The Barossa is Australia’s calling card for wine lovers of all ages and origins. Named thus it also includes the Eden Valley, the Barossa Valley its blood brother. The two are of similar land size, their common boundary running north-south, but easily forgotten. I feel the hot breath of an elephant in the room pointing out that in the wonderful 2021 vintage, the Barossa Valley’s grape crush was 60,000 tonnes, the Eden Valley’s 10,000 tonnes. Barossa shiraz is the wine that has carried the Australian flag around the world, Henschke Hill of Grace from the Eden Valley, Penfolds Grange with its majestically complex blend assembled in the Barossa Valley.
Viticulture has been the staff of life for the Lutherans who arrived in the Barossa to escape religious persecution, and found all – indeed more – than they had hoped for. Their stone buildings and churches have stood for 180 years, as has the cuisine. As you drive across or along the Barossa’s rolling hills, vineyards, wineries, cellar doors and restaurants offer visitors effectively limitless choices making GPS essential.
The hustle and bustle of the Barossa goes quiet if you head north towards the Clare Valley, initially on the A32, thence splitting off on the 882 Main North Road. Compared to the Barossa’s spatter of 200 or so large and small wineries, Clare offers 80 mostly small to medium sized, family owned and run enterprises. Visitors making their initial acquaintance of the Valley should travel with a co-pilot to see the cellar door/winery/restaurant/B&B that is their next stop, tucked away as the Main North Road snakes up and down, twists and turns.
Covid has caused some changes for the better at cellar doors in many regions, the Clare Valley conforming to the seated-only wine tastings, frequently linked with food. It is here that riesling comes into play, providing 4300 tonnes (in a total crush of 20,000 tonnes) for the wine that winemakers love more than any other variety, with or without food.
2018 Kellermeister Black Sash Barossa Valley Shiraz
Ex 100+yo vines in Ebenezer; matured in French hogsheads; good colour with a crimson rim. It is a clearly articulated, fruit-driven medium- to full-bodied shiraz, offering blackberry/black cherry; fresh tannins, and devoid of bitterness.
95 points, drink to 2038, 14.5% alc, Screwcap, $85
2021 Z August Old Vine Barossa Valley Grenache
Old vine, modern grenache style, picked while all the perfume and exotic spices of grenache are in high relief throughout the long palate; best of all is the absence of heat on the juicy finish.
95 points, drink to 2031, 14.5% alc, Screwcap, $35
2019 Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Perfect colour; a polished and elegant wine that is in the heart of the best Clare Valley cabernets, with blackcurrant and cedar marking the bouquet and perfectly balanced medium- to full-bodied palate. Its finish and aftertaste are special, too, as is the modest alcohol.
96 points, drink to 2039, 14% alc, Screwcap, $60