Exceptions not withstanding modern Australian wines have managed to capture the palates and imagination of young consumers with their fruity, easy-to-drink, slightly sweet flavour.
All are straightforward, instantly likeable wines, but shortly after, turn to flat, unappealing beverages due to their low acidity and rapidly vanishing fruit. Barossa Valley ’s wines are different.
The Valley north of Adelaide enjoys an excellent reputation and even more interesting history, which started in Brandenburg, Silesia in 1830. King Frederich Wilhelm III of Prussia declared that all Lutherans must follow the doctrines of the Reformed Church that he believed to be correct. While Pastor Angus Kavel first thought of accepting the edict in 1835, he decided that religion and state must be separate entities. He started looking for opportunities to relocate his flock.
George Fife Angas, a wealthy Englishman and philanthropist in London, was ready to help by offering Pastor Kavel and his congregation free passage to Australia.
The first of the three ships on which the congregation travelled, arrived in Adelaide in early Augustm1838, the second late in August and the third in December.
After much hardship ad negotiation, the good pastor Kavel managed to secure land in the Barossa Valley in 1842 and established villages. Many of the people
were carpenters specializing in boat building. The roofs of the churches in the Valley look more like upturned ships
Barossa Valley ’s Geography, Climate and Soil
The Valley was proclaimed a viticultural region by the Australian Indications Committee and consists of two sub regions: Lyndoch to Kalimna (200 – 300 meters
above sea level) and Eden Valley (500 – 600 metres above sea level) and cover 7000 hectares producing an average of 60,000 metric tonnes of grapes.
The soils vary from alluvial, rich, fertile black soils on the valley floor, and infertile slopes overlying limestone in the Eden valley, and sandy loam over clay in western Barossa.
This wide range of soils, coupled with climatic variations, provide the basis for Barossa’s breadth of quality, styles and regional nuances.
The climate is Mediterranean, characterised by cool wet winters with temperatures between 8 – 20 C, and warm dry summers with 30 – 35 C.
From the beginning, Silesian immigrants preferred dry farming to irrigation, although today a few growers irrigate judiciously to compensate for lack of rain.
Shiraz in Barossa Valley
Shiraz was already well known in Australia and when in 1843 Christian Auricht planted a few rows of this grape, the vines thrived. By a happy coincidence, the terroir was perfect.
The villages Ebenezer, Angaston and Langmeil are famous for their peppery dark, highly alcoholic, smooth, balanced Shiraz wines that can age for over a decade.
To this day, there are still some remnants of vineyards established in 1843; they yield very little but superb grapes.
Although Barossa Shiraz wines today enjoy a worldwide reputation, by 1980 growers could barely sell their fruit. Demand was so low many growers uprooted their vines to plant other more lucrative cash crops. Fortunately, around 1995 with promotional activities and some luck the situation was reversed.
There are other grapes i.e Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Mourvedre, Grenache, Chardonnay that grow well in Barossa.
Some of the descendants of Silesian immigrants are still involved in vitiviniculture, although there are newcomers as well. Peter Lehmann is one of the many Silesian wine growers descending from the original congregation.
Other famous wineries are Grant Burge, Terra Barossa, Henschke, Charles Melton, Craneford, Sladem, Haan, Turkey Flat Vineyards, Glaetzer, Tower Estate, Rockford,
Two Hands, and Thorn-Clark. Wine conglomerates also produce wine from Barossa fruit. Occasionally they print it on the back label, but not always.
Some produce varietal Shiraz, and blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, or Shiraz and Mourvedre and Grenache, or Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
While Barossa Valley ’s Shiraz and other red wines are world famous, the region’s Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon and Frontignac should not the overlooked.
They are delicious, deeply flavoured and perfectly balances pending on vintage and the skill of the winemaker. Australian wine laws permit acid adjustments, thus winemakers have the liberty to manipulate whet nature provides.
When tasting and buying Shiraz and other wines mentioned above, remember the special terroir and meticulous winemakers of the region.