Time zone: +9.5
Population: 22, 964
Language: English (official)
Australia is a multi-cultural country, so it’s not unusual to walk down a city street and hear people speaking Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Vietnamese or Arabic as their first language. Aboriginal languages are also spoken. English-speaking Australians have a passion for abbreviations and are liable to use a hotchpotch of local slang that can take the first-time visitor a while to untangle.
Economy: AUD – Australian Dollar – A$ – dollar
Weather: The Barossa Valley experiences similar temperatures to Margaret River in Western Australia, another region well known for producing outstanding wines. Humidity and rainfall are low and sunshine abundant, creating a continental-type climate ideal for full-bodied reds, fortified wines and robust whites.
Very, very early on a crisp, spring morning – an anniversary of sorts – with my body protesting all movement towards removing the bedcovers, I constantly reassure myself of the uplifting experience and photo opportunities I hope to achieve from my first hot-air balloon voyage. After a really long time, which could have been spent in bed, the balloon is full of hot air and greenhouse gases allowing a smooth take-off. It lifts us over mist-filled valleys, the rising sun exposing row upon orderly row of the celebrated vineyards, meandering creeks outlined by giant river red gums, piercing steeples on tiny churches, and awe-struck cows – what must they think of this giant multi-coloured ball with its roaring flame and wicker basket of Koreans and Australians.
All too soon the drift is over and we crunch back to earth in a random paddock. The unforgettable, and rather unsettling, landing is followed by the unforgettable breakfast of sparkling wine. Once I recover from the crash and alcoholic breakfast, thoughts gradually turn to the next meal of the day. You really are spoilt for choice when trying to find a place to eat and drink in the Barossa.
As a confessed foodie I follow the trail of breadcrumbs (dipped in virgin olive oil and dusted with dukkah of course) to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop where a range of light food inspired by and created from local produce is available all day for grazing gastronomes. There’s paté from her famous pheasants, of course, and never far away a quince- or an olive-inspired concoction. In the afternoon I head to Chateau Tanunda, one of the valley’s grandest buildings. Here the valley’s small independent winemakers showcase their wares and you can pick up a bottle of something rare and handmade – I was lucky to find one of the winemakers hosting a tasting of his pride and joy. The early start is beginning to tell as the sun sets but there’s the third meal of the day to consider and while the options are vast, today is special and Appellation at Peppers the Louise is the ultimate destination, where award-winning cuisine is expertly matched to the valley’s finest wines.
Getting There and Away: There are several routes from Adelaide, with the most direct being the Main North Rd through Elizabeth and Gawler. If you’re coming from the east and want to tour the wineries before hitting Adelaide, the scenic route via Springton and Eden Valley to Angaston is the best bet. Barossa Valley Coaches has twice-daily return services from Adelaide.
Getting Around: Cycling around the Barossa Valley is a popular option, with routes that can take in a few wineries. Ask at the Tanunda visitors centre or cycle-hire outlets for the best directions. The Para Road Trail is a rough bike path which runs between Nuriootpa and Tanunda and passes several wineries. Bicycles can be rented from the Tanunda Caravan & Tourist Park and the Barossa Bunkhaus Travellers Hostel & Cottage in Nuriootpa. Barossa Taxis (0411 150 850) have a 24-hour daily service that runs throughout the valley. Alternatively, you can rent a car from the Caltex service station on Murray St, Tanunda.
The Barossa Valley was named in 1837 by South Australia’s first surveyor general, Colonel William Light. Named after Barrosa in Spain, it was settled by Germans (and a handful of English, Scottish and Irish) around 1842. Fleeing religious persecution in Prussia and Silesia, the predominately German settlers quickly created a Lutheran heartland with a culture and lifestyle that persists today. The physical signs of this early settlement are everywhere. The valley is dotted with the steeples of distinctive Lutheran churches, and many town streets are lined with tiny cottages.
From the moment Johann Gramp planted the valley’s first grapes on his property at Jacob’s Creek in 1847, the Barossa Valley was destined to become a major Australian wine region. Apart from a flurry of gold prospectors that descended upon the area in the 1850s, not much has changed for the valley since, and the vineyards – Penfolds, Seppelt, Wolf Blass – to name but a few, continue to produce high quality wines.
Today the valley is home to more than 750 grape growing families and supplies quality grapes to 170 wine companies. The valley is best known for Shiraz, with Riesling the most important of its whites.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park
The 390-hectare Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park has some excellent walks. Fantastic views exist from the top of the Barossa Ranges. Abundant native flora, such as banksias, acacias and grevilleas, and birdlife can also be enjoyed. In particular, look out for Nankeen kestrels and brown hawks. Western grey ‘roos also bound through this park.
Peter Lehmann Wines
Another multiawardwinning winery, with classic Barossa Shiraz and Riesling. Mind you, the Semillon is equally fabulous. This is probably the best range of consistent and affordable wines in the Barossa. Buy a bottle of anything and enjoy it with a picnic in the winery grounds. There’s a parkland walk from the cellar door along the Para River to Richmond Grove.
Barossa Valley Historical Museum
The Barossa Valley Historical Museum features exhibits on the valley’s early settlement, and there are galleries and antique shops lining the main street.