Just an hour’s drive north east of Adelaide and surrounded by rolling hills, the Barossa Valley is a foodie and wine lovers paradise. Be consumed by a host of local producers with an abundance of choice screaming for your tastebuds to introduce themselves. Be it cheese, honey, preserves, chocolate, baked goods, gin, beer and a superb range of dining options, it’s the renowned wine scene we are chasing once more.
Dating back to the mid 1840s when it was founded by English and German settlers, some of the oldest vines in the world can be found in the Barossa. For generations, families have toiled in the vineyards – the growers playing a crucial role in the production of so many fine wines. The district is peppered with more than 170 producers, many of which are well-known labels across the globe.
Significant characteristics that cannot be underplayed are the soils and climate. Be it the warmth of the west, the sandy soils of the central districts, the clay of the south or the cooler climate in the Eden Valley, such intricacies add to the broader diversity of the region.
Dating back to humble beginnings in 1849, Yalumba has asserted itself as a first-class producer across all price points. Their work with white variety viognier is undisputed and their grenache, shiraz and cabernets are all market leaders.
From the indigenous Peramangk people’s word for “the country all around,” Yalumba has been a benchmark producer of claret – that cabernet shiraz blend that Australians can call their own.
Their flagship wine, The Caley, is a blend of Coonawarra cabernet and Barossa shiraz that exudes class and poise at every turn. The most recent sixth release, the 2018 ($365), demonstrates how brilliant this blend can be and it shines the spotlight on the talent of winemaker Kevin Glastonbury. Decant and enjoy now or tuck it away and revel in its beauty for well over a decade, you’ll be rewarded in spades regardless. Yalumba’s The Signature Cabernet Shiraz 2019 ($65) is mightily impressive in its own right with precision spilling from every pore. Is it one of the best releases in recent years? All signs point to yes.
Attempting to cover the region in a couple of days can be daunting. Sure, there are some classic brands to rub shoulders with, but the gold is in the smaller operators. They ensure every vintage is a success despite the conditions handed to them. Without the luxury of large resources to fall back on or corporate marketing budgets, their relationships with those other small guys, the growers, are the lifeblood of this region.
One of the best destinations that enable you to explore these small producers under one roof is Artisans of Barossa. Eight producers come together to showcase a mega cellar door experience. With more than 100 wines for sale and a rotating tasting list of over 40 wines each month, if you are keen to learn about the Barossa the staff are ready to take you on that journey. You may even find a new favourite with more than 20 varieties to explore showcasing that the Barossa is not all about shiraz.
Tasting options vary but guests are also welcome to indulge in a glass or share a bottle with friends on the lawn while soaking up the sun. A casual bar menu is available as is a range of local produce that can be bought from the Delikatessan for takeaways, but do yourself a favour and dine at the restaurant Essen.
Offering a full menu along with two and three course options, the food is well considered and plated spectacularly. Produce is sourced from within the district, and in true local form, every dollar spent at Artisans ricochets around the valley.
As you traverse the district you may encounter a sign flapping in the breeze asking that an appointment be made. If you are serious about your wine, my advice is to make an appointment and drop by. These little operators often do everything themselves from bookkeeping to packing, to working the vineyard. Making an appointment will assist with their time management. As a bonus, more often than not you will get to taste with the winemaker which is a thrill in itself.
Two wineries I recommend for an appointment would be Tim Smith Wines and Yelland & Papps. Tim Smith produces impressive viognier 2022 ($30) with clean lines and class feels but his pretty and elegant grenache 2022 ($45) is a bomb of pleasure and is worth diving into with pike. Have you ever heard of mataro? The 2022 ($45) is a meaty and savoury style, and quite simply, it’s a fantastic drink. Be assured, Tim Smith makes every vintage a ripper.
Do you like chardonnay? If so, get roussanne on your radar and make a bee line to Yelland & Papps who are one of the best producers of roussanne is Australia. Their wines are textural and expressive given varying degrees of whole bunches, skin contact and time on lees. Try their sophisticated and moreish Single Vineyard Roussanne 2022 ($46) or their Bremaux Roussanne 2022 ($43) which is a funky, cloudy and multi-layered masterpiece. Their Single Vineyard Syrah 2022 ($49) shows elegance and personality with 62 per cent whole bunches but if an energetic red is your thing, their debut release Single Vineyard Cinsault 2022 ($43) is nothing but joyous and dancy.
While out and about, swing by Hayes Family Wines. A producer with access to some exceptional parcels of fruit, the Nuri Ancestor Shiraz 2021 shows what a delicately handled Barossa shiraz can deliver from 125-year-old vines. If cabernet floats your boat, check the vibe and swagger of the Primrose Vineyard Cabernet 2021 ($70). But it’s grenache that sings under this label with seven single releases from 2021 alone. Throw a Koonunga Block 2021 ($45) in the bag for the ride home. It’s sleek, refined and damn smashable.
Soul Growers have access to some incredible vineyards, many which have been held in their families for over five generations. A quintessential representation of Barossa shiraz can be found in the Provident Shiraz 2021 ($35) but if you want to treat yourself, the Gobell Single Vineyard Shiraz 2021 ($160) is a superb wine that shows the marriage of excellent fruit and skillful winemaking.
Dip your oar into the deep, delicious waters of the Barossa Valley and paddle out to find something new. You’ll certainly be impressed.
Steve Leszczynski is a wine writer, author, wine dinner host and MC. Apart from writing for his website qwinereviews.com, Steve co-authored a book, Grenache – Barossa Grown. He contributes to Halliday Wine Companion magazine, Vinomofo, Wine Business Magazine and Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine.