Discover the Adelaide Hills wine region

A vineyard in the Adelaide Hills wine region
The Adelaide Hills is a young wine region that is perched at a high altitude and bustling with boutique wine producers. While MANY wine regions in Australia are steeped in a 150-year history, the vines that are grown in the Adelaide Hills today were only planted in the late 70s.

We recently spoke to Ruth Harris at the Adelaide Hills wine region office about its progressive culture, cool climate, and youthful heritage.


South Australia is the driest state on the driest continent in the world. Naturally, regions like the Barossa and McLaren Vale have become renowned around the world for intense and robust Shiraz.

However, you might not realise that there is a 90km long wine region with a cooler climate and a more elegant reputation not so far away in the Mount Lofty Ranges. The Adelaide Hills sits behind Adelaide and stretches from Mount Crawford in the north down to Kuitpo in the south.

Each vineyard is nestled between twisting hills and valleys anywhere between 350 to 600 metres above sea level. If you were to travel through the region, you would see small vineyards pointing in different directions and enjoying diverse growing conditions. With so much variety in sunlight, night-time temperatures, frost risk, and wind factor, the region can produce many different grape varieties.

The one common denominator in the Adelaide Hills is the cooler temperature. Once you get to a higher altitude, everything cools down and there is a larger difference between day and night temperatures. As a result, the grapes retain their acidity, allowing the producers to make crisp, fresh, aromatic, and delicate varieties that offer a refreshing take on the robust wines that South Australia is known for. 

The pioneers of the region

Brian Croser was one of the first pioneers in the region. Observing the cooler climate, he immediately had a hunch that the Adelaide Hills would grow great Chardonnay and planted his first vines high up in the Piccadilly Valley in 1979. We are glad he backed himself because he went on to build the household wine brands, Croser, Petaluma, and Tapanappa.

Another regional pioneer, Stephen George, founded Ashton Hills Vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley in 1982 with a different approach. He planted lots of different varietals to see what would grow well. Pinot Noir quickly stood out and over the ensuing decades he has refined the highly acclaimed Pinot Noir wines from the Adelaide Hills.

Winemaking all started in Piccadilly Valley because of its high altitude. However, the rest of the region has gone on to produce iconic wineries. Nepenthe and Shaw + Smith are two other innovative wineries that have helped to develop the cool climate style of the Adelaide Hills wine region. The grapes from the Adelaide Hills have become so loved that they are also purchased by other famous wineries outside of the region, such as Penfolds.

Red wine from Adelaide Hills
Children running through Adelaide Hills with a vineyard in the background

The Adelaide Hills has an exciting future ahead of it. It is full of lots of small producers, taking up only 1.5 per cent of the entire grape crush of Australia. However, the wine produced there is premium and grape prices are rising.

The unique varietals of the Adelaide Hills


Chardonnay is grown throughout Australia, but some of the best is produced in the Adelaide Hills. In the cooler climate, Chardonnay takes on a beautiful acidity, with apple and lemon characteristics.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the biggest variety by volume in the Adelaide Hills and it offers lovely tropical and fresh cut grass aromas, with refreshing acidity.

Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner was brought to Australia from Austria by Larry Jacobs and Mark Dobson from Handhorf Hill Winery. Offering an interesting feel on the palate, it was planted in 2006 and brought a unique deliciously savoury and textural style that caught on quickly in the region.

Pinot Noir

The cool growing conditions are perfect for Pinot Noir, which can be cultivated to make sparkling or red wines that have lots of complex subtle flavours and aromas intertwined. In recent years the younger winemakers in the region have applied more gentle winemaking techniques that best bring out the ethereal characteristics of the grapes.


This is the more elegant version of the big Australian Shiraz styles that took the world by storm. Due to the cooler climate, the grapes in the Adelaide Hills don’t ripen to the same intensity, have perfumed berry aromas with a hint of pepper, and the tannins are more fine-grained.


Gamay is a grape variety that originated in Beaujoulis in France, but the growers in the Adelaide Hills are getting excited about its potential. It’s a more medium-bodied style of red, with depth and approachability. It’s the Adelaide Hills’ answer to Grenache.

A vineyard in the Adelaide Hills wine region

A modern and progressive culture

Plenty of knowledge-sharing goes on in the Adelaide Hills. For example, when Larry Jacobs and Mark Dobson brought Grüner Veltliner to the region, they spoke to other producers and encouraged them to grow it. They even created the Grüner Growers Group in which everyone collaborates to understand the best sites in the Adelaide Hills to grow the unique varietal.

As a result, the region has started producing many award-winning wines. The 2022 Macclesfield Grüner Veltliner from Longview Vineyard just won The Bert Bear Memorial Perpetual Trophy for Best Other White Varietal in the 2023 Sydney Royal Wine Show.

Everyone in the region also celebrated when the Murdoch Hill 2021 Landau Syrah was crowned Shiraz of the Year in the Halliday Wine Companion awards. The Adelaide Hills wine region is young and its collaborative culture has driven rapid innovation.

On the way up

The Adelaide Hills has an exciting future ahead of it. It is full of lots of small producers, taking up only 1.5 per cent of the entire grape crush of Australia. However, the wine produced there is premium and grape prices are rising.

There continues to be a lot of demand for Chardonnay and recognition for the region’s sparkling wines and Pinot Noir is growing. Hills’ winemakers are also experimenting with emerging varieties such as Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, and keeping the future looking bright.

Embrace the seasons

If you’re a Chardonnay lover, then try to visit the Adelaide Hills during May when there are many Chardonnay masterclasses on offer.

If you want to try Pinot Noir and Shiraz, then visit in July when the Winter Reds Festival is on. The famous festival brings over 10,000 people to the region over one weekend to celebrate the cool climate. Pop your boots and coat on and gather around the open fires at many of the wineries.

The final event of the year is Sparkling Spring in October. At that time, the vines are just starting to burst with leaves and indulging in sparkling wine is a beautiful way to celebrate that feeling of renewal.

People sitting at The Winter Reds Festival in Adelaide Hills

A pleasant surprise

When people think of Australian cool climate wines, they typically look to the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, and Tasmania. However, once they discover this small cool-climate region so close to the city of Adelaide, they can’t seem to let it go. Adelaide Hills is South Australia’s an undiscovered wine treasure that is worth hunting out.

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