Barossa Valley

South Australia

About

Discover the Barossa Valley with James Halliday's Wine Atlas of Australia

In the new millennium Australia prides itself as a multicultural society, yet by the 1850s the Barossa Valley was that and more. On the one hand came the British gentry, led by George Fife Angas (who gave his name to Angaston), Joseph Gilbert (Pewsey Vale, 1847), Samuel Smith (founder of Yalumba in 1849) and William Salter (Saltram, 1859). On the other side were the far more numerous and usually less wealthy Lutheran emigrants from Prussia, who left en masse in protest against a new Reformed Church prayer book proclaimed by Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III. These pioneers included Johann Gramp (1847), Joseph Seppelt (1851) and William Jacob (1854). Today family winemaker names include Basedow, Dutschke, Glaetzer, Jenke, Kaesler, Kalleske, Kies, Kurtz, Lehmann, Liebich, Roehr, Schilde and Schubert, among countless others content to grow and sell grapes.

The two cultural strands built in bluestone designed to stand for centuries, and went about building enterprises, small and large, for their descendants to inherit. The typical Barossa–Deutsch grapegrower would work six days a week from dawn to dusk, every week of the year. The Lutheran faith was (and is) fundamental, attendance at church on Sunday mandatory. Drought, floods and bushfires only strengthened their mutual resolve, more often than not expressed in the German dialect which persisted as a preferred spoken language until well into the twentieth century.

Barossa Valley region image

By the end of the nineteenth century a pattern had been established which was to continue until the middle of the next century. Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro (MourveĢ€dre) accounted for 70 per cent of total plantings, Pedro Ximenez and Frontignac another ten per cent or so. Most of these were used in the production of various forms of port and sherry, much destined for the UK market. A lesser – though significant – amount of full-bodied dry red wine was made, built around Shiraz.

One reminder of those days is the annual release of Seppelt’s 100 Year Old Para Liqueur, the first in 1978 (of the 1878 vintage). In that year Benno Seppelt laid down a puncheon of his very best port, and followed up every year thereafter. Seppelt still has (much diminished) quantities of all of the nineteenth-century Paras (post release) and significant amounts of future annual releases. It is a true vintage wine, only topped up (by moving to smaller barrels) with the same wine, and is unrivalled (even by Madeiras of the same age) in its explosively luscious richness, intensity and complexity.

The Barossa Valley now has sixth- generation winegrowing families and blocks of vines over 150 years old. It has undergone periods of rapid expansion and painful contraction; seen second- and third-generation vignerons interned in the First World War and Kaiser Stuhl renamed Mount Kitchener; and seen wine fashion push varietal plantings first one way and then another.

There were periods of trouble in 1860 to 1880 (over-production) and in the early 1930s (the Great Depression), yet the Barossa’s nadir came in the 1970s, when its very identity seemed threatened. The massive swing in popular tastes from red to white table wines, the remorseless contraction of the fortified wine market, the sale of many family-owned businesses to multinationals, the ignominy of the state-funded Vine Pull Scheme (a largely ineffective attempt to remove ancient low- yielding vines, then unwanted, now priceless), and the emergence of the new and trendy cool-climate wine regions all suggested the Valley was nearing its use-by date. It not only survived, but has emerged stronger than ever.

Facts

Wineries 201
Tasting Notes 10580

Geographic

Latitude 34°29'S
Altitude 250-370 m
Heat Degree Days 1710
Growing Season Rainfall 160 mm
Mean January Temp 21.4°C
Harvest End February to late April