Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Barossa Valley Wine Tour

No matter where in the world you travel, you can be certain to find a bottle of wine from the Barossa Valley in a bottle store. Whether you are in Giggleswick, (North Yorkshire, England) or Greymouth (New Zealand) the Barossa brand is internationally known.

It is home to some of Australia’s biggest and best known wineries, including Jacob’s Creek, Wolf Blass, and Seppelt to name but a few. The region accounts for 21% of Australia’s total wine production. But more importantly, it is also home to a wide range of boutique wineries, which, to get the full benefit of require an experienced and educated guide.

The Barossa Valley was settled in 1840’s by both English settlers and German immigrants who were fleeing religious persecution. They brought with them a culture of growing, cooking, and preserving, along with an ethic of working hard for what they wanted.

What has remained to the current day is Barossa’s enduring nature. This is due to its breadth of growers and producers. From the multinationals, through to the garagist wine producers who only produce a single label. They have captured their heritage, amalgamated it with ‘modern Australia’ and used it as a foundation for further development. A visit to the Barossa region is interesting on so many levels — architecture, horticulture, character, wine, and food.

The European influence is pervasive, from mouth watering metwursts (Linke’s Meat Store and Schulz Butchers), cheeses (from Ballycroft and Barossa Valley Cheese Co), and the bakeries (such as Apex Bakery or Lyndoch Bakery) with various types of Streusel cake and Bienenstich. It is a foodies heaven!

Viticulturally the Barossa Valley has the world's oldest Shiraz vineyards, some dating back to the 1840s. The Barossa Valley extends from Lyndoch in the south to Kalimna, Moppa, and Ebenezer in the northwest, at an elevation of 200 to 300 metres above sea level. Immediately to the east is Eden Valley which is at a higher elevation of 500 to 600 metres. It is much cooler than the valley floor and produces delightfully floral Rieslings.

Barossa Valley has a Mediterranean climate, characterised by cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers where temperatures are generally between 30C and 35C. It is a reliable grape growing area particularly suited to producing riper, bolder wines, and particularly full-bodied shiraz. It also grows a range of Rhone varieties such as Viognier, Mourvedre (also know as Mataro), and Grenache.

Go on visit Barossa Valley — gratify the senses!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Autumn in McLaren Vale Wine Region

Well, its now officially autumn, and vintage is almost over in McLaren Vale.

The cooling summer breezes from the Gulf St Vincent and the often quite strong gully winds that come down off the Willunga Hills in the afternoon and evening. These both combine to ensure that a McLaren Vale summer is a perfect environment to ripen grapes – neither too hot nor too cold. This normally makes for a prolonged ripening period during which time the grapes accumulate flavour and intensity.

To put McLaren Vale into a global context it is warmer than Bordeaux and similar to Montpellier in Languedoc in France. It is one of the premier shiraz growing regions of the world. Shiraz makes up the majority of the vine plantings in the region, with cabernet sauvignon, grenache, and chardonnay also abundant. ‘Alternative’ varieties are also planted in the region. These include; marsanne, roussanne, sangiovese, tempranillo, viognier, and zinfandel.

There are a number of sub regions within McLaren Vale — Sellicks Foothills, Blewitt Springs, Seaview, Willunga, McLaren Flat, McLaren Vale, and Clarendon. Each of these have different climates and soil types and so contribute to the complexity of the regions wines.

McLaren Vale reminds me of Tuscany, not only the grape varieties (with some fantastic sangiovese, and barbera’s being produced) but also fresh and pungent olive oils, crusty bread, and the essential stinky cheese — a gourmand would be in heaven. All this, with a beautiful coastline, and so close to Adelaide.