The Adelaide Hills is Australias premier cool climate wine region. It has been defined as that part of the Mount Lofty Ranges which has an altitude of 400 metres or more and abuts the Barossa region to the North and the McLaren Vale region to the south.
Mt Lofty is the highest point (727 metres) of the Adelaide Hills and forms a backdrop to the city of Adelaide immediately below.
Wine grapes initially were planted in the region from 1839 and an 1845 Hock from Echunga was the first South Australian wine exported, sent as a gift to Queen Victoria.
These first winemaking efforts petered out by 1905, but the region re-emerged in 1971 with Jan and Leigh Verralls plantings at Lower Hermitage, and grew rapidly when Brian Croser began planting in and publicising the Piccadilly Valley in 1979.
The region is undoubtedly cool climate with the folds and undulations of the hills creating a wide range of microclimates. In seeking and exploiting these climatic differences the vineyards tend to be small in area and often very steep. Hand pruning and picking is often a necessity as well as a choice.
There are now more than 1100 ha of vineyards in the region, more than 30 wine labels and two large scale wineries, with more wineries planned.
The Viticulture of the Adelaide Hills
The Adelaide Hills wine-growing region lies above an altitude of 400 metres and varies from a gently-sloping landscape in the east to deep gullies with steep slopes where the region borders Adelaide. The altitude and the steep topography have a major cooling and humidifying effect on the climate which, along with the highest rainfall in the State, lends itself to the production of cool climate varieties such as Pinot Noir.
There is a wide range of soil types as you travel east to west across the river valleys of the Torrens and Onkaparinga. They vary from sands to loams, with a red to yellow clay subsoil which is mostly based on sandstone bedrock and is slightly acidic. A favourable feature of the steep slopes is that they are generally covered by deep soils, making the slopes preferred vineyard sites with less frost and better water drainage. The beautiful verdant valleys criss-cross the north-facing slopes to capture the sun and provide protection from the strong cold southerly wind.
Grape maturity is very dependent on altitude, aspect and choice of variety. The vines are grown with tall, well-exposed canopies to enhance ripening and flavour development. The choice of variety is closely associated with the climatic regimes within the region.
Piccadilly lies at the centre of the coolest, wettest section of the Adelaide Hills which gradually radiate north towards Birdwood, east to Woodside, and south to Meadows. The graduation from sparkling wine production to supple Pinot Noir, intense Sauvignon Blanc, beautifully structured Chardonnay, spicy Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon reflects the wonderful, gradual flow of climatic change across the region.