Discover South Australia's wine country

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Winsor Dobbin takes a poetic journey around Australia's premier grape state.

South Australia is the undisputed capital of the Australian wine industry - regions such as the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra are familiar to aficionados around the globe.

While South Australia produces more wine grapes than any other state, it also has great variety. From the crisp, dry rieslings of the Clare Valley to the inky cabernets of Coonawarra, there are styles to please all palates.

Visiting the vineyards of South Australia is a rare pleasure. Whether you want to test your palate by doing a blending exercise at Penfolds or Wynns (and take your own wine blend home with you) or maybe just pop into a small cellar door in the Adelaide Hills, you'll be greeted with enthusiasm. South Australians are passionate about their wine and keen to share their knowledge with visitors.

With a range of influences - from German settlers to French winemakers - and a food and wine culture that dates back generations, South Australia is an enticing destination for anyone with gourmet tastes.

Diversity is the key. While the Barossa, Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek and Fleurieu Peninsula are all within a short drive of Adelaide, their wines and ambience are different. Venture further - to the Clare Valley in the north, Coonawarra in the east and the vast expanses of the Riverland - and there's a whole world of wine to discover.

Tiny pockets such as Kangaroo Island and Wrattonbully offer wine tastings at their most basic - and most honest.

The person doing the pouring is also likely to have tended the grapes and made the wine. In the Barossa and McLaren Vale, you can visit 10 or 12 wineries in a day and sample wines that have gained acclaim from international experts.

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Several of the best country restaurants in Australia are in South Australian vineyards and cellar doors; names such as Bridgewater Mill, Penfolds Magill Estate, The Lane, Skillogalee and d'Arry's Verandah are famous for offering country hospitality matched with excellent food and wine.

The first wines were crafted in McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills in the early 1840s. Almost 170 years on, South Australia remains the engine room of the industry in Australia and Adelaide is home to the National Wine Centre. Where there are wineries, cooking schools, gourmet retreats and farmers' markets have thrived. There are few places that do wine tourism better than South Australia and few places where you can eat and drink so well - and affordably.

Wines such as Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace, world famous and much sought-after by collectors, are created in South Australia. Both cost more than $500 a bottle when released and can be cellared for decades.

It is just as rewarding to buy a bottle of gutsy young shiraz or zesty riesling for $15 or $20, pick up a picnic basket and enjoy a feast under the gum trees in the Clare Valley.

Leading British wine writer Robert Joseph describes South Australia as "where huge quantities of many of Australia's more affordable wines are made, as well as some of the smallest batches of cult-status red".

South Australia truly is the state of grapes.

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