The Barossa Valley Wine Region is located about 75km northeast of Adelaide, just outside of Gawler. There are three towns that make up the valley – Nuriootpa in the north, Tanunda in the south and Angaston to the east. The geography and climate work hand in hand to create a variety of micro climates from warm valleys to cool crests, and the area’s reputation for Shiraz wines is quite favourable. There are also a few wineries that produce stunning dessert wines, fortified wines and sweet, delicious mead.
The area was established by German settlers who were shipped over from Silesia to build a colony in the Barossa Valley. About 500 families accepted the golden ticket and settlement began. A variety of crops were attempted on the soils but it was discovered the vines grew best. Due to the little or no experience in traditional winemaking, there was a long period of trial and error before they got it right.
While the area isn’t as commercial and glamorous as McLaren Vale, there are still a few great places to sample some delicious food. While we didn’t get to visit due to time restraints, we heard that Schulz Butchers is the place to get your bacon; they’ve won the best Australian bacon award two years in a row!
Two foodie joints that we did visit were the Maggie Beer Farm and a café in Angaston called Blond Coffee. This was a great café to stop for a late or second breakfast, or even a light lunch. They make great coffee and food and feel like a piece of the city in the sleepy country. Check out our post on Blond Coffee.
Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop
Located next to a pheasant farm, The Maggie Beer Farm Shop was a beautifully presented outlet where you could sample the products of this great Australian food icon. The best thing was, you could sample everything – dressings, jams, verjuice, dips, pates, fruit pastes, sauces – EVERYTHING! There was also vino cotto, which is simply cooked wine, but when Maggie Beer makes it, it’s heaven. She has five varieties and our favourites were the fig and coffee ones. These thick, morish sauces are perfect for drizzling over salad, meat or dessert, or to use in cooking.
The Burnt Fig Jam was fabulously thick and boisterous with subtle bitterness that is subdued with sweetness. At the fruit paste section, the apricot paste was firm but smooth and consistant; perfect with strong cheeses like a blue or vintage cheddar, while the spiced pear paste was sweet liked stewed pear, which would go well with a creamy brie or gentle blue.
The wineries in the Barossa were spectacular, and of the five that we visited, three were particularly outstanding because of the estate, the selection and the history.
As soon as Juz found out that McGuigan’s winery was in the Barossa, there was no way to sway her – that was the first place we needed to go. As we curled around the driveway, a beautiful estate appeared from behind the green. There was a beautiful fountain before the stairs up to the huge doors of the mansion that screamed “Wedding Reception Venue!”
This winery has been around since 1880 when an Irish bloke by the name of Owen McGuigan settled in the Hunter Valley and set up a dairy farm. Winemaking was his hobby and over the next 100 years, the McGuigan label grew in popularity and success. In 1999, they built a second home in the Barossa Valley and in 2004, they became the 4th largest wine maker in Australia.
Inside the mansion there were white walls, dark wood doorways and high ceilings; we felt like we were in a castle. A lovely French girl hosted our tasting and while they didn’t have their typical Dan Murphy’s stock for tasting, which was fine because we usually buy their wine, we were delighted with their premium range. Here are our favourites:
- 2011 Shortlist Chardonnay – a buttery smell of citrus and French oak with a cool entry and zippy finish that is soothed by buttery cream.
- 2011 Sparkling Petit Verdot – a plummy red wine that smells of raspberries and currants, it was refreshing and gently bubbly with a slightly dry finish
- 2011 Cellar Select Merlot – an earthy wine with the scent of sweet berries, it was smooth and silky to drink with soft tannins
- 2009 Handmade Shiraz – a thick and robust wine of dark fruits, it was velvety with sweet cherries blooming up through the nose and a chocolate finish.
- 2008 Yaldara Vintage Port – using cabernet saugivnon grapes, this wine was rosey red with hints of caramel, lusciously sweet and viscous – gorgeous to drink.
- 20 year old Muscat – a golden caramel liquid that oozed of drunk raisins and toffee, with a sweet and smooth entry, spirited flush and long-lasting finish of toffee.
Cheese tasting was also available and focused mainly on local produce. It was a whirlwind session because they were extremely busy – a busload of people had just arrived – but these four cheeses were all delicious in their own special way.
- Woodside Truffle Chevre – a goat cheese that is thick and creamy with a slight tartness and earthy nut flavour from the truffle.
- McLaren Vale Camembert – a white mould cheese with a creamy outer layer and chalky centre, it was full of earthy flavour and mushroom.
- Edith Ashed Coats Cheese – a creamy, white cheese with pockets of blue, it tasted strong of mould and was spicy but had a long sweet finish.
- Heysen Blue – a flavoursome rich yellow cheese with a sharp, vintage cheddar tang with lots of savoury mould and spice.
This place was great. As you drive onto the property, there is a huge barrel with a droopy, drunken smiley face painted on it in bright yellow and read. Inside, it seemed dusty and ancient, with old vats on either side of the room that had been converted into museum alcoves – one focused on old radios while another displayed pictures of sporting figures, etc. There were tables that displayed gemstones, jewellery, books and clothes for sale. There was a large room in the back that contained massive barrels with murals painted on them that depicted the history of the region.
The guy who led us through our tasting was also called Dave. We flicked through the list of wines; they had the typical whites and reds but once we turned the page to the meads and fortified, we knew we shouldn’t waste any time and we skipped straight to the sweeties.
- Falcons Nest Late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon – a light fluid of ruby and pink, it was fruity and sweet from blackcurrants with a cranberry tartness and clean finish.
- Twin Valley Tawny – golden brown with caramel and ruby, it smelt of dried fruit and honey, had a smooth entry, short bloom of spirits and a rich roasted nut finish.
- Buccaneer – made for pirates! Thick orange and pinks in a caramel juice, the smell is so spirited with rum, we were hesitant to take a sip. Despite the smooth entry, there was a violent flush of fruity spirits before mellowing out to sweet rum, juicy raisins and roasted nuts.
- Chocolatino – liquid toffee with milk chocolate on the nose, it was smooth and slightly spirited with lots of chocolate infused with rum and raisins.
Dave was kind enough to fire up the gas cooker and heat up our mead for tasting. Heating mead not only makes it a wonderful wintertime nightcap, but also brings out the spirits and flavour of the drink. The Scarlet Mead was our favourite – chocolate and cinnamon with a rich brown and caramel colour that smelt of milk chocolate. It was smooth and warming with creamy chocolate, honey and spices. Beautiful!
This huge, iconic winery just west of Nuriootpa is one the oldest wineries in the area. The Seppelts family settled in the Barossa Valley in 1851 and the first vintage of their vineyard was produced in the family dairy. Construction of a real winery commenced in 1867 and by 1900, it was the largest winery in Australia, producing 2 million litres every year.
The Seppelts Mausoleum is located just down the road on a hilltop that overlooks the winery. Joseph Seppelts, the original Seppelts that came from Silesia, chose the location and there are currently 27 family members buried there.
The cellar door is huge, with a little café on one side, cherished items on display, bulk port available for purchase and a huge bar for wine tastings. We had to be picky if we wanted to maintain stamina for the rest of the day, so of the few wines that we tasted, here are the notes for our favourites.
- 20 year old Selma Melitta Rare Luscious – rich with toffee and coffee, it had a creamy smell, smooth entry and spirited bloom before finishing with silky coffee.
- Dining Hall Sweet Sherry – pretty good for a cheap sherry, it was nutty and sweet, with a clean, short-lived finish.
- Cellar No. 8 Muscat – a 3 year old drop of burnt caramel, it was warm and enticing with the scent of sweet honey and spices. It was silky and viscous covering the mouth like honey. Spices filled the nose while the long finish was full of honey, nuts and caramel.
- Solero DP57 Grand Tokay – aged for 8 years, it was smooth and fruity with coffee and fruitcake.
- Solero DP63 Grand Muscat – also aged for 8 years, it was much richer than the Tokay, with sweet, warm raisins and a long nutty finish that was morishly smooth and sweet.
We also had the opportunity to taste the 1981 Para Tawny, an award-winning vintage … it had a spirited smell of prunes and honey, hints of liquorice on entry but a beautifully nutty finish of rancio characteristics.
Seppeltsfield is also proud of their Centennial Collection, an unbroken lineage of Tawny dating back to 1878. They are the only winery in the world to release a 100 year old, single vintage wine every year. We were lucky enough to get a whiff of the 1912 Para Vintage Tawny, which smelt like burnt figs, rich and syrupy. This is Australia’s only 100/100 point wine, awarded by industry critique, James Halliday.
This young winery has only been around since 1976, and is named after the founder’s mum. We arrived just before a big group of girls, probably a hen’s party, so we got pushed to the end of the tasting bench while the pair behind the bar were spread thin, pouring samplers for the frocked crowd. We only got to taste a few wines, but two drops stood out in particular.
- Boots Cider – a golden yellow summertime drink of hesitantly sweet pear with gentle fizz and watery finish.
- Sable Chocolate Liqueur – a drop they’ve been making since the 70s, and they’ve maintained the vintage style of the label, this thick brown and amber liqueur smelt of chocolate and coffee with brown sugar. It has a spirited bloom that provided warmth through the nose and ended with toffee.
A young winery with its first Shiraz vines planted in 1994 and it’s first wines released five years later. Since then, they’ve expanded their range of grapes to include Merlot, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Riesling and Mouvedré.
- 2012 Mathilda Louise Mouvedré Rosé – deep rose pink with caramel hues, it was floral and sweet with strawberries, a little acidic due to its young age, but the flavours of toffee and apple were still able to shine through and carry on with the clean finish.
- 2010 Sparkling Merlot – a deep ruby colour with plums and earthy oak, it was fizzy and refreshing with a blue cheese bite.
- 2010 Reserve Shiraz – rich and dark with roasted coffee and smoke on the nose. It had a silky entry and an elegant, smooth finish.
Of the wine regions that we have been to so far, this has been the best. The fortified wines and mead at Chateau Dorrien were fantastic, lunch at Blond Coffee was great and the scenic drive into the hills southeast of Angaston presented spectacular views of the valley. We drove towards the Riverland with a few order forms in our pocket. Looking forward to sipping some mead when we get home.