It's common knowledge that the drive into McLaren Vale is possibly one of the ugliest in South Australia, a red carpet of grey industrial estates and strip malls flanked by pre-fab and sagging brick housing. But what happens after the detritus of Adelaide's outer suburbs is worth the hour drive. A tapestry of rolling hills and verdant vineyards yields to sandy beaches and ocean vistas. A spectacular backdrop for the McLaren Vale wine-growing region, with wines that benefit from a multitude of soil types, microclimates and sub-regional nuances.

The region kicked off in 1841 with John Reynell planting a small vineyard near the present hamlet of Reynella. Wine activity began slowly for the fledgling region, but picked up speed with the establishing of the Seaview winery in 1850 and the purchase of the Tintara winery by Thomas Hardy in 1873. Thomas Hardy is mentioned in revered tones as a godfather of the modern McLaren Vale wine-growing region, considered an innovator and progressive for his time. The region boasts a wealth of old vine vineyards, many still producing at over 100-years of age. A little like Anna Nicole Smith's late husband.

McLaren Vale is a premium wine-growing region with a focus on red wine making. Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon are regional heroes, though recent years have seen an upswing in alternative varieties meeting with success. Organics and sustainability are becoming a very important issue with wine producers and growers alike, and the region is fast becoming a benchmark for green vineyard practices.

The region has recently been meticulously mapped to provide a complete geological footprint for vineyard sites. Delineation of sub-regions has been coming along at pace as inter-regional difference in fruit flavour profile has become a focal point of interest. And if you want a different focal point, then the Victory Hotel at Sellicks Beach in the heart of McLaren Vale is a great place to contemplate a Coopers Green or two.

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