This Episode's Region

Barossa

Barossa

Located about 40 miles northeast of the city of Adelaide, Barossa, a 1,970 square kilometer region which encompasses the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, is South Australia’s best known wine region. It is famous for its opulent red wines--especially Shiraz.  Other full-bodied reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache are produced, as are some wonderful premium white wines including Riesling, Semillon, and Chardonnay.  Wine-making has been an industry in the region since 1842, and many of the vineyards and wineries that exist today are run by sixth-generation owner/producers. The oldest Shiraz vineyard is planted at Barossa's Langmeil Winery.

Barossa has two basic soil types; brown, loamy sand to clay loam and more sandy light-brownish-grey to dark-grey- brown soils.  Both produce low yields of high quality grapes. The area is also characterized by large diurnal temperature variation (the variation in temperature that occurs from the highs of the day to the lows at night.) 

Early settlers in the area first experimented by planting Riesling grapes on the warm valley floor.  Distilling the Riesling to produce brandy brought about a period in which fortified wines of the region became extremely popular.  Simultaneously, dark grapes, in particular Shiraz and Grenache, began to be planted at various altitudes, taking advantage of different micro climates. 

Not until the 1980s did Australian Shiraz gain international recognition.  In the late 20th century, several family wineries specializing in old vine Shiraz wines began marketing exceptional, full-bodied reds that have become the signature premium wines of the region.  Barossa Shiraz is the most widely exported premium wine of Australia, representing more than a quarter of total international sales by value. About 75% of this region's Shiraz bottles are shipped to the U.S., the U.K., Canada, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

For more on Barossa Shiraz, click here.

Photo courtesy of the Barossa Grape & Wine Association (www.barossa.com)

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Tasting Notes From This Episode

• Colonel William Light, an early surveyor in Australia, named the Barossa Valley after the 1811 Battle of Barrosa in Spain, where he had served the British militarily. The misspelling of “Barrosa” occurred as the result of a clerical error when the region’s name was registered in 1837. Visit www.winesfoasutralia.comand www.barossa.com for more information about this region and its wines.

• The current population of the Barossa Valley is about 20,000, many of whom are descendants of original German-speaking immigrants from the Prussian province of Silesia. Almost 500 Lutheran families fleeing religious persecution came to this area of Australia in the 1840s from Europe.

• There are a total of 13,256 hectares of vineyards planted in the Barossa. The 755 grape growers have an average vineyard size of 17.7 hectares.

• As a result of strict quarantine restrictions since the early 19th century, Australian vineyards have been spared phylloxera infestations and various plant diseases that wiped out other wine regions in the world during the past two hundred years. Barossa therefore has some of the oldest Shiraz vines still in existence, some of them dating back to the mid-1850s

• Because there is a city in Iran called Shiraz, and Shirazi, a popular wine, is made there, it was once believed that Syrah/Shiraz was brought to the Rhône region of France from Persia. DNA has proven that Syrah is the offsping of France’s own Dureza and Mondeuse blanche grapes.

• Shiraz is the most widely grown dark grape in Australia. The identical variety is called Syrah in France and is only called Shiraz in Australia, South Africa, Canada, and occasionally in the U.S. Until 1989, the grape was known throughout Australia as Hermitage.