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Generations of Discovery & Resilience on Barossa Grounds - The Winemaking History

OCT 30, 2018 BY CHARLOTTE MAXWELL visibility3


If you could showcase the history, evolution and revolution of the famous Australian wines, there’s no better pick than the stunning Barossa Valley for an Adelaide day tour, the land of six-generations of grape-growing families and home to Australia’s collection of oldest vines dating back to the 1840s!

The legacy began with a European touch. But unlike other Australian wine industries, it wasn’t the British but the German settlers who transformed the barren land to the country’s most beautiful vineyards.

German Lutherans, from the province of Silesia first came to Barossa around 1840s to work for the London banker and merchant George Fife Angas. As the largest land owner of Barossa back then with 11,300 hectares, Angas needed workers exactly at the time when Lutherans were fighting religious persecution in their homeland. Escapism brought them ‘Down Under’ and valleys started turning to patches of grapelands.

Hearing the tales of Angas, Samuel Smith, a brewer from Wareham sailed to Australia with his family. He met his role model there who offered him the job of a gardener on his land. Understanding that the soil quality and mesoclimate here are perfect for vine production, Smith bought 30 acres of land from Angas. Then he raised the first vineyard of Barossa in 1849, still persisting as ‘Yalumba Family Vignerons’!

The success story of Smith invited many vintners from Europe to Barossa. Soon enough the transverse valleys became a hub of winemakers. Authentic varieties quickly won over the world's wine lovers, from wine writers and sommeliers to wine geeks and novices. This augered the start of a 'golden era' for the Barossa Valley wineries and for Australian wines.

The early focus was on the production of Riesling, a German wine grape from Rhineland which was gradually ushered to many red grape wine varieties like Shiraz and Grenache. This was also the time when Cabernet Sauvignon varieties conquered premium wine markets around the world and Australian Shiraz considered to be ‘common’ collapsed in business. As a result, Barossa Valley disappeared from the labels of global market.

Revolution outbroke in the 1980s when several boutique families specializing in Shiraz wines captured international attention with a new mix of a full-bodied red wine with rich chocolate and spice notes. This led to a renaissance which catapulted the region to the forefront of wine labels again!

Fast-forwarding to the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, intense, concentrated and heavily naked wines became the fashion of Barossa. Vintners experimented on new breeds of grape growing and winemaking styles. Organic and biodynamic farming, earlier picking dates, whole bunch fermentation, extended skin contact, fermentation in amphorae and minimal intervention winemaking became some of the innovations that wine enthusiasts around the world started admiring.

As wine production expanded, chefs around the world came here to combine their recipes with these wines, changing the perception of food-wine combo. Today, home to over 550 wine grape growers and 170 wineries, Barossa Valley is one of the most famed wine regions in the world with wines as old as 100-150 years including the ones from 1840’s.

Not just production, Barossa Valley also tops as one of the most popular destinations for wine tasting and sightseeing in Adelaide with views of scenic vineyards and rolling hills. So have you made a trip to Barossa yet?

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