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Wine regions - Barossa Valley

Barossa Valley   South Australia

The Barossa Valley, with its strong German heritage is a place full of character. Most renowned for its opulent styles of Shiraz, the region also produces fine examples of Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon and Chardonnay.

The Barossa Valley is Australia's best-known wine region, both nationally and internationally, and is South Australia's most visited tourist destination. Only 70km North of the beautiful city of Adelaide, the Barossa Valley has a unique beauty of its own. The vine-covered plains and hills surround the charming townships of German heritage buildings, and the Lutheran churches with their distinctive square spires dot the rural landscape throughout.

Barossa Ranges

View of the Barossa Ranges from the Western Ridge

Originally named by Colonel Light as the Barrosa Valley (after a region in Spain - the "Hill of Roses" - where he fought in the Spanish Peninsula War), the name Barossa was a corruption due to the general illiteracy of the times.

During the 1840s Germany, Lutherans suffered religious persecution, forcing them to escape to the newly founded colony of South Australia, where many of their countrymen had already formed farming communities throughout the Adelaide Hills. George Fife Angas (a Scottish businessman living in the Barossa ranges, and namesake to the town of Angaston), Pastor August Kavel (a Lutheran pastor famed for influencing the German heritage of the region), and Johannes Menge (a German mineralogist who surveyed the region and declared it ideal for viticulture) helped the earliest settlers move from Klemzig (now a suburb of Adelaide) up to the Valley.

The new settlers were quick to establish farms, particularly wheat, wool and wine. The coal-rich settlement of nearby Kapunda provided a market for the fresh produce, as Adelaide was too far by foot or wagon to carry perishable goods.

Chateau Yalumba

Chateau-style architecture typifies Australia's
oldest wine region. Yalumba was founded in 1849

Australia's oldest Shiraz vineyard is planted in the Barossa at the Langmeil Winery, one of the earliest established in the region. Nuriootpa, Tanunda, Seppeltsfield, Stockwell, Light Pass, and Greenock are towns in the North of the Valley where viticulture is the major industry. In the cooler South of the Valley, Rowland Flat, Lyndoch, and Williamstown contribute to some of Australia's premium wine labels. And in the hills, the charming town of Angaston provides the commercial centre to Pewsey Vale, Vine Vale, Penrice and Bethany. Bethany and Langmeil are the earliest settlements in the region, dating back to 1842.

Well known names such as Jacobs Creek, Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Peter Lehmann, Saltram, Yalumba, and Seppelts are based in the Barossa Valley and are among the eighty-plus wineries and five hundred-plus grape growers that contribute to the on-going reputation of the region.

Shiraz

The Barossa Valley is best known for its Shiraz. Due to strict quarantine restrictions in the 1800s, the vineyards did not suffer from phylloxera or the many other diseases that have wiped out other wine regions during the last two hundred years. Thus, Australia's oldest Shiraz vines still live on in the Barossa from low yielding dry grown bush vines that produce highly concentrated, lush, complex, rich, intense, and full-bodied wines. Softened by some oak and resplendent with juicy berry fruit, dark bitter chocolate and slight minty characteristics, Barossa Shiraz is renowned throughout the world as one of the best.

Old Shiraz vine

Old vines produce some of the
famed Barossa Shiraz

Grenache

Like the Shiraz, Barossa Grenache vines are some of the oldest in Australia. Originally grown for fortified styles this requirement ensured its existence during the Vine Pull of the 1980s where much of it was lost. Now becoming a more popular variety, Old Vine Grenache is highly sought after and highly prized.

Mourvedre

This other classic French varietal was saved from the Vine Pull of the 1980s for much the same reason as the Grenache - to supply the long-established fortified wine industry. Now a popular blend with Shiraz and Grenache, mature Barossan Mourvedre is attracting high prices.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernets from the relatively warm Barossa depict the typical savoury and varietal plum fruit. However, most winemakers from the Barossa blend this variety with Cabernets from the cooler regions such as Coonawarra and Eden Valley to add elegance and longevity.

The Barossa produces big rich wines

The Barossa produces big rich wines
under expansive skies which can be
experienced at over 60 cellar doors
criss-crossing the Valley.
Photo: Rolf Binder Wines

Semillon

Considered by many to be the king of the Barossan whites, these Semillon wines tend to be slightly oaked to add body, complexity and colour. Warm days during the growing season, and the wide expanse of sky within the Valley, allow easy ripening of the fruit to ensure varietal flavour and freshness.

Riesling

Many wineries of the Barossa take advantage of the superior Riesling fruit grown through Pewsey Vale in the hills, and the neighbouring Eden Valley. Citrus and floral characters dominate the nose with a refreshing acidity to add texture to this elegant style of wine.

Chardonnay

Another Barossan favourite due to its market popularity and versatility. An early ripening variety this warm region has no trouble filling each berry with varietal character. The climatic variations throughout the region mean that full-bodied and full-flavoured wines can be produced from valley floor fruit, while the high hill and southern end fruit tends to be produced as a crisp light bodied style.

Fortifieds

Long before still table wines became popular with the Australian market and palate, Port and Sherry styles dominated the grape-wine industry. Most of these styles of wine are still made by many wineries, and the brandy spirit used to fortify them is also made locally. Award winning sherry styles are still made to the traditional Spanish recipe at Seppelts, and Penfolds "Club" is an Australian favourite from the Valley.

 

Six trails to cheese and wine heaven

Six trails to
cheese and wine heaven

Take the trail and discover the wonderful wines and cheeses of the Barossa Valley. There are six trails to choose from (or make up your own trail).

Starting at the historic town of Angaston, you pick up your cooler bag filled with four cheeses, a wooden cheese board fashioned from old oak barrels, a cheese knife, some locally made dukkah, a map of the region with the Trails laid out, a list of wine and cheese matches, and discount vouchers for local food vendors and cafes.

Now you are set to take your self-guided tour of the Barossa Valley, tasting wines at 33 wineries and matching cheeses from Barossa Valley Cheese Company and Ballycroft Artisan Cheeses. There are also other locally made foods available for purchase at the various wineries.

The Barossa Cheese and Wine Trail is a regional first, established by wine and cheese afficinados, Julie Donnellan from Rolf Binder Wines and Victoria Glaetzer from the Barossa Valley Cheese Company. Start the trail at the Cheesecellar, 67b Murray Street, Angaston.

 

Festivals

The wineries of the Barossa Valley are particularly good at throwing a party and consequently, there is a festival or celebration of some kind in the region every month. Click onto Barossa Valley events in the index at the right to find out more.

Food

The German refugees who first settled in the Barossa Valley brought much of their food culture with them, which has lived on, and become integral to the identity of the region. Some foods that are cherished through the Barossa have since been lost to the original country of origin; such is the passion of the locals to their food culture. Mettwurst, Liverwurst, and other German styles of smoked and preserved meats; cheeses; pickled onions and gherkins; sauces and mustards; and baked goods are just a few of the food industries established in the Barossa Valley.

A regional organisation, "Food Barossa" has been established in order to help local producers develop their products and business structures, and market their wares. Many of these products can also be seen, tasted and purchased at the Barossa Farmers Market at Vintners sheds on the Angaston Road every Saturday from 7am to 11am.

Para Road Wine Trail

Harvest time: late February to late April

 

Sites with more information:


Article and photography by Julie Donnellan
Preface paragraph Toni Paterson
January 2006

© Wine Diva