We love trying local spirits when we travel. We’ve tasted whiskey in Ireland, sampled local microbrews in Milwaukee, and have sipped champagne in the Champagne region of France. But what we enjoy most when traveling is to sample wine. We’ve tasted wine around the world from South Africa to Spain. Vineyards always seem to be in the most remarkable locations. Of all the places we’ve enjoyed fine wine, South Australia just might be the most beautiful.
Located 45 minutes from Adelaide, the Barossa Valley is Australia’s premier wine-producing region. Here you’ll find the likes of Wolf Blass, Peter Lehmann Wines,
and Penfolds among more than 50 wineries in the region. The scenery makes this location spectacular. Framed by the Barossa Ranges, this massive valley of rolling hills is filled with vines stretching for as far as the eye can see. To get the full impact of the region, head to Mengler Hill, a popular lookout from which you can take in the view of the entire valley.
We started our tour at Penfolds. Here, we had the privilege of tasting the winery’s famous Grange wine, which often is priced at more than US$600 per bottle. We had never before tasted a wine this expensive, so it was quite a treat. (Funny enough, we recently visited the Wine and Dine Festival in Hong Kong, and we tasted it again! How lucky are we? I guess once you develop an expensive palate, it follows you wherever you go.) I honestly can say this is the best wine we’ve ever tasted. And yes, I assume the reason is because of the price.
The Barossa Valley is known for its Shiraz wines. Shiraz is a very good blending grape, so at Penfolds we tried our hand at making our own blend. Donning white lab coats, we entered a room filled with glass beakers and measuring cups. This was the laboratory, the place where the winemakers blend wine, as well. We chose our spots from a series of very scientific-looking stations and each were given a bottle of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre to blend into our own bottle of wine.
We measured, tasted, and took notes. We tried to emulate Penfolds’ most popular wine, Bin 138, which also uses all of these three varieties. In the end, all that really mattered was satisfying our own tastes, especially since our blends were ours to take home! We were quite happy with our unique mixtures.
Viewfinder Tip: Hire a driver for your day in the Barossa Valley so you can drink all day without having to get behind the wheel.
The next stop on our wine tour was the Langmeil Winery, which has the oldest vines in the country. The vines were planted in 1843 by German immigrants. These old vines are very delicate and only produce a small amount of wine each year, so we didn’t get the chance to sample wine from these vines. We did taste one of their finer wines, valued at more than US$100 per bottle. It was delicious.
We spent the rest of the day tasting and sampling wines at different wineries. We also enjoyed a delicious meal at Vintner’s Bar & Grill. The eatery was the perfect spot to pair some of the wines we tasted earlier in the day with fine food in a relaxed atmosphere.
After that meal, we decided not to go back to Adelaide, and instead had our driver take us to the beautiful Kingsford Homestead, located just outside the limits of the Valley. This luxurious 5-star retreat has seven luxurious suites that are made for romance with large beds and fine linens. We spent a few nights. Our recommendations: Grab dinner (prepared by a private chef) in the wine cellar, which will allow you to sample more wine from the region while enjoying local produce. You also can turn the romance up by grabbing a bottle of wine and dipping into the hot soaking tub for two, which is located in an outdoor bush bath in a secluded part of the property.
By choosing to stay within a short drive of the Valley, our day in the Barossa turned into a holiday on which we were able to take an early-morning hot air balloon ride, explore the fine visitors center, and go shopping for antiques. The Barossa Valley is more than just a premier wine region; it’s a premier experience, too.
Where have you had your most unique wine tasting experience?