Barossa blends unique pioneer mix into Australia wine and food Mecca

August 13, 2007
Barossa blends unique pioneer mix into Australia wine and food Mecca

About an hour north from South Australia's capital Adelaide the Barossa has wonderful wines from landscapes draped with vineyards; passionate food producers, country markets all blended by a unique European farmer and English gentry heritage which dates from the 1850's. It includes the Barossa and Eden Valleys and is Australia's best-known viticulture and winemaking region.

The regions appeal to about 60 percent of all visitors to South Australia owes much to the pioneer European peasant farmers and English free settlers who made it home. Their cultural legacy is superb Barossa specialty foods, dozens of festivals and events, historic architecture and inspiring arts and antique galleries.

The 1,970 square kilometre area was mapped out by the colonys famed Surveyor-General Colonel William Light in the late 1830s. Originally named after the Spanish town of Barrosa, where the English were victorious over the French in the Spanish Civil War, it was later misspelt by its Lutheran settlers and came to be known as Barossa.

In the following years it was settled by both German peasant farmers fleeing religious persecution in Prussia and English free settlers aspiring to a gentrified country lifestyle. Development of a commercial wine industry began in the 1850s but real growth didnt begin until the 1880s.

Things to do include winery tours in a limousine or vintage car. Float above the valley in a hot-air balloon. Wake up in the Barossa after spending the night in a restored settler's cottage, a resort suite, a luxurious country house or a shady caravan park. German wursts and cakes from heritage bakeries and butcher stores have their own Barossa's Butcher, Baker, Winemaker Trail. Festivals are part of the lifestyle and 100 events make up the biennial Barossa Vintage Festival.

Gawler Caravan Park picture courtesy Ben Woods
Gawler Caravan Park picture courtesy Ben Woods

Must see attractions in South Australia touring include Hahndorf Australia's oldest German town. Quirky, great food and beer and the home and gallery of one of Australia's greatest artists Hans Heysen is close to the town. Works by his daughter are remarkable too. She is, in your correspondent's opinion, one of the great portrait painters. Heysen was outstanding , but he deferred to his daughter. Australia's diva of the opera Nellie Melba was among the house guests. Visitors can sit where she sat in Heysen's studio. Nearby are Macclesfield and Stathfield. The pub and heritage buildings repectively are surprises in a rural setting,

The Barossa region's 500 grape growing families (many sixth-generation) tend the vineyards which supply about 60,000 tonnes of grapes to about 70 winemakers.

The industry was built on the success of names like Seppelts, Gramp and Lehmann, and today it is the young winemakers in many of the small wineries who are also producing wines of great character and quality alongside the giants of the industry.

Many wineries have outdoor picnic facilities; childrens play areas and winemaking displays. Some also offer dining or caf experiences.

The wines of the Barossa range from crisp rieslings to chardonnays and semillons, shiraz, grenache and cabernets.

The wines which laid the foundation of the Barossa were the tawny and vintage fortifieds, with full flavours to capture the palate.

Hahndorf is heritage Australia
Hahndorf is heritage Australia

There are also tiny boutique wineries where top drops are sold out within weeks of their launch. Have your photo taken beside the real Jacob's Creek. Visit the $5 million Wolf Blass Visitor Centre, or any of the 60 cellar doors with wine establishment names like Peter Lehmann, Henschke, Seppelt, Yaldara and Yalumba.

The buildings and grounds of Chateau Yaldara house a cafe and larder; the magnificently restored Chateau Tanunda has a cricket oval and croquet lawn. It is also home to the Barossa Small Winemakers Centre; Seppeltsfield, one of Australia's grandest wine chateaux. It began life as a dairy in 1851 Chateau Barossa's parklands feature more than 20,000 rose bushes of more than 2000 varieties.

The patchwork of vineyards and farms spreads for visitors to the lookout on Mengler Hill. Religion is important to Barossa people and Church spires punctuate the landscape. The English chose the highlands around Angaston and Eden Valley to settle, while the Lutherans settled throughout the valley and built imposing stone churches.

About 30 churches, mostly Lutheran, built of local stone and reminiscent of Germany are dotted throughout the Barossa.

Barossa Valley Tourist Park Nuriootpa
Barossa Valley Tourist Park Nuriootpa

There is great individuality in the interiors and furnishings and they are famous for their fine pipe organs. They welcome visitors to services.

Barossa Farmers Market is held every Saturday morning from 7.30am to 11.30am just behind Vintners Bar Grill near Angaston, it's a food-only market reflecting the heritage and traditions of the region.

The Barossa has a calendar of events large and small. The biennial vintage festival celebrates the harvest in every town. Barossa under the Stars features a top international performer (past stars include Rod Stewart, Elton John) and fine local hospitality. And the Barossa Gourmet Weekend unites cooks, chefs and restaurants with wineries to present the best of each.

Pioneering life was hard. Langmeil Cemetery and the Herbig Family Tree a hollow tree trunk that sheltered Johann Friedrich Herbig and his wife and two children as their first home, are evidence of this.

The Barossa folk preserved their language and culture through religion, music, architecture, crafts and food.

German-style yeast cakes, smoked meats, small goods and preserved fruits have developed into a distinct cuisine and a thriving specialty food industry.

The Barossa is a gastronomic Mecca, where award-winning chefs offer a diverse range of dining experiences.

SA welcome on route to Barossa
SA welcome on route to Barossa

Many old cooking and food production techniques are being revived in the Barossa.

Finest quality olive oil is being produced from wild and cultivated trees. Goats cheese, quince paste, mustards, fruit and wine vinegars are part of the excellent selection of Barossa produce, and relishes, chutneys and sauces add zest to fine foods.

Today the region has its own regional food brand Food Barossa, and visitors can sample its products as they follow the Butcher, Baker, and Winemaker Trail.

On the crown of the range, Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park provides excellent bush walking. The Heysen Walking Trail traverses the ranges, as does the Mawson Cycling Trail.

Kapunda Tourist and Leisure Park is  next  to the golf course
Kapunda Tourist and Leisure Park is next to the golf course

The Heysen Trail is South Australias longest walking trail, covering 1500km from Cape Jervis to Parachilna Gorge.

Discover traces of gold fever during a visit to the Barossa Goldfields or visit the Lyndoch Lavender Farm for a peaceful retreat.

The famous biennial Barossa Vintage Festival, Barossa Music Festival and Barossa Under the Stars are some of the special Barossa events that regularly attract thousands to the region.

Make a point of driving the Barossa's most memorable road, the scenic approach to Seppeltsfield Winery, lined with mature date and fan palms. The palms were planted to provide work during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The road passes the Seppelt family mausoleum that is styled like a Greek Doric temple and leads to the historic winery buildings complex, gardens and homes built to house winery staff.

The well-preserved heritage of the region is a catalyst for arts, crafts and antiques, including the wine industry craft of cooperage.

Just outside the quaint little town of Williamstown the Whispering Wall is an engineering marvel, the wall is a perfect ellipse and allows messages whispered at one end to be heard 140m away at the other. Built in 1902, the wall is 39m high and the top concrete section is reinforced with old tram rails.

The delights of the Barossa could be at risk because of a small pest with a funny name phylloxera.

Phylloxera, an insect that attacks grapevine roots, could destroy South Australias wine industry by killing precious vines.

Visitors can help stop the disease attacking South Australian vines. When visiting wine regions in other States, clean your shoes and remove mud from vehicles before entering South Australian wineries and do not walk on vineyard soil. Do not bring any plant material or soil into South Australia from interstate. Stay on roadways when visiting vineyards.

Editor's Note. Also See -

Master artist Hans Heysen worked in this studio at The Cedars
Master artist Hans Heysen worked in this studio at The Cedars

The  oldest German town in Australia
The oldest German town in Australia

Hahndorf is a shady town in summer
Hahndorf is a shady town in summer

Hans Heysen picked these Spring Flowers for his master work from his own garden
Hans Heysen picked these Spring Flowers for his master work from his own garden

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South Australian pubs are definitely different

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Strathalbyn is a surprise packet

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