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From the cool Eden Valley to the lesser-known Mount Lofty Ranges, Winsor Dobbin dishes up the best destinations for a top drop.

BAROSSA

Whether you are roaring past the vines on a high-powered Oztrike Chopper 4 motorcycle or cruising by in a vintage Daimler, you'll need at least a week to enjoy all the sights and tastes of the Barossa wine region, which includes both the Barossa Valley and the cooler Eden Valley.

There are more than 60 cellar doors to visit, just for starters. From major operations such as Penfolds, Hardys, Yalumba, Wolf Blass, Jacob's Creek, Grant Burge and Peter Lehmann to smaller, boutique producers including Elderton, Murray Street, Charles Melton, Kalleske and Torbreck, the Barossa is synonymous with big, gutsy red wines of style and substance.

The chief winemaker at Yalumba, Louisa Rose, describes it "as the best winemaking region in Australia bar none", while Stephen Henschke, whose family's winery portfolio includes the Hill of Grace, points to the quality across the board and the diversity of styles coming from the warm Barossa and much cooler Eden Valley.

Little more than an hour's drive north of Adelaide - if the traffic is kind - the Barossa is a collection of small hamlets, with Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Greenock, Angaston, Marananga and Lyndoch among the more prominent. In many, the region's German heritage is underlined by the bakeries, sausage shops, and among the names of many of the wine producers: Glaetzer, Tscharke, Lehmann and Kaesler.

The Barossa was established in the 1800s by German-speaking families fleeing central Europe. A flourishing commercial wine industry was established by the 1880s and many of today's winemakers can track their heritage back six generations. Some of the gnarled vines are more than 150 years old.

The region's cool, damp winters and warm summers are ideal for growing high-quality grapes and the Barossa is renowned for making wines with concentration of flavour. Shiraz, grenache and cabernet sauvignon are the prominent red varieties, while riesling does well in the Eden Valley.

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Despite its proximity to Adelaide, the Barossa is a rural region, dotted with old churches and country cottages. Visitors can enjoy the slow pace of the Barossa Farmers' Markets each Saturday morning at the Vintners Shed or pop into Maggie Beer's farm shop.

The annual Barossa Gourmet Weekend is held each August with about two dozen wineries offering the best wine and food of the region and music from around the globe.

Stay

The Louise is one of Australia's most luxurious vineyard retreats, a boutique lodge that caters for lovers of fine food and wine. The Novotel Barossa Resort overlooks the vineyards of Jacob's Creek and is the perfect place to stay if you are looking for style and comfort on a budget, while Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage is a beautiful old vineyard retreat that's perfect for those who want to self-cater.

Taste

The historic Yalumba winery and cellar door (check out the imposing old clock tower and lovely gardens) is one of the best to visit, along with the friendly Peter Lehmann facility, the perfect spot for a picnic. Also don't miss historic Seppeltsfield Estate, where some of Australia's greatest fortified wines are made, and the modern Jacob's Creek Visitors Centre, where you can check out many different rows of vines.

Eat

Appellation, the intimate restaurant at The Louise, is where chef Mark McNamara works his magic. The mood is relaxed but the food is serious and the wine list equally so. Vintners Bar and Grill, between Angaston and Nuriootpa, holds popular degustation dinners and is a favourite with local winemakers.

ADELAIDE HILLS

The scenic Adelaide Hills, just a 20-minute drive from the city, is the closest wine region to any Australian capital.

The region was once covered with apple, pear and cherry orchards, and many of them survive, but wine is now the focus with close to 40 cellar doors. The altitude means there are four distinct seasons and the Hills have been described as Australia's most vibrant cool-climate wine region.

Although vines were planted as early as 1839, it was not until 30 years ago that viticulture was revived and today the region is not only home to some of the country's best small wineries - including Ashton Hills, Shaw + Smith, Petaluma, Bird In Hand, Nepenthe and The Lane - but also provides fruit to some of the biggest names - Penfolds, Henschke, Grosset and Wirra Wirra.

Add some smaller boutique operations, such as Tilbrook Estate, K1 by Geoff Hardy, Deviation Road, Chain of Ponds, Wicks Estate, Tomich Hill, Barratt, Setanta, Golding, Leabrook Estate and JL, and you've covered the spectrum. At Cloudbreak you can even have sparkling wine disgorged to order.

While the cool parts of the Adelaide Hills produce some excellent chardonnays, pinots noir and rieslings, the many micro-climates mean the region also produces some outstanding sauvignon blancs, superb sparkling wines and even some spicy, peppery shirazes.

The Hills are great for a leisurely drive. Along the way you are certain to discover great local produce, restaurants and cosy country pubs. Hahndorf, Australia's oldest German settlement, dates back to the 1840s and has several wineries on its outskirts.

Stay

Grand Mercure Mount Lofty House is a landmark building with spectacular views of the Piccadilly Valley and its vineyards, while the Vineyard Cottage at Chain of Ponds winery outside Gumeracha is an 1880s stone cottage. More mainstream but well equipped is The Manna of Hahndorf motel.

Taste

Shaw + Smith is open on weekends only but is an excellent experience. Nepenthe and Chain of Ponds are long-time favourites, while visitors can combine art with tasting at Bird In Hand. Hahndorf Hill offers wine and chocolate matchings, while Tilbrook Estate's cellar door has views into a working winery.

Eat

Bridgewater Mill is situated in an 1860s flour mill and serves lunches only. Locavore in Stirling sources food and wine locally whenever possible. The Mallee Grill at the Stirling Hotel offers fine dining and the award-winning The Lane is a vineyard-restaurant-cellar door with superb views.

McLAREN VALE

The Fleurieu Peninsula is just south of Adelaide and its wine epicentre is McLaren Vale, where shiraz, grenache and cabernet sauvignon thrive.

It is home to beautiful beaches, some excellent winery restaurants, cheese producers and a range of wine styles. The local produce at Willunga Farmers' Market is second to none and ranges from olive oils and venison to chocolates.

McLaren Vale is known as the place "where the sea meets the vines" and is home to famous names such as d'Arenberg, Hardys Tintara, Wirra Wirra, Coriole and Geoff Merrill.

The first vines were planted in the area now known as Reynella in 1838 and there are now more than 60 cellar doors.

Food festivals herald just about every harvest - from grapes to almonds - and the Sea & Vines Festival, held every June long weekend, is one of the country's leading food and wine events.

McLaren Vale is versatile, although reds shine more than whites. Shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, merlot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc all do well and producers such as Coriole and Primo Estate have enjoyed success with Italian varieties. Lovers of grenache will want to sample the Cadenzia Trail, a new tourist route aimed at promoting the underrated grape. Wines featured on the trail must be predominantly McLaren Vale and have grenache as their major variety.

Cheese lovers should visit Blessed Cheese Cafe in McLaren Vale and between Mount Compass and Mount Jagged is the Alexandrina Cheese Company, a popular stop on the way to Victor Harbour.

Stay

Links Lady Bay Grand Mercure is the perfect spot to combine wine tasting and golf. The proprietors of eco-friendly bed and breakfast Amande also own a traditional beach house at Maslin Beach - Amande at the Beach - which is divided into two apartments. Wine & Roses is a popular luxury B&B.

Taste

Shingleback at Aldersey Farm, on the fringe of McLaren Vale township, offers an atmospheric experience in a refurbished heritage building. Wirra Wirra has a great range of wines, Primo Estate is a modern setting with knowledgeable staff and Shottesbrooke offers a laid-back ambience. Dowie Doole and Gembrook share a cellar door facility at the Salopian Inn, while the site of McLaren Vale's first settlers in 1840, Oxenberry Farm, is now home to the Scarpantoni tasting room.

Eat

Top local restaurants include the Victory Hotel at Sellicks Beach; the Star of Greece Cafe, on a clifftop at Port Willunga; the Salopian Inn, a great spot for lunch; and the celebrated Fino's at Willunga. Several of the wineries have restaurants, including the Kitchen Door at Penny's Hill and d'Arry's Verandah at d'Arenberg.

LANGHORNE CREEK

It surprises many wine lovers to discover that Langhorne Creek, tucked away between the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale, is Australia's largest region for growing premium red grapes.

Many of the large wine companies have extensive vineyard holdings here and a lot of the wine from the region is blended into wines that are labelled "South East Australia".

It is because the region is off the mainstream touring routes that Langhorne Creek is such a good place to visit.

Langhorne Creek's winemaking history dates back to 1850 and the area is best known for its powerful cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. It also produces some commendable whites and fortifieds.

Although the Langhorne Creek township is less than an hour from Adelaide, many visitors choose to base themselves in the delightfully pretty town of Strathalbyn - a 10-minute drive away.

Bleasdale, with its charmingly rustic cellar door, is Australia's second-oldest family-owned winery behind Yalumba, having been founded in 1850.

Several families have been growing grapes for five generations, including the Potts family at Bleasdale, the Adams family at Metala and Brothers In Arms and the Follett family at Lake Breeze.

Among the wineries based in Langhorne Creek are Bleasdale, Bremerton, Brothers In Arms and Lake Breeze, while smaller operations include Ben Potts Wines, Casa Freschi, Ben Glaetzer's Heartland Wines, Cleggett, Gipsie Jack, Kimbolton, Step Road, Zonte's Footstep, Angus Plains Estate and biodynamic producer Temple Bruer.

Stay

The recently opened Bremer Cottage has luxury self-contained accommodation with an open fire, two-person spa and deck with vineyard views, while the Strath Motel in nearby Strathalbyn also offers comfortable accommodation. Martha's in the Vineyard is a rustic country cottage.

Taste

The historic Bleasdale cellar door is a little slice of history and offers the chance to taste at your own pace. Bremerton has a modern cellar door and its winemakers, the Willson sisters, make some of the best wines in the region, while tiny wineries such as Lake Breeze, Zonte's Footstep and Cleggett, which has a new cellar door, are worth a visit.

Eat

Bremerton, a restored 1866 stone barn set among the vines, sells a wide range of local produce and features regional platters and wood-fired pizzas. The Bridge Hotel is a traditional pub where you are likely to find local winemakers enjoying a "cleansing ale" and country fare.

COONAWARRA

One of the most remote wine-growing regions in Australia, Coonawarra has a global reputation for the quality of its cabernet sauvignon. It's about a five-hour drive from Adelaide or Melbourne but is well worth the effort.

Although the tiny township of Coonawarra, which only comprises a couple of dozen houses, and nearby Penola are remote, there is a real passion for wines and visitors are made most welcome.

"There is a real sense of community here and as most of the population are involved in the wine industry, it's not hard for visitors to find someone with a story to tell," the marketing manager at Zema Estate, Karen Ronning, says.

Dennis Vice from Highbank winery agrees. "We are all in competition but we are not in opposition," he says. "Everyone tries to promote the region."

Even the occasional wine drinker will be familiar with the big names: Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Bowen Estate, Hollick, Yalumba the Menzies and Brand's Laira.

Throw in family-owned operations such as Rymill, Redman, Zema Estate, Majella, Patrick T and Koonara, add great red producers such as Katnook Estate, Leconfield, Balnaves and Parker Coonawarra Estate and any serious wine lover will be in his or her element in this quirky, friendly spot.

Recent arrivals include DiGiorgio, Koonara, Reschke and Raidis Estate, which opened its cellar door a few months ago.

Coonawarra makes a big footprint in the world of wine, attracting visitors from all over the world thanks to a long, thin strip of land either side of the highway between Penola and Coonawarra that is blessed with very special terroir: red-brown topsoil sitting on a white limestone base that's known as terra rossa and produces reds with intense flavours.

A 45-minute drive from the nearest town - Mount Gambier - the region has a cooler climate than most other regions in South Australia. The end result is a long ripening season, which produces excellent fruit flavour and unique tannin structure.

Many experts say this is the best terroir for cabernet sauvignon and it is cabernet on which Coonawarra has built its reputation - although the region was first known for its shiraz.

Grapes were planted here in 1890 and nurtured by pioneers such as the Riddoch and Redman families.

Coonawarra is the venue for several annual festivals including the Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations and Barrel Series auction - held each October and one of the highlights on the Australian wine calendar.

Stay

Georgie's Cottage is a lovely rustic cottage for two that dates back to the 1860s. Airconditioned and boasting a fully equipped kitchen, it is within walking distance of Penola's cafes and restaurants. Honeysuckle Rise, on the Highbank property and surrounded by grape vines, has a cottage and a villa, while must@Coonawarra is a group of delightful modern apartments and studios in Penola. Punters Corner Retreat and Menzies Cottage are other good options, with the Alexander Cameron Motel offering an affordable alternative.

Taste

Among those that should be on any visitor's list is the pioneering Wynns, with its wonderful old buildings; historic Katnook Estate; friendly Zema Estate; rustic Bowen Estate; slick Balnaves; and relaxed and friendly Majella. The newest cellar door, Raidis Estate, has a wood-fired oven.

Eat

The newly opened Terra Rossa Producers' Club in Penola serves local wines and tapas. Fodder, a popular Coonawarra cafe, is owned by former Rymill winemaker John Innes and his wife, Melissa, who are hugely enthusiastic about the region and its wines, while Simon and Erika Bowen run the superb fine diner, Pipers of Penola. Upstairs at Hollick is the region's pioneering winery restaurant.

CLARE VALLEY

One of Australia's greatest and most atmospheric wine regions is also one of the least-visited.

Although it is just a two-hour drive north from Adelaide in the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Clare Valley is often overshadowed by rival South Australian wine districts. It's a pity because it is home to many of our best family-owned wineries and produces arguably our best dry rieslings along with red wines of intensity and elegance.

Most of the wineries here are owned by families, many of whom have been making wines for generations, including the Mitchells, Pikes, Pauletts and Taylors. Some of the best-known labels include Jim Barry, Kilikanoon, Grosset, Mount Horrocks, Annie's Lane, Skillogalee, Kirrihill, Tim Adams and Wendouree, which makes some of Australia's long-living reds and has cult status with aficionados.

The first vines were planted in the Clare in 1842 and the vineyards extend into four major river systems and five sub-regions: Auburn, Watervale, Polish Hill River, Sevenhill and Clare. It's the sort of rural district where everyone knows their neighbours and has lovely bushland, majestic gum trees and rolling hills.

The tiny townships are picturesque, with quaint stone cottages, and heritage towns such as Burra and Kapunda, just outside the winery heartland, are fascinating to wander around.

You can get a feel for the Clare by walking, or cycling, the Riesling Trail, a 35-kilometre track that links several of the local villages. At many of the cellar doors you'll find the winemaker pouring your tasting glass. At Sevenhill you'll find Jesuit monks tending to their grape vines, just as their predecessors have done for more than 150 years.

Plenty of the cellar doors offer lunch options, including platters of local gourmet goodies.

Stay

Thorn Park by the Vines is a small luxury retreat, while Hughes Park and River Walk Cottage offer comfortable self-catering options. The Chaff Mill Village has furnished apartments and Mintaro Mews has historic accommodation.

Taste

Pikes' beautiful 1870s cellar door overlooks vines in the Polish Hill River valley and features grazing plates to eat on-site or take away, while Pauletts features sweeping views. Penna Lane, Eyre Creek and Mt Surmon all serve lunch platters, while riesling specialists O'Leary Walker recently opened the region's newest cellar door.

Eat

Skillogalee is one of Australia's best winery restaurants and lovers of dining al fresco will adore the lovely gardens. There's also on-site accommodation. Wild Saffron is a licensed gourmet cafe that offers meals to eat-in or take-away, while Reilly's winery restaurant is always popular. There are several country-style pubs, including the Rising Sun at Auburn and the Sevenhill Hotel.

OTHER REGIONS

Visitors can learn all about the Australian wine industry - and plan for their touring itineraries - at the National Wine Centre in the heart of Adelaide. Another city experience not to be missed is a tour of the historic Magill Estate, birthplace of the legendary Penfolds Wines and home to one of the state's great winery restaurants.

Vineyards are dotted all over the state, including several large wineries in the Riverland. Banrock Station is a standout because of its Wine and Wetlands Centre at Kingston on the Murray. Visitors can wander through the wetlands boardwalk and enjoy light lunches, as well as wine tastings.

Berri Estates in the Riverland is the southern hemisphere's largest winery and distillery, while visitors to family-owned Angove's can sample St Agnes Brandy and Stone's Green Ginger Wine as well as a large range of table wines.

Mount Benson is seen as a future wine stronghold with Cape Jaffa and Norfolk Rise already building solid reputations, while Padthaway, the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island are also emerging as areas of distinction - although much of Padthaway's fruit goes into blends.

Kangaroo Island is home to an increasing number of wineries (there are 30 growers and 18 labels) and offers luxury accommodation at Southern Ocean Lodge or affordable stays at All Seasons Kangaroo Island Lodge.

There is also a handful of wineries in the warm Adelaide Plains, on the fringe of the city.

Wrattonbully, the biggest of several new wine regions on the Limestone Coast, is bordered by Padthaway to the north and Coonawarra to the south.

Brian Croser and Robert Hill-Smith, two of the wine industry's greatest visionaries, both have great hope for the wines from here, although there is, as yet, no wine tourism infrastructure.

Croser is making fine reds under his Tapanappa label from his Whalebone vineyard, which he has declared "a distinguished site", while Hill-Smith from Yalumba makes wines under the Smith & Hooper label.

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