(Mount Lofty Ranges Zone, South Australia)
34° 41’s, 138° 34’E; Altitude 20-50m (66 feet)
The Adelaide Plains run due north of the city of Adelaide and south east of the Barossa Valley, bounded on the east by the Adelaide Hills and the west by the coastal waters of Gulf St Vincent. It is a maritime area with a low incidence of disease. It has warm to hot summers and mild to wet winters. The proximity to the sea produces smaller fluctuations between summer and winter temperatures and the prevailing sea breezes have a tempering effect on the climate – long warm days and slightly cooler nights with minimal variation between day and night temperatures.
During the growing season, the warm to hot climate, with high exposure to sunlight but moderated by the proximity to Gulf St Vincent, produces fully ripened fruit with intense flavours and rich colour.
Most vineyards are medium to small holdings in private family ownership. In the past, much of the production was processed by larger companies in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Since the 1970’s Primo Estate has been turning out some excellent wines from the Adelaide Plains. A number of other local producers are now showing just what can be done with Adelaide Plains fruit – Hazyblur, St Andrews Estate and the 100% organic Wilkie Estate have all won accolades locally and internationally.
The formation of the Plains was derived from sediments from the eastern foothills that form part of the Mount Lofty Ranges. There are two soil types; the most common is the red -brown loamy sands found through much of South Eastern Australia, with alkaline subsoils and free limestone at deeper levels. These are excellent viticulture soils. There are also the smaller patches of heavier loam and cracking clay soils which are very different in structure, but once again tend to be alkaline rather than acidic, promoting healthy vine growth. With a relatively low annual rainfall (440-460mm), controlled drip-irrigation is used throughout the region with recycled water and water from underground aquifers. The mediterranean climate with an average of only 33 rain days in the growing season and controlled drip-irrigation allows the grower fine control over producing premium quality grapes.
Harvest is generally earlier than other regions (mid-February to late March). The growing season low rainfall (153mm – 33 rain days) and virtually disease-free environment encourage favourable conditions for consistent and predictable high quality fruit, unaffected by the changes in weather that often follow later in the season. The generally flat topography assists mechanical harvesting, which is often done at night.
The warmer climate suits the production of full bodied red and white table wines as well as fortified wines. Lighter styles can also be attained. Achieving a Baume of 14° is not difficult. Historically, grapes from the Adelaide Plains have been favoured to top up other wines from other regions, but that is fast changing. A number of vignerons are beginning to produce wines under their own Adelaide Plains label. The Adelaide Plains region is undergoing a rapid renaissance with a renewed focus on producing premium grapes and premium wines.