Wine country South Australia part 1
The Barossa Valley in South Australia is lined with world-famous wineries and it’s just an hour from Adelaide. Cate Langmuir finds rich rewards
One great reason to travel to Adelaide in South Australia this winter is that the city plays host to one of the three major gay festivals in Oz. Feast Festival, held every November, kicks off with a Pride march and goes on to showcase the region’s best cabaret, film, sports, and even boasts its own mini Bearstock.
When you’ve had your fill of queer-themed events, your thoughts might turn to another of the major attractions in South Australia, something that has made the region world famous â€“ wine. Of the three winemaking areas here â€“ McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Barossa Valley â€“ the Barossa is easily the best known and is most conveniently set up for a few days of touring and tasting.
An hour’s drive north east of Adelaide, the Barossa enjoys a Mediterranean climate where grapes ripen easily, something the German settlers recognised when they planted vines in the 1830s. Renowned for its Shiraz, the valley is now home to such greats of Australian winemaking as Wolf Blass (with its state-of-the-art facility), Penfolds (leave with your own special blend) and Jacob’s Creek (where you can picnic by the creek where William Jacob originally settled in 1840). But what makes the Barossa a wine traveller’s paradise is the array of boutique wineries, with over 80 cellar doors for tasting and buying direct.
Coming into the valley, you pass through villages as diversely named as Greenock and Nuriootpa (an Aboriginal word for meeting place). Marananga was originally named Gnadenfrei by the early settlers â€“ it means â€œfreed by the grace of Godâ€ in German but the name was changed during WWl â€“ and its Lutheran church still stands on the main road. If you’re there on a Tuesday night you can listen to the local brass band rehearse.
Here, with sweeping views across the Barossa from its hilltop site, you’ll also find The Louise. The water feature at the entrance gives you some idea of owner Jim Carreker’s uncompromising approach to excellence in hospitality, containing as it does some 28,000 glass pieces, many of them hand blown at Adelaide glass studio, the Jam Factory. You won’t find a more comfortable base from which to explore the valley, boasting hideaway suites and the beacon of fine dining, Appellation, where chef Ryan Edwards creates a daily five-course Tasting Menu to pair with distinctive Barossa wines. You probably won’t have to introduce yourself to director of food and beverage Peter Little, because as well as carefully developing Appellation’s impressive cellar, he works the room, chatting with guests and dispensing advice on the best places to go.
The Louise is the kind of place you never want to leave. There’s hand-blown glass sculpture in every suite, touch-of-a-button controls for every gadget imaginable, spa baths with stylish outdoor shower annexes and breakfast brought to the door in silver tiffin boxes â€“ a cheese and tomato tartlet one morning, honey-baked peaches with toasted almonds another.
If you can drag yourself away, there are scenic driving trails to follow, criss-crossing the straw-coloured hills. Be prepared to go â€œoff pisteâ€ as many of the wineries are tucked away down dusty tracks.
One of The Louise’s nearest neighbours is Whistler Wines and I tasted their Reserve Semillon with dinner. It’s a scenic little spot with corrugated iron sculptures dotted around the grounds and a mini-zoo.
Tucked away on nearby Neldner Road is Two Hands, who are proprietor Michael Twelftree and winemaker Matt Wenk. Starting its first vintage in 2000 with just 17 tonnes of fruit, by 2010 it had made Wine Spectator’s top 100 eight years running. The premium Picture Series is packaged under names such as Gnarly Dudes Shiraz, Yesterday’s Hero Grenache and Fly By Nighters Vintage Port. While away the hours tasting the lot on Two Hands’ shady terrace.
Torbreck on Roennfeldt Road, near Marananga, is named after the Scottish forest where founder Dave Powell worked as a lumberjack to raise funds to pursue his favourite hobby, visiting European wineries. His wines are equally evocative â€“ Highland Fling and The Laird (Shiraz), Runrig (a Shiraz Viognier) and The Pict (Mataro).
Rolf Binder, a Hungarian immigrant who arrived in 1950 with his Austrian wife Franziska, began a dynasty of fine winemakers. In 1955 they bought a winery and named it Veritas, and it’s now run by son Rolf and daughter Christa Deans. Renamed Rolf Binder Wines, it’s on the corner of Stelzer and Seppeltsfield Roads. Top reds include the impressive Hanisch Shiraz, the finer Heysen Shiraz and cult wines Bulls Blood, or Hubris.