Ahhh the Barossa Valley. Rolling hills and dales, some of Australia's oldest vineyards, a gentle lilt in the accents of the generational families who have been there since the 1840s and the subtle sounds of oompah bands amongst it all. What a splendid place to make wine. With its rich German heritage and long standing excellence with winemaking, the Barossa Valley rightly holds itself as one of Australia's great wine regions.
German immigrants, many with agricultural backgrounds, founded the region so grape growing formed part of the early farm-village society. Australia's arguably oldest Shiraz vineyard is located at the Langmeil winery in the heart of the Barossa, with over 170 years of continuous winemaking. Old vineyards dot all major growing sub-regions, the gnarled, twisted geriatric vines almost a calling card or emblem for the region.
The region is known for its rich history and diversity. Sub-regionality has become a buzzword in the wine industry, and the Barossa Valley is showing its many faces with individual wines from the many communes of the region. Sub-regions include Tanunda, Seppeltsfield, Stockwell, Lights Pass, Nuriootpa and Greenock, Lyndoch, and Rowland Flat – these are the names that are appearing on bottles to distinguish where vineyard sources lie, and to showcase the varied terroirs of the Barossa Valley.
But its not all ancient history for the Barossa Valley – innovation is a constant theme for the region. Old becomes new with the recent revitalization of Mataro wines and the variety is seeing a new face from some of the younger, boutique producers of the region. Even Grenache, often blended away into Shiraz and Mataro, has had a renaissance of sorts – offering generous, fragrant red wines with character and a medium weight often lost in other Barossa reds. These young players are also showing their muscle by sourcing from old vineyard sites and producing youthful, expressive wines, a challenge to the traditional styles made so popular by long standing family wine companies. Don't discount the old school though, big, luscious red wines with judicious oak and soft, plush tannins have a place in the scheme of the Barossa – icon wines of prestige and complexity will always keep the bar high for the region.