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d’Arenberg Wines, McLaren Vale

Prior to attending the Eat Drink Blog conference we were asked to select between attending a three-hour writing workshop in a conference room or hop on a bus and head out to the wine regions of South Australia.  I believe in the value of workshops because I was only going to be in South Australia for such a short time, I really wanted to see and experience it as much as possible and so I chose a wine tour.  )And another minor deciding factor was that I knew there was a strong chance there would be beverages on offer at the vineyards!)

d’Arenburg Winery

There were two buses heading to the vineyards and one was going to the Barossa Valley and the other was heading to McLaren Vale.  The bus to the Barossa was full but there was a spare seat on the bus to McLaren Vale so I jumped on board.

McLaren Vale

That bus was going to d’Arenberg Wines which is one of more than 65 cellar doors in McLaren Vale that is just 40 minutes from Adelaide city.

The view at d’Arenberg Winery

Arriving at d’Arenberg is like stepping into an oasis where the very green vineyards surround you and beyond is the countryside stretching to the coast.  We were shown through to the old stables that have been converted to ‘The Blending Bench’ which is where for $60.00 you can make your own d’Arenberg shiraz blend that is poured into a bottle, capped and you can take it away with you.

The converted original stables

The winery is family owned and was started by Joseph Francis one hundred years ago.  Joseph Francis’ son was a doctor and after a few years of practising medicine he left his career and joined the family business.  The doctor’s son, Francis d’Arenberg, affectionately known as ‘d’Arry’, started working with his father at the age of 16 and is still working today with his son, Chester as the Head Winemaker.

Opportunity to make your own bottle of wine!

The winery today has a staff of one hundred.  60-70% Of the wines are exported with their biggest exports going to the USA, then the UK and they see China as an emerging market.  Sales are also made to the Cunard line so look out for them on your next luxury cruise.

Senior wine maker, Jack

Once inside the blending bench we sat at tables where there were three bottles in front of us.  We were introduced to ‘d’Arry’ who gave us a brief overview of the d’Arenberg story, then the head winemaker, Jack, came and spoke to us about the wines.  We had to taste each of the wines in front of us, (I needed no encouragement), then write on a sheet of paper what we could taste like oak, cinnamon, licorice, floral notes etc.  Then we had to make a litre of wine writing down the percentages used from each bottle to make a blend.  When the wine was made we were given a bottle with a little dry ice in it to stop the oxidisation process and we filled the bottle then labeled it.  My bottle was sealed and I brought it home with me.

Inside the old stables

The tasting bench

A barrel for your wine

A few wines to try!


Bottling my wine

My ‘Hotly Spiced’ wine – it’s in limited release!

The whole experience was like being in a very earthy science lab where the experiments are a lot more fun.  After the wine was made we were taken out side where we were given sparkling wine.  The sparkling is the first sparkling wine the vineyard has made and they made it to celebrate their 2012 centenary.  The wine has been called Dadd and the label has the red line running diagonally through it a lot like the French champagne, Mumm!  We were given canapes from the restaurant to enjoy and I then went for an explore to see the beautiful restaurant, the stunning view from the restaurant and the tasting room where I bought my husband a bottle of The Laughing Magpie and The Wild Pixie that both retail for $30.00 a bottle.

Sparkling Dadd Wine and Hot Suffed Spanish Queen Olives with Lime Aioli

The original dairy

Fireplace in the tasting room

The tasting room

As I was making my purchases I was told it was time to board the bus and head back to Adelaide.  McLaren Vale is very beautiful and very much worth visiting.  I would highly recommend the ‘make your own wine’ workshop as it is very hands-on, a unique experience and a lot of fun.  But, if you can’t get there, try to find d’Arenberg Wines in your local bottle shop.

d’Arenberg Wines

Osborn Road, McLaren Vale SA 5171




  1. Magnolia Verandah says:

    Last time we were in Sth Australia we did the Barossa which was great – McLaren Vale next time – would love the experience of making your own wine.

  2. I envy you the chance to make your own wine. I’ve wanted to do it for ages. We have a number of shops where you can go make your own beer or wine but I’ve never had the courage to go for it. I’ve tried to get my nephew to go with me, now that he’s an adult but without any success. Oh well, one day I’ll have to ‘bite the bullet’ and do it on my own. Though I don’t know that I would be able to distinguish all those flavours … the tasting bench experience sounds too high stressful. 🙂

  3. It was a fun afternoon – pity my “blend” tasted like off vinegar. Whoops! I’ll stick to my day job.

  4. I’ve lived in Adelaide my whole life, been to the Vale dozens of times and yet this was my first attempt at blending my own and it was an absolute hoot! I’ve got my bottle safely stashed away for a special occasion, yum!

  5. What a fantastic experience! I’d be all about the wine tour!

  6. OMG … I’m very envious for many reasons .. but all have to do with wines.

    1) d’Arenberg is one of the favorites of my preferred party store.

    2) Blending events are awesome!

    Many thanks for sharing, although I’m sad to be worlds away.

  7. I’ve been wine tasting before but I’ve never actually been to a winery and learned about the wine-making process. how super cool!!

  8. Hmmmm, bottling your own wine…wonder if that is done in the U.S. In recent years, we’ve had numerous new wineries open here in southern Minnesota, several less than an hour’s drive from my home. No old buildings, though, like the ones you showcase here. The history of the buildings certainly adds to the appeal of the winery. So did you ever talk writing?

  9. What fun! FUN! I love the idea of bottling my own blend–haven’t seen that before. I also like the idea of those stuffed olives with lime aioli..

  10. Whew.. I was relieved that you chose the tour instead of the writer’s workshop! Your writing here is impeccable, so the wine tour is clearly the best use of your time:) What fun.. and canapes as well!! Lucky you!

  11. I see a LOT of Australian wines on the shelves here. Good for you! That place is charming.
    My grandfather used to make wine,(so they tell me); the family had vineyards in Italy…but alas…no one in the family is crushing grapes,(no, NEVER with feet! We never heard of anyone really doing that.YUCK!))

  12. How cool is that! I would definitely do the wine tour tasting as well, after all, you can take writing courses anytime!
    What a fun time you must have had, and I love the bottle your own idea; it sound so much better than making your own wine (which never has turned out for us, leave it to the experts).
    It would be very interesting to know how much this conference cost you to go on, you can email it to me if you prefer not to publicize.

  13. That certainly sounds like a fun day! I have a couple of cases of wine from a trip last year, I hope they’re the type of wine that ages well as it’s taking ages to get through them. Care to drop by for a drinkies Charlie?

  14. I used to love selling d’Arenburg wines, and still enjoy drinking them. Thanks for sharing a brief tour of the wines’ home!

  15. Before moving to East coast, we lived in a city called Temecula, in California. It is a wine country, and we lived about two miles away from the wineries that dotted the beautiful city. We frequented them a lot while there, and that is one aspect I miss like crazy here in East Coast.

    This post made me nostalgic. Loved it.

  16. So sad that I missed out on creating my own wine 🙂 That would’ve been fun!!! I wonder how they would sweeten my wine hahaha glad you had fun Charlie ~

  17. A love for Nature is rewarding in its own right but it can bring rewards, as well. A number of years ago, friends decided to take me for a drive so that I could see some of California during my visit. As luck would have it, we drove through Napa Valley and ended up at a vineyard, much like your did. I pity those who do not love wine .. er .. Nature as much as we do. 🙂

  18. Can’t wait to hear the report on your Hotly Spiced blend. I’m going to have to take Will back to Adelaide so we can tour the wineries.

  19. That wine tour was definitely the right choice!

  20. Wow, what a fun experience…and have your own wine 🙂
    Love the pictures Charlie…hope you are enjoying your week!

  21. What a fun experience! I’ve never made my own wine – I envy you! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your outing – thanks so much.

  22. Well who in the world would have chosen a stuffy conference room? Smart woman. Great pictures and I love the shirt you are wearing in the picture.

  23. This sounds so much fun in every way. I love the ambiance of the vineyard, and their creative approach. Fancy having your very own blend, all bottled to go!

  24. I think you made the right choice!

  25. Looks like you all had a brilliant afternoon, Charlie – next time I’ll come too!

  26. What a lovely visit! I think the Barossa has a good rep but McLaren Vale is just as worthwhile visiting 🙂

  27. Me too would have chosen the wine tour 😉 you seem to be very concentrated while bottling your wine, which flavors did you choose?
    The trip sounds like a lot of fun, thanks for sharing 🙂

  28. Such a lovely day and it was so fun playing with the dry ice and the wine!

  29. Thanks for sharing your lovely wine making & wine tasting adventure, dear Charlie! 🙂
    Your own wine: what a treat! 🙂 MMM!

  30. Aren berg is also an award winning 1Michelin starred restuarant here in Flanders where I held my marriage diner! 🙂

  31. What a fantastic idea – awesome!
    🙂 Mandy xo

  32. I would have loved this place. It screams, “I’m Australian” from one end to the other. Wine maker Jack is truly laid back. 🙂 I’d love to taste your wine.

  33. I loved seeing your experience, Charlie! I love touring vineyards and wineries. We have a great many vineyards in California and love California wines, but we frequently purchase Australian wines. And I have never had the chance to bottle my own wine! That sounds so fun, and I love your label! 🙂


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