is this? Well, some excellent promotion over the years has helped,
it is the home of Penfolds Grange, plus there are a myriad of
An important factor
in this is the fact that the Barossa Valley is our most important
wine region. Just look at the names based there, a who’s who
of large quality producers, mixed with some of our most stunning
boutique wineries. Any list would have to include Wolf Blass,
Penfolds, Orlando, Seppelts, Peter Lehmann, Yalumba, and Krondorf,
who between them produce some 50% of all of Australia’s wine!
Add to this the important boutique producers like Charles Melton,
Rockfords, Henschke, St Hallett, Greenock Creek, Torbreck and
others and you can see that this is the region most people start
with when discovering Australian wine.
However, the real reason lies in the wines themselves, as they
offer a unique style of wine coupled with remarkably consistent
… well, the Barossa producers all make wines designed to please.
Pleasing the customer should be obvious, but it appears that not all wine
producers aim to please the consumer all the time! In the Barossa they take all
those many hours of sunshine and clean air and turn it into wine, all flavour,
ripeness and health in a bottle. Many of the wines are made not for deep
thinking and considering, but for enjoying. They are fun wines, upfront, tasty
and enjoyable, made to be slurped down with good food and good friends. A
generalisation … of course, but not far off the truth I think.
The style does emphasise two things however, very ripe fruit (indeed its hard to
grow fruit there that does not get fully ripe) and American oak. At its best
this produces wines chock full of fruit flavour with hints of chocolate and
vanilla, often at great bargain prices. It can occasionally be overdone, over
ripe and over oaked, but these wines are slowly lessening in number I think,
most producers seem to get it about right most of the time.
the top end the quality is amazing, Grange, Old Block, Nine
Popes, Run Rig and many others prove that the Barossa makes
world class wine. However the valley makes wines of an extremely
high standard across the board, and at almost every price level,
from Grange down to Krondorf Shiraz. Indeed, it is hard to find
a Barossa Valley wine that is not clean, well made and enjoyable,
and the range of exceptional quality wines is expanding annually.
Barossa Valley is some 45 minutes drive north west of Adelaide,
and just far enough inland to be away from the moderating effect
of the sea enjoyed by McLaren Vale. On average it is also a
couple of degrees warmer than Adelaide and has long, dry summers.
It is a climate suitable for grape ripening, ..so ripe grapes
is what you get, cool climate varieties do not work, and you
can safely ignore most Riesling, all Pinot Noir, all Sauvignon
Blanc and look for wines emphasising fruit and flavour.
… look for flavour,
richness and ripeness, so Semillon, Chardonnay on the riper
end, Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot and ports are the staples.
Semillon … Semillon
is a surprisingly successful variety in this region. However,
do not look for wines like those from the Hunter Valley, these
are on the riper end of the spectrum, often oak aged, and designed
to be enjoyed while young. They are in the main excellent, and
make a terrific alternative to the ever-present Chardonnay!
Enjoy them with richer seafood dishes, they are great with poultry
and can handle the rich sauces that other wine styles can't.
Chardonnay … the Chardonnays from the Barossa are wines of
richness and ripeness, often barrel fermented, and they are
designed to be enjoyed young. You should expect flavours in
the riper peach and melon range, often with buttery flavours
and usually in American oak. Very attractive drinking when young,
and again, able to cope with rich seafood and poultry, even
some char grilled flavours.
Orlando St Hilary
Grenache … this is Grenache country, indeed the Grenache revolution
started here with Charles Melton and his Nine Popes, and continues
strongly today. The Barossa has some of Australia's, indeed
the world's, best and oldest Grenache vineyards. These are mostly
bush vines and un-irrigated providing small crops of very intensely
flavoured grapes. Most of these used to be blended with Shiraz
and sometimes Mourvedre, but increasingly they are 100% Grenache.
Terrific wines full of rich upfront flavours, most of which
won't cellar, or at least do not need to be cellared. Nine Popes
is a notable exception. Drink these with rich meat dishes, casseroles,
hearty dishes, game meats and char gilled meats and barbeques.
Charles Melton Nine Popes
Turkey Flat Grenache Noir
Yalumba Bushvine Grenache
Penfolds Old Vines
Cabernet … Barossa Valley Cabernets really have more to do with
their region than with classic Cabernet flavours. The sunshine
wins out against the variety I think. Don't expect many of these
wines to mimic Bordeaux, they can't, indeed I don't think they
want to. The wines will be all about rich fruit, flavours in
the blackberry and plum group, American oak usually, with ripe
tannins and medium term cellaring life. The best of these create
a lovely chocolate/mocha edge to the wine, very attractive and
appealing if not overdone. Drink with lamb, beef, your favourite
red meat dish really.
Henschke Cyril Henschke
Shiraz … the Barossa Valley and Shiraz go together. Many vineyards
of very old vines, dry grown grapes, small yields and American
oak create richness, flavour, length, aging ability, spice,
chocolate and much more. These wines are identified by their
personality, fruit and more fruit, noticeable oak and aromas
that leap out of the glass, they are real 'in your face' styles
of wines. Drink these with red meats, they are great with beef
Try (well, where do I start and end?)
St Hallett Old Block
Henschke Mt Edelstone and Hill of Grace
Grange (although these days this is much more a multi regional
Rockford Basket Press
Veritas Hanisch Vineyard
Greenock Creek 7 Acre Shiraz
Torbreck Run Rig
Dutschke St. Jakobi and Oscar Semmler
Merlot … a recent arrival as a varietal wine but it shows great
promise. Again expect rich upfront flavours and designed to
be enjoyed while young.
Ports ..these are tawny port styles; solera blends most of
them. However they have been made for generations and so the
stocks of older wines are outstanding. Tawny brown in colour,
these wines are amazing value for money, incredibly complex,
rich yet often light, and the perfect end to a meal
Gavin is the manager of the Australian
Wine Centre (a large collection of affordable, rare and
cult Australian wines) and hosts the very popular Auswine
Forum (An online discussion forum about Australian wine)