Author: Olivia Bodle
The hour’s drive north east of Adelaide to Barossa is almost eerily quiet and calm, the empty roads head straight through the parched landscape; arid squares turning suddenly into vineyards just before you reach the valley’s southernmost cluster of houses, Lyndoch. Reaching the centre of Barossa three small towns form a triangle (Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston), each of which vies to be the heart of the region, with locals arguing vociferously over the title.
The region is remarkably unpretentious: the roads are unpaved as soon as you leave the towns; the farmers’ market on a Saturday is busier than any supermarket; and small, garagiste producers and craft breweries abound. A few banners in Tanunda’s town centre hint towards a few of the corporate giants but you’ll be lucky to spot a tank or shed. There is a multitude of cellar doors but when you consider the size of the industry there, the wineries are very well hidden in the rolling hills.
If you are visiting Barossa for a special occasion, The Louise is hands down the place to stay; it is the region’s only truly luxurious hotel and is charmingly located amongst the vines. Just down the road is the unmissable lunch spot Fino at the Seppeltsfield winery. Their menu is sourced locally, and the simple, elegant dishes are accompanied by homemade bread and a Barossa-dominant wine list.
Driving through Tanunda (watch out for the queue outside Darling’s Café, the best coffee in the state) you should stop at The Valley, a great place to rub shoulders with some purple-handed winemakers and have a chat over a schooner of Coopers, the ultimate refreshment at the end of a hot day. This pub is the social hub of Barossa and you’ll be sure to spot a few famous faces down there on a Friday night, when the strange tradition of the weekly raffle of a large platter of raw meat draws crowds to the bar.
The shining beacon for gastronomic pilgrims is undoubtedly fermentAsian; chef Tuoi Do’s exceptional Vietnamese cooking is complemented by her husband Grant’s tome-like, 90-page wine list which is diverse and cerebral, each wine with a beautiful narrative. The spring rolls are life-changing; unbelievably crisp and light, filled with produce from the garden which the family tend to themselves. Then enjoy the Barossa pork belly with “incendiary components” alongside a glass of Michael Hall’s Sang de Pigeon Pinot Noir.
A few essential cellar doors are Hewitson for their Barossa classics, Elderton in Nuriootpa where the Marsanne-Rousanne is well worth a taste (they also have a cosy guest house within staggering distance of town), and Artisans of Barossa. The latter is a cooperative of six boutique producers and it boasts the cellar door with the best view in the valley. Jason Schwarz’s wines are made with minimal intervention and stand out from the selection in their elegance and finesse. If you can track down Damien Tscharke, his winery is most impressive; a subterranean, eco-masterpiece where he works with non-conventional varieties.
A great time of year to visit is April, when vintage is winding down and the valley is buzzing with energy. It isn’t too hot (although a string of 35-degree days is not unheard of) and there are innumerable parties going on – the annual folk music festival at Turkey Flat is a rosé-fuelled knees-up not to miss! Near Angaston is Mengler’s Hill lookout; it is the perfect vantage point to watch the breathtaking Barossa sunsets which stop even the burliest of winemakers in their tracks with their fire-like intensity. Visiting Barossa is a must for anyone looking for an unusual weekend break in Australia or as part of a wine tour around the many beautiful regions surrounding Adelaide.
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