introduction to Barossa
We spent 5 days in the Barossa, one of the main wine areas in Australia and probably the most famous and traditional region with wines renowned in Australia and around the world. Barossa is 70 kilometres North-East of Adelaide in South Australia, with a history dating from 1842, sixth generation winemaking families and some Shiraz vines over 170 years old.The Barossa zone consists of two regions: Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. There are around 150 wineries and cellar doors in the Barossa Valley. Barossa is famous for its richly-flavoured Shiraz wines, but there are also other varieties such as Grenache, Mataro (mostly known as Mourvèdre), Cabernet Sauvignon in the Barossa Valley and Riesling, Chardonnay and Viognier in the Eden Valley. Barossa is also well known for its GSM, a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro that we’ve particularly appreciated.
Barossa benefits from different climates, aspects and soil types that provide unique characteristics to the wine. Barossa Valley’s climate is warm and dry during the growing season and soils are very diverse (from deep sandy loams to clay loams and red brown earth) whereas Eden Valley’s climate is wetter and cooler and soils are mainly shallow and rocky.
There, we were hosted by Anne Moroney, CEO of Regional Development Australia, Barossa, and her partner Brian Thomson. They planted their first vines in 1998 and created Moolanda vineyard, a premium vineyard in the Barossa Valley. This very friendly couple helped us to organise our visit in the Barossa region and did everything they could to make it valuable. We had a great stay in their place, and we’ve learnt a lot thanks to them.
On our first day in Barossa, we’ve been warmly welcomed by Nicki Robins, viticultural development officer at Barossa Grape & Wine Association (BGWA). She gave us an overview of the wine industry in Barossa and presented the Barossa Grounds Project to us. This exciting project, established in 2008, aimed at establishing terroir in Barossa. Indeed, they’ve collected some climatic data, analysed soil profiles across the valleys, controlled winemaking studies and annual tasting reviews in order to evaluate the variations of the wine style in the Barossa Zone. This project makes people able to understand why there is such a great diversity in the taste of Barossa Valley Shiraz.
To better understand the project, we went to Krondof (Dorrien Wines) to examine “black cracking clay” soil and to Vine Vale (Rolf Binder Wines) to examine “deep sand” soil. How surprising it was to see so different soil types so close to each other!
Then, to concretely feel the impact of the different soil types on the wine, we had a tasting at St Hallett Wines. There, we tasted our first Australian Shiraz! We had one Shiraz from the Barossa Valley and another one from the Eden Valley. These two wines from the same grapes variety had a very different style: the first one was full bodied and opulent, with firm tannins, whereas the second one was more elegant and silky, with fine tannins. We’ve also discovered the sparkling Shiraz: we’ve never heard about this before, it was really interesting to taste it. In Barossa, people are used to drinking it in summer, especially for Christmas, when it’s too hot to have a regular glass of Shiraz. We’ve really liked it!
We started our visit of Barossa with Natasha Mooney, founder of Wine Architect and La Bise Wines. After having won a lot of wine show trophies and medals during her career in corporate winemaking, Natasha has become a winemaking consultant for some of South Australia’s larger wineries. On top of that, she decided to open her own cellar door and wine bar La Bise, in the center of Tanunda, in the heart of Barossa Valley. There you can discover her style. She aims for mouthfeel and drinkability without high alcohol. ”I want to arouse people’s interest in wine with styles and varieties that are unconventional and thought provoking.” she said.
Natasha drove us up to Menglers Hill, where we had an overview of Barossa. There we could understand the position of each valley. Then, we had a walk in Greenock vineyard, for which Tash is consultant. We discovered a method to limit the drought: applying wood chips to the root of the plant. This practice enables to cover the ground in order to limit the evaporation of rainwater as much as possible and to reduce the appearance of weeds. Wood acts as a thermal insulator, limiting the drying of the ground with sun and wind burns. After, we went for a tasting session at Moppa Vinters, the winery where Natasha makes her wines. We tasted many kinds of delicious wines directly from her barrels. For instance, we tasted some Nero d’Avola, a wine grape originally from Italy that is taking off in Australia as it doesn’t need much water and still retains a lot of acidity even in very hot and arid climates. We really enjoyed its complex savoury herbal and orange peel notes!
Finally, we had a great lunch with her at Seppeltsfield, one of the most historic winery of Australia. Indeed, this Estate was established just 15 years after the European settlement of South Australia, in 1851. We shared a very nice moment with Natasha, who gave us a lot of precious insights on the Australian wine industry!
Rolf Binder vineyard has a great family history! Indeed, Rolf Heinrich Binder and his wife arrived in Australia from Hungary and Austria in 1950s, and started to work for the South Australian rail company as a payment for the government assistance. During their work, they met Elmore Schulz, a train driver and famous grapegrower in the Barossa Valley. Then, while they were working for him, picking grapes, they met winemakers. These meetings led them to the wine industry. After having worked for one vintage in the Langmeil Road winery, they purchased the business in 1954. They renamed the winery “Veritas”. In 2005, when they started to export to the US market, the second generation, Rolf Junior and his sister Christa Deans, had to rename the business and they chose Rolf Binder to pay tribute to their father.
Nowadays, Rolf and Christa work together as the winemakers of the winery. Whereas Rolf focuses on red winemaking, for which he has received international accolades, Christa is recognised as one of the region’s finest white winemakers. They produce a range of highly acclaimed Barossa premium wines using fruits from their own estate and other Barossa vineyards. Today, they export their wine to 19 countries.
During our visit, we had the chance to meet Christa, who presented us the winery, located on a hilltop on the edge of Tanunda in the heart of Barossa Valley. She told us about her fascinating family story and explained us all the challenges she faced as a woman in the wine industry. She also mentioned that 2019 was a particularly dry year with almost no rain: irrigation is necessary in the region and the water used comes from the Mary River.
Then, we tasted some wines from the tanks and barrels, and after we had a tasting session in the cellar door. The Rolf Binder wines are known especially for having strong tannings and we can confirm it’s true!
Flaxman Wines was established in 2004, by Colin Sheppard and his wife Fiona, when they moved from Melbourne to Adelaide and purchased the vineyard. It is a small and hand-made winery, located in the very beautiful Eden Valley in the Barossa. They have 1,3 hectares of Riesling, 1 hectare of Shiraz and 0,2 hectare of Semillon, which were all planted in 1929. On top of that, they have small parcels of Grenache, Mataro and Cabernet. Everything during the winemaking process is done by hand and onsite (expect for the Riesling).
They have a picturesque and cosy cellar door when you can taste their wines. We had a great and complete tasting session with the very friendly and passionate Colin. We’ve particularly appreciated the Museum Riesling 2008 as well as the blend GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro) 2015. Moreover, it was exciting to taste their Sparkling Shiraz, which is a very Australian wine style that provides light, fresh and festive red wines… surprising for French people!
If Colin is a talented winemaker, he is also a well known cooker, who won MasterChef in 2014. He offers the possibility to enjoy his cooking in the cellar door while also enjoying the wines produced and made on their property. We highly recommend!
Jacob’s Creek, owned and produced by Pernod Ricard, is one of Australia’s leading wine brands. The brand was launched in 1976 and named as the Creek that runs through the Barossa Ranges in the Barossa Valley. Historically, the vineyard comes from Johann Gramp, a Bavarian immigrant, who planted his first vineyard in 1847. Thus, Jacob’s Creek benefits from a tradition of winemaking over 165 years ago. Today, they have numerous grape varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
Nowadays, the brand Jacob’s Creek exports to over 70 countries, with 6,2 million cases sold in 2016 and is the number 1 premium wine brand in Australia, number 1 premium Australian wine brand globally by volume and number 1 premium wine brand in China by volume. It’s impressive!
Oenotoursim is very developed at Jacob’s Creek. Indeed, they offer a large panel of activities and tours to their visitors such as gourmet picnic, master class, bikes tour, there is even a tennis court! In 2010, they won the Best Major Tourist Attraction and in 2011 the Australian Tourism Awards, Best Tourism Restaurant and Best Tourist Winery, and we can understand why.
During our stay at Jacob’s Creek, we met James Keane, the Public Relations & Promotions Manager. We had a tour of their different sites, visiting Heritage Vineyard, Steingarten Vineyard, Jacob’s Estate and St Hugo. Their vineyard offers a great view over the valley, it was beautiful! We even saw Kangaroos and as they do very little harm to the vines, they’re not chased away. The only damage they make is in summer when they break the water nozzle to get fresh water.
Furthermore, we’ve been amazed by the size of the production. The winery is huge and almost looks like a factory: we discovered many enormous tanks. We better understand why they’re 22 winemakers to supervise the production! Then, we had a tasting session at St Hugo and another one at Jacob’s Creek where we tasted the delicious Johann Barossa Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 and finally, we had a delicious lunch at Jacob’s Creek.