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Barossa

Australia’s oldest, most famous and internationally renowned wine growing region located a short distance from Adelaide, South Australia, the Barossa Valley contains the sub district of the Eden Valley, and is home to some of Australia’s, and the world’s oldest Shiraz vines. The Barossa Valley’s viticultural history extends back to the early 1800’s when English and Prussian immigrants founded vineyards, enterprises and wineries still family owned to this day. The British gentry was led by George Fife Angas (Angaston), Joseph Gilbert (Pewsey Vale), Samuel Smith (Founder of Yalumba in 1847) and William Salter (Saltram 1859). On the other hand a significantly more numerous population of Lutheran’s migrated fleeing the reformation in Prussia, pioneering viticulture and agriculture, numbering among them were names synonymous with the most established wineries in Australia including Johann Gramp (1847), Joseph Seppelt (Seppelt, 1851) and William Jacob (1854). Many of these original families continue in the wine business and own vineyards. The growers of the Barossa have weathered two world wars, drought, flood, bushfire, erratic swings in market preferences from red wine to white (1970’s), the Vine Pull Scheme of the 1980s whereby 130 year old, priceless, low yielding vines were removed due to lack of demand, to emerge stronger than ever, the one constant it’s ancient weathered vineyards and stoic population.

Principally a red wine growing region, historically the varieties planted were Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro (Mourvedre) alongside Pedro Ximenez and Frontignac for the production of fortified wine. The climate is warm and dry, with cool nights and warm to hot days. The Barossa Valley contains a complex typography of valleys, hills slopes and soils. The soils vary widely though the dominate composition is a clay loam and in areas low fertility sandy soils. Although red grapes are more pervasively planted, there are small quantities of white varieties including Semillon, which is often unwooded, with bright lemon zest notes and moderate acidity. Barossa Chardonnay tends to be richer and more generous with Melon and ripe peach notes and is quick to develop and best consumed young. Riesling which are also of a more broad and generous style, though many Barossa based wineries produce more zesty examples from Clare Valley and Eden Valley fruit. Small quantities of Viognier are cultivated, used primarily for blending with Shiraz, though some outstanding mono varietal bottling’s are available, Yalumba Virgilius in particular.

Of the Red varieties Shiraz is king with considerably more planted than Grenache or Mourvedre. Significantly, many of these vines are older than Shiraz or Syrah vines planted in Europe, the Barossa being fortunate enough not to encounter the devastations of phylloxera. Typically Barossa Shiraz is full bodied, lush with notes of blackberry, plum, medium acidity and high, but soft ripe tannins. They are traditionally aged in new oak imparting flavours of graphite and cigar box (new French oak) and coconut and vanilla (new American oak), the wines are renowned for their depth and longevity. The shift in the mid-1990s towards producing blockbuster wines that were high in alcohol fuelled by high Parker scores that then pushed the prices of the wines in America and Asia to new levels encouraged some winemakers to follow suit. The pendulum has now begun to swing in the other direction, led by a new generation of producers committed to making elegant, full to medium bodied Barossa red articulating individual vineyard character.

Many of Australia’s most famous wines are made in the Barossa and some of the most recognised producers include Penfolds, Peter Lehman, Yalumba, Wolf Blass and Henschke. The quintet of Penfolds Grange (mainly old vine Barossa shiraz aged in new American oak), Penfolds RWT Shiraz , Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz (100% single vineyard), Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon and Penfolds St Henri Shiraz) are all highly sought after wines. And Henschke’s iconic single vineyard ancient vine Hill of Grace is considered by many to be the equal of Penfolds Grange in terms of both quality and as wine investment. A recent resurgence has seen many smaller artisanal wineries producing outstanding wines on small scale, including Spinifex, Teusner, Ruggabellus, Standish, Kalleske and Head Wines to name a few.

Less pervasively planted are Grenache, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon prefers a slightly cooler climate and tends to be better in cooler years and the use of French Oak is more common than American. Grenache and Mourvedre are often blended with Shiraz in a traditional Rhone Blend, though also bottles as mono varietal wines. Grenache from the Barossa tends toward sweet fruits, raspberry, with hints of spice and soft tannins. Outstanding producers include Spinifex, Kalleske, Charles Melton and Rusden.

Sources:
The Oxford Companion to Wine, (ed) Jancis Robinson
James Halliday's Wine Atlas of Australia, James Halliday
Australia & New Zealand Complete Book of Wine, Compiled by Len Evans
 


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  1. Peter Lehmann H & V Shiraz 2019
    Peter Lehmann H & V Shiraz 2019
    The H&V range are designed to showcase the diversity of the Barossa and in some ways challenge the views of what consumers think. The wine is a blend of mainly Barossa and a touch of Eden fruit which adds a lovely cool edge and offers great value.

    Nicel filled with plum, blackberry and dark chocolate flavours. There is a nod to 'traditional' Barossa with the use of American hogsheads. In saying that this is surprisingly elegant and wonderfully put together. Plenty of ripe blackberry conserve and a spicy, leathery lick. We are thoroughly impressed with this little number.
    2019
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  2. Yelland & Papps Vin de Soif 2017
    Yelland & Papps Vin de Soif 2017
    Around 70% grenache, 25% mataro, 5% carignan from multiple vineyards with an average age of 87yo. Wild yeast-open fermented with a portion of whole bunches with some time on skins and touch of older oak to round it out.

    Its lifted and pretty on the nose that follows into a pure, plump and juicy plum and berry fruits, with a touch of sour cherry bite and plenty of spicy on the close. Sits somewhere between light and medium bodied with lovely balance and plenty of freshness. Juicy and up-front deliciousness that keeps on giving. We dare you to have just one glass! PWS
    2017
    Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre, shiraz
    Australia
    349
  3. Michael Hall Sang de Pigeon Shiraz 2017
    Michael Hall Sang de Pigeon Shiraz 2017
    ...the wines are as impressive as his experience suggests they should be. JAMES HALLIDAY

    Michael was once a jewellery valuer for Sotheby's but moved to Australia in 2001 to pursue studies and a career in winemakeing - and we are glad he did. There is nothing in his porftolio that isn't either well crafted, beautifully handled and/or speaks so eloquently of place. His work in Australia and abroad is a veritable who's who of producers including Cullen, Giaconda, Henschke, Shaw + Smith, Coldstream Hills and Veritas. In France he cut his teeth with Domaine Leflaive, Meo-Camuzet, Vieux Telegraphe and Trevallon. Wow!
     
    Hand-picked in Greenock and Stone Well, wild fermented in open fermenter and closed puncheons, 5% whole bunch, matured in French oak barrels for 21 months (10% new). Blended with 15% Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills Shiraz. PWS

    Fruit takes the front seat here, blackcurrants, note of red fruit and a dusting of cinnamon spice. Medium bodied, smooth and loaded with velvety tannin. Nothing overdone or out of place.
    95, JAMES HALLIDAY
    2017
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  4. Torbreck The Struie 2018 375ml
    Torbreck The Struie 2018 375ml
    The Struie is a blend of both Barossa Valley floor fruit and higher Eden Valley fruit which relects the cooler side of the regions and for us has made it one of the go-to wines from Torbeck.

    The Eden fruit is sourced from vineyards sitting between 400 - 50 metres and lends a lovely focus to the fruit with a distinct line of fesh, minerally acidity, notable blue fruits and fine grain tannins. The marriage of 40 year old vines in the Eden and 80 year old vines in the Barossa off up the perfect marriage of elegance and intensity. PWS

    The Struie is a wonderfully aromatic and deeply concentrated wine produced from the harmonious combination of both regions, delivering layers of dark chocolate characters and defining structure. Nuances of plum, blackberries, violets and hidden spice characters all further enhance the natural elegance and tension of the fruit quality. The Struie will certainly age tremendously well over the next decade. TORBECK
    2016
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  5. Michael Hall Stone Well Shiraz 2017
    Michael Hall Stone Well Shiraz 2017

    Stonewell, Stone Well, Stonewall. All in the name.

    Strong perfume, fresh and fragrant, red berries, some pine needle and eucalyptus notes, pretty spice dusted over the lot. Lively in the palate, very lush but lifted and silky, so silky. More of the pine needle/mint lift to taste too. It’s such an easy wine to step into and shows off pure, vibrant Barossa fruit so well. MIKE BENNIE, The Wine Front

    2017
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  6. Head Red Shiraz 2016 1500ml
    Head Red Shiraz 2016 1500ml

    Alex Head's annual 'best value Barossa Valley I can make'. A deeply coloured wine with plenty of savoury tannin backbone, but more than sufficient black fruits to put flesh on the bones, and finishes brightly. JAMES HALLIDAY

    More good juicy and affordable Shiraz from Heady.

    Plump, succulent and floral thing, with a brown spices, blackberries and assorted stonefruits. Medium to full bodied, a slight meatiness, but pretty much a silky and approachable Barossa Shiraz that slips down pretty nicely. GARY WALSH, The Wine Front

    2015
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
  7. Head Wines The Contrarian Syrah Marananga 2014 1500ml
    Head Wines The Contrarian Syrah Marananga 2014 1500ml
    From Marananga and less contrarian than it used to be. Apparently men get more conservative as they age, and women become more radical, liberal.
    Boysenberry and dark cherry, that exotic Chinese five spice thing going on, pastis and some dark chocolate. Medium bodied, fluid and smooth, with a crunch to the acidity and a gentle graininess to the firm tannin. Has some salt beef flavours in there that you see in a lot of modern Barossa Shiraz, though they don’t bother me so much in this wine. Needs a year or two to soften, like a good pair of jeans. Just over the line for a 94 point finish. GARY WALSH winefront.com.au May 2015
    2014
    shiraz
    Australia
    349
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