This blog post was sponsored by Groovy Grape Tours. Call me a wine expert now. After a full day driving from vineyard to cellar door listening to expert talk on the subject of wines and wine making, I feel that I should have remembered a fraction to share with you wine connoisseurs so that you can throw your sixpence in at your next cheese and wine session. So listen up, foodies.
Rocking Barossa Valley
Hold your horses for a minute, however, I want to tell you something silly beforehand. Australia is close at the heels of the US when it comes to having random attractions along the roads but wins in the category of claiming the biggest rocking horse their own. With 75 tonnes weight and 18.3m in height, it is definitely hard to overlook and, naturally, I rocked the climb and got a certificate to prove it. The reason for this giant toy is the toy factory next to it that seeks to attract visitors with this as well as a museum and zoo.
Trailing our way through the Barossa Valley with our Groovy Grape Tours bus, we passed romantic landscapes full of grape vines and corn fields before we entered our first cellar door at the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre. Before the obligatory tasting, we were introduced to its rich heritage (both in wines and the estate’s history). The brand has experienced dramatic growth since its establishment in 1847. Like so many winemakers in the region, Johann Gramp was of German origin and had to work hard at first to make a living in the new country. After doing many hands on jobs, he ultimately became a successful surveyor and moved to Jacobs Creek, which would later be named after him.
The business was handed down to the family’s sons successfully and saw the establishment of the trademark Orlando as well as the Steingarten Riesling, which is grown in similar conditions to the Steingarten wines in the German Rhineland. Apart from the high quality wines, the Visitor Centre in itself is a unique place. Awarded as a Climate Action Business by Sustainable Tourism Australia, it is a monument to sustainability with its environmental design. It utilizes recycled material, such as the timbers from a former Queensland bridge, energy conservation through bamboo flooring and special glass as well as treated waste water for irrigation.
Kies Family Wines
For a tasting before lunch (and possibly choosing a wine to go with it), we indulged at Kies Family Wines. In the quaint 1800s cottage with its very homely flair and a gazebo framed by red roses, we felt instantly comfortable once we entered the doors and into a room full with lovingly decorated wine memorabilia. Much more intimate than the former winery, we could talk directly with the owner and tasted their exceptionally consistent wine, which mostly stems from old vines.
The cellar door is not as old as many of the others in the valley since it was established only in 1985 by Tina and Michael Kies. This does not in the slightest show in the quality of the wines. The Kies’s motto has always been ‘quality not quantity’ and thus focus on winery on a smaller scale so as to ensure distinct flavours and varieties.
The next cellar door was situated on the beautiful estate Chateau Barrosa all complete with rose gardens and a huge mansion that was built in the neo Gothic style to serve not only has a large family home but as a museum and shop front for Creed Wines as well. Here we were informed that the typical Australian wine Shiraz originated from the Middle East and grows very well in hot weather and on sandy ground, thus perfect for the Australian climate.
Collectors of heavier reds should be aware, we’ve been told, to take a close look at whether the bottles are medium or long term bottled. The price difference between them is considerable and is thus a good indicator of the wine’s structure and quality. The long term wine can start from $50 up to a $120 a bottle. Another handy hint concerned the cork. Creed Wines has now switched from cork to caps. Still, if you want to leave your precious wine on the shelf, always make sure to lay it down so that the fluid touches the cork. Otherwise it will dry out and let oxygen in, which will spoil the wine. Unless you want to drink vinegar, of course (don’t do it!).
Our last stop saw us driving up to the monumental estate of Seppeltsfield. Just as big as the estate is its history. If you cannot already tell by the size of the family mausoleum that is situated on a hill that overlooks the area, the cellar door wine experts will gladly share the local history. Joseph and Johanna Seppelt together with their whole workforce came from Silesia all the way to Australia in the 1850s, buying lots of acres there and establishing the farm, switching from tobacco to wine.
It was not until their son Benno took over the business after their untimely demise, that it grew rapidly and he then had the brilliant idea of creating a wine that with the age of 100 years. He never got to taste it himself, naturally. It was a well-kept secret and as a celebration for the first opening, the family decided to put one wine in the cellar every single year. Over that long time span, the fluid has become rather syrupy and has shrunken considerably, but has taken on a very special taste. A shot of the Para, as this special wine is called, can be had for $40.
Barossa Valley Way, Rowland Flat , 5352, South Australia, Australia
Phone:(08) 8521 3000
Kies Family Wines
LOT 2 Barossa Valley Way, Lyndoch SA 5351
Phone:(08) 8524 4110
Hermann Thumm Dr, Lyndoch SA 5351
Phone:(08) 8524 4268
Seppeltsfield Rd, Seppeltsfield SA 5355
(08) 8568 6200