My Australia Wine Trip: when I traveled all across world to see how Australia produces and lives the wine!
Visiting Australia had been on my to-do list for years. This year, the wine seemed to be the perfect excuse to finally get it done.
Three weeks across the world. I went to Sydney and Melbourne, popped by Tasmania and ended the trip in Adelaide and the surrounding area.
Wine tourism in Australia is a little different from what I am used to: it is not common to have a guide heading a tour, telling you the story of the place and wrapping it all up with a tasting of carefully chosen bottles. Here, what seems to work, and very well indeed, are the so-called cellar doors – shop and tasting room combined, open all week, where you’re welcome to try all, or close to all, the wines made on site. The best bit? They’re free in most wineries!
I do love to explore the vineyards, to get to know the facilities and to talk to winemakers. I love indeed all that. But this way, the Australian way, we get to try more wines and visit more places in a single day! I managed, for instance, to visit four cellar doors per day, each time trying around ten different bottles (some fortified). You do the maths…
I have divided this wine trip into three valleys: Clare, Barossa and McLaren.
Clare brought Riesling from Germany and made it the prevailing grape variety in the region. From hot days and cold nights on the valley come wines which are very fresh and fruity – not only the whites but also the reds like Shiraz or Tempranillo.
The vineyards are beautiful and well managed. Walk along the Riesling trail on a late afternoon to enjoy the countryside freshness. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet kangaroos that will share with you the joy of walking among the vines.
I’m recommending the wineries where I felt the most welcome, tried the best wines and where the staff was able to say something about them:
Save a night to dine at Seed, the best restaurant in Clare. It has a long list , of Australian and international wines, the décor is cosy and the food is beautifully well-served!
Barossa Valley is stunning! True, it’s the most touristy of the three but it remains an absolute beauty. All cellar doors are well managed, the vineyards are impeccable and tourism is controlled.
Since the climate is very similar to my Alentejo, I enjoyed some excellent Shiraz (me, who was never particularly fond of it in Portugal…), the most cherished red variety in Barossa. I also found plenty of red Cabernet Franc and Granache and white Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
Once again, my favourite wineries were the ones with a nice ambience and where the staff was knowledgeable:
The only guided tour happened at Seppetsfield. I learned about their history; It was founded in 1850 by the Seppelt family and it ties-in with the region’s past. It is most likely the most well-rounded wine tourism project in Barossa. Aside from the cellar door and shop, they have a fine-dining restaurant, an art gallery and a never-ending garden.
The road that takes us to the valley is worth seeing! I mean Seppeltsfield Road, one of the most photographed sites in Barossa, famous for its hundreds of palm trees along miles of road, which add an interesting feature to the vastness of the vines.
Should you have any energy left, go for a bike ride. ‘Barossa by Bike’, as locals call pedalling along the trails of vineyard and cellars. Since I was feeling daring, I did over 30k in one afternoon. I sure felt beaten but I’d do it all over again! I managed to find a cheese factory, maker of mainly Barossa cheese. Barossa Valley Cheese Company holds free cheese taste sessions and will offer a discount to any biker who wishes to take some for the way!
I’m glad I saved the last morning for McLaren Valley, south of Adelaide and less than 10k from the sea, where I visited only two wineries, both opting for something different and growing grape varieties unusual in Australia.
At Coriole’s, beyond the lovely range of Italian varieties (Nero Amaro, Barbera, Sangiovese), I had a sip of a wine from Georgia in the bucolic setting of flowers and herbs that grow by their doorstep.
Surprise, surprise, I managed to find our very own Touriga Nacional in a bottle of S. C. Pannel, together with Mataro and Grenache. I can assure you those make great company! As soon as we were done, I took my glass to the terrace and seized the moment for a while, enjoying the silence and dreading the 48-hour long plane journey ahead.
I devoted six days to wine tourism exclusively. So many wineries yet to visit in my Australia wine trip, so many wines yet to try… Deep down, I only need an excuse to go back to the Land Down Under!