A Taste of Australian Wine
'The Barossa Valley'
by Gavin Trott
There wouldn't be much doubt that if I asked people around the world to
name just one Australian wine region, most would say "The Barossa
Why is this? Well, some excellent promotion over the years
has helped, it is the home of Penfolds Grange, plus there are a myriad
of other reasons.
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
However, the real reason lies in the wines themselves, as they offer a
unique style of wine coupled with remarkably consistent quality.
… 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
… at 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.
… the 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 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
… 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
… 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
… 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
… 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 blend)
Rockford Basket Press
Veritas Hanisch Vineyard
Greenock Creek 7 Acre Shiraz
Torbreck Run Rig
Dutschke St. Jakobi and Oscar Semmler
… a recent arrival as a varietal wine but it shows great promise.
Again expect rich upfront flavours and designed to be enjoyed while young.
..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