South Australia: Barossa Valley

South Australia is to Australia what California is to the USA: the wine state, it crushes an increasing proportion, already almost half, of every vintage and houses all the most important wine and vine research organizations. Adelaide, the state capital, is fittingly surrounded by vineyards. The landscape on the 33-mile (55km) drive northeast to South Australia’s answer to the Napa Valley, Barossa Valley, is filled with vines. Founded by German-speaking immigrants from Silesia in what is now Poland, much in the Barossa Valley, including a sense of community and an appetite for hard work and Wurst, is still Germanic to this day.

Barossa is Australia’s biggest quality wine district. It follows the North Para River for almost 20 closely planted miles (nearly 30km), and spreads eastward into the next valley, Eden Valley (see overleaf), from the 750ft (230m) altitude nlT.ymlnch to 1,80011 (550m) ill the east Barossa Ranges. The Barossa Zone encompasses these two contiguous wine regions, so a wine labeled just “Barossa’ may be made from a blend of Eden Valley and Barossa Valley grapes.

Although nights art: cool (much cooler than McLaren Vale, for instance), Barossa summers are hot and dry. But the region’s rich legacy of mature, drop-rooted, unirrigated bush-vines of which around 200 acres (80ha) are over 100 years old – are well adapted to this climate. Because there is a stringently imposed quarantine. South Australia is yet to be invaded by the phylloxera louse.somostvinesareungrafted and are planted directly into the soil, many of I hem cuttings from older vines.

Such vines can produce the most concentrated form of what has become one of the world’s most, distinctive wine styles, Barossa Shiraz. Rich and chocolaty, spicy and never shy.

BAROSSA WINE COUNTRY

Barossa
Barossa

It is quite possible that when this map is updated for the next edition the names of some of the noted vineyards will have become official subregions.

Seppeltsfield. built of course by the Seppelt family, was Australia's biggest winery in 1900. It has been restored os the home of Barossa Valley's leading collection of fortified wines, many of them delicious antiques. This is the only producer in the world a hie to release a 100-year-old wine every year-albeit by the individual thimbleful.
Seppeltsfield. built of course by the Seppelt family, was Australia’s biggest winery in 1900. It has been restored os the home of Barossa Valley’s leading collection of fortified wines, many of them delicious antiques. This is the only producer in the world a hie to release a 100-year-old wine every year-albeit by the individual thimbleful.

These wines can range from unctuously alcoholic elixirs lo a more modern idea: earlier picked wines designed to showcase the valley’s many different terroirs. Some Barossa winemakers add tannins as well as acid, however, so the typical Barossa Shiraz is a demanding mouthful, especially in youth. Instead of the long post-fermentation maceration, those Bordeaux producers give their wines while extracting color and tannins, Barossa roils aro typically encouraged to finish their fermentation in American oak barrels, imbuing them with a heady Bourbon sweetness and smoothness. Although here again, the Australian winemaker’s constant quest for evolution can be seen in the increasing use of more carefully coopered barrels of both American and, in some cases, French oak. Blends, whether inspired by the Kh6nc or Iberia, are increasingly popular.

Big business

In sheer volume. Ran №ss is dominated by the large subsidiaries of even larger global corporations. Treasury Wine Estates, for example, owns Tenfolds (which blends its flagship Change here from wines produced ail over SouLh Australia), Wolf Blass, and a host of other brands. French pastis maker Pernod Rieardow owns the old Orlando, whose most famous brand by far is Jacob’s Creek, named after a trickle near Rowland Flat. The biggest family-owned company, Yalumba, is based in Angaston on the border between Barossa anti-Eden valleys, but there are many others of varying sizes. Those range from Peter Lehmann, who virtually rescued the reputation of old-vine Barossa Shiraz single-handedly in the late 1080s when Cabernet was much more fashionable (but whose company was eventually taken over by Donald Hess of Switzerland in 2003), down to a host of ambitious winemakers keen to exploit the region’s pockets of old vines, and also lo play with alternative grape varieties.

There are old Grenache vines, too (capable of even higher alcohols) and old Mouredere, long called Mataro. “GSM” blends of both grapes with the ubiquitous Shiraz are popular. Seruillon.some of it Barossas very own pink-skinned clone was until recently more common than Chardonnay and can produce stunningly rich white wines. Cabernet Sauvignon can shine when planted on the most favored dark grey-brown soils but Shiraz is more dependable, summer in and summer out, especially on the clay and limestone soils of the valley.

Some of the Barossa's finest from names old (Lehmann and Kalleskel. new (First Drops 2% of Tempranillo in the Shiraz} and middle-aged (Torbreck and John Duval, who made the iconic Penfolds Grange before going solo).
Some of the Barossa’s finest from names old (Lehmann and Kalleskel. new (First Drops 2% of Tempranillo in the Shiraz} and middle-aged (Torbreck and John Duval, who made the iconic Penfolds Grange before going solo).

Some of the most admired Shirazes come from the valley’s northwest and central reaches around Rbcnczer, Tanumla, Moppa, Kalinina, Greenock. Marananga. and Stone well, where ancient stocks of dry-farmed Shiraz can yield wines of real complexity. However, such a high proportion of vines is owned by growers, rather than winemakers, that there is a delicate tension between grape prices and quality. Most of these ancient vines have been farmed all their lives by the same family, and many are hidden from view of the thousands of tourists who flood the valley every week Increasingly, the names of districts or subregions and even growers are cited on labels as producers seek to tease out the geographical distinctions within the valley and articulate tile history and heritage behind the vines. In time the Barossa Grape and Wine Association’s Barossa Grounds project may result in these distinctions being formally recognized as subregions, as High Eden in the Eden Valley already is (sec overleaf).