Is South Australia the food and wine capital of the world?

After rounding off a day touring wineries with a glass of the good stuff within sight of the very vines that produced it, or sampling a Mod-Oz degustation menu rustled up with effervescent flair, the foodie crowd are beginning to think so.

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The new world has come of age. If you were thinking that gastronomy in Australia is simply a matter of stick another shrimp on the barbie, then prepare to be surprised. Forget the clichés. Australian cuisine is less a matter of cold beer and vegemite and more freshly-caught seafood, locally-reared lamb, unique indigenous ingredients and - of course - award-winning New World wines. In fact, visitors vote Australian food and wine second only to that of France. And amongst travellers from the UK, the USA, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea and even the home of cordon bleu cooking itself, Australia is ranked #1 foodie destination.

Perceptions of Australian food and wine

Before visiting Australia, respondents voted it 6th in the world
as a food and wine destination…

Respondents who have not visited Australia

  • 1

    60%

    France

  • 2

    57%

    Italy

  • 3

    33%

    Spain

  • 4

    31%

    Germany

  • 5

    29%

    Japan

  • 6

    26%

    Australia

Perceptions of Australian food and wine

…But having visited, they voted it second
only to France.

Respondents who have visited Australia

  • 1

    66%

    France

  • 2

    60%

    Australia

  • 3

    58%

    Italy

  • 4

    40%

    Japan

  • 5

    34%

    Spain

  • 6

    34%

    Germany

Source: Consumer Demand Research Project, Tourism Australia

Finally, Australia is sure of itself and of its place in the world. It's a combination of no longer measuring ourselves against the Old World and also recognising that, geographically, Australia is part of Asia

Mark Best, Marque Restaurant, Sydney

Within this culinary arcadia, South Australia - and specifically the regions of Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, the Barossa Valley and the Eyre and Fleurieu peninsulas - are worth a special mention. The South Australian coastline is more than 3,800 kilometres long and its aquaculture is second-to-none. Some of the best seafood in the world - including oysters, crayfish, snapper, tuna and, of course, shrimp - can be enjoyed at waterside restaurants right on the beach or jetty.

South Australia's unparalleled geographic and climactic diversity yields a vast array of grape varieties.

  • Adelaide
  • Barossa Valley
  • Eyre Peninsula
  • Fleurieu Peninsula
  • Kangaroo Island
  • Adelaide

    • South Australia's urban wine hub
    • Adelaide Hills and Plains nearby
    • Cool climate wine region.
  • Barossa Valley

    • The wine cellar of South Australia
    • The most celebrated wines in South Australia
    • Long-standing wine-growing tradition
  • Eyre Peninsula

    • Burgeoning viniculture scene
    • Boutique vineyards
    • Maritime conditions
  • Fleurieu Peninsula

    • Known for rich, warm, ripe reds
    • Largest region is McLaren Vale
    • Around 100 cellar doors
  • Kangaroo Island

    • South Australia's newest wine region
    • Famous for strong varietal flavour and vibrant colour
    • 13 wineries and growing

Wine production in Australia

48%

681,696,970 bottles of wine

Almost half of all wine in Australia is produced in South Australia

Southern Australia also comprises some of the finest wine-producing regions in the world. In fact, the area is responsible for more than half of the production of all Australian wine. Its varied climate and topography is an enormous boon for wine-growers, who have been planting vines here since at least 1836 - the Barossa Valley is said to be home to some of the oldest vineyards in the world. Adelaide is the hub of Australian wine-growing, the most prestigious vintages are grown in the Barossa Valley and in terms of volume, Fleurieu is a wine powerhouse.

In a time when provenance, food miles and eating local are all crucial to food and wine aficionados, perhaps nowhere is the connection between gourmet and produce deeper and more profound. Or the journey from farm to plate and from vine to glass more visible and direct. Epicureans travelling to Southern Australia can enjoy the opportunity to meet with vintners and sommeliers, farmers, butchers, fishers and chefs, and discover a whole new way of experiencing the food they eat and the wine they drink. And whether they're imbibing al fresco at one of the region's fabulous outdoor restaurants, or hunter-gathering at farmer's markets, visitors to South Australia can enjoy the bounties of local cuisine within the breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and munificent climate that have yielded a cuisine now gathering plaudits amongst foodies worldwide.

There's a refreshing openness and lack of pretention

A happy side-effect of the nation's relative youth is the lack of entrenched and time-worn traditions. The food culture is fresh and dynamic; like the values of the country as a whole, there's a refreshing openness and lack of pretention. Here you can experience haute cuisine without the starched tablecloths and fusty restaurant rituals. There's an energy and freedom to gastronomy Australian-style, from its relaxed eateries to plentiful food festivals. And what's on offer is as diverse as the scenery. One in four Australians were born overseas, and this multicultural diversity is reflected in what is truly fusion food. In Modern Australian cuisine, European-style fine dining sits easily beside some of the best Asian food in the world and unique indigenous dishes you'll find nowhere else.

And Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia, draws all of this together in one laid-back and delectably liveable package…

  • What aspect of your career and your business are you most proud of?

    This is a very hard question to answer! I'll have to give my top six which are a mix of personal and business achievements:

    • My partnership with Colin, two strong daughters and five beautiful grandchildren.
    • Creating the Pheasant Farm Restaurant against all odds.
    • Being named Senior Australian of the Year.
    • Building our export kitchen in the Barossa where every product we make on a commercial scale we do with the same care and flavour as if it was made in my own kitchen. Short cuts are an anathema to me!
    • Most recently finding myself on a stamp as part of the Australia Post Legends series launched last month - what an honour!
    • Having a group of friends I sing with every week - just for joy!
  • What might surprise the first-time visitor about South Australian cuisine?

    Perhaps how fiercely loyal SA business is to its producers. I'm always so impressed that the culture amongst restaurant and cafe owners is always to source SA produce first. It helps make the experience of SA-grown produce so accessible to everyone, whether living here or visiting.

  • You've unparalleled experience of South Australian food culture. For those less familiar but interested in knowing more, how would you sum up the food scene?

    If I had to describe South Australian cuisine in a word, it would probably be fresh and vibrant. We're very lucky in Australia to have such a diversity of cultures from which we can swap and borrow to make up our own version of local cuisine. We are such a young country that we are still developing an Australian cuisine; it's an ever growing thing, which is wonderful, but particularly with South Australian food 'produce is the star' will always be key.

  • What excites you about South Australian cuisine?

    The fact that we are young enough in our food culture to still give anything a go, rather than be restricted by preconceived concepts of what can or can't be done, or tied to traditions so ingrained that new thoughts never have the space to surface. I've seen some amazing food ideas come to fruition against all odds and that really excites me.

  • What do you recommend visitors try out from the South Australian pantry?

    Again, a very difficult question because of the sheer volume of great SA produce, but to highlight a few I'd suggest some of the products I've chosen to stock alongside of my own at our Farm Shop: my daughter, Saskia's, range of products, Pangkarra pasta, Carême pastry, Barossa Coffee Roasters coffee, Scullery Made teas, cheese by Barossa Valley Cheese, Kernich's Jersey milk. And then further beyond the Barossa: Nolan's Rd chickpeas and lentils, fresh South Australian seafood, especially whiting, Haigh's chocolate, Coorong Angus Beef, the list goes on… The wonderful thing is that each region of SA has its own specialities so there will always be something to discover no matter where you find yourself.