Don’t go it alone. Pick from one of South Australia’s famous festivals and meet top producers, chefs, winemakers and locals. Tasting Australia celebrates the state’s bountiful produce, and its journey from paddock to plate. This week-long festival is held every May in Adelaide and surrounding regions.
Flavours of South Australia
The great Australian bite
Warning: you might find yourself absentmindedly licking your computer screen as you continue reading. Don’t be embarrassed: how else would a sane person react to tales of succulent southern rock lobster, creamy cheeses, lavender ice-cream, native plums, the world’s best honey (and the booze it features in), fat oysters, cherries as big as golf balls, and wine that’s worth boarding a plane for?
We’ve teamed up with our friends at South Australia to put this delicious state on your plate. It’s not our fault if you get fat, or come home with a hangover. One thing you should expect, though, is bewildering diversity. Take the capital, Adelaide. Here, you’ll find Serbian meat platters, South African braai, Mediterranean pintxos and pizza, Asian street-food and indigenous flavours, all within walking distance of each other. Don’t even think about going to bed early, thanks to the city’s vibrant new laneway bars – watch your back, Sydney and Melbourne – and nifty dessert bars, which pair cakes with cocktails.
Discovering South Australia is a multi-course feast. You’ll need to save room for the coastal restaurants (seafood, ahoy), the historic cellar doors, the fancy fine dining, the wine regions, the farmers’ markets and the food festivals. Even the roadside stalls champion what’s growing in the surrounding fields. Whatever you do, you won’t go hungry.
Fork on the Road, held monthly in Adelaide, champions the city’s food trucks, vans, carts and bikes. It encourages new businesses to try out their recipes on an appreciative public, fostering a community feel and a shared food culture that bodes well for future feasting.
CheeseFest was founded by Kris Lloyd, of award-winning Woodside Cheese Wrights. Now in its 10th year, it’s inspired by the British Cheese Awards, as well as festivals in Italy and France that Kris encountered on her travels. This year, 25,000 people flocked to Adelaide’s Rymill Park to toast 30 top-notch Australian cheesemakers.
Don’t just take our word for it. We’ve spoken to some super-talented locals – chef Jock Zonfrillo; winemakers Chester Osborn and Natasha Mooney; cheesemaker Kris Lloyd – about what they do, why they do it and what it tastes like. See what they had to say.
Flavours of South Australia
‘You sometimes hear people call Adelaide a country town. Actually, it has 1.3 million people – it’s a city. It might not be as big as Sydney or Melbourne, but that’s a great thing.’ Jock Zonfrillo, chef, Restaurant Orana, Street-ADL
Clever Colonel William Light. Back in 1835, when he was charged with selecting the site of South Australia’s capital, he surveyed the land of the Kaurna people and spotted rainclouds scooting over the Adelaide Hills. Rainfall = good agriculture = good food. Colonel Light also twigged that the River Torrens meant easy access to fresh water and the city’s fate was sealed. In a national first, it was built by free people, not chain-clanking convicts. We also have the early Adelaidians to thank for the city’s bustling food market: on Saturday 23 January 1869 at 3.15am, a posse of market gardeners set up shop in a site between Gouger and Grote Street and started touting their wares. More than 500 people attended the first market day and stock sold out by 6am. A year later, Adelaide Central Market officially opened.
Today’s residents benefit from the same happy geography that Light admired a century ago: a topological tapestry of coastline, hills, parklands and plains. Scottish chef Jock Zonfrillo, who lives in Basket Range and owns two acclaimed restaurants in Adelaide, says that the city’s position is perfect: ‘You can travel from the CBD to the beach in 10–15 minutes; you can travel from the CBD to the hills and be among natural winemakers in 20 minutes. That, for me, is one of the biggest advantages to living in South Australia and Adelaide.’
Today’s visitors are likely to run out of time before getting a true taste of the city. The restaurant scene rivals that of any Australian state; home-grown coffee companies such as Rio Espresso and Cibo Espresso perk locals up, and dessert bars woo all-comers (try Devour, Aviary, Eggless and Steven Ter Horst Chocolatier).
You’re likely to take a hangover home with you, too, thanks to the bar scene that has blossomed since the government relaxed rules on small-bar licences. Little laneways such as Peel Street, Leigh Street and Ebenezer Place yield the best drinking dens. These new contenders are short on space but big on style – glamorous 2KW or Mexican-inspired Chihuahua, for example. Many have unusual predilections, too: Australian gin in The Howling Owl; Paris via La Buvette Drinkery; independent brewers at Nola; books and booze at Bibliotheca Bar and Book Exchange; Asian streetcred at Kenny Wang, Gypsy Dragon, Gondola Gondola and Vietnamese Laundry. Pho cocktail, anyone?
Here’s your Adelaide restaurant hit-list. The city has more brilliant restaurants than we’ve got space for, so here are just a few favourites...
285 Rundle St
+61 (0)8 8232 3444
Learn what Australia really tastes like with a meal at Orana. You wouldn’t expect a Scotsman to be educating Australians about indigenous ingredients, but Jock Zonfrillo is no rookie: he has spent years with Aboriginal communities, learning about their ingredients. Downstairs, Street-ADL is a more casual offering from the same chef.
Try Pipis (clams), samphire and sprouted bunya.
Adelaide Casino, North Terrace
+61 (0)8 8218 4166
Stay in the casino for Madame Hanoi, Nic Watt’s French-Vietnamese bar and bistro. Try Vietnamese breakfast (matched with sweet, potent coffee), or rack up an array of snacks, salads, small plates and buns for lunch or dinner.
Try Heo quay cuon rau (crispy pork belly, Vietnamese herbs, hoisin sauce and lettuce cups).
Adelaide Casino, Station Road
+61 (0)8 8218 4244
Chef Sean Connolly’s casino-housed restaurant is inspired by New York brasseries, but the produce it champions is South Australian. The space is light and airy, with an additional al-fresco area on Station Road.
Try Kingkawooka mussels cooked in cider and crème fraîche.
40 Waymouth Street
+61 (0)8 8211 8048
Press has a thing for curing, pickling, baking, brining and smoking; expect to hesitate over the densely packed menu, which is divided into easily navigable sections: raw; smaller; from the wood grill; offal; bigger, and on the side. There’s even a roast suckling Berkshire pig feasting menu, should you come over all Henry VIII.
Try The Press tasting menu: maximum flavours; minimum frowning-over-menu.
4 East Terrace
+61 (0)8 8223 3885
South African chef Duncan Welgemoed might be far from home, but he’s brought his flavours with him. Africola’s menu champions South Africa’s ‘rainbow cuisine’: food that betrays diverse colonial influences from Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK. Expect smoky meat from the braai (South African barbecue), chilli sauce a-go-go and interiors as bold as the flavours.
Try The peri peri chicken: the marinade is based on a sauce invented by the chef’s late father, still made and sold by Welgemoed’s mother in Johannesburg.
+61 (0)8 8205 4777
Fine dining in a stadium? Holy cricket! Dress to impress at Hill of Grace, which surveys the hallowed Adelaide Oval. Come thirsty, too: the restaurant has the world’s only complete set of Hill of Grace wines on display, from 1958 vintages to today’s releases. Dennis Leslie’s menu is a celebration of South Australia, with indigenous ingredients getting a look-in – quail with saltbush, pork with quandong, and pepperberry ice-cream, for example.
Try Lamb, bunya nut purée, greens and native currant jus.
309 North Terrace
+61 (0)8 8227 0799
If you’re not on great terms with your dinner date/s before a meal at Golden Boy, you will be by the end of one, thanks to the communal tables and sociable sharing plates. Dishes come with punchy sauces, pastes and relishes – all rustled up onsite – and the wine list carefully matches South Australian favourites to Thai flavours. If you need help deciding what to opt for, just call ‘tuk tuk!’ and a member of staff will materialise.
Try Fried whole barramundi with green mango, toasted peanut salad and nam jim sauce.
78 Penfold Road, Magill
+61 (0)8 8301 5551
Magill’s menu has a disarming simplicity that belies the chefs’ technical wizardry – one dish is succinctly described as ‘partridge, Jamón, last year’s pickled peach’. This restaurant is beloved for its reliably excellent food, stunning views and easy proximity to the city, a 15-minute drive away.
Try Menus change, but Mayura Wagyu with asparagus and sesame was a crowd-pleaser.
9 Peel Street
+61 (0)8 8231 8887
On its website, Peel Street promises to ‘bring you the food we eat at home’. We might just follow the chefs at the end of their shift then, to get a permanent fix of their fresh take on Australian cuisine. Dishes betray the chefs’ vivid imaginations and love of layering textures: a starter of crispy smoked speck, blue-cheese ice-cream, braised quince and hazelnut, for example.
Try Crispy fried snapper with cauliflower skordalia, iceberg lettuce and tomato smash.
Five to try: here’s a little black book of Adelaide’s best bars…
1) Clever Little Tailor, 19 Peel Street
Small but perfectly formed, CLT exemplifies Adelaide’s emerging small-bar scene.
2) Hains & Co, 23 Gilbert Place
Assemble your favourite landlubbers at this nautical-themed dive bar.
3) Maybe Mae, 15 Peel Street
Secret entrance, plush carpet, leather booths, mirrored walls: art-deco flair meets modern mixology at Mae’s.
4) Bank Street Social, 48 Hindley Street
Sip your way through South Australian cider, craft beer, gin and boutique wine at this basement bar that champions Barossa Valley-inspired pizza and the city’s best DJs.
5) Udaberri Pintxos & Vino, 1–13 Leigh Street
This moodily lit wine bar serves exemplary tapas and well-matched wines in a small but characterful Med-inspired space.
Flavours of South Australia
‘One of my favourite places in South Australia is the Victory pub. It’s in a beautiful spot overlooking Sellicks Beach, my favourite beach, and Aldinga Bay. We do a lot of beach activities as a family and I have a house there, so it’s really important to me.’ Natasha Mooney, winemaker, Fox Gordon
Picture-pretty beaches, rugged coastline, orchards, farms, dairy pastures and vineyards: Fleurieu is nicknamed the ‘perfect peninsula’ for a reason.
Don’t worry, we’ll help you: ‘floo-ree-oh’ is how you say it. The Fleurieu Peninsula sweeps south from Adelaide down to Cape Jervis, a coastal playground that has scuppered more than its fair share of ships (divers still gawp at the shipwrecks).
Prepare to feel your stomach rumble – things you can look forward to munching here include: just-baked bread, blueberries, strawberries, Jersey cream, briney olives, creamy butter and cheeses, flavoursome fish, smoked meat, plump quail, pheasant and venison. Casual beachside restaurants, fish and chipperies, and pizzerias that rival Rome’s dot this picturesque patch of South Australia. You might get the best taste of the region when you least expect it – keep your eyes peeled for local markets and roadside stalls selling bread, jams, relishes, meat and more.
The area is also lauded for its wine regions, most notably McLaren Vale – famous for its gutsy shiraz – and Langhorne Creek.
Eat Just-caught whiting from Star of Greece, or something a little more fancy – Angus rib with mustard leaves, perhaps – from multi-award-winning Fino.
Drink A glass of that McLaren Vale shiraz, to see what all the fuss is about.
Getting there Fleurieu Peninsula is a popular weekend-getaway spot for Adelaidians, since it’s just a 45-minute drive from the city.
A rugged 2,000km coastline and some of the world’s cleanest waters: wave your flipper at the Seafood Peninsula.
It’s legal to eat the locals at Eyre Peninsula: fresh King George whiting, Coffin Bay oysters, bluefin tuna, southern calamari and prawns so fat and delicious, it’d be a crime not to consume them. A word of warning: this seafood deserves to be treated with respect (some say King George whiting is Australia’s most delicious fish). Don’t insult it with heavy sauces: its pearl-white flesh is best dressed with a squeeze of lemon and a scattering of seasoning.
The Coffin Bay oysters you’ll eat here are plucked from crystalline waters hours before you sling them back. Get to grips with a plate of them at 1802 Oyster Bar & Bistro or the Fresh Fish Place, Port Lincoln’s seafood centre, which offers tastings, tours and cookery classes.
Never tried abalone? Now’s your chance. To get their hands on this underwater delicacy – which has cult status in Asian kitchens – abalone divers have to brave habitats favoured by great white sharks. Abalone are delicious steamed, grilled, served sashimi- or sushi-style, chucked in congee or added to a hotpot. Try them in one of the beachside restaurants, or go on a seafood safari and gather your own, with help from some experts.
Eyre Peninsula produces 60 per cent of South Australia’s seafood and you can try most of it along the seafood trail, which stretches from Whyalla to Streaky Bay.
Eat Tuna steak at Port Lincoln, nicknamed the ‘tuna capital of the world’.
Drink Boston Bay Wines’ ‘Great White’ (or its punchy merlot, if you’re seeing red).
Getting there It’s just a 40-minute flight from Adelaide to Port Lincoln.
The Limestone Coast, your half-way point between Adelaide and Melbourne, wows with world-class Coonawarra wines and toothsome crayfish.
The Limestone Coast was 26 million years in the making, proof – if proof were needed – that good things come to those who wait. Natural highs abound (heritage-listed national parks, glittering lagoons, sandy coves, volcanic craters and mountain lakes); for gourmands, there’s the lure of rock lobster, Coorong mullet, crayfish and smoked trout. Don’t miss the pretty port towns serving faultless fish and chips – best enjoyed bum-on-sand, eyes-on-waves, with a bracing breeze in your hair.
Speaking of the sea air, the wine is the region is rightly famous, its flavours shaped by the sea salt, the coastal terrain and the nutrient-rich soil. Many of Australia’s best red wines are produced in Coonawarra, whose famous terra rosa (fertile red-brown topsoil sitting on a white limestone base) results in world-beating cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and merlots. White wines also thrive here, especially chardonnay, sauvignon, riesling and viognier. To get the best flavour of the region, follow the Limestone Coast real food and wine trail, which stretches from Tailem Bend to south of Mt Gambier and just across the Victoria border.
Eat A memorable meal at Pipers of Penola, housed inside an old Methodist church.
Drink A glass of Coonawarra red or Padthaway Estate’s pinot noir chardonnay.
Getting there It's a scenic four-hour drive from Adelaide.
Australia’s third-largest island is where the wild things are: expect to share it with dolphins, seals, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, goannas, birds, echidnas and some very special bees.
Like the sound of natural wonders, succulent lobster and coastal honey? You’ll fit right in on Kangaroo Island (affectionately known as KI). This eye-bogglingly beautiful patch of South Australia is incredibly untouched: half of KI has never been cleared of its native vegetation; a third is protected national parkland. Here, granite boulders – the Remarkable Rocks – meet Little Sahara’s milk-white sand dunes, and grains grow in abundance, perfuming the air.
Aside from eye-boggling good looks and abundant wildlife, Kangaroo Island is famous for its honey. Mr Justice Boucaut shipped the first Italian Ligurian bees to Kangaroo Island in 1884; a year later, the Ligurian Bee Act was passed by the South Australian Parliament, banning other bees from the island. KI now has the world’s only population of pure-bred, disease-free Ligurian bees and does a fine trade in exporting pure-bred queen bees.
What’s all the buzz about?
Ligurian bees are marked by three golden girdles on their back and have longer tongues for hard-to-reach pollen. They’re also renowned grafters, working longer than other bees and less likely to steal from their comrades. Work your way through different honey flavours – stringy bark; sugar gum; coastal flora; creamed honey – at the Island Beehive. Family-run Clifford’s Honey Farm is also famous, thanks to its 300 industrious hives, which gather nectar from blue gum, mallee, canola, bottlebrush and other native plants.
You’ll also want to try the island’s world-renowned southern rock lobster. KI’s cool waters from Antarctica and rugged rocks make for very happy crustaceans, who get fat on mussels, crabs and abalone. As you’d expect, this happy lifestyle translates into rich, sweet lobster meat. The lobsters are commercially harvested using traditional clay pots – get a taste of them at Ferguson Australia, owned by third-generation fishers Debra and Andrew Ferguson.
Eat Once you’ve had your fill of lobster and honey, try marron (freshwater crayfish) at Andermel Marron Café, teamed with a glass of local Two Wheeler Creek wine.
Drink Gin, vodka and liqueur (some made with honey) by Kangaroo Island Spirits; wine from The Islander Estate.
Getting there It’s a 30-minute flight south from Adelaide; 2.5 hours by car and ferry.
Flavours of South Australia
Toasting Australia’s wine capital
‘It’s very artistic, winemaking. You really only use five percent science; 95 per cent is art.’ Chester Osborn, winemaker, d’Arenberg
Dark and seductive; big and busty; pale and interesting; bubbly and playful. Nope, we’re not leering at the locals – we’re lusting after South Australian wines.
If you’re wondering how on earth (literally) one state can become famous for such a varied portfolio of wines – from gutsy shiraz to crisp, floral riesling, peppery cabernet sauvignon, honeyed chardonnay and more – you need simply to look up at the sky.
South Australia may be the country’s driest state, but that’s not to say its climate doesn’t vary vastly from region to region. McLaren Vale benefits from coastal breezes: mild days pan into cool nights, helping to keep the grapes’ flavours concentrated. In the Barossa, Mediterranean doses of sunshine help coax the full flavour from red grapes, who take on more and more of the soil’s expression the longer they linger unplucked.
If you start with the premise that South Australia’s wine-scape is full of contrasts and dizzying diversity, you’ll be on terra firma.
South Australia has 18 distinct wine regions to glug through, including the world-famous Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale. In case you want to play wine-region Top Trumps, here are some vital stats for some of the star players.
Famous for shiraz and riesling.
The region’s rich winemaking history dates back to 1842.
Home to some of the world’s oldest shiraz vines (150+ years old).
150+ wineries; 80+ cellar doors.
First grapes planted by Jesuit priests in 1851.
Jesuits still make wine at Sevenhill Cellars.
40+ cellar doors.
Wineries occupy a 40km corridor between Auburn and Clare.
The Riesling Trail follows this corridor.
Each May, wine-lovers celebrate the end of vintage here.
The region’s wine industry was founded in 1891.
Home to Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Mount Benson and Padthaway wine regions.
40+ cellar doors.
Unique geological and climate characteristics.
12km strip of terra rossa soil – the Coonawarra – results in premium red wines.
Famous for its shiraz (McLaren Vale).
90+ cellar doors.
Blend and bottle your own wine at d'Arenberg.
If you love whites, try chardonnay and sauvignon blanc from Currency Creek and Southern Fleurieu.
Langhorne Creek is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions.
Vines were first planted here in 1836; KI was only declared an official Australian wine region in 2001.
KI's cellar doors are famous for their spectacular views.
25+ growers; 150+ hectares of vines.
18+ labels to choose from (try gin and vodka from Kangaroo Island Spirits, too).
Diverse geological conditions from Port Germein to Jamestown.
Vines grow in deep sandy loam, red clay, shallow stony ground.
Mostly red varieties: shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo.
Don’t just stagger from tasting to tasting. Here are our top 10 wine-related must-dos…
Sample the best local produce every Saturday from 7.30am–11.30am in the Vintners Shed, Angaston – come rain, hail or sunshine, it is abrim with delicious things to taste. This market’s motto is: ‘real food from the homes and farms of the Barossa’ – a trip here is the closest thing to being fed by your imaginary Barossa Valley aunt and uncle. Bliss.
You might not expect a historic wine estate to house a contemporary design studio and gallery, but that’s exactly what Seppeltsfield Winery offers at JamFactory. Set in the 1850s stables, the gallery champions local artisans: you might learn some tricks of the trade from a leather-worker, ceramicist or glass-blower while you’re here.
Everything about Fino restaurant is stunning: its historic bottling-hall building; its cutting-edge modern design; its incredible food, which is an edible celebration of the region. Dishes sound simple but are executed to perfection: Clare Valley Scotch fillet with anchovy butter and charred onion, for example. Plates, knives and tables have been specially fashioned for Fino by craftsmen at the winery’s JamFactory (if you’re a fan, browse for similar in the gift shop).
Add some drama to your wine tour by going off-road in a guided 4WD tour – you’ll see parts of the region most tourists don’t clap eyes on. The Fork & Grape tour takes in the stunning countryside of McLaren Vale, with winery visits, a tasting in the vineyards and lunch in Karena’s kitchen, at the Salopian Inn restaurant. Your tour will end with a private cellar tasting at a historic homestead.
Having sipped a few big Barossa reds at Hentley’s characterful cellar door, stay for lunch or dinner in multi-award-winning Hentley Farm restaurant. The setting is old – stables built in the 1880s on scenic Greenock Creek, but expert chef (and keen forager) Lachlan Colwill’s approach is modern: diners choose from two no-menu degustations.
Salopian Inn is run by winemaker Elena Brooks and chef Karena Armstrong. Karena’s cooking makes the most of Salopian’s kitchen garden; beef and lamb are pasture-fed, pork and poultry are free-range and all seafood comes from Australian waters. Opt for the tasting menu and canter through dishes such as chilli-caramel kangaroo tail with daikon, beetroot and coriander.
Star of Grace takes its name from a shipwreck, but there’s nothing ill-fated about this casual café and restaurant, which serves sensational seafood in a light and airy dining space. Expect Mediterranean flavours and dazzling views of Gulf St Vincent. If another vessel comes a-cropper while you’re eating, we won’t blame you for turning a blind eye.
Survey the vines and the verdant Vale region with a long lunch at the Elbow Room. Chef Nigel Rich hopped here from d’Arry’s Verandah – Chester Osborn’s celebrated restaurant nearby – so you’re in good hands. As is usual in these parts, the menu champions local, seasonal ingredients: when what grows on your doorstep is this good, why look further afield?
We’ll let Chester Osborn, the man in charge, tell you about d’Arry’s, since we had such a lovely chat with him: ‘We have a restaurant that’s built on the front of the original house, which dates back to the 1880s. It’s just a verandah; it only seats about 50 people. On nice days we can sit outside, so that means another 50 there. The restaurant has been full every day for 12 years. The chef, Peter Esky, cooks with a very multicultural style; it all comes together with great flavours. And there’s an amazing view from the restaurant: it’s quite steep and overlooks the rolling hills of McLaren Vale and the sea beyond.’
Another South Australian restaurant that’s spoken of in hallowed tones, Appellation, at the Smith-approved Louise hotel, is worshipped by food critics, wine-lovers, lucky locals and gourmands. Chef Ryan Edwards cooks with confidence and has a strong team behind him: they harvest their own vegetables, bake their bread and butcher and cure their own meat. You won’t want to stagger far after your feast – book one of the Louise’s luxurious suites. If you’ve got any questions about what you’ve tried, present them to the chefs in the kitchen garden or at the local farmers’ market, held every Saturday.
Flavours of South Australia
Food and wine trails
‘When it comes to cheese and wine pairings, people’s palates are very different.’ Kris Lloyd, cheesemaker
If only Thelma and Louise had stepped out of their car and stopped for a cheese platter and some wine, things could have ended so differently (no cliff-dives involved). Road trips and food, plus a well-judged drink or two – no more, mind – go together like bread and cheddar. Here are some of South Australia’s tastiest trails.
If a poet has penned a phrase more beautiful than ‘cheese and wine’, we’re yet to read it. You’ll be spouting your own sonnets after a taste of South Australia’s three cheese and wine trails: McLaren Vale, which starts at Blessed Cheese; Barossa, which begins at Barossa Valley Cheese Company, and Adelaide Hills, which kicks off at the cheekily monikered Udder Delights. Whichever one you opt for, you’ll begin by picking up a cheese hamper and embarking on a progressive cheese and wine tasting at some of SA’s best cellar doors.
Tick off the big-name food and drink regions on the epicurean way, which takes you from McLaren Vale to Clare Valley via the Adelaide Hills and Barossa. You’ll have the chance to meet some of the state’s best chefs and producers, blend your own wine at world-famous wineries, explore historic and contemporary cellar doors and nibble on regional produce at local favourites such as Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop and Beerenberg Farm. Possible pit-stops include: d’Arenberg, The Elbow Room, Woodside Cheese Wrights, Seppeltsfield, Hentley Farm and Sevenhill Cellars. In its shortest form (Adelaide to McLaren Vale), you could tackle the trail in a couple of hours; for the most delicious experience, we’d allow two weeks.
What a mouthful, literally. Meet producers; eat products (definitely not the other way round) on this adventurous tour, which allows maximum appreciation of Kangaroo Island’s dramatic scenery and dazzling produce. Allow at least a day to tackle each of the three main trails: Dudley Peninsula; Central and South Coast; Kingscote and surrounds. You can also craft your own trail by picking from the listed cellar doors and suppliers. Whichever route you take, don’t forget to make time for the island’s famous honey, marron, ewes’ milk cheese, oysters and island wine, plus spirits made from wild fennel, honey and native juniper. Lavender flourishes on KI, so try the local lavender ice-cream.
Yes, we are telling you to drink riesling and cycle. Think we’re mad? On your bike. This 35km trail can be conquered on two wheels (allow 2.5 hours each way, which will feel much shorter with frequent pit-stops) or on two legs (in nine hours). If you’re walking, you’ll definitely need frequent refreshment breaks. (And we’re not talking lukewarm water or a flask of tepid coffee – we’re talking some of the most god-darn delicious riesling on this earth.) The trail follows the wiggles of the former railway from Auburn to Clare and 10km north to Barinia Road, taking in a fruity blend of landscapes: woodlands, vineyards and embankments, dotted with farms and – more importantly – wineries. You’ll also pootle past picnic spots and storyboards that champion the region’s history, the Ngadjuri people, the communities and local heroes. If you’re a cycling geek, you’ll be interested in the three loops on the trail, which mean you don’t have to cover familiar ground.
If you’re of the belief that vouchers can’t be sexy, rethink things: the highlight of this eight-hour self-drive trail – which takes in Barossa Valley, Tanunda, Angaston, Lyndoch, Nuriootpa – is your V.I.P. voucher book, which will result in the best picnic of your life. You’ll also get a hamper with a stainless-steel cheese knife, cheese board, two Barossa wine glasses, napkins, a condiments dish and a printed Trail Map. Buy your kit online, or on the road – at one of the route’s pit-stops: visitor centres at Barossa, Gawler, Kapunda or BakerST Bakery in Williamstown.
If you want to get up close and personal with more sea creatures than there are in The Little Mermaid, head to the Eyre Peninsula for the seafood trail, which stretches from Whyalla to Streaky Bay and puts succulent oysters, abalone, prawns, tuna, rock lobster and other fishy temptations on your plate. You can learn about barramundi and Murray cod in Whyalla; go on a marine tour in Arno Bay; sample some of Port Lincoln’s best restaurants and go on a charter tour in the waterways of the Lincoln Cove Marina. Poke around an oyster shed (and taste some fat specimens) in Coffin Bay; gorge on King George whiting, snapper, gummy shark, southern calamari, Spencer Gulf king prawns, southern rock lobster, scallops, Kinkawooka mussels, Moreton Bay bugs and Atlantic salmon at Streaky Bay. If you haven’t already fallen into a seafood coma, book in for an oyster tasting at Angel Bay, or feast by the water at Ceduna Foreshore.
If, like UB40, you’re into red, red wine, flex your cork-hand: Coonawarra’s terra rossa soil results in world-beating reds, including delectable cabernet sauvignons. The region’s cigar-shaped winelands are as easily manageable as a bottle of vintage shiraz: a 20km-long, 2km-wide strip that’s mainly occupied by vineyards. There are five wineries to tick off, all open seven days a week (bar Christmas Day and Good Friday). You can conquer the trail in just three hours, if you pause for 20 minutes at each winery. Alternatively, linger over a long lunch at Fodder, or grab picnic treats from The Coonawarra Store.
Flavours of South Australia
Meet the makers
It's good to talk – especially if you're talking to top chefs, brilliant winemakers and artisan cheesemakers. We had a word (and then some) with some of South Australia's most exciting experts in the food and drink scene, to find out what they do and what it tastes like. Here's what they had to say.
Jock Zonfrillo was born in Scotland, where his childhood involved a lot of delicious food, thanks to Scottish and Italian grandparents. He trained in Scottish country house hotels, then worked in London (with Marco Pierre White and Damien Hirst), Cornwall (where he opened a restaurant in a boutique hotel), Sydney, and finally Adelaide. He was executive chef at Magill Estate, but now runs his own restaurants: Orana and Street-ADL.
When did you realise you were a good cook?
I don’t think I’ve made that realisation yet! If you spoke to my mother, she’d tell you I was always interested in food. Apparently my school books were full of pictures of what I’d had for dinner the night before. And because I come from a split-culture family – my family are Italian and Scottish – there was a diversity around the table.
What brought you to Australia?
In the Nineties, a lot of chefs who were in London – working 19 hours a day, in Michelin-starred restaurants – would take a year out and go to Australia. I’d been working for Marco Pierre White and I decided I was going to leave his three-star restaurant and have a year abroad. I’d heard that Australia had amazing weather, beautiful women, beautiful beaches – it sounded like utopia to me. I left London and ended up in Sydney.
Why are you interested in indigenous ingredients?
It had bothered me that there was no national cuisine here. What is Modern Australian food? You can’t pigeonhole it. Australia was the first country I’d worked in that didn’t have a clear gastronomy. When I came back, I decided that I would start to investigate what that might look like. I started speaking to people about it and there was a whole kickback from the bush-tucker era. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to go and speak to some Aboriginal people and ask questions.’
I went down to Circular Quay, where some guys with their didgeridoos busk for money. I sat there listening to this guy playing and I said: ‘Hey, do you mind if I ask you some questions about what you ate when you were growing up and stuff like that?’ He said: ‘No, sure.’ I sat down and I had this amazing conversation with this guy, who started telling me about cooking barramundi and that barramundi means ‘large scales’ in the native language.
So he starts talking about cooking the barramundi: using a specific wood on the fire; the way that the embers must glow a certain way; that they would tap the coals, stuff the fish with lime and chilli and put it on the coals. He's describing the temperature of the coals, and what the fish looks like when it starts bubbling, and the aroma of the fish and the coals and the lime together. And I was thinking, ‘This is someone talking about a specific type of wood to cook the fish with; that’s like having a conversation with a three-Michelin-starred chef, mate!’
There was a lot of beauty in talking to that guy that day. I realised that what I’d been told by everyone around me was rubbish. I decided that I would investigate it further and to do that, I would need to go and spend time with communities. So that’s what I started doing.
Tell us what these indigenous ingredients taste like…
Min min Sweet, juicy, pea-like vegetable.
Mangrove seed Looks like a broad bean, has a briney, olivey kind of flavour once fermented.
Kutjera Tomato-y raisins.
Saltbush Grows everywhere. We fry it until it’s crisp and season it with a dehydrated vinegar powder. It’s like eating salt-and-vinegar crisps.
Ice plant Like a juicy vegetable. It grows everywhere and it’s so versatile, you can chuck it in a stir fry or salad. It’s crunchy, juicy, salty.
Sea blight Sexy samphire.
Quandong Somewhere between a peach and an apple. It’s fibrous, sweet and tart.
Green ants Kaffir lime and lemongrass, with acidity. Eat them raw.
Gubinge A slightly sweet plum without any major flavour, but they’re moreish.
Sea purslane Sexy ochre.
What are you most proud of?
Starting the Orana Foundation, our non-profit organisation. We’re working to assist micro-businesses within communities; we help them to start up by buying all their ingredients. The intention is always to give back more than we take: we want to assist communities to create businesses out of that amazing knowledge that they’ve got. They are custodians of the land, which gives us so many ingredients – ingredients which grow naturally, which don’t need irrigation, yet we’re going around irrigating fields of iceberg lettuce like idiots.
Who has influenced you?
Marco Pierre White. He was like a father-figure to me for a while.
How do you feel about your heart-throb status?
I deny all knowledge of any of that.
Natasha Mooney grew up in the Barossa Valley and studied wine at Roseworthy College. In 2000, she founded Fox Gordon with friends Sam and Rachel Atkins (née Fox), David Cumming and Jane Gordon. These days, winemaker Natasha runs the label with husband-and-wife team Rachel and Sam; Fox Gordon is known for its distinct style and lighter wines.
When did you realise you wanted to make wine?
I went to high school in the middle of the city and I wanted to go to a more rural place to finish my education off; that’s what drove me towards winemaking. My grandparents were from the Barossa Valley and when I was growing up, I really enjoyed the culture of a wine community. The love of wine came naturally with that, luckily, as time progressed.
Where did you learn about wine?
I did three years at Roseworthy and really enjoyed it. After that, I got into a graduate programme with Penfolds, which allowed me to travel: first of all to the Barossa to do some winemaking with the whites and reds, and then on to Mildura, then Hunter Valley. I also went to Oregon.
What’s the story behind Fox Gordon?
We saw a hole in the market exporting lighter, leaner wines from Australia to America and getting the female voice across. My natural affinity with wine is to a more elegant approach. I don’t make really big, boozy Barossas or shirazes – my wines are more elegant in style and lower in alcohol.
Can you tell me a bit about your winemaking process?
The way I pick the fruit is with less alcohol in mind, so they’re less ripe in style. You’re getting a more restrained style; you’re getting more pepper, more spice and cinnamon, rather than the big, dense, red fruits. With whites, it’s all about mouth-feel and mid-palate texture. We’ve taken the varietals from Europe, given them an Australian edge and tried to get texture and mouth-feel into them.
Do you see yourself as a female winemaker, or just a winemaker?
I still battle with this question! I’ve really never looked at myself as a female winemaker. Many positions that I’ve got – on a board or a wine show, or as a judge – have been because they needed a female. But that doesn’t bother me if it helps me get to where I want to go.
How do you come up with wine names?
When we started Fox Gordon, there were three families involved. We decided that we would make one wine for each of our children and that we’d make a wine every time a child was born. I had two children, so we named one wine Hannah’s Swing and the other King Louis after my kids; the other family had an Angas. We couldn’t use Angas as Yalumba has a large sparkling brand called Angas Brut. The father said: ‘Well, he has eight uncles, so why don't we call the wine Eight Uncles?’ The Dark Prince is not named after one of our children! We ran out of kids, so we had to become more creative.
You’ve got quite a sexy website and logo; where has that style come from?
Not me! It’s a direction we decided to take about two years ago. We had a couple of icon brands in mind – one was Sass & Bide – and that’s where we thought our future should be. Lots of people have said: ‘That’s not the way to go; there should be pictures of you and old vines on the website.’ We decided it would be a good point of difference for our wines.
Your wines have won lots of awards; which award are you most proud of?
The one I haven’t won yet!
What’s next for Fox Gordon?
I’ve just bought a vineyard in the Barossa – Barossa shiraz. It’s a vineyard that we’ve taken into Hannah’s Swing, our top wine, for the last 10 years, but now we own the vineyard and we’re going to build a little winery and concentrate on making our top wines even better.
What advice would you give to aspiring winemakers?
Travel the world and get experience, then come back to Australia. Don’t stop looking.
Chester Osborn is a fourth-generation winemaker at d’Arenberg, working closely with his father Frank (nicknamed ‘d’Arry’). Under d’Arry’s watch in the Seventies, the label became extremely fashionable. Chester has helped take it to new heights with a minimal-intervention approach that fosters his grapes’ big, punchy flavours, and has won him more awards than we’ve had bottles of shiraz.
When did you know you wanted to be a winemaker?
When I was seven years old. You may have heard of Len Evans – he was a famous Australian wine journalist. I sat on his knee when I was about seven and he asked me: ‘What kind of wine are you going to make?’ I said: ‘A yummy one.’
What was it like, growing up around wine?
I was sober until I was eight, then I worked out what you could do with it. It was great; I grew up with the vineyards. I’d go off climbing through the winery, through the bottle bins, up high, in the big wood vats. Back then you could do that; now there are health and safety regulations.
Have you enjoyed working with your father?
It’s been great. Dad was always pretty busy, so I could always go off and run amok! As I got older I worked more in the winery. When I came home in 1983 after studying winemaking at Roseworthy College, dad said: ‘Well, you’re trained now, so you make the wine!’ I said: ‘Err, ok!’
Why does South Australia produce such amazing wines?
It’s dry in summer, which means disease pressure is quite low. It’s not particularly hot: we have mild weather as a whole, especially in McLaren Vale – we’re by the sea, so that helps moderate temperatures, but we also have a mountain range, so you have cold nights. Mild days, cold nights, and dry weather helps to keep the grapes’ flavours concentrated.
How do you come up with the names for your wines?
I sit on the toilet every morning and I read the dictionary!
Can you talk me through your winemaking processes?
We’re very minimal input; we’re organic and biodynamic. We haven’t fertilised the vineyards for 20 years. No cultivation. No herbicides. We have some vineyards where we don’t put tractors in at all, so no spraying of anything in there. We usually do the mowing in winter; in some vineyards we use horses to collect the grapes, not tractors. By not fertilising and not irrigating much, the vine has to work harder to get its nutrients – then you get proper soil expression.
What qualities do you need to become a winemaker?
You’ve got to have passion and enough taste buds.
What do you love about your job?
The fact that it’s so multi-dimensional. Working with the land, turning soil into grapes that taste like soil. Every year is different. Working with growers that are beautifully fun and relaxed and interesting, through to making the wine – turning it into wine and crushing it is enormously fun – and then actually selling it, getting out there and concocting ways to sell it. Doing dinners and telling people about the wines. I enjoy all of that.
We’re building another restaurant in a whole new building, which we started work on in February. It’s a five-storey-high building on top of a hill, modelled on a giant puzzle, like a Rubix cube. It’s the d’Arenberg cube – it will actually be harder than a Rubix cube. It’s going to be fun. The new tasting room will have six sensorily confronting things, including a wine-fog room, an area where you smell different attributes of wine, a 360-degree video room that also has a domed roof with a video playing and heaps of other things. All that will happen before you even get a glass of wine – it’s quite a game.
Who are your heroes in the wine world?
I don’t look at winemakers as heroes, I look at vineyards as heroes.
Kris Lloyd was working for a winery when the world of cheese whiffed its way into her life. Thinking it would be a good idea for visitors to have something delicious to nibble on with their wine, Kris bought a nearby cheese factory. She is now manager and head cheesemaker at Woodside Cheese Wrights, has formed a cheese association (CheeseSA) and a cheese festival (CheeseFest), and has won more awards than she knows what to do with.
How did you become a cheesemaker?
When I bought the factory, I didn’t know how to make cheese, but the cheesemakers there came with the business. One day, three staff were off sick. They said, ‘You’ll just have to make the cheese – there’s nobody else to make it.’ So I went in and made cheese; I’d never made it before in my life.
What was your cheese education?
I spent two years throwing away more cheese than I was selling. I came to a point where I thought, ‘This is ridiculous’. So I travelled overseas and made some fantastic contacts. There were just a handful of cheesemakers in Australia at the time – I’m talking 16 or 17 years ago. Nobody was willing to share; they were all hanging on to what they knew. I found more joy travelling overseas; people weren't threatened; they were willing to share.
I came back from overseas very inspired. I thought: ‘I’m going to form a cheese association.’ I wanted to say to the government: ‘People can go and learn to become a doctor, a dentist – even a winemaker, but they can’t go anywhere to learn how to make cheese.’ I’m lucky that they saw the value in a young, emerging industry, so I formed CheeseSA. Through CheeseSA, I set up workshops and invited all the South Australian cheesemakers to attend.
What methods do you use?
Very, very minimal mechanisms in our factories; we still aspire to being absolute artisans. All of our cheeses are made in open vats; they’re cut, stirred and monitored by hand. They’re basically made on the cheesemaker’s feel, along with pH. We do two different kinds of traditional making. Firstly, an overnight or lactic cheese: we set milk overnight, it’s very acidic, particularly if it’s goat’s milk, and we hoop it the next day. We also make a traditional brie or camembert – what we would call a ‘short-set cheese’ – and make it on the day.
Can you talk us through one of your favourite cheeses?
The one I go to first and foremost is Monet: a fresh chevre with beautiful, aromatic herbs on it. We present it like a little square and we dress it up with organic, edible flowers. I had decided that I wanted to create something pretty. And cheesemaking isn’t pretty! You’ve got that bloody hairnet and those bloody white boots and all that stuff. I put this thing together and I guess I was half serious and half not so serious, but when I saw it, I thought: ‘Wow, that’s got legs!’ I tried to take it to market and everyone said: ‘Pftft, no way! This is just not going to work, Kris Lloyd – you’re dreaming!’ Well, that is like waving a red flag to a bull. I have to say, it is my most highly awarded cheese; it is my most photographed cheese; it has become Woodside’s signature cheese.
Any flavour failures?
I’ve had some absolute bloody shockers. I have a man around the corner who produces horseradish. I don’t know if you’ve seen horseradish leaves but they are stunning. I thought: ‘Right, I’m going to get a cheese and rub it in fresh horseradish. Then I’m going to put horseradish leaves around it and I’m going to tie it with string and it’s going to look gorgeous.’ And it did. I matured it for four weeks. When I went back into the cheese room, it was just disgusting. I cannot tell you how long it took to get the smell out. The cheese and the horseradish just had this really unfriendly relationship. I don’t know who was to blame, but they both ended up in the bin.
I’ve recently introduced a new range under my own name: Kris Lloyd Artisan – so I’m going to open my own online shop. Also, education: there’s a percentage of the population that gets it; it’s about reaching out further to those that don’t get it. I want to show that you don’t have to have cheese at the end of a meal, you can have cheese at the beginning of the meal with a little bit of beetroot relish. You can let a cheese sit there and drizzle some honey on it; you can pop a cheese in the oven, stuff it with garlic, chilli and herbs and eat it with crusty bread, with your friends. I want to use my contacts and influence to educate people about good food, particularly good cheese.