Riverland Surprises in South Australia #WorldWineTravel

World Wine Travel Virtually Visits South Australia
The next stop on our group’s virtual tour is the red wines of South Australia. If you have enjoyed an Australian wine, chances are good you are at least somewhat familiar with this large region. Names such as Barossa Valley and Mclaren Vale for Shiraz, Coonawara for Cabernet Sauvignon are well known around the world. Take a look farther down in this post for links to fellow writers’ posts on the region.

Until recently, one would be surprised to see Riverland listed on a bottle of Australian wine. This is because Riverland is the warm, inland region which historically has been the source of large volumes of grapes for inexpensive wines from big brands. These wines would often be labeled as “South Australia” as to their origin. In fact, Riverland is responsible for 70% of South Australia‘s grapes crushed for wine, and 30% of ALL of Australia’s crush. Bulk wines are focused on international varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, whether or not those grapes are best suited for the local climate and soils. When you look at an inexpensive wine on the shelf listed as “South Australia”, think Riverland.

In recent years, newer winegrowers started planting grapes that are best suited to the local environment. These are less well known grapes, often grapes which thrive in a warm, Mediterranean climate. Grapes like Nero d’Avola and Montepulciano. These smaller wineries promote lower intervention approaches with these lesser known grapes. Following are a couple wines found on retail shelves in Minnesota. What will you find in your local market?

Unico Zelo’s Fresh A.F. is a bright blend of Nero d’Avola and Zibibbo

Unico Zelo Winery
Brendan and Laura Carter started Unico Zelo in 2013 with an aim of producing wines from grapes appropriate for the local conditions. They are a certified B-Corp, making good on their commitment to a sustainable approach with everything they do. They also have a fun and informative YouTube channel at Wine for the People.

Unico Zelo “Fresh A.F.”

Unico Zelo “Fresh A.F.”, Riverland 2021 ($24 locally at France 44) 13% abv
Nero d’Avola 85%, Zibibbo 15%
Eye: Pale ruby
Nose: Medium plus intensity aromas of fresh blackberries, black cherries, blueberries, black pepper and a bit of smoke, a touch of vanilla.
Mouth: Dry, medium plus acidity, medium minus fine grained tannins, medium body with a lean texture, medium alcohol, medium plus flavor intensity, medium finish. Flavors follow the nose with very fresh, ripe blackberries and pepper in front.
Observations: Super fresh, vibrant. This wine could take a bit of a chill on a summer day (definitely not our current weather in Minnesota!). Very nice and a bit of a surprise and a departure from what I expect in South Australia, in a good way.

Delinquente Wine Co. Roco il Vagabondo Montepulciano

Delinquente Wine Company
Delinquente Wine Company is dedicated to the Riverland, pursuing organic farming of grapes appropriate for the region – mostly southern Italian origin. By using these grapes, they can reduce irrigation needs and produce wines with a naturally achieved balance of ripe fruit with fresh acidity. Ever since their first release in 2013, their wines have featured labels with art depicting various tattooed individuals. Not just eye-catching, these labels have a meaningful back story, explained by the artist.

Delinquente Wine Co. Roko il Vagabondo Montepulciano

Delinquente Wine Co “Roko il Vagabondo” Montepulciano, Riverland 2021 ($25 locally at Henry and Son) 14% abv
Eye: Medium ruby
Nose: Medium plus aromas of fresh ripe blueberries, black plum, fresh figs, slate, with a little alcoholic heat.
Mouth: Dry, medium acidity, medium slightly sandy tannins, medium plus body, high alcohol, medium plus flavor intensity, medium plus finish. Fresh ripe blueberries and fresh figs with slate underneath.
Observations: Quite different from an Italian Montepulciano in style, this wine is all about abundant fresh fruit with a mineral undertone. On day two, this wine had gained further depth, becoming even more enjoyable.

World Wine Travel Writers Explore Red Wines of South Australia
Take a look below at all the discoveries of our World Wine Travel writers. Then, join our chat on Twitter! Just search us out at #WorldWineTravel on Saturday Feb. 26. We chat from 10-11am CST, we hope to see you there!

Additional Resources on Riverland Wines

8 Responses to “Riverland Surprises in South Australia #WorldWineTravel”
  1. advinetures says:

    Always learning something from you…despite personally visiting south Australia and being Aussie wine fans, we have never seen Riverland on a label nor had any idea that crushed 70% of south Australian grapes!

  2. robincgc says:

    I love that you explored this region. I usually just think of it as bulk wine. It’s nice to see that there are growers/winemakers out there finding varieties that will thrive and do well here. I also love the low intervention wines you found! They seem a bit like renegades, which seems appropriate to the region they are in!

  3. So great to see winegrowers planting grapes best suited to the local environment. Makes me feel hopeful!

  4. Wendy Klik says:

    Thanks for sharing these wines from an area that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

  5. “In fact, Riverland is responsible for 70% of South Australia‘s grapes crushed for wine, and 30% of ALL of Australia’s crush.” WOW! Equally impressive — the names (Fresh AF!) and the labels! How exciting! Thanks for sharing these out of the ordinary wines!

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