Savouring South Australia

Words by Vicki Ravlich-Horan

There is something special about South Australia. Get chatting to a local and they will inevitably point out that the state was settled (aka colonised) by free men. I am sure there were some women among there too, but how free they were may be debatable – but I digress.

The pride extends beyond their non-convict stock, and why not, as this pocket of Australia has a lot going for it.

Known for its wine, South Australia has over 3000 vineyards, 680 wineries and 340 cellar doors to visit. Add to this the growing number of breweries (52) and distillers (over 100) and the decision on who to visit can be daunting, and that’s just the drinks!

Aside from the discovery of copper and gold in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia’s fertile and abundant land saw the state become the economic darling of Australian territories by the mid-1850s, exporting wool and wheat.  It’s also at this time the region’s first vineyards were planted and the regions wine-making pedigree begins.

The great climate and fertile land produces grapes, wheat and lamb, but also suits fruit trees from citrus and apples to stone fruit. Olive trees flourish and more recently so too do almonds.

The abundance and variety of produce is on display at Adelaide’s Central Market. The largest undercover produce market in the Southern hemisphere is one of the first stops on our Taste of South Australia tour.

We met up with local tour guide Katina Vangopoulos who has weaved us through the streets of central Adelaide giving us a taste of the cities heritage from Haigh’s chocolate to the uniquely local frog cakes from Balfour’s bakery.

All roads have led us here to the Central Market where the region’s produce and cultures collide to create a market worth moving countries for. Katina introduces us to the local bung fritz (a fancy luncheon), we marvel at the baked goods, including the drool-worthy Portuguese tarts, and learn the history of the Kitchener bun. We sample Australian indigenous ingredients, local cheeses and more.

It’s torture going to a market such as this and not being able to buy some of the ingredients to take home and enjoy. It’s a torture I inflict on the group two more times over our five days, visiting the region’s first farmer’s market, Willunga and the behemoth that is the Adelaide Farmer’s Market.

Before we pile in the van and head for the Barossa, I can’t help but buy a few varieties of the local grapes for sale. And when I say varieties, I don’t mean red, green and black.  Instead, one is a tiny pale-yellow grape which is a burst of sweetness with a deep sultana flavour. Another is a dark purple variety with an elongated shape that has an intense sweet flavour. Oohs and ahhs fill the van as we navigate out of the city and the bag of grapes is passed around.

We arrive in Barossa, and our base for the next few days. Just one of the 18 distinct wine regions in South Australia, we are here to enjoy more than the many cellar doors. First up it’s a visit to Maggie Beer’s Farm.

During our week in South Australia, we were met everywhere with warm welcomes and great service – the exception being Maggie Beer’s Farm. Here, as we disgorged from the van, enticed by the beautiful quince orchard, we were met with a sign warning us of the snakes! Those that know me well will be proud of my keep calm and carry on or perhaps more appropriately “she’ll be right mate” attitude as I heralded the group inside to safety.



Maggie Beer is an icon of Australian cuisine, and it is here that it all started – pheasant farm, award-winning restaurant, television set for The Chef and Cook series, production kitchen of her many products, they all started here. Now a bustling cafe, retail store and tourist must-stop, we were lucky enough to visit on a quiet day and get the full experience, from cooking demo to wine tasting, lunch platter followed by a gin tasting.  Even those not familiar with Maggie’s culinary fame would enjoy time spent here, where other than the initial sign, we felt very welcome.

Our afternoon was spent meandering around the historic Seppeltsfield winery and adjoining Jam Factory which is a collection of working artists and exhibition spaces, while dinner that night was at Otherness, an unpretentious wine shop/bar. Kiwi Emily Thomas was in the kitchen the night we visited and we enjoyed a menu of thoughtful, seasonal dishes.


Our second and last day in Barossa was spent in the kitchen of Cassa Carboni. Here we put together a four-course lunch under the strict instructions of Matteo Carboni.

Matteo teaches us to make the lightest gnocchi you’ve ever eaten, passing on game-changing tips and tricks. We roll and fill pasta and learn to make a gorgeous seasonal flan. By 1pm we’d worked up an appetite to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

Matteo and wife Fiona returned to Australia, having spent a few years in Matteo’s home of Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy, in 2012 to open Cassa Carboni. In addition to the regular cook school, they are open for casual breakfasts Thursday to Sunday, with an array of Matteo’s baked goods, along with a Friday night and Sunday lunch chef’s tasting menu.

Halfway through our time in South Australia and we are headed back to Adelaide, our base, where we will explore the McLaren Vale, Handorf and Adelaide Hills. We will wander around markets, visit a brand-new brewery and dine in the oldest pub in the region. We will visit wineries, big and small, a strawberry farm, taste local cheeses and so much more.

If you’ve been looking for a food heaven, South Australia is it!

Keen to join me on our next Taste of South Australia tour?  Click here to find out more.


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