The South Australian vineyards and breweries championing sustainability

Winemakers are finding that thoughtful management and attention to land and history — and even the power of sheep — can make for better wine, as well as a more planet-friendly approach.

Angove Family Winemakers is Australia's largest organic grape grower and winemaker, and uses traditional methods and techniques to produce organic wine.

Photograph by South Australian Tourism Commission
Photographs By South Australian Tourism Commission
Published 11 Jun 2021, 11:30 BST

With 2021 designated the Year of South Australian Wine, now is an excellent time to not just drink it or discover it, but to also start thinking about a trip to see where it's produced. The state’s reputation as a world leader in sustainable wine production is well earned, with many of its wineries focused on conserving the environment, lowering their carbon footprint and thoughtfully managing yields. This means there are ample interesting travel and accommodation choices, enabling you to stay in stylish, sustainable vineyard lodges or book tours with eco-friendly local operators to make the most of exploring the area.

Stay in sustainable vineyard accommodation

A 45-minute drive south of Adelaide lies the Fleurieu Peninsula, a wild, sunny peninsula of white sand beaches, glistening lakes and emerald vineyards, many of which use organic farming methods and offer eco-accommodation.

Hotel California Road is a winery and micro-hotel run by Inkwell Wines. Accommodation is eco-friendly, made from three light-filled shipping containers that have been turned into sleek lodges. Interiors are clutter-free and stylish, with blonde wood furniture and large, expansive windows overlooking the vines. Hotel California Road delivers on all levels of sustainability, from owners’ Dudley and Irina’s winemaking methods, led by Irina’s PhD in Sustainability in Viticulture, to the vineyards, where they use just one tractor, one de-stemmer and one press. Prices start from £120 per night, including breakfast and a private wine tasting.

The Fleurieu Peninsula offers white sand beaches and pretty coastal towns as well as miles of undulating countryside, including plenty of vineyards in McLaren Vale.

Photograph by South Australian Tourism Commission

Biodynamic wines and Aboriginal culture

The wines at Gemtree Wines in McLaren Vale are all biodynamic; check out the Biodynamic Hut to learn more about the viticulture. To find out more about the local culture and landscape, book onto the Aboriginal cultural tour, where an Aboriginal Elder shares his knowledge with visitors.

It's only a 45-minute drive to Adelaide, but it's worth staying here to make the most of Gemtree’s slick new cabins, Giles and William, which are the epitome of conscious luxury with indoor and outdoor kitchens, a private sauna and glass ceilings designed for stargazing. Prices start from £350 per night, with a portion of the fee put towards planting new native trees.

Powered by sheep and sun

A jumble of cubes in the middle of a vineyard, d’Arenberg Cube in McLaren Vale is so much more than an architecturally impressive tasting room and restaurant. This family-owned, award-winning winery is also committed to sustainable wine creation, using sheep to manage weed growth and provide manure to the vineyards, and embracing solar power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The wines here are fully certified as organic, made using natural disease control and hyper-modern production techniques. Experiences here run the gamut from wine tastings and ‘make your own blends’ to scenic flights, art gallery visits and fine dining.

Historic winery Yalumba, in the Barossa Valley, has been developing a sustainable viticulture programme since the 1990s.

Photograph by South Australian Tourism Commission

Drink wine, save water

The Hidden Sea has brought a buzz to the Limestone Coast, and its partnership with the ReSea Project has made it a household name across Australia. For every bottle of wine bought (available at Sainsbury’s and Co-op) The Hidden Sea will remove the equivalent of 10 plastic bottles from oceans. So far it has pulled 1.2 million single-use plastic bottles from oceans and is committed to removing and recycling one billion plastic bottles from the world’s oceans by 2030.

Keep things carbon-neutral

Hither & Yon is South Australia’s first carbon-neutral-certified wine brand. Stop by its historic 1860s cellar door space, a former butcher’s shop, at the foot of the McLaren Vale for tours of the vineyards, which are run on sustainable viticulture and regenerative agriculture. Between curating events, offering wine tastings and building a B&B, Hither & Yon is also in the process of re-establishing native corridors for new wildlife habitats.

Organic grapes

Angove Family Winemakers is Australia’s largest certified-organic grape grower and winemaker. It uses traditional viticulture methods and production techniques to make its organic wine, which is produced without chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. Angove is focused on lowering pollution and improving soil quality, with the aim of protecting the land for future generations, as well as producing excellent-quality grapes.

Elsewhere in South Australia...

There’s a widespread commitment to sustainability across South Australian wineries and breweries, with the majority of makers adopting eco-friendly and sustainable methods in their viticulture.

At boutique, family-run winery Battle of Bosworth, vegetation is nurtured entirely organically, while at Hayes Family Wines in the Barossa, winemaker Andrew Seppelt runs his vineyard on solar energy and rainwater, with native tree plantings attracting beneficial insects and natural grasses and compost improving the soil.

On the Eyre Peninsula, Beer Garden Brewing crafts beer from rainwater and local grain, the leftovers of which are repurposed to feed cattle. It’s a similar story in the Adelaide Hills, just 20 minutes’ drive from Adelaide, where Unico Zelo and Applewood Distillery create sustainable wine, gin and liqueurs from unconventional grape varieties, based on minimal water requirements.

Lot.100, in the Adelaide Hills, is a former cattle pasture and now a collective which includes cellar doors, a craft brewery and small batch distillery and a restaurant.

Photograph by South Australian Tourism Commission

David Bowley is the owner of Vinteloper, a boundary-pushing winery based at LOT.100 in the Adelaide Hills. His approach to winemaking is typical of the food and drink makers based at the forward-thinking collective. "We work with grape growers and vineyards that we like and admire for their soil, their slopes, their elevation and their philosophies," he says. "The varieties in the Adelaide Hills are really special and at Vinteloper we’re just the custodians of that greatness. Through minimal intervention, our aim is to capture the signature of that particular vineyard in that particular season."

He thinks this area in particular offers exciting opportunities. "Adelaide Hills is a really young region in the world of wine, with most vineyards planted in the 1990s. It hasn’t got a wine legacy like, say, the Barossa, and because of that we’ve got young growers and young winemakers who are challenging the status quo."

South Australia’s winemakers and brewers are ambitious and committed to a future of sustainable wines, which is good news for wine-lovers and environmentally conscious visitors.

How to do it

Getting around South Australia is easy: driving is on the same side of the road as the UK, or you could join a locally guided tour. In Adelaide, choose from trains, trams and buses with Adelaide Metro. Head to southaustralia.com to find out more.

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