If you are only able to visit one wine region while in South Australia, I highly recommend you go for the Barossa Valley. This region has it all! An impressive history dating back to German settlers with vineyards planted centuries ago in the 1840s. Family owned wineries large and small, some of which have prospered through six generations of winemaking. The region encompasses some of Australia’s finest food and wine experiences available. The scenery is absolutely stunning as rolling hills give way to expansive valleys and views that are pull-over-on-the-side-of-the-road-for-a-picture good. Here you’ll find some of Australia’s most iconic names in wine, such as Seppeltsfield and Yalumba. You’ll also have the opportunity to discover countless hidden gems and the Barossa’s rising stars.
Though the Barossa Valley was originally settled by the British and originally developed for agriculture, the region was soon steered toward viticulture like so many others in South Australia. A London banker named George Fife Angas was the largest early land owner in the Barossa with 11,300 hectares to his name. He needed help to work such a massive amount of land and European immigrants, many of them Germans, settled in the Barossa to get to work. These European settlers quickly realized that the soils of the Barossa Valley were well-suited for viticulture and began buying hectares from Mr. Angas to plant vineyards of their own.
Samuel Smith, an English brewer who immigrated to Australia from London with his family of six, purchased 30 acres of land from George and planted the first Yalumba vineyard. In 1847, a Bavarian farmer named Johann Gramp settled on the banks of Jacob’s Creek. He recognized the soil was prime real estate for Riesling and quickly sent home for cuttings. Around a decade later and along with countless other settlers, Johann could see the Barossa Valley was meant for viticulture and expanded his vineyards. Thanks to these early settlers, the Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s most historic wine regions. As innovative winemakers have continued to evolve the region throughout the years, the Barossa Valley is recognized as one of the most iconic and world-renowned wine regions of the country today.
The Barossa Valley wine region includes the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. The region is known to have a Mediterranean climate characterized by cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. While the winter months see more cool days with some rain, from September to February there are more than enough sunny days encouraging the vines to grow and the grapes to fully ripen.
As can be expected, the valley floor sees warmer temperatures which cool down as the altitude rises into the higher elevations of Eden Valley. There are also a ton of meso-climates due to the region’s many hills and valleys. Compared to the Barossa Valley, at higher altitudes Eden Valley experiences cooler, wetter weather. Day time temperatures in Eden Valley tend to be 2-3°C cooler than the Barossa. During clear nights, Eden Valley may experience temperatures that are 5-7°C cooler, which enhances cool climate varietal flavors and preserves higher acidity. This is one reason why you’ll see a lot of Eden Valley Riesling while wine tasting in the Barossa Valley.
The region has around 11,200 hectares under vine with altitudes ranging from 110m – 600m. The Barossa sees around 220mm in rainfall during the growing season with an average temperature of 22°C. Though temperatures toward the end of the growing season gradually get hotter and drier reaching 35°C.
The twisting valleys and undulating hills of the Barossa Valley provide a diverse range of slopes, aspects, and sites for growers to work with. Though soils vary widely, most are encompassed by the lower fertility clay loam family, ranging from grey to brown and red. Some areas even include acidity-preserving shattered limestone.
The Barossa Valley is actually home to some of the oldest continuously producing vineyards in the world. In 2009, the region implemented the Barossa Old Vine Charter in order to preserve, maintain, and promote old vines.
- Barossa Old Vine – Equal or greater than 35 years of age
- Barossa Survivor Vine – Equal or greater than 70 years of age
- Barossa Centenarian Vine – Equal or greater than 100 years of age
- Barossa Ancestor Vine – Equal or greater than 125 years of age
There are over 40 grape varieties planted in the Barossa Valley, but the top ten varieties make up 90% of the region’s production. By far the most planted variety is Shiraz at around 7,600ha, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Grenache, Chardonnay, Merlot, Semillon, Mataro (Mourvèdre), Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. Shiraz is definitely the star of the region and Barossa Shiraz is typically full-bodied with ripe fruit, plush tannins, and balanced acidity. Think big, bold, and structured. Though some fruit forward, light, and fun styles are becoming more popular.
Here are my picks for must visit Barossa wineries and a wine bar, too!
Seppeltsfield – An iconic Australian winery with a seriously impressive array of experiences on offer. A must visit for Tawny lovers – the Centennial Cellar houses centuries of Tawny and you can taste a Tawny from the year you were born.
Hentley Farm – Premium wines grown on a historic farm with an emphasis on vineyard quality. Plus, one of the most unique tasting rooms that begs to be experienced.
Two Hands Wines – A must visit for Syrah lovers. Experience different regions of South Australia in one sitting and gain an understanding of how each influences Australia’s favorite variety. Knowledgable and friendly staff make this tasting experience one of a kind.
Henschke – 150 years of winemaking spanning across six generations of the Henschke family. Need I say more? Well, I will. The wines were my personal favorite of all the wineries I visited in Australia. Truly special.
Vino Lokal – A retro chic wine bar with delicious food and great tunes. Discover all that Barossa has to offer in one sitting and get excited to be surprised by some of the Barossa’s up-and-coming winemakers. Also the perfect place for a bite to eat in between tastings.