Catherine Lowe explores the wonders of the Barossa Valley.
The Barossa Valley is located about one hour’s drive north of South Australia’s capital, Adelaide. It lies on a north-south plain from 180 to 290 metres altitude, in three sections – north and south of Tanunda Creek and from Lyndoch to the hills. Each area possessesdifferent microclimates and soil characteristics.
Today around 500 growers, some now sixth generation Barossa, produce an average of 55,000 tonnes of grapes each vintage; from approximately 7,000 hectares of vineyard.
The Barossa produces just 60,000 tonnes of premium fruit – about 5% of the national crush – but its historical contribution and disproportionate presence in super-premium categories makes it Australia’s most influential region. It has everything from the headquarters of key companies such as Southcorp, Orlando and Beringer Blass, right through to tin shed family establishments which crush just 20 or 30 tonnes.
Opening next month is the Au$24.7 million (£8.5 million) National Wine Centre of Australia in Adelaide’s botanic gardens, providing interpretive, educational and entertainment facilities, representing the country’s wine regions. The Centre will feature an exhibition gallery boasting multimedia technology, where visitors can learn about the role wine has played in history, the position of Australian wine in today’s international market and the relationship between food and wine. There will also be an extensive wine tasting gallery where wines from all the regions of Australia can be sampled and purchased.
The most expensive bottle of Barossa Shiraz cost Au$8,000 (£2,750), and was bought by Bob McLean of St Hallett at the Barossa Wine Show Auction in 1997. The wine was an Imperial of Barossa Shiraz blended from Penfolds Grange, Saltram No 1, Henschke Mt Edelstone, Peter Lehmann Stonewell, Yalumba Octavius, St Hallett Old Block and Grant Burge Meshach. The wine was reoffered to UK cricket legend Ian Botham’s Leukemia Foundation auction.
The Barossa Vintage Festival is held every other year starting on Easter Monday. Held for the first time in 1947 as a post-World War II thanksgiving, it was also designed to re-unite the Anglo-Germanic community who were bitterly divided. Fifty years later, the week-long festival is a major tourist attraction and a chance to let off steam at the end of vintage. During the celebrations wine lovers are encouraged to immerse themselves in every aspect of this fascinating industry from vineyard tours and varietal tastings to lavish dinners and wine auctions, and the good news is that no prior experience is required.
Events include wine tasting, cellar doors, food and wine matching sessions, cooking schools to museum tastings, vineyard walks and winemaker lunches. Some Barossa wineries will even be giving visitors a chance to taste the fermenting grape juice direct from the barrel as a sneak preview of the new vintage. (call the Festival Hotline for more information on Free-call 1800 812 662).