km. That’s roughly 8 hours straight drive on those straight endless roads. But there’s some perks on the way like a dozen of emus near Pimba.




Adelaide Semaphore – Kangaroo Island – Adelaide West Beach (710 km and 6 days) 

After a quick stop in Adelaide, we’re on our way to Kangaroo Island. We’ll need to cross the scenic Fleurieu Peninsula to board the ferry at Cape Jervis for the island.

Australia's third largest island stretches 155 kilometers long and 55 kilometers wide, after Tasmania and Melville Island. Apart from the major roads that are sealed, all the others roads are gravel or dirt roads. The island has several nature reserves to protect the remnants of its natural vegetation and native animals, with the largest and best-known being Flinders Chase National Park at the western end. It’s going to be a great place to wander around and where we won’t have to go far off the beaten track to easily see native Australian animals in the wild!

After 45 minutes, we arrive on the island at Penneshaw just after lunchtime. Not the prettiest town on the island. There’s not much to do here apart from the ferry…
Although the weather is not great, we go to the Eastern coast of the island.
Dudley Wines is our first “attraction”, a family owned winery located on the Dudley Peninsula. From the clifftop cellar door overlooking Little Cuttlefish Bay, you have spectacular views while sampling their wines. We tasted 3 whites, 1 rosé, 5 reds and 3 sparklings (white, rosé, red). They have very good sparkling wines.
Their Shiraz are amazing being it the Porky Flat Shiraz (a spicy full bodied wine), the Thirteen Sparkling Shiraz (a savory and fruity red bubbles) or the Glossy Black Sweet Red (a supposedly sweet wine with a dry and spicy finish).

Second on the list for today is Cape Willoughby. The first lighthouse to be built in South Australia was there in 1852. It’s a cute lighthouse where you can spot kangaroos. The best is to do the tour around the lighthouse where you can see them really close including mums and joeys.
It’s amazing how many kangas you can see while driving… better get going and arrive at the caravan park before dusk.

It looks like it’s gonna be a sunny day today. So we head to the western side of the island. As we drive, we can see kangaroos lazing on the grass during the day. They are smaller, darker and with longer fur than their mainland counterpart.
Island Pure Kangaroo Island, just before Kingscote, is renowned for its sheep’s cheeses. Indeed, they do have excellent sheep cheeses and they also make yogurts with sheep milk of course. If you’re there at the right time, you can also observe the ewes being milked or queuing for being milked.

It’s close to lunchtime … In American River, there’s an awesome place to eat oysters and abalone fresh from the island’s waters: the Oyster Farm shop. A quite simple place but with delicious seafood that can’t be missed.

Now, direction SouthWest to Seal Bay Conservation Park, the only place in the world where you can see Australian sea lions up close. Ranger guided walks take you among the rare Australian sea lions basking in the sun. We’re lucky as we can see 2 pups waiting for their mums. The colony is quite large and we can observe the big males fighting to defend their territories.

It’s almost 17:00, we have 15 minutes left to climb the dunes of Little Sahara. Well, this is more than enough… In comparison to all the sand dunes we have visited in South Australia, Little Sahara is very small and extremely “touristy”. Here, you can forget about the “alone in the desert” feeling…

But our day isn’t over. At our caravan park, the Western KI Caravan Park, we go chase the koalas in the park and on the koala walking trail. It seems that there are a few koalas around. It’s mating season, so they are very active at dusk and in the night. Perfect time for us if we’re lucky…
We don’t have to go that far from our campervan to see the first ones. 5 koalas are camouflaged and dozing in the lofty eucalyptus trees. They’re so cute… On the walking trail, a further 3 koalas, sleeping in acrobatic positions… and shy-less Tamar wallabies.
On top, we have kangaroos all around our campervan coming to eat the nice green grass of the lawns…
That was an amazing day!!!

A beautiful sunny day today to go to Flinders Chase National Park. It’s the place to watch New Zealand Fur seals at Admiral Arch, spot koalas, echidnas, Rosenberg Goannas and marvel at the natural sculptures of Remarkable Rocks. What a program … Hope we’ll be able to experience at least half of it ...
We decide to do the Platypus Waterholes walk of 4.5 km return. An easy walk across the Black Swamp with many waterholes where you might spot the shy platypus. We cross the gate and we already spot 4 koalas. Promising start ...
On the Platypus walk, there’s no platypus in sight. That’s normal, we’re in summer and there’s nearly no water in the pools and it’s too hot. The burrows are too high from the pond. It is believed that they hibernate during the summer months. So, the best time to observe those shy animals is during the winter season when the water levels are high enough.
The island is full of Yaccas (Xanthorrhoea), they grow one centimeter per year which means that Yaccas over 2 meters high are around 200 years of age. Fire is part of a Yacca’s growth cycle. They thrive after fire and begin re-sprout within days.
Anyhow, we’re still hopeful to see a lot of wildlife. And we’re not disappointed. We managed to see a dozen of koalas: dozing, sleeping, staring at us and really close! The icing on the cake, we even followed an Echidna: an egg-laying mammal foraging for ants with its long nose and sticky tongue. We also had the pleasure to observe a Rosenberg Goanna, a lizard endemic of the area.
Our tour is not over. Admiral Arch is a beautiful natural rock arch shaped by the wind and the powerful Southern Ocean where hundreds of fur seals play on the shore below. We had the opportunity to see pups playing among each others and frolicking seals playing in the sea. It took thousands of years of erosion to create this distinctive rock bridge near the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse. The boardwalk leading to the Admirals Arch is nearly as scenic as the landmark itself.
Remarkable Rocks have been sculpted by the elements over 500 million years. From these oddly shaped granite boulders, you have stunning views across the Cape du Couedic and the Southern Ocean pounding below and it’s awesome at sunset.
What a wonderful day!

Back at our caravan park. A quick check for the koalas we saw yesterday … they’re all gone!!! Damn it … But just after dusk, there’s a koala behind our campervan trying to get down. We missed that one… He’s so close, less than one meter! Suddenly, he stepped down and started walking quickly over the park to another eucalyptus tree. It’s incredible! He’s “grunting” when climbing on its tree. No, that’s not a pig grunting, it’s a koala bellowing!
Koalas have a range of different vocalizations they use to communicate with one another. Males use this sound to signify their physical and social position. The most commonly heard is the deep grunting bellow that can sound like a motorbike engine starting up. You would never imagine that those little cuties can make that much noise!!!

Hanson Bay has one of the most accessible populations of koalas on Kangaroo Island. You can stroll through the avenue of eucalyptus trees and in the younger koala forest to find these sleepy marsupials very close along the koala walk. So, we’re expecting to see plenty of koalas on our penultimate day on KI.
And we’re not in rest… in the span of 2 hours, in the gum trees we saw 28 koalas including 2 mums and their babies, soooo cute…
The Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary koala walk is worth every cent!

After this amazing experience, direction North of KI to Stokes Bay Beach, the secret beach. You need to pass through a natural tunnel to access the beach and the pool. A stunning panorama awaits you at the end.

Our last visit is the Bay of Shoal Wines. The cellar door and the vineyard are located North of Kingscote and overlook the beautiful Bay of Shoals and Reeve Point, the site of the first settlement in South Australia. We sampled 4 whites (including a 100% Savagnin), 1 rosé, 3 sparkling (white, rosé, red) and 3 reds. All wines are excellent from whites to bubbles to reds, besides the funky labels with the pelicans...
Bay of Shoal is a peaceful bay with numerous pelicans on the jetty. They were 12 when we got there, then arrived Sparkling rosé, Island Fizzz and Savagnin gliding across the shimmering lagoon.

We end the day at Sunset Food & Wine for a mesmerizing Valentine sunset on the spectacular ocean view … around KI oysters, mulloway and a glass of Sangiovese rosé from the Islander estate.

Kangaroo Island “KI” as the locals call it, is an absolute must for wildlife! The island is big but at the same time small enough to tour and surprisingly diverse. The cherry on the cake is that it’s still unspoilt and authentic – a gem.


Adelaide West Beach – Tanunda – Hahndorf (200 km and 5 days)

We returned our 4x4 campervan after 6898km from Perth to Adelaide and took a new rental car to initiate our oenological tour in Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale wine regions. Due to the limited time left, we decided to skip Adelaide Plains, Eden Valley, Clare Valley and Fleurieu Peninsula wine regions.

Australia spent millions of dollars to build a brand around Shiraz (Australia’s word for Syrah). Indeed, Shiraz is the main vineyard produce followed by Chardonnay. The two varieties make up 44% of the total wine production in Australia. The largest wine production region by far is South Australia. South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania are designated ‘phylloxera-free’, which means Barossa is home to some of the oldest living vineyards in the world. Shiraz vines planted as early as 1847 are still in commercial production today by Turkey Flat Vineyards, so are the oldest Mourvèdre vineyard in the world, planted in 1853 (at Hewitson).
The many hectares of vineyards are the most distinctive feature of the area, with over 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors.
Interesting is to understand the history of wine production in Australia … until the 20th century, the production was entirely focused on fortified wines in the style of sherry and port (tawny) and this for the patients … fortified wine was at that time a prescription medicine, a historical remedy for illness!!! It is not a coincidence that Dr Christopher Rawson and Mary Penfold started their wine business here. At that time, making wine was a pharmaceutical business. Fortified wine currently accounts for 2% of Australian wine sold globally but back in 1950, it accounted for 86% of Australian wine production.

Our first stop in Barossa is in Lyndoch at 1847 Chateau Yaldara to arrange our tour through the property the next day. To start practicing our taste buds, we taste only the two sparkling wines, a classical white (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) and … surprise surprise a mono-varietal of Petit Verdot made in red! Wow, apparently the only red sparkling Petit Verdot in the world! Matured in oak barrels for 12 months and on lees for a further 12 months in bottle for the second fermentation. It’s so excellent!
After the big producer on a vast property with a chateau, we visited a very small winery. Carmine and Ennia Scalzi are the owners of God’s Hill, producing a large selection of organic non-manipulated wine and organic extra virgin olive oil. Our brochure said “call for appointment” but we gave it a try on a Sunday afternoon … Carmine came out from the house and welcomed us in the cellar door. We tasted their fabulous wines … our first tasting in Australia done completely in Italian … after a while 20 more people joined us – a family reunion for a big birthday party. We tasted many wines, some available for selling and some very special for the family. Anyhow, the wines are all made in small batches, e.g. the Bird’s Nest rosé only 350 bottles! Moreover, this is the only rosé made out of 100% Aglianico. We also enjoyed a special Aglianico made in one damigiana (big jug) of 50 liters. We got here the best Merlot of our lives, full bodied, aromatic and full of flavors: the Black Olive 2006 with 15.1% ABV! Our best meditation wine!
Carmine has also a specialty, a unique style of wine little known outside of Italy: Uvaggio! More grapes-variety with concomitant ripening are co-fermented to make one wine (different from assemblage/ blend where more varietal wines are blended together): Amo Rosso Uvaggio is made from Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.
We were invited to visit the shed where all the wines are hand-labeled, one by one at the moment of selling. There, the private collection of own grappa was offered bianca, barricata, ultra-vecchia, doppia distillazione, etc. It was again an incredibly rich day!
We left after four hours because we needed to get the key of the apartment but the party continued … and we’re invited to join again tomorrow! God’s Hill, where passion meets beauty and tranquility!
We arrived in Tanunda very late to check-in our apartment and under the rain. There, another surprise: our “apartment” is actually a big beautiful house … one could get lost there … too many rooms!

We started the day driving along the scenic palm-lined Seppeltsfield Road. The 10 kilometer long Seppeltsfield Road boasts some of Barossa’s most famous wineries and vineyards, a total of 19 wineries are located along this iconic drive. Our first stop was at Rolf Binder but we were quite disappointed with their wines. Our second stop was at Hewitson, a family owned winery, and this was a true experience! The property is small and the cellar door is located in a modest white house … and bang! Once through the petty black door, you’re in the middle of a relaxed contemporary space with a terrace providing sweeping vineyard views. We could enjoy there the full collection of their world class wines in a very private, charming and welcoming atmosphere. We tasted 2 whites, 1 rosé and 6 reds. We appreciated very much the Falkenberg Shiraz, made from 90 years old vines and aged in French oak for 2 years as well as the Monopole Shiraz, a sélection clonale from one surviving Shiraz vine planted in 1853. The rosé (Grenache Cinsault Mourvedre) is also high class. We took home a bottle of the outstanding Old Garden mono-varietal Mourvèdre, made from the oldest Mourvèdre vineyard in the world, planted in 1853! Only eight rows of this rare and unique planting remain to this day at Rowland Flat – a part of history!

In the afternoon, back to 1847 Château Yaldara for our guided tour and tasting. We visited the historic cellars and maturation areas. At the end, we tasted an incredible selection of wines including 20, 30 and 40 years old tawnies (at 600$ the bottle): we stayed there for 4 hours! 1847 Château Yaldara has exceptional wines and tawnies, our preferred one remains the outstanding and unique 2013 Sparkling Petit Verdot (13.5% ABV).

The day after, we visited Yalumba in Angaston, founded in 1849, it’s the oldest family owned winery in Australia. We started our visit at the cooperage: Yalumba is the only winery in Australia and one of four wineries in the world, having an own cooperage on site, where the barrels are handmade! The crafting of oak barrels is a proud tradition at Yalumba.
In the mid-19th century, the founder Samuel Smith started a small nursery growing seedlings and stocking. In 1975, the nursery was established as a commercial supplier to wineries throughout Australia with new and emerging grape varieties such as Vermentino, Prosecco, Pinot Gris, Marsanne and Roussanne. The pioneering work with Viognier is a proud creation from the nursery program, the first clone imported from Montpellier in 1968. In 1980, 1.2 hectares of Viognier were planted in Angaston: This was the first significant planting in Australia, at a time when Viognier was virtually unknown outside France. Yalumba is now the leading player on the Viognier scene.
We tasted an excellent range of 6 whites, 1 rosé and 10 reds! Including some rarities like Tri-Centenary Grenache (hand picked from just 820 gnarly old Bush Vines planted in 1889), Octavius Shiraz, Virgilius Viognier as well as the Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. At the end, we tasted also an Eau-de-Vie made of Viognier. We spent the entire afternoon there. To note: for each wine, we got a new glass at Yalumba … this is Michelin style!
In Angaston, we shopped for some top range cheeses from the Barossa Valley Cheese Company, producing award-winning artisan cheeses: buffalo, goat, sheep and cow … very mature … perfect for our wines.
After the long Yalumba visit, we finished our day admiring the sunset along the iconic Seppeltsfield Road before returning to our beautiful house in Tanunda.

Today, in the morning we stopped at Turkey Flat Vineyards … and the harvest of the Grenache was ongoing! The cellar door is located in the historical old Schulz family butcher shop dating 1847. We tasted 1 white, 1 rosé and 7 reds. While all their wines are very good, our preferred was the Shiraz made from the 1847 Shiraz vines! Another special pick was the Grenache made from over 100 years un-trellised vines (bush vines), delivering an exceptionally concentrated fruit. The rosé (100% Grenache) was also very well balanced and pleasant. Last but not least to mention is the delicious sparkling Shiraz at 14% ABV! It’s a cult in Barossa to have dark red bubbles! Sparkling Shiraz forms an integral part of the Barossa wine tradition. A celebration of the oldest and most loved grape variety. This full-bodied red sparkling wine has a deep soul with smoky, charred-timber and very ripe blackberry flavor, providing the ultimate bubbling experience. Wow … and imagine that we were allergic to sparkling reds before! In the ranks of sparkling Shiraz, Turkey Flat is right at the top.
After a very good start of the day at Turkey Flat, we move to Rockford Wines that we kept last on our list. We have chosen Rockford Wines because of our love for their Alicante Bouchet. At Rockford, they’re clearly committed to keeping the best of the traditional wine production alive! One of the most old world winery with beautiful old stone buildings and terrific wines. We tasted 3 whites, 1 rosé and 5 reds. We particularly loved the sparkling Shiraz (aged in oak for many years before blending and bottle fermentation), the popular Alicante Bouchet, full of berry flavors which are slowly released in a pleasant finish and the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that could compete with the best Margaret river wines! All their premium red wines are top notch. All the Rockford reds are basket pressed!
It was a great tasting session and we were allowed to visit some parts of the winery that are normally not open to the public!
We left Barossa Valley after a couple of unbelievable experiences and several exceptional red wines to drive towards Hahndorf, in the middle of the Adelaide Hills wine region.


Hahndorf – McLaren Vale (130 km and 2 days) 

The most common plantings in the Adelaide Hills wine region are Sauvignon Blanc (36.5%) followed by Chardonnay (19.3%), Pinot Noir (14%) and Pinot Gris (5.8%). The region has a cool climate with the highest vineyards sited between 600-650 meters altitude (Barossa 350m, Eden Valley 450m), thus indicated for Pinot Noir and white wines. The Adelaide Hills is a wonderful combination of winding roads, quaint villages and rolling vineyards.

We started the day by visiting Penfolds Magill Estate in Adelaide at only 15 minutes from the CBD, it’s one of the very few urban vineyards in the world. In fact, from the estate you see well the brownish smog hanging over the CBD. We avoided intentionally the visit to Penfolds in Barossa because their huge factory in Nuriootpa looks like an oil refinery or a huge chemical plant ... not really inviting to taste wines. In Magill, we visited the original but still working winery, the underground tunnels and the heritage-listed bluestone cellars. The heritage-protected vineyard was established in 1844 by Dr Christopher Rawson and Mary Penfold. It was known as the Grange Vineyard, named after their homestead, a cottage that still stands amongst the vines. We tasted a selection from the Penfolds Collection and Limited Cellar Reserve: 4 whites and 6 reds. The remarkable ones are the St Henri Shiraz, the Bin 138 Shiraz-Mourvèdre-Grenache and the Bin 2 Shiraz-Mourvèdre. Penfolds is collecting tens of awards with their premium wines, however we felt the very high price is not fully justified vis-à-vis other smaller producers … A disappointment was the fact that many producers are very proud of having old vines and at Penfolds they are stripping their 40 years old vines because of low “performance”.

On our way back to Adelaide Hills, we suddenly stopped along the hilly road … we are now experts in discovering sleeping koala in the trees, even at 60km/h! The koala saw us, watched us, smiled, said hello and resumed to sleep peacefully again.

We tasted wines at Tapanappa, Somerled and Landhaus but only Landhaus had a few interesting wines, especially some reds (from Barossa ...). Tapanappa had very expensive wines but none was convincing for us.
Our last morning in Adelaide Hills was at The Lane Vineyards: we tasted there 5 whites and 6 reds. Astonishingly, we became fan of their Chardonnays, oaked up to 100% in new french oak but incredibly decent and pleasant in the palate. The John Crighton Shiraz Cabernet was clearly our preferred wine. The Lane has a very good range of wines, our best winery in Adelaide Hills.


McLaren Vale – Willunga – Adelaide Glenelg (80 km and 4 days) 

Today, there are 88 cellar doors and over 160 vineyards in McLaren Vale. The McLaren Vale region is well known for its red wines, especially those made from Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre. White wine varieties in the region include Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.

In recent years some wineries have begun using less common varieties such as Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Barbera, Sagrantino, Cinsault, Vermentino and Fiano.
Shiraz is still the most important variety for the region, accounting for 50% of the total crush. The area's thin soils, limited water and warm summers harness Shiraz’s natural vigor and produce intense flavored fruit, and wine with a deep purple color that can last decades in the bottle.
Petit Verdot is one of Bordeaux’s classic red grape varieties with very thick-skinned grapes that produce a wine of considerable depth, peppery, spicy and fragrant. Geoff Johnston of Pirramimma planted the first Australian plot in 1983. Petit Verdot grapes produce wine that has the color intensity and spice of Shiraz, but with added fragrance of violets. There’s a wave of innovation happening across vineyards and wineries in McLaren Vale – the alternative varietals are exploding here.

Our first visit in McLaren Vale was at Serafino, the winery that made the big business launching Lambrusco in Australia. Serafino became the "Lambrusco King" in the 1990’s and with the big money, he bought McLaren Lake Estate, where the modern and large Serafino Winery is now located. The wines were quite disappointing.
During our visit to the winery, we tasted several fresh wines at several stages from the barrels or tanks (white and red), and 5 reds, 1 white and 1 sparkling during the formal tasting. The wines from the Serafino and Sharktooth Collection were good although not outstanding. The tour was exciting because the harvest just started and the winery was running with plenty of grapes being delivered … and Serafino was everywhere in person, still checking his business!

This morning, we had 7 wineries on our to-do-list but we decided to visit the 8th one not on the list: d’Arenberg. Just to see the outrageous head-turning Rubik’s cube building completed in December 2017, … we remained there for 4 hours … the green-white glass cube is a crazy and insane place to be … everything inside there is very bizarre, phantasmagorical and eccentric … it’s more a contemporary museum than a winery … a unique experience of follies. You cannot describe the place without falling over the dangerous line between normality and schizophrenia ... we emerged finally from those very psychedelic rooms to the 4th floor … a nearly “normal” tasting room. The wine range at d’ Arenberg is considerable with over 70 wines and 30 grape varieties and the names are quite eclectic to oddly: from Derelict Vineyard to Cenosilicaphobic Cat to Vociferate Dipsomaniac or Athazagoraphobia!
Despite the madness and ultramodern atmosphere of this place, the wine-making is very traditional! The big normal companies should learn here. All the 450 hectares are organically grown! All the wines are gently basket pressed and all the reds are crushed by foot-treading! This is incredible for a company of this size! And the wines are excellent!! We tasted 4 whites, 2 sparkling and 11 reds! This psycho and maniacal winery is proudly producing excellent wines at an affordable price and with some unusual grapes like Pinot Meunier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Chambourcin, Cinsault, Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Aglianico, Graciano, Mencia, Petit Shiraz, Souzao, Tinta Cao, … Their red bubbles “The Peppermint Paddock”, we call it “Deep Purple”, is made of Chambourcin, Shiraz and Graciano … a dream! The Custodian and The Derelict Vineyard are an excellent expression of the Grenache grape and … during the federal vine pull scheme in the 80’s d’ Arry Osborn refused to remove his old Grenache vineyards! Moreover, he contracted or acquired other Grenache vineyards … against the State’s rules. Well done d’Arry!!!!
An incredible discovery! Tomorrow is our last day in McLaren Vale and we have still 7 top wineries on our list … an impossible mission …we have to return here to complete the mission … nobody is left behind!

This morning we did only a short tasting at Gemtree Wines, a third generation family owned winery of 300 hectares. At Gemtree they strongly believe that farming is a generational responsibility and only by looking after the environment, we can hope a better future. The philosophy is simple: minimal intervention in the wine-making process and an environmentally conscious farming to produce wines which are powerful, concentrated, and express the true characteristics of each grape variety and the region. Indeed, the wines are very good, tasty and fully organic.




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