Seven things we learned from the National Geographic Traveller (UK) event on South Australian wines
On 1 June, during a National Geographic Traveller event sponsored by the South Australian Tourism Commission, wine expert Olly Smith was joined by journalist and author Nina Caplan, naturalist and broadcaster Nick Baker and chef and restauranteur Alexis Noble to talk about the state’s wines. In addition to the natural wine movement and eco-friendly wine companies, the discussion touched on topics as diverse as the nation’s flavour palate and hospitality culture. Here are seven of our favourite takeaways:
1 You can mix wine-tasting with wildlife-watching
Although popular for its wines, the Adelaide Hills is also an interesting region to visit from a naturalist’s perspective. “It’s a very positive landscape,” Nick said, adding that winemakers look after their terroir and the environment around it. “It’s all part of making good wine, and the wildlife knows it as well.”
2 Heritage coexists with innovation
In the Eden Valley — around an hour’s drive north east of Adelaide — you’ll find fifth- and sixth-generation wine growers who’ve eked out a sense of place and figured out what works for them, working next door to brand-new companies. “It’s a wonderful diversity,” said Nick. “If you just want to explore the taste of the landscape, it’s all there for you.”
3 Australia has a distinctive flavour palate
“In the past decade or so, a lot of Australian chefs from my generation have started to focus on native ingredients and indigenous, botanical flavours and incorporating that into our cookery, which is extremely exciting,” said Alexis. “It’s a whole new flavour profile that doesn’t exist in European cookery, and there’s so much cool stuff. South Australia, in particular, has been at the forefront of that.”
4 There are many eco-friendly wine companies
The Hidden Sea, based between Melbourne and Adelaide in the Limestone Coast region, is a wine company that helps the environment: for every bottle of The Hidden Sea sold, it will recycle the equivalent of 10 plastic bottles from the ocean. “It just means you can drink something that tastes very good and feel smug at the same time that you’re helping save the planet,” joked Nina.
5 Experimenting with natural wines
The natural wine movement in South Australia generally represents a younger, more experimental kind of winemaking. “When it comes to natural wines, and the younger makers, they don’t have big parcels of land, they’re very small productions, and that’s why they do things differently,” said Alexis. What’s more, she said, a lot of natural winemakers don’t own land to plant grapes, so they often buy grapes and mix them together to create something entirely new.
6 The vines are stressed — and that’s a good thing
“Everything in Australia has to struggle,” said Alexis. “We don’t have heaps of water, we’ve got a lot of heat — things have to work hard to grow, so they have these amazing antioxidants and flavours that you don’t find anywhere else.” This is true for vines, too: when you have such low-vigour places where other plants can’t really thrive, you get fantastic wines.
7 Hospitality is a calling for many people here
People dedicate their whole lives to hospitality in South Australia, and that’s something you can definitely feel while visiting. “It blows me away that somewhere so far away can make me feel so at home, in the grand spaces, with the welcome of the people,” said Olly. “That’s really what it always comes back to — the generosity of spirit, the open-handed welcome. I’ve never felt like a stranger in South Australia.”
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