I had been looking forward to visiting the Barossa Valley for a lonngggggg time. So when I recently got my chance to visit, I took it upon myself to visit as many wineries and vineyards as possible as well as taste everything in site. I was lucky in that the Penfolds release day was on during my visit so I had the chance to tast the Grange, RWT and St Henri (see notes below). Firstly, a quick rundown on the history of Barossa is in order as well as a brief introduction to the different types of wine usually associated with the region.
The Barossa is a world famous wine region located 60 km northeast of Adelaide, an easy 45min drive up the A20. The region is known around the world as the beating heart of Australia's wine industry.
The 'Barossa Valley' gets its name from the Barossa Ranges, which were named by Colonel William Light in 1837. He chose the name in memory of the British victory over the French in the Battle of Barossa, in which he fought in 1811. Most of the city designs and road infrastructure throughout Adelaide city was done by Light.
Their are three major towns in the Barossa Valley, and each have a unique personality. Firstly Tanunda (see map above) is generally seen as the most German of the three with long-standing traditions dating back to the 1840s when the first German settlers arrived in the area. Secondly, Angaston is regarded as the English town of the three as it was settled predominantly by British settlers. The third Nuriootpa, was influenced by both the German and British settlers, and today is the largest of the three.
The German settlers heavily influenced the Barossa Valley wine industry in the early stages of the region. Whereas most of Australia's other wine regions were heavily influenced by the British. The region had an image makeover, when in the 1980's, the emergence of several boutique family wineries specializing in old vine Shiraz began to capture international interest. This was the beginning of the unique style of Barossa Shiraz, a full-bodied red wine with rich, spicy notes. This led to a huge increase in vine planting and the region was catapulted to the forefront of the Australian wine industry.
The Barossa Valley has a continental climate but its valleys and sloping hills produce a wide range of mesoclimates. Temperatures vary from very warm on the valley floors, to much cooler temperatures at higher altitudes on the hillsides and further south in the valley. Most wine producers in the Barossa Valley make use of irrigation to help with the region's low rainfall supply during the growing season.
The hot climate of the Barossa Valley means that the grapes become ripe very easily with high levels of sugars and low levels of acids. Wine producers overcome this difficulty by harvesting in the cooler temperatures of night to help maintain acid levels. Winemakers in the Barossa often make use of the process of acidification in order to add balance to the wine. This is achieved through modern winemaking techniques such as reverse osmosis.
The type of grapes grown in the Barossa began with the production of Riesling. The hot valley climate made the Riesling a very ripe, brown alcoholic wine. Shiraz was also planted and today the famous Shiraz wines of Penfolds are made from the best vines in the region. Barossa Shiraz became known internationally as a Shiraz with its own unique style. Different from the Syrah made in the Rhone region of France. The Barossa Shiraz is a big, full-bodied wine with rich, dark fruits, chocolate and spice notes.
While the Barossa Valley is most commonly associated with Shiraz, the region grows a number of other grape varieties. Varieties such as Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon are quite common in the valley. In Australia Mourvèdre is known as Mataro, and is now blended in the old world style with Syrah and Grenache. The Barossa Zone also includes the Eden Valley, which borders the Barossa Valley to the east. This region of the Barossa Valley has made an international reputation for its Riesling. Barossa also offers fine Chardonnay. Chardonnay in the Barossa is usually oaked and subjected to malolactic fermentation which makes a big, concentrated creamy wine.
One of my favourite wineries I visited was Peter Lehman. The great wine (see notes below), the friendly cellar door staff and the delicious food made for a memorable visit. I was very sad to recently hear of the passing of Peter Lehman. He was a Pioneer and great winemaker who changed the world of wine. Other notable wineries I visited were Penfolds, Rockford, Kaesler, Jacobs Creek, Charles Melton, Langmeil and Grant Burge.
Barossa Valley is a unique wine region boasting top quality wine, food and character of people. I recommend everyone who loves wine to make the pilgrimage downunder to experience this amazing place.
Below are tasting notes from my recent trip.
Penfolds Grange 2005
We were very lucky to be wine tasting on the day Grange released their anual flagship wines. Tasting the Grange was a rare treat. This wine is aged in the bottle 5yrs before release. Deep inky colour, great aroma of ripe fruit, vanilla and spice. flavours of dense sweet fruit, strong tannins, coconut, silky long lengthed wine. This wine will age well. A great wine to cellar. 95/100
Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Red garnet colour. Luscious fruity nose. Ripe, concentrated, grippy tannins, fine structure. Exceptional wine that needs decades to evolve. 92/100
Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2007
From 20 to 100 year-old vineyards and aged in French oak barrels.
Aromas of fruit, spice, blackberries and tobacco. The palate has ripe tannins, plum/blueberry fruit with fine tannins and savoury French oak nuances.
Penfolds Magill Estate 2007 Shiraz
14.5% alcohol. Deep ancient purple/red colour. Bouquet is floral scented. Deep, elegant, black and red fruits with licks of spicy oak. Nice concentrated wine. 90/100
Penfolds St Henri 2005 Shiraz
Evident perfumed nose, beautiful fruit definition on the palate. This wine is rich and plush with earthy, mocha-like characters. No oak evident, maybe a dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon. Great value 94/100
Peter Lehman Eight Songs Shiraz 2007
This wine is inspired by an operatic work, ‘Eight Songs for Mad King’, first performed in the Barossa in 1993. The palate shows dark plums, chocolate, with hints of vanilla, richness, silky tannins French oak. A densely coloured shiraz worth buying. We had a bottle with lunch at the vineyard. 93/100
Peter Lehman Mentor Cabernet 2007
The colour is deep with a dense center. The nose has blackcurrant, dark chocolate & shaved wood. The palate has chocolate & vanilla, that shows a superb integration of oak and fruit. 90/100
Peter Lehman Barossa Blonde
11% alcohol. A blend of 36% Riesling, 30% Chenin Blanc and 20% Semillon. The colour is a pale yellow with green tints. Aromatic with
fragrances of lemon, lime and apple. The palate shows green fruits, zippy style of wine with mouth watering acid. 89/100
Peter Lehman Classic Riesling 2009
10.5% alcohol. Pale yellow colour with green tints. The nose shows citrus characters. The palate shows zesty lemon flavours that has a taut clean finish. 89/100
Peter Lehman Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Deep purple red colour. Lively, fruity nose with nuances of vanilla wood. Ripe fruits, silky tannins, absolute bargain for the price. 92/100
Charles Melton Richelieu 2009
Charles Melton Nine Popes Grenache 2009
Complex spicy nose with licks of ceder wood. Plump fruity palate with smooth tannins, quality wine here. 91/100
Charles Melton Grains of Paradise Shiraz 2009
Garnet red colour. Spicy woody nose. Concentrated palate, densely structured, rich and fruity. Definitely built for the long term. 90/100
Charles Melton Voices of Angels 2009
Langmeil The Freedom 1843 Shiraz 2009
Serious wine here. Made from the oldest vines in Australia. Deep red purple colour. Beautiful perfumed 'ancient' aroma, oaky vanilla. Opulent berries on the palate with a balanced structure. A
gem of a wine. 95/100
Langmeil Orphan Bank Shiraz 2009
Spicy cedar wood nose. Gorgeous concentrated ripe fruits. Slight lick of acid, well structured. 90/100
Rockford Shiraz Basket Press 2008
Classic Barossa red here. Fine fruit concentration, delicious fruity palate with hints of vanilla. Needs time to age. 89/100
Rockford Moppa Springs 2009
Spicy tobacco nose. Juicy full fruit on the palate, slight reduction. Good wine for the price. 89/100
Jacobs Creek St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Rich, textured palate with berry fruit flavours and well-integrated tannins. Aromas of olives and nuts. 89/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz 2008
Good classic wine here. Complex flavours of plum, chocolate and spice with excellent fruit length. Nice wine for the BBQ. 89/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2009
Fairly plain wine. Has slight characteristics of peach, nectarine and lemon. Lacks excitement and punch. 87/100
Kaesler Stonehorse GSM 2008
Garnet red colour. Spicy up front nose, with blackberry and cherries. Palate offers blackberries and plum fruit with fine tannin and acidity. The palate is rich and smooth with good length. 91/100
Kaesler Avignon GSM 2008
16% alcohol. Cherry red colour. Aromas of plum and vanilla. Palate is pure and fruity. Good length and grippy tannins. 89/100
Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz 2008
Deep red colour. Bouquet offers black cherries, blueberry, red currant. The palate is very powerful. Strong tannins and deep fruit concentration. A wine to age for decades.
Grant Burge Vineyard Range Miamba Shiraz 2009
Vivid purple in colour. Vibrant aromas of red fruits, blueberries and
spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. The palate has flavours of blackberries, strawberries and sweet spices. The wine offers fine tannins which create a silky-smooth mouth feel. 90/100
Grant Burge Summers Chardonnay 2008
Golden straw colouring. The wine has aromas of melons and ripe stone fruits. The palate offers rich, ripe stone fruits, beautifully balanced with integrated oak along with mineral and citrus acidity. 89/100
Lou Miranda Estate Old Vine Shiraz 2009
Fine red garnet colour. This wine offers a great palate length and excellent tannin structure with fine elegant fruit. Elegant serious wine. 92/100
Lou Miranda Estate Leone Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Complex earthy, cherry and plum flavour with hints of mocha. This wine also has spices and soft oak on the mid palate. Deep red raspberry colour. Aromas of berries and vanilla. 89/100
Seppeltsfield Cellar 6 Tokay
This Rutherglen tokay has flavours of sweet tea leaf, malt and raisins with creamy honey and toffee. 90/100
Seppeltsfield Cellar 7 Tawny
Golden red colour. Deep fruit with honey and spice. 88/100
Cockatoo Ridge Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009
A lively wine filled with tropical fruit and zingy natural acidity. A nice wine to drink on a hot afternoon. 88/100