Exploring the Barossa Valley

Barossa Valley

My boyfriend is English, and his sister and brother-in-law have been visiting Australia with their adorable babies for the last month. To show them what South Australia has to offer, we (and his other brother and sister-in-law) spent a few days between Christmas and New Years in the Barossa Valley. 

The Barossa Valley lies less than an hour North of Adelaide. There are over 160 wineries in the area, many of which are open to visitors to come and taste their various wines. Honestly, it’s a little embarrassing that I’ve been of legal drinking age for six years and have never visited before.

We made it to Tanunda before the allure of the vines got to us, and we pulled into Rockford Wines to buy a few bottles of Alicante Rose (already a tried and tested favourite) to last us for the weekend… Of course, while we were there, we were happy to taste a few other wines… and some free jams…

The Accommodation 

Tanunda, Angaston and Nuriootpa are the main towns in the Barossa, and there are plenty of places to stay in each; however, we were on a tight budget and managed to get an amazing deal staying just outside of Angaston at the Barossa Views B&B. Full disclosure: the six of us snagged this adorable cottage (that sleeps 8) for $300 a night. That’s just $50 each! Considering the great location and how lovely and clean it was, we were impressed. Plus, the lovely owners left us with a well stocked pantry to cook up a delicious bacon, eggs, toast, jam, cereal and juice breakfast. Perfect after a night of wining!

The Wineries

Jacob's Creek Winery, among the vines
Jacob’s Creek Winery, among the vines

We hired a minivan for the day, complete with a young, handsome, foreign driver, and set out to hit as many cellar doors as we could. In the end, we only managed to visit three, probably because we were so in love with one in particular that we lingered a little too long!

People from the UK seem to think that Australia’s Jacobs Creek wine is top notch, which makes Australians laugh, because over here it’s considered merely an average wine. Still, we hit Jacobs Creek winery, outside of Tanunda, to give our English tourists a reference point before we moved on to something a little more tasty. The ‘cellar door’ was a huge, modern information centre that looked out over the vineyards. Commercial it may have been, but it was also very picturesque. Nearby, they had planted a row of each variety of grape that they grew, and labelled them, so that people could see the differences between the grapes. I’d say it is worth visiting Jacob’s Creek for the tourist factor alone, and the gorgeous scenery, but if you’re serious about only drinking great wine, maybe give this one a miss.

Langmeil Winery, with the 'Freedom' Shiraz vines
Langmeil Winery, with the ‘Freedom’ Shiraz vines

Stop No. 2 was at the Langmeil Winery. Langmeil’s claim to fame is that they have the oldest surviving vines of a particular kind of grape, known as the “Freedom Shiraz”. However, it’s so special that we couldn’t actually taste any for free – and we weren’t prepared to fork out $100 a bottle! So, we settled for trying every other wine available at their cellar door, and watching the woman serving us knock back several glasses herself. The wine? Despite it’s excellent reputation, the six of us didn’t fall in love with any of their wines. We did get to visit the “Freedom” vines on our way out, which was interesting to see!

Tscharke's Winery, in the very cool underground tasting room
Tscharke’s Winery, in the very cool underground tasting room

By far our favourite stop of the day was Tscharke’s Winery, outside of Angaston. The wine, the experience, the wine lesson… it’s no wonder no other winery came close. Upon arrival we sat in the beautifully designed garden, drinking a delicious white wine called “Girl Talk” – so named because of the vineyard owner’s four talkative sisters. Then, we were taken downstairs to a stone cellar, which was atmospherically lit by candles. Provided with water, bread and olive oil to accompany our tasting, vineyard owner Damien talked us through the different varietals that Tscharkey’s grow, and the flavour profiles of the wines they produce.

He was clearly very passionate about his wines, and that made all the difference; we stayed for over an hour, asking questions and learning about the processes and elements involved. Handy hint: when tasting wine, make sure that you throw out any dregs in the bucket provided – and not the communal water jug (yes, one of the boys did this). We all bought wine to take home (the “Frizante” was described as ‘summer in a glass’) and didn’t stop using our newfound wine vocab for the rest of the weekend!

The Foods

Wine tour over, we filled the rest of the weekend with food and board games. Our one food disappointment was at the Wanera Wine Bar – recommended by the locals, we found the service appalling (we were incorrectly charged three times, and each time the staff had to come and ask us to make an additional payment when they realised their mistake….), the food average and the prices high.

Much more appetising was the Barossa Valley Cheese Company, where we enjoyed more free samples, and later devoured a wheel of camembert over a competitive game of UNO. Also a hit was the award-winning pizza at the 40s Cafe; we ordered enough food for an army and ate it all in one sitting. Our favourites: the Lamb & Kipfler Potato Pizza, the Barossa Deluxe, and the Smokey Pizza. I won’t lie – I’m starving as I write this, and the memory of these epic pizzas has caused me to drool a little. Definitely worth a visit!

Overall, we had a great weekend, and only had to venture an hour away from home! We came back with mild sunburn, a few dozen bottles of wine, and memories of a fun day at the wineries and too many games of Pictionary. What more do you need? Let me know if you’re ever in town – I’d happily go back to explore a few more of those 160 wineries with you!

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