Mediterranean sensibility

The McLaren Vale is one of the great and oldest names of Australian wine, one that ranks with other classic regions such as Coonawarra and the Barossa. The birthplace of wine in South Australia, it lies just south of Adelaide and offers a multiplicity of soils which bask under a benign Mediterranean climate. 

For decades it has been lauded for its ability to produce brilliance from an array of noble varietals – everything from restrained, yet generous Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay which runs the gamut from full-throttled and buttery to cool climate elegance, and its undoubted star performer, Grenache.

McLaren Vale
McLaren Vale
This map is not an accurate representation of the regional GI boundaries. Please click here to view an accurate map of the regional boundary.

McLaren Vale snapshot

McLaren Vale sits within the Fleurieu Zone in the south eastern corner of South Australia. While there is substantial meso-climate variation, the overall climate is mild Mediterranean. Shiraz and Grenache have been the mainstay red varieties and Cabernet Sauvignon does very well in selected pockets.

There has been a tremendous interest in and subsequent plantings of many southern European and Mediterranean varieties showing tremendous promise, such as Vermentino, Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Fiano and Viognier. McLaren Vale is one of the more environmentally conscious regions in Australia with a large percentage of producers farming organically and/or biodynamically.

Total vineyard area
34° 16'S
Growing season rainfall
Mean temperature (Jan)
Heat degree days

Cabernet Sauvignon

This variety shines in the cooler sites and cooler vintages. Full-bodied with ripe, soft tannins and classic blackcurrant/blackberry aromas and flavours.


Although it doesn’t get the attention of the red varieties Chardonnay is the most planted white variety in the region. Various styles are produced, depending on site, but range from lighter bodied citrus flavoured through to more full-bodied peach and melon flavoured with varied oak use.


Grenache is grown in several parts of McLaren Vale and there are many very old vines dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is still used as the backbone in classic GSM blends but single-varietal wines are very exciting. Typically high in alcohol but with lively, juicy raspberry-scented fruit and spicy flavours.


While many varieties do well in McLaren Vale Shiraz is still considered king and still accounts for almost 50% of the total crush each year. A range of sub-regional styles exist but dark chocolate, blueberry and spice characters are common. The best examples are typically medium to full-bodied with vibrant, pure fruit.


Like Fiano, this is a relatively new arrival to the region but is already showing promise. The variety is perfectly suited to the region’s Mediterranean climate, producing wines with bright citrus flavours complemented by a refreshing minerality.

Top varieties grown in McLaren Vale
  • The cooling effect from the ocean creates substantial meso-climate variation
  • Exposure to or protection from ocean influence dictates success of varieties planted
  • Low summer rainfall
  • Wide range of soils but red/brown loamy sand quite common
  • Sandy soils on hillsides around Blewitt Springs
  • Some areas with terra rossa

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