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Australia’s most well-known and historic region The Barossa Valley

  • Brian Fry

This is the third in a series of five articles chronicling my trip to Australia and New Zealand wine country. Today’s article focuses on Australia’s most well-known and historic region: The Barossa Valley.

I took an easy one-hour flight from Sydney to Adelaide and then took a scenic 90-minute drive to Barossa. One thing that struck me right away as I made the drive was the physical appearance of the landscape.

It is very much a patchwork of vineyards, orchards, farmland and open space. This is a result of the widely varying soil types dotted throughout the region. Unlike most major wine regions, the Barossa Valley is not 80-90 percent planted with vines. The vineyards are interwoven where the land allows it.

History runs deep and long in Barossa. The area was first settled in the 1850s-60s by German Lutheran immigrants escaping persecution in their homeland. Interestingly, about half of those Germans went to Australia and the rest came to the United States.

There are several prominent family – owned wineries that were founded in these early days that have evolved into some of Barossa’s top producers. Henschke traces its roots back to those earliest days, and it still farms the oldest vines in the Barossa Valley at its renowned Hill of Grace Vineyard site.

I had the good fortune of visiting Henschke and spent some time with Stephen Henschke, who is the leader of the 5th generation operating the winery. Henschke was excited about the future and reflective of their family’s deep roots.

“I love being able to continue my family’s heritage of winemaking in Barossa. The Hill of Grace site is a true gem, recognized around the world as a vineyard of great significance. We’re so fortunate to have it as part of our history.”

The Ashmead family, owners of Elderton Winery, played a significant role in Barossa’s more recent history. I was lucky enough to stay in Elderton’s guesthouse and spend some time with Allister Ashmead, who runs the winery with his brother.

Ashmead’s father was a significant figure in helping to save Barossa Valley as a wine region. He was offered a significant sum of money to sell his vineyards to a company that was going to rip them out. Ashmead held firm and committed to further developing his vineyards into some of Barossa’s best.

“Dad had almost no experience in the wine business when he bought our land. What he did have was a commitment to the land and its people. He felt he had something special here and committed to making it work. His decision changed everything for our family and emboldened other Barossa vineyard owners to stay the course.”

Today, Barossa is a thriving region once again, with wines of incredible quality and some tremendous values. Shiraz is still king here, but Grenache is identified by many in the valley as the grape of the future. Several smaller wineries are also testing more non-traditional varietals, with mixed results.

Here’s a look at my top six Barossa Valley Wineries:

  1. Elderton – Try the Ashmead Cabernet and Commander Shiraz.
  2. Henschke – The internationally renowned Hill of Grace is $850 a bottle! They have several other tremendous reds at lower prices.
  3. Hewitson – Some amazing Grenache and Shiraz here. A beautiful new tasting room was just opening when I was there.
  4. Yalumba – Check out their amazing Viogniers and Grenaches.
  5. Two Hands – Some amazing single vineyards Shiraz’s here.
  6. Torbreck Cellars – Deep portfolio with tremendous Grenache blends.

I hope this article will help send you on your own Barossa wine experience. Start by picking up a few bottles and then plan a trip to this incredible place. You’ll be glad you did!

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