A Weekend in the Barossa Valley
By Steve Leszczynski
Australia’s most recognisable wine region is undoubtedly the Barossa Valley. Blockbuster shiraz from these vines have made waves around the world, but its varieties like riesling, mataro (also known as mourvedre), and grenache are now making plenty of noise in the right places.
I spoke to Judy Watson, Schild Estate’s Family Proprietor and Brand Ambassador, some time ago. She described the region simply as this, “The Barossa is like a funnel – 25km wide at one end, 8km at the other. Night temperatures drop from gully breezes which keeps the southern end cool. This cooling assists flavour intensity.”
The Barossa’s landscape is made up of sub-regions which all possess their own subtleties. The Eden Valley, for one, is all about cool and charm. Many Barossa winemakers source fruit from these hills. Perched 380m above at the warmer northern end and 500m at the southern cooler end, it produces wines which are delicately fragrant while also maintaining structure. Riesling from the Eden Valley is destined to satisfy.
As much as the Barossa has some iconic brands known worldwide, here’s a few you should get to know. You may just find a new favourite and for very good reason.
1000 – Start your journey in the southern Barossa town of Lyndoch. Head to Schild Estate which celebrated 150 years in 2016. A family business through and through, the Schild’s own much of the land in the area – some 500 acres! Be sure to taste a ‘Barossa Berocca,’ a cute term used by Barossa locals for sparkling shiraz. Traditionally consumed in Australia on Christmas day, delicious sparkling shiraz wines like these have far more appeal than to be pigeon holed for one day out of 365. A versatile drink, it can be partnered with a range of foods, enjoyed as an aperitif, or even as a night cap with some chocolate. Be sure to taste the Edgar Reserve which comes off 100-year-old bush vines. But the jewel in the Schild Estate crown is by far their Moorooroo Vineyard shiraz. Four rows survived the vine pull scheme in the 1980s – these treasured trunks are some 171 years old. The resultant wine is a ride through pleasure country. A superb drop with excellent ageing pedigree, the $100 price tag is awfully inexpensive when the age of the vines is considered.
1130 – A quick 15km drive north will see you arrive at Turkey Flat. Drenched in history, they too have shiraz vines dating back to 1847. Relax and enjoy a tasting in the original 1860s butchers shop owned by the Schulz family on the Bethany Road Estate. Turkey Flat stole the limelight at the Melbourne Wine Show in 2017 when they were awarded the coveted Jimmy Watson Trophy for their 2016 grenache – the first ever grenache to take the prize. You’d be a genius if you could dig up a bottle from somewhere now, but rest assured, the 2017 is soon to be released and will no doubt prove just as popular. A bargain find is the shiraz. It’s not uncommon for some of the fruit from the 1847 vines to find their way in here. A classy expression of Barossa shiraz with the tasty factor cranked high. Lick your lips and check out the mataro too and get a cuddle from the inside. Fresh and fragrant, its medium body curves have some serious gravitational pull.
1300 – Food! For a quick bite, head into Tanunda and grab a pie or go one better and have a wurst and sauerkraut roll at Die Barossa Wurst House in the main street. Heaven!
1345 – Feeling part of a wine and its story makes the experience all the more enjoyable. Be it a time, a place, or even a cellar door tasting - once you get hooked, you’re in. Here’s a piece of history worth immersing yourself in knee deep. Soul Growers have 17 growers they call upon which makes their wines unique in so many ways. Eleven of these growers are the fifth generation - could any other winery in the region boast such diversity and history? Among their diverse range, their Equilibrium GSM is a beauty. The youngest contributing vines in this wine are 47 years of age (mataro). Not a bad pedigree you’d agree. But behold The Gobell shiraz - a bright star in the lineup. 2016 is the first release, and damn, what a fine entrance it has made. Sublime! From sixth generation growers too. Go here and embrace history with a heartbeat.
1500 – Small operators like Yelland & Papps are golden in regions such as the Barossa. It’s small establishments such as these where, when you taste, you will more than likely be served by the winemaker. Only the second owners of their 1800s workers cottage and garden, husband and wife team Michael and Susan Papps’ wines will mesmerise. Worth noting, they have deservedly received the Best Cellar Door Award for 2015, 2016 & 2017. That’s a fair effort for a small family operation. No one makes the white variety roussanne sing as beautifully as Michael does, yet his hands-off approach to the Second Take label sheds light on creative and considerate winemaking including a wicked vermentino. But please be sure to make time for the grenache – you won’t regret it.
Close out the day with a ten minute drive to Mengler’s Hill to watch the sunset. A perfect place to crack a tinnie or sample something picked up at a winery along the way.
Dinner – Little introduction is needed for FermentAsian. Asian fusion at its finest. Book a table and enjoy the ride. The perfect end to the day.
1030 – I stumbled across Hayes Family Wines a couple of years ago, and at the end of 2017, I happily declared this to be a brand to watch. It seems other scribes have made similar claims since. These super smart wines are made by Andrew Seppelt. Owner Brett Hayes won’t settle on second best and has access to some terrific parcels of fruit. Most wines are modestly priced too and a keen eye will dive head first into the beauty within the range. The brand new cellar door has been built within a historical 100 year old shed. Smack bang in the middle of the 70-year-old vineyard, floor to ceiling glass walls give the sense you are in the vineyard as you taste the wines. Again, tasting experiences in such small establishments ensure you will taste with the winemaker or owner. Walking tours and barrel tastings with the winemaker can also be arranged. Open Friday to Sundays, it’s well worth a trip. If part of a large group, book ahead to avoid disappointment. Splash some of the super attractive and devilishly moreish Winemaker’s Selection grenache into your glass – fermented in a ceramic egg. Then charge hand over fist at the Regional Series mataro. One for the boot and a dark place at home is the Reserve shiraz which will reward patience immeasurably.
1145 – Founded in 1999 by two friends with a passion for great wine, Two Hands Wines aspires to showcase the diversity of Australian shiraz. Their aim is to highlight the nuances of fruit expression of the variety from six diverse wine growing regions across South Australia and Victoria. The name Two Hands was inspired by the personal, artisanal and ‘hands-on’ approach to the craft of winemaking and wine growing taken by Michael Twelftree and his team. The Cellar Door is a different experience to most in Barossa, with guests offered a guided and structured tasting through a selection of the vast THW portfolio for a modest $10 fee. The team picks 8-10 wines per week to show, and guests are given personalised hosted tastings at the bench – this allows the host to tell the story behind the wine and quirky labels.
A cool point of difference is the ‘Vineyard Experience’ tours – tours of their best Barossa vineyards in a 4x4 Land Rover Defender to taste the wines in the vineyards that they came from. Here’s a peek! For a great example of a solid Barossa shiraz that won’t break the bank, swirl the Gnarly Dudes around in your glass. But if depth is what you seek, reach out to the bucket loads of dense fruit delivered in the Holy Grail shiraz.
1300 – Lunch is calling. After a couple of days on the road, a long lunch beckons. Nowhere is better suited to task than the satisfying and relaxed vibes of Vintners Bar and Grill. A superb modern Australian menu is matched by an equally impressive drinks list to quench every thirst. Stay a while – you deserve it.
1530 – Yalumba have access to some amazing parcels of fruit. Take the Tri-Centenary grenache vineyard planted in 1889 as an example. It’s here winemaker Kevin Glastonbury changed his philosophy to making grenache during the wet and much maligned 2011 vintage. A decision to pick the fruit earlier has enabled his wines to express bright, natural acidity whilst also being framed by delicious savoury characters. With food-friendliness now such a focus of the consumer, this lighter style is now being produced, highlighted by vibrant fruit and fine spices - it works a treat. If rosé is your thing, check the Block 2. Expect to find bright fruit, crunchy acidity with a creamy texture and nutty undertow making this beauty perfect for picnics, barbeques or a beachside rendezvous. But for Yalumba’s resident ‘storyteller’ Jane Ferrari, nothing beats the Paradox shiraz. Why? See for yourself. She also holds a soft spot for The Signature. “It’s like a liquid Cherry Ripe,” she says fondly.
After two days on the road with endless laughs, the making of new friends and uncovering a few gems, the final parting act is to wrap your arms around the designated driver for navigating your course of indulgence. Surely a bottle or two should be left on the back seat…
To read more of Steve’s work, check out Q Wine Reviews!