- Written by Sam Agars, 1 May 2016
When holidaying in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Sam Agars suggests you take it easy and enjoy some of the finer things in life
Nowhere is the notion of putting a full stop on your work day more prevalent than in the Barossa Valley, with the locals loving nothing more than rewarding themselves with a hard-earned drink at the end of the day. It’s the Barossa way of life and this, coupled with the fact that the local’s love of where they live is almost tangible, makes for a place where it is impossible not to unwind and, dare I say it, do as the locals do.
Located only 70 kilometres from Adelaide, the Barossa Valley is considered the premier wine region in South Australia, and can also lay claims to being the best in Australia. With diverse and layered varieties to suit every taste, it boasts a versatility that rivals any wine region in the world.
Made up of five major towns – Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Angaston, Lyndoch and Williamstown – and a host of smaller ones, the Barossa has an approximate population of 25,000.
Set at the foot of the rolling Barossa Ranges, the region has a rich German history, with the Germans first settling in the area in the mid-1800s. A lot of the distinct German culture is still prevalent, with stone cottages and Lutheran churches dotting the picturesque, rural landscape.
When speaking of the delights of the Barossa, you have to start with the wine. If you ask the locals, theirs is the best wine in the world and it is hard to argue, with local labels receiving national and international recognition. Red wine is the flagship of the area, with Shiraz leading the way, but the outer reaches of the valley also deliver superb white wines, in particular Riesling.
Some of the world’s best winemakers ply their trade in the valley and according to Leigh Underwood, national sales manager at Soul Growers Wines, the region has a number of defining characteristics. “It’s such a tiny valley and you’ve got such a dense population of grapevines,” he says. “It’s such a small area and within that small area, we have such a diverse range of growing conditions, and therefore flavour profiles, which set the Barossa apart on a world scale.”
Leigh’s love for the place is clear and it doesn’t take much pushing to get him to say what he really thinks: “It’s the pinnacle of the Australia wine regions.”
One of the benefits of the Barossa being so small is that it makes it possible to visit a range of wineries in a short time and there are a number of bus tours available to help you do just that. The wine tour is part of local folklore and with wineries like Rockford’s, Peter Lehmann’s, Langmeil, Chateau Tanunda, Yalumba and Whistler Wines to visit, it’s easy to see why.
The cellar doors of the region make for an authentic wine-tasting experience, ranging from rustic and traditional to more modern affairs. One constant is that you don’t have to go far to find yourself, glass in hand, overlooking sun-drenched vineyards and finding it hard to believe you’re only an hour from the city.
Wining and dining
Life in the Barossa has a certain serenity to it, making it ridiculously easy to slip into a relaxed frame of mind. The locals are a social bunch and are always up for a chat when you bump into them at one of the many pubs, cafés or coffee shops. They are proud of what they do and will be quick to give you a rundown on what makes the region special.
Wine lover or not, a Barossa weekend is sure to recharge and a stay at one of the many bed and breakfasts will offer a truly authentic experience. The Barossa’s sunrises have something magical about them, dancing off the Barossa Ranges and settling in amongst the vineyards and paddocks. The best way to make the most of this is from the basket of a hot-air balloon, a common site in the (very) early morning sky. For the romantics out there, a weekend stay and a balloon ride might be as good as it gets.
Despite its standing in the world of wine, the Barossa is by no means a one trick pony and the local produce is some of the best in South Australia. Farmers’ markets are the perfect place to immerse yourself in what the region has to offer, with local meats, cheeses and seasonal fruit and vegetables all common fare. A number of local restaurants pride themselves on using predominantly local produce, with comprehensive degustation menus offering an all-compassing food journey.
“The Barossa takes it to another level on the tourism side of things when you look at our food culture here,” Leigh says. “We try and keep all the produce local. The local restaurants are utilising as much local produce as possible and that sets the Barossa apart. We do everything in-house.”
With cuisines ranging from Asian fusion to traditional German, the region contains a host of top-notch restaurants, while the renowned Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop is a must visit for its terrines and patés, as well as its scenic, lakeside location. You’ll also want to drop by the traditional butcher shops offering mettwursts and bratwursts and bakeries boasting age-old, German favourites, like apple strudel and bienenstich.
The pairing of food and wine has become an art form and I’m sure it comes as no surprise that this is another area that the Barossa prides itself on. Any wine and food connoisseur planning a visit to the Barossa should consider timing it to coincide with either of the region’s biggest food and wine festivals, Barossa Vintage Festival and Barossa Gourmet Weekend.
During the Barossa Gourmet Weekend in September, the region comes to life with events designed to celebrate local culture and bring people together to eat and drink. The Barossa Vintage Festival, meanwhile, is held in April, to celebrate the end of vintage (the end of the annual grape crushing process). The festival offers up all sorts of events, from intimate tastings to competitions, balls and parades, and it is the perfect way to experience the heritage and culture of all things Barossan.