South Australia Wine Regions
We went to Adelaide Australia to see the city. But we also went there as a jumping off point for wine regions. After all, te Adelaide area is like Australia’s Northern California…home to many of the country’s best winegrowing regions and wineries. In exploring wine regions the world over, we can recall few that are a beautiful as those of South Australia. Long vistas of rolling hills: much of it forest, interspersed with open grazing land or varied agricultural crops. Narrow roadways, meanwhile, were often lined with trees, often forming lovely canopies over the roadways. And another surprise: how little of the land was actually dedicated to grapes: as little as five percent in some regions. The entire scene reminded us of Tuscany—minus the ancient hill towns.
In addition to the beauty, we were there to sample wines in as many of these areas as we could in the too few days that we had allocated to them. Although we were not able to actually visit some of these (such as Clare Valley and Eden Valley), we did, through dinners and winery Cellar Door stops, taste a number of these wines. Our primary visits were in the Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Coonawara. Each region has its own character and specialties and its own blog post. This post is about Barossa Valley
Barossa Valley Wine Region
Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s premier wine regions and is northeast of Adelaide. Although its wineries are especially known for Shiraz, many wineries also do very good jobs with Cabernet, Merlot and a couple white varietals. As we had only one day in the valley, we couldn’t possibly visit that more than 100 wineries in the valley. We gratefully accepted the offer of Negociants International, a premium wine exporter, to schedule our full day of tastings
Yalumba Winery was founded in 1849 by a British brew master who struck it rich in the Australian goldfields and used the proceeds to start the winery. The winery has some of wonderful historic buildings, its own cooperage (to avoid the one-year lead time to get custom barrels from third parties) and amazing reserve rooms that hold not only Yalumba wines, but special wines from throughout the valley and Europe. The greatest treat, however, was sampling eight of the wineries’ finest wines. Among our favorites were:
- 2015 Pewsey Vale Vineyard Riesling;
- 2015 Yalumba Vine Vale Grenache and especially two super-premium wines;
- 2012 Yalumba “Octavius” Shiraz;
- 2013 Yalumba “The Signature” Cabernet/Shiraz blend); and
- one of the greatest price-value wines that we have had in a long time—a 2013 Yalumba “The Cigar” Cabernet.
Langmiel Winery occupies the some of the oldest buildings (from 1843) in the valley and produces wines from some of the oldest vines. We started our tasting with two nice, easy drinking wines:
- 2012 Sparkling Ondenc Shiraz Cuvee and
- 2016 Wattle Brae Eden Valley Dry Riesling
We took a brief tour of the historic buildings and especially the “Freedom” vineyard, the oldest surviving Shiraz vines in the valley (from 1843). Though the tour, we learned the history of wine growing in the area, including the 1980s, when so much low-priced fruit was being produced that neither growers or winemakers could make money; and how the government responded by paying growers to pull vines and to not plant new ones for seven years (which restricted production for a total of about 17 years as it takes grapes time to produce good wine) and how growers ended up replanting lower quantities of higher quality grapes on the best land.
We then visited the reserve tasting room in the former water tank for some very enjoyable wines:
- 2010 “The Fifth Wave” Old Vine Grenache (70 year-old vines);
- 2010 “Jackamans” Cab (35 year vines);
- 2014 “Orphans Bank” Shiraz (70 year vines);
- The 100 year-old vine, 2014 Pure Eden Shiraz (all fruit from which is from the Eden Valley) and;
- The greatest treat of all, and the wine that we so anticipated after having it in the U.S.—2014 “Freedom 1843” Shiraz from the Freedom vineyard.
We tasted a number of nice wines at Torbeck:
- 2014 Steading Blanc (a refreshing blend of viognier, Marsanne and Roussane);
- 2015 Cuvee Juveniles (an unoaked Grenache, Mataro, Shiraz blend);
- a big 2015 Barossa Valley “Woodcutters” Shiraz;
- a lighter, more subtle 2013 Single-Vineyard Eden Valley “The Gask” Shiraz; and
- 2013 Barossa Valley Shiraz (with 1.5 percent viognier) “Run Rig, the wine we particularly came to taste.
We have enjoyed Henschke’s wines in the past but were very disappointed in our tasting at the winery. Although we sampled 11 different wines, we only found two to be moderately interesting:
- 2015 Peggy’s Hill Riesling; and
- 2014 Tappa Pass shiraz.
This stop was all the more disappointing since Henschke produces one of the most renowned shiraz in the entire valley: “Hill of Grace”.
Between tastings, we took brief opportunities to at least catch glimpses of some of the valley’s charming German-influenced towns with their pretty churches, homes and bluestone commercial buildings. These towns include Gawler, Angaston and especially the town of Tanunda, where we spent the night and had dinner.
Barossa Valley Restaurants
Negociants had also given us some great restaurant suggestions. These ended up being two lovely meals to complement a very nice day of tasting.
- Vintners Bar & Grill, where we began with fried local olives with cacciatoirie sausage, chili and lemon; roasted quail with charred endive, smoked beetroot and hummus; and the especially good seared yellow fin tuna with smoked pork hock consommé, peas and greens.
- FermentAsian, a phenomenally good and phenomenally popular Vietnamese restaurant with one of the best and most extensive wine lists in the valley. Our multi-course meal consisted of betel leaves with sticky Barossa Hampshire pork; grilled quail with pomegranate sauce; lightly fried Hanoi spring rolls with pork, herbs and Vietnamese dipping sauce; and yellow curry with Mulloway (a local, mild-tasting, firm white fish). Given the amazing wine list, we were pleasantly surprised that our very knowledgeable server recommended a relatively inexpensive, dry Clare Valley Riesling (2015 David Franz) with our meal—a lovely wine that did indeed complement our dishes beautifully. Then, when we were looking for one additional glass, she recommended a 2016 Clare Valley wine from Jim Barry was another very welcome surprise and came from assyrtiko, a Greek varietal that we had never heard of.
Barossa Valley Hotel
We stayed at a small B&B called Barossa House in Tanunda. The location was perfect for exploring the Barossa wine region. New owners (Sophia and her husband and little boy) had recently purchased the property and were restoring and expanding the house. Sophia immediately takes over and makes you feel like one of the family,. She is very gracious and introduces everyone to each other. We had the deluxe room upstairs which included a small sitting area outside of the bedroom where one could watch TV and Netflix. The king bed felt a little used, but was still OK. Nice shower. Bathroom had a heat lamp to warm you us. Our balcony overlooked the property and had 2 sets of doors t let in the cool breeze. But we also had a/c if we wanted. Full breakfast was included. You started with cereal, fruit and toast. Our hot breakfast that day was eggs benedict. Overall, very enjoyable and a great place to stay.