Australia’s major tourist destinations are Sydney and Melbourne, but for this humble wine scribe, it is Adelaide that takes the mantle of Australia’s wine capital. Within an hour’s drive you can be sampling wines in the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Eden Valley or McLaren Vale. Another hour in the car and you’ll be tucking into Clare rieslings, visiting Langhorne Creek, Currency Creek and Southern Fleurieu, or chugging over to Kangaroo Island on the ferry. And farther afield you can venture to Coonawarra, Padthaway and Wrattonbully, along with Robe, Mount Benson and the stunning Southern Flinders Ranges.
Then there are the great restaurants; Bistro Dom, Vincenzo’s, Celsius, Press Food & Wine, Chianti Classico, Magill Estate, Jolleys Boathouse and Auge, or, in McLaren Vale Fino, the Star of Greece and the Victory Hotel, and in the Adelaide Hills, the lovely Bridgewater Mill and The Lane—all places to get a taste of the finest South Australia has to offer in food and wine.
But for the truest sense of Adelaide, head to the Adelaide Central Market. Established in 1869, the market is the pulse of Adelaide, with some of the state’s best produce on display.
Just outside its doors is the Chinatown section of the city, which has its roots in the first wave of Chinese to arrive in Australia in the mid-1800s. Fifteen minutes away, there’s a little enclave of Vietnamese restaurants—a reminder that the Vietnamese are Australia’s third-largest ethnic group.
These are the places the locals head, often with a bottle tucked under each arm. We’ve asked a few of them for their essential Adelaide wine and food experiences: which BYOBs they frequent, or which market stalls they visit before heading out on a picnic. And, of course, what wines they like to bring along.
Proud Barossan, respected chef and cookbook author Maggie Beer calls out Ruby Red Flamingo (142 Tynte St., North Adelaide; (08) 8267.5769), a hip, noisy place with chalkboard menus and mismatched furniture run by two Italian guys. “Rustic, home-style Italian fare just like your nonna would make, with top-class produce,” she says. There’s a wine list here, but you’re welcome to bring your own, and Beer often packs along a bottle of the Yalumba Virgilius Viognier. “Beautiful, pure Eden Valley fruit and fine drinking in what must be Australia’s best example of the variety,” she says. “And it matches perfectly with the seafood spiedini.”
Beer adds that she’s also a frequent visitor to the Central Market, especially to drop by Say Cheese. “An incredible range of local and imported cheeses,” she says before launching off for “a picnic in the Botanic Gardens with hot, freshly baked bread slathered with Epoisses de Bourgogne, and a glass of riesling in the sunshine.”
One of Adelaide’s finest upmarket restaurants is Bistro Dom (24 Waymouth St., Adelaide; (08) 8231.7000), where chef Duncan Welgemoed brings local produce to the plate with grace and balance. “T-Chow (68 Moonta St.; (08) 8410.1413) is always the first choice for me,” Welgemoed says of his time away from Dom. “Noisy, vibrant, great Chinese food and a meeting place for restaurant staff after service has finished.” What wine? “A Domaine Lucci Merlot from Anton Von Klopper in the Adelaide Hills; it goes perfectly with the spicy beef ribs and T-Chow tender duck.”
Kerri Thompson, who makes Clare Valley riesling under the Wines by KT label, is also a fan of Adelaide’s Chinatown food scene. “Ying Chow (114 Gouger St.; (08) 8211.7988) is a late-night favorite,” she says. “And I would be taking along a SC Pannell Nebbiolo—with its supple fruit profile and gentle tannins, it’s great with the spicy beef strips. Or an aged Pauletts riesling from the Clare to have with the salt & pepper calamari.”
While Mexicans are few and far between in Australia, local chefs seem to be falling in love with their cuisine through their travels to the US. Lucky Lupitas, just south of the city center (1/4 Rupert Ave., Bedford Park; (08) 8277.4044) has become Adelaide’s hip foodie hangout, and it’s where you might find Corrina Wright, winemaker at Oliver’s Tarring in McLaren Vale. “Love, love, love the food here, plus there are great margaritas if you are that way inclined,” she says. She’s not, however, and instead she’d bring along the SC Pannell McLaren Vale Grenache. “Try it with the Taco de Pato,” she says. “Guajillo lime–braised duck with orange panela, crispy red onion, basil, red cabbage and cilantro. Heaven!”
“At the markets I’ll always stop in at the Marino Meat & Food store to stock up on some cured meats and porchetta. With a local pinot noir from Ashton Hills in the Adelaide Hills, it makes for a perfect picnic on Port Wilunga beach on the drive back home.”
Across the road from the Central Market, Cork Wine Café is justly famed for its wine selection. When owner Travis Tausend doesn’t want to eat in, he grabs a bottle and heads to Park Lok (130 Grote St., Adelaide; (08) 8212.8316). “I love the food and the place’s energetic atmosphere. I’ll be ordering salt and pepper crab and drinking the Jauma Chenin Blanc.” It’s made by James Erskine, a former sommelier turned Adelaide Hills winemaker, and a founding member of Natural Selection Theory, a group dedicated to very minimal intervention wines—an increasingly popular move in wineries across South Australia. ■
Sourcing Adelaide’s Best Bottles
Try East End Cellars (22-26 Vardon Ave., Adelaide; (08) 8232.5300) or Edinburgh Cellars (High St., Mitcham; (08) 8373.2753). Both offer a fantastic range of South Australian producers, both large and small, along with super friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Bottles to Pack for Adelaide’s BYOs
Suggestions from Adelaide denizens and W&S staff critics
For Italian seafood
d’Arenberg 2012 Adelaide Hills The Broken Fishplate Sauvignon Blanc ($17)
Bringing the cool of the Adelaide Hills in its tangy scents of lime and parsley, this is built for seafood. (Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA)
Shaw & Smith 2009 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc ($27)
Martin Shaw & Michael Hill Smith were pioneers in 1989 when they headed to the Adelaide Hills to make sauvignon blanc. Theirs is still the go-to: grassy and lean, with a quiet nectarine juiciness underneath. (Martin Scott Wines, Ltd., Lake Success, NY)
Yalumba 2009 Eden Valley The Virgilius Viognier ($40)
Maggie Beer’s choice for the seafood spiedini at Ruby Red Flamingo, this is savory, gently persistent and harmonious, with a touch of tannin that sets it up well for food. (Negociants USA, Napa, CA)
For spicy Chinese beef and salt & pepper seafood
First Drop 2006 Adelaide Hills Minchia Montepulciano ($35)
Matt Gant specializes in obscurities like trincadeira, albariño, arneis and this bold, colorful montepulciano. It’s juicy and ripe, with a range of high-acid red fruit flavors. (Vine Street Imports, Philadelphia, PA)
Domaine Lucci Merlot
Anton Von Klopper launched his vineyard in 2002, converting an old cherry orchard to vines. He’s a strictly no-additions guy, part of Australia’s Natural Selection Theory wine movement. (not imported)
Jauma Blewett Springs Chenin Blanc ($30)
Pure chenin fruit lit by electric acidity from James Erskine, a former sommelier turned Adelaide Hills winemaker. (Vine Street Imports, Philadelphia, PA)
Kilikanoon 2011 Clare Valley Mort’s Block Watervale Riesling ($20)
From 40-year-old vines on limestone subsoil, this is earthy, limey and spicy, with youthful acidity. (Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA)
Paulett Wines Riesling
Rather than taking her own Clare Valley riesling, Kerri Thompson of Wines by KT looks to bottles from Neil Paullett, who’s been producing riesling in Clare since 1983. (not imported)
Pewsey Vale 2011 Eden Valley Dry Riesling ($18)
Louisa Rose makes this classic, tight and flinty riesling, packed with lime and crushed stone. (Negociants USA, Napa, CA)
For cured meat & cheese picnics from the Central Market
Ashton Hills 2010 Adelaide Hills Reserve Pinot Noir
Steven George opened his little winery in the shadow of Mount Lofty in 1982. He specializes in cool-climate varieties such as riesling, gewürztraminer and pinot noir; the reserve comes off seven acres of dry-farmed vines planted in the early 80s. (not imported)
Henschke 2007 Adelaide Hills Lenswood Giles Pinot Noir ($60)
Prue and Stephen Henschke grow this savory, spicy pinot with a transparent scrim of raspberry flavor, a savory pinot noir without excess alcohol. (Negociants USA, Napa, CA)
Penfolds 2012 Adelaide Hills Bin 23 Pinot Noir
A personal project of Penfolds’s chief winemaker Peter Gago first introduced in 2009, this is naturally fermented and blended from several different pinot noir clones. (not imported)