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Barossa Valley: Home of the Giants




The Barossa Valley is perhaps Australia’s most well-known wine region. Many of the country’s largest producers – Penfolds, Yalumba, and Orlando among them – are based in Barossa Valley. Unlike most of Australia, where wine was introduced by the British and hewed to their wine-making philosophy, the Barossa Valley was settled largely by Germans. The region has gone through its ups and downs over the years – through much of the 20th century it fell out of favor as shiraz became an undesirable grape. Beginning in the 1980s, however, as shiraz began to make a comeback as Australia’s premiere wine, the Barossa Valley made a huge comeback, with its old-vine shiraz topping many lists.


Shiraz of the Barossa Valley is generally produced in the iconic Australian style – extremely hot temperatures lead to high sugar and low acid, which translate into bold, brash, high-alcohol wines. The west side of the valley is significantly more temperate, and here much of the old-vine shiraz is dry-farmed, with more moderate alcohol levels, and more nuanced flavor profiles. Some wines are furthered tempered by acidification, the addition of water to the must, and reverse osmosis, as well as very short maceration times – all of which lead to smoother, lower-alcohol wines.


aus_barossavalley02-smallAlthough the region is primarily known for shiraz, the western side of the valley is home to other wines as well, most notably riesling, chardonnay, mourvedre, and semillon. The German heritage of the region historically made riesling a very important grape in the region, but over time riesling production has drifted eastwards to the cooler Eden Valley and Barossa Ranges. Semillon has, in recent years, largely filled this niche. The region produces semillon out of a pink-skinned clone, very distinct from the French varietal.


There are more than 150 wineries in the Barossa Valley, and more than 80 have tasting rooms and open cellars. Many more are willing to accommodate visitors by appointment, and a visitor can easily spend weeks tasting their way through the Valley. These include some of the best-known names in Australian wine – Penfolds is perhaps the most famous, but Charles Melton, Elderton, Henschke, and a number of other small-production, high-quality wineries are also found in the region.


Like many of the popular wine regions in Australia, the Barossa Valley is home to a well-developed Heritage network. Visitors can follow signs – either on foot or by car – to discover more about the history and legacy of the region, while tasting wine along the way. Visitor centers in both Tanunda and Gawler provide maps and information, and are open seven days a week.