Drink and be merry

"So which cellar door should we start with?" my husband asked as he looked up from the map of McLaren Vale. On the list were at least 70 wineries; and McLaren Vale is not even the largest wine region in the state of South Australia. Indeed, Adelaideans are spoilt for choice when it comes to wines. With roughly seven different wine regions, the state alone is responsible for more than half of the wines produced in Australia.

Of all the wine regions here, Barossa Valley is probably the largest and most well-known. However, size and fame is not the only testament of quality. Up and coming wine regions like McLaren Vale and the Adelaide hills have also been surreptitiously garnering their own accolades over the past decade. Top it off with their close proximity to the city, it is no wonder these regions have been drawing droves of wine connoisseurs of late.

Prized drops at McLaren Vale

Having lived in Adelaide for the last two years, McLaren Vale is a place we visit at least every other month. Being avid hikers, we enjoy the hike around Onkaparinga River National Park, complete with picturesque rolling hills. We usually finish our walk with a trip to the wineries, which are less than 10 minutes from the national park by car. It is one of the few wine regions where your winery experience is complemented by sea views.

With so many good wineries around McLaren Vale, it is difficult to decide on a favourite. However, one winery that we find ourselves making repeat visits to is Mitolo. Up until recently, Mitolo did not have a cellar door, and it was difficult to try their prized drops. Thankfully, the management decided to set up a cellar door inside the Producers of McLaren Vale, sparing us the agony of yearning for their wonderful shiraz and cabernet sauvignons. Dark and rich with hints of raisins and berries, they are full-bodied and incredibly smooth.

Another plus point to Mitolo is the host of activities available. Mr David Arbon, owner of Producers of McLaren Vale, conducts courses that takes you behind the scenes of winemaking. Try your hands at grape picking, making sparkling wines and blending your reds. They even conduct cheese-making courses, demystifying the intrigue behind those tasty morsels.

Go white at Adelaide Hills

Nestled among the Mount Lofty ranges is the Adelaide Hills wine region, just a 30-minute drive from the city. The Adelaide hills are famous for their whites, which boast a good balance between flavour and body. I especially love their sauvignon blancs, which are much fruitier and less herbaceous than their cousins.

Our favourite sauvignon blanc in Adelaide has to be from Shaw + Smith. The cellar door is housed within a picturesque valley, offering stunning views of the idyllic surrounds where ducks paddled lazily by in the pond while black and white Holstein cows graze idly in the fields.

Shaw + Smith also offers the unique wine flight experience where we got to taste wines that have been carefully paired with artisan cheese. Our host provided us with an insightful introduction to the wines and cheese and we went through our course at leisure.

Dining delights

One thing we never miss when visiting the wineries is having a meal at one of the numerous winery restaurants. Because of South Australia's huge agriculture industry, the quality of the ingredients here is top-notch. One of our favourite restaurants has to be The Lane. The fresh produce, when placed in the masterful hands of the chefs, turn into Michelinstar worthy dishes, at a fraction of the price. We love the slow-roasted pork belly with crispy skin that crackles as you cut through it, coupled with juicy, tender meat that melts in the mouth. Incidentally, The Lane is also home to our favourite Chardonnay, with all its "oaky", full-bodied goodness.

Although we were saddened by the thought that we would be leaving Adelaide in a month's time, the thought that it is only a 6.5-hour flight from Singapore cheered us up. Paradise is not too far off, after all.

GUIDELINES

- Singapore Airlines flies 9 times a week to Adelaide. You can get to both McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills in 45 and 30 minutes by car respectively.

- The best time to visit Adelaide is during spring (from September to November) and autumn (from March to June).

- All visitors require an entry visa into Australia. For details, visit www.vfsglobal.com/australia/ singapore.


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