Hunting for the Best Wineries in McLaren Vale, South Australia

Written by: Chloe Thomas



Time to read 5 min

McLaren Vale is a wine region tucked up right on the coast South of Adelaide. While known for the usual Australian Shiraz, the Vale has also built up a reputation for more eclectic varieties and perhaps some of the best Grenache in the country. 

During our travels, we kept hearing that this is the place to be from our wine community - and boy, can we see why? We decided to make it our mission to find the best winery in McLaren based on the people, the wine and the experience at the cellar door. 

Let's dive in and uncover what makes the following the best wineries in McLaren Vale.

Our top wineries to explore in McLaren Vale

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1. Kay Brothers

We're starting our journey at Kay Brothers, the oldest family-owned-operated winery in McLaren Vale, greeted by a rich history dating back to 1895. 

We were lucky enough to meet with their "Chief Interferer", as he calls himself, Mr Colin Kay, the family patriarch and winemaker for over 40 years - leading the winery through modernisation and a new focus on premium wines. 

They offer a range of tastings from create-your-own flights at $10 per person to a Shiraz Trail ($15pp) or a Fortified Wine Flight (15pp). If you visit, you must taste the Block 6 ($5pp) - a vineyard wine from vines planted in 1892. 

If you want an introduction to McLaren to understand what the fuss is all about - Kay Brothers provides just that.

2. Primo Estate

Primo Grilli arrived in South Australia 1953 from the Le Marche region in Italy. Twenty years later, in 1973, he and his wife planted the vineyards. They haven't stopped since, continuing to innovate and push the boundaries of modern winemaking. 

They have brought their family story back in full circle, including two wines made in Italy in their current portfolio. 

This winery introduced us to the elevated subregion of Clarendon, providing cooler growing areas (and, in Chloe's humble opinion, more elegant wines). 

One of the amazing wines was the JOSEPH Angel Gully Shiraz.  This wine really showed the range of Shiraz in the Vale. The Zamberlan Cabernet Sangiovese was an absolute stand-out; when you consider this is an age-old winemaking technique out of Tuscany, you can understand why. It is also made in a ripasso style (fresh grape juice fermented in contact with dried grape skins), which adds a powerful weight. In the elegant words of Chloe in our YouTube video "Holy $h&t". Watch our McLaren Episode here. T

he wines here give a more old-world feel to them, rustic and Italianesque.  

3.Hugh Hamilton

When Hugh Hamilton founded his eponymous winery, he was the fifth generation of the Hamilton wine dynasty, with a history stretching back 180 years. 

The black sheep of the family, the winery embraces his character, and it's reflected in the wines. While we enjoyed most of the wines, the location is what stands out, and we have to make mention of their Speravi (the oldest grape/wine in the world, hailing from Georgia, which has been making wine for over 8000 years). It is one of the very few red-fleshed grapes. This wine is smoky, known for its deep, dark fruit flavours like blackberry and plum, often accompanied by spicy or earthy notes. 

Hugh Hamilton's central location allows for easy exploration of neighbouring wineries, making it a prime spot to savour McLaren Vale's clear views.

Click here to watch our YouTube video on the Margaret River - part  1

4. Mitolo

Mitolo is a young winery founded in 2000 with its first Shiraz. However, the family's routes in Australia stretch back to the 1950s and wine roots stretch back generations to Italy's Abruzzo region. Renowned for Shiraz and Grenache vines, 

Frank Mitolo and his team showcase their expertise at a fun, trendy cellar door. Take the chance to try their Jetseter and Small Batch Series for a $20pp tasting. 

Matthew particularly liked the 2019 Angela Shiraz for its meaty taste and savouriness.

5. Coriole

Established in 1967, Coriole remains a historic winery committed to tradition. The original farmhouse houses the cellar door, and the views from the property are next-level wine country. 

The tasting experience features their entry-level wines at $15 pp - it would be awesome to try their estate range, which dives deep into the McLaren Mataro, Grenache, and Italian natives! The Piquepoul (French grape) was fun, being the first to grow this variety in Australia (think crunch, brine, green apple, almond and lemon zest). 

If you're hungry, the restaurant on site looks pretty decent! It's the perfect spot for intimate gatherings or a laid-back wine time with friends. 

6. Samuel's Gorge

Samuel's Gorge, a small winery by winemaker Justin McNamee, may rest on some of the best views in the valley (Onkaparinga River National Park) and stole Chloe's heart. There is something about this rustic 1853 Australian farm shed that feeds the senses. 

They focus on five varieties: Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Graciano, and Tempranillo. We love how they keep their focus simple yet bold in personality. Some may even say they verge on the funky side - but not oppressively. 

They are wines you can sit down around a table and talk about; what's not to love about that? 

Click here to watch our YouTube video on the Margaret River - part  2

7. Hickinbotham

Tucked away in the Clarendon Hills, Hickinbotham Vineyard is a part of the Jackson Family Wine Group and is crafting some seriously amazing wines. 

Chris Carpenter, the Napa Valley-based winemaker for such prestigious brands as Lokoya, Cardinale, and La Jota, leads the creation of some of the best Bordeaux varietals wines we've had. 

The Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon is the king here, filled with pure red and black fruit characters with just the right amount of cedar, tobacco, and spice backing it all up. Also not to be missed is the Brooks Road Shiraz!

8. Yangarra Estate Vineyard

Located in the northern end of the ValeVale in Blewitt Springs, Yangarra Estate Vineyard is an organic and biodynamic winery which stands out for its exceptional single-vineyard wines. 

Reflecting a commitment to sustainable viticulture, the cellar door in a restored 1850s homestead offers a unique and intimate tasting experience.  Also owned by Jackson Family Wine Group, it also hosts the tasting for Hickinbotham. 

Peter Fraser holds the winemaking reins here and is doing some fantastic things with Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre. 

There wasn't a bad wine in the lineup. In the more cost-friendly section of their portfolio, we frequently pick up a bottle of their GSM to enjoy.

In our opinion McLaren Vale delivers some of Australia's best wine-tasting experiences, each winery offering its unique charm. From historic establishments with rich traditions to boutique wineries perfect for relaxation, the region caters to every taste. 

Whether planning a romantic getaway or a trip for one, McLaren Vale's wineries promise an unforgettable trip. So, grab a glass, pick a wine mentioned above and embark on a journey to explore some of the finest wineries in Australia. 


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