After an intense wine tour experience in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, we were a bit hesitant to book another tour. But with more than 60 wine regions, award winning wines, and some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to experience what Australia has to offer.
Our first tour took us to Barossa Valley, a short 45 minute drive from the center of Adelaide. It features a unique history within Australia, gorgeous views and vistas from the hilltop, and most importantly, incredible wines.
Largely built up starting in the 1840s, Barossa Valley’s founding differs from much of the rest of Australia in that it was colonized primarily by free settlers rather than convicts. To help incentivize population growth, refuge and land were being offered to people outside of Britain, including Germans who at that time were leaving behind persecution in Prussia.
Originally, German varietals were tried but they couldn’t take the extremely hot and dry climate of Southern Australia. They would dry out on the vine and become extremely alcoholic, eventually leading to the production of fortified wines which dominated the region for nearly the next century. However, as tastes changed, so did the focus of many growers, planting different varietals which would not only hold up to the dry heat, but significantly benefit from it.
Enter Shiraz (Syrah), the quintessential South Australian grape which, at its best, is a big and rich wine known for featuring chocolate and spice. While Shiraz remains the frontman in the Barossa Valley Band, other red varietals including Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre (known as Mataro down under) and whites including Chardonnay and Semillon do show up frequently.
Our tour started in the Adelaide Hills (technically outside of the Barossa Valley) at the husband and wife owned and operated Kersbrook Hill winery. Paul and Mary started growing and making wine as a hobby in Paul’s back yard a little over a decade ago and have grown to become a premium, small batch producer. They seamlessly blend old winemaking techniques with the most up-to-date technology to produce fantastic bottles of wine. In addition, because they’re a “newer kid on the block”, they’re not beholden to a legacy and can create delicious, whimsical products that wouldn’t be attempted elsewhere including their Cabernet and Termpranillo blend (named “Strange Bedfellows).
Our next stop was TeAro Estate which runs their tasting room out of a beautiful historic building in Williamstown. Unlike our first stop, TeAro Estate has plenty of history given it was founded in 1919. It is also family owned and operated with the fourth generation currently at the helm. The legacy is evident all throughout the tasting room and on the products themselves with most names relating to family stories or inside jokes. With over 140 acres at their disposal, TeAro covers a wide range of styles but we were partial to their Grenache, Shiraz, and a delicious GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvèdre) blend.
It was now time for lunch at the Monkey Nut Cafe which is attached to the Kies Family Wines cellar door. The family has had a presence in the Barossa Valley since 1857 though primarily as a provider for grapes to other large wineries. In 1985, they started their own cellar door and now keep around 40% of their own production to make Kies Family Wines.
Finally, we ended the tour at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. With a name like “Maggie Beer” I thought we were bound for a brewery or some sort of down under frat party but, alas, it was not to be. Maggie Beer is the Australian equivalent to the United States’ Martha Stewart; a major business empire spanning all forms of media with Maggie Beer doling out recipes in her books and judgements on shows like Masterchef. It all culminates in her beautiful Barossa Valley store, the only place in Australia where you could try almost every product they make – including some wines!
As we left the farm shop bound for Adelaide, we couldn’t help but notice the unique the positioning of the Australian wine world was. It sits squarely in the “new world” camp in terms of region and style, yet has some of the oldest vines still producing globally. The deep roots aren’t just in the earth either with family-run vineyards still going strong into their sixth generation. This dichotomy is clearly working for the area as it continues to add new wines to its delicious, and long, legacy.