By Julietta Jameson
When it comes to the great wine regions of the world, few pack as much punch in such an easily toured region. Only 25km end-to-end, it holds an important place in Australia’s wine output in terms of reputation, history and quality.
And it’s ridiculously picturesque to boot. With strong German winemaking heritage dating back to immigrants of the mid-1800s, see proudly preserved chocolate-box-pretty villages, farmhouses and chateaus sitting among famous old vines. Undulating country roads reveal a postcard vista at virtually every turn. And all close to the South Australian capital, Adelaide.
Add to that, a significant food scene built on some of the most scrumptious produce you’ll find anywhere, and this 48-hour sojourn is a food and wine lover’s dream.
Find your way
The Barossa is 86km southwest of Adelaide and just over an easy hour’s drive.
You can take the expressway, or a couple of scenic routes: via Barossa Way or North East Roads through Chain of Ponds and Williamstown.
Once there, getting around is easy in this compact region. There’s an official Barossa Touring Map to download or pick up at local visitor information centres. It features the 57km Barossa Scenic Heritage Drive that takes you through Bethany, Angaston, Nuriootpa, Greenock, Seppeltsfield, Marananga and Tanunda, plus the Gawler Driving Tour and the unmissable Seppeltsfield Road, a palm-tree lined delight that’s home to nearly 20 wineries and which is a living relic of the district’s history.
Find your stay
The Barossa is dotted with charming cottage and converted church stays, atmospheric B&Bs, immaculate motels and apartment stays and grand historic hotels and lodges.
The Louise is the pinnacle of Barossa luxury, with romantic, plush guest suites affording spectacular sunset and valley views from private terraces. It shares its site with the renowned Appellation restaurant.
Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage is a self-contained, perfectly preserved historic property that’s luxurious, sustainable and smack-dab among famous shiraz and cabernet vineyards.
And The Residence at Barossa Chateau is a grand period confection featuring one of Australia’s most important rose gardens and a huge private collection of 18th and 19th century porcelain.
In between these, find little family-run bolt holes and even hostels. The choices are myriad.
A relaxed start
To experience the essence of the Barossa, start your stay in Seppeltsfield. Have breakfast overlooking the vines, maybe in the gardens of The Lodge Country House, which dates back to 1903 as a home for a member of the Seppelt family.
Tour on wheels
Take in the vast Seppeltsfield Winery on a Segway tour, following a one-hour trail throughout the estate grounds and vineyards.
Passing with ease through the stunning gardens and palm lined boulevards, past historic buildings and some of the most famous vines in Australia, the Seppeltsfield and Segway Sensation SA tour runs three times a day on weekends.
Each tour includes areas of the estate not normally accessible on regular tours but choose the one that includes lunch. It finishes with a Barossa tasting plate of charcuterie, Barossa Valley Cheese, olives, relishes and dips served with a glass of Seppeltsfield wine, followed by cake and scones.
Taste your birth year
Before you leave Seppeltsfield, it’s time for another special behind-the-scenes experience. Enter the Centennial Cellar, an atmospheric testament to the vision of Seppeltsfield’s founder, Joseph Seppelt and his eldest son, Benno.
Here lie the fruits of the two men’s “unique and unparalleled system of maturing single barrels of vintage Tawny for 100 years before release”, as the winery explains it.
Dating back to 1866 when the two men made the decision to save a single barrel of each year’s vintage, the bluestone cellar’s collection began with the 1878 Tawny Port, which was left to mature in a separate room and remain untouched for 100 years. The tradition of laying down a barrel from each vintage was continued every year and the Centennial Cellar now houses an unbroken lineage to the present.
You can ‘Taste Your Birth Year’ on a tour that takes you to see the collection, then gives you a taste, directly from the barrel, of the vintage Tawny Port that was laid down in your year. A wine educator talks you through the experience – one of those rare ones that’s better the older you are. It costs $60 an adult.
Now meander along the Seppeltsfield Road, known as ‘the Barossa’s Palm Avenue’, visiting some fine wineries along its ten kilometres. Make sure you take time to stop for photos along the way. The patchwork vineyards, historic buildings, cute villages and sweeping views are pure Barossa.
Wineries to visit include Torbreck, a beautiful property with some of the oldest vines in the world. Its consistently internationally lauded wines are bottled on the Estate by a passionate and ever-exploring team.
In fact, the entire operation is a testament to passion and exploration. Founded by David Powell in 1994, who became interested in a few dry-grown old vines which he nurtured back to health, he secured a contract on an ancient Shiraz vineyard. He set up a share-farm system which continues today and allows Torbreck to produce remarkable wines.
Torbreck’s is just one of the many fascinating stories along the road.
Relais et Chateaux dining extraordinaire and unpretentious farm gate feasting all at the same time, Hentley Farm prides itself on bringing the Barossa to the table with finesse and innovation.
With an “aim to connect guests with the vineyards, the wines, the farm,” chef Lachlan Colwill serves two set menus at a time in tune with what is in season and is the best eating.
On your plate there’s produce from the farm’s 60ha and unique microclimate on the banks of Greenock Creek, including foraged ingredients and herbs. And in your glass, matched wines are all from the Hentley Farm selection.
The restaurant inhabits the 1880s stables of Hentley Farm and is a beautiful example of how the modern Barossa generation combines history with contemporary sophistication.
Discover some different pockets of Barossa and its famously fab food. Start in Tanunda, a pretty village settled by Prussians in 1842 and home to the oldest brass band in the southern hemisphere thanks to that heritage.
Breakfast is from the traditional bakery, Apex Bakery, dating back to 1924, where the original Scotch oven delivers breads, cakes and some legendary pasties and pies to hungry fans. Bought by the founding baker in 1948, it has remained in his family ever since.
Pick up some German yeast cake or warm fresh bread, grab a coffee from one of the nearby cafes and head up to Mengler Hill, where you can enjoy a simple and delicious repast with spectacular regional views.
Head down to Angaston for the Barossa Farmers Market, which is abundant in a variety of great produce. Join the locals as they pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, meats, baked and small goods, dairy, honey, olive oil and olives, as well as treats such as locally roasted coffee and blended teas.
You might want to consider second breakfast, too: find muffins, muesli, egg and bacon rolls, omelettes and toasties. Or you can just head straight for the Barossa Valley Ice Cream Company stall.
If you’re not in the Barossa on a Saturday – the only day the market is open, book into a cooking class at Casa Carboni Italian Cooking School and Enoteca and prepare an Italian feast for lunch that’s matched with Italian wines.
Hopefully you’ve left some room after the sublime pickings at the market, because Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop beckons. It’s in nearby Nuriootpa, back on the Seppeltsfield Road. The home base of cook, TV presenter, author and national treasure Maggie Beer is a foodie’s dream.
Taste magnificent oils, condiments, jams, jellies, cakes, biscuits, nuts, spices and preserves, stock up and see cooking demonstrations a stone’s throw from where they’re harvested and made. Stop a while in the cafe and enjoy the country ambience. (Or if you’ve done the Casa Carboni cooking class, stick to the stocking up.)
There’s also accommodation by Maggie Beer nearby: the impeccable two-bedroom Orchard House.
Time to taste some more of the Barossa’s fantastic wines. Rockford at Tanunda is a picturesque country set up producing sublime wines via traditional and handmade methods. Take the opportunity to drop in – their wines don’t make it much past the South Australian border. The Basket Press Shiraz has a cult following.
Tscharke at Marananga is a clever winery that exports around the world. Taste what its international fans clamour for at the beautiful cellar door.
And don’t miss one of the giants of the Barossa, Wolf Blass at Nuriootpa. The visitors centre is a sophisticated combination of museum, cellar door and showroom, where you’ll experience the amazing story of a winery that has raked in nearly 10 thousand awards since its inception in the mid-1960s.
Finish off your foodie day with dinner at FermentAsian, a restaurant that reflects the Vietnamese heritage of the chef Tuoi Do and his love of sustainable and local produce. Family veggie gardens supply some of the produce, with the rest coming from carefully selected local suppliers who meet the owners’ commitment to ethical and sustainable practice.
Oh, and then there’s the wine list – one of the most comprehensive you might ever encounter with interesting and boutique choices of aperitifs, spirits, beers and ciders alongside the amazingly extensive wine selection. If it’s all too much, there’s an abridged 100-wine version and this gem of a restaurant even accepts BYO for nominal corkage.