Wine Country

Sat. 27th April 2019

Wine casks in Chateau TanundaYou know you’re in trouble when the answer to your problems is some combination of Liz Truss and Jeremy Corbyn. I seem to have picked up a cold since landing in Aus which combined with my jet lag to give me a miserable night’s sleep. After waking at around 2am, whenever I managed to get back off to sleep, I’d immediately waken myself either with my (own) snoring or (much worse) with apnea as my windpipe constricted and I couldn’t breathe. Absolutely no fun at all. Then around 5am I must have drifted off as Liz & Jez came to me in my dreams and helped me switch energy supplier. No, I have absolutely no idea what any of it means, I’m just glad to have got some sleep and not to be feeling too bad this morning. Just like every other day, there is a lot to be done!

Scarecrow trail in Tanunda reminds us of HagbourneWe start the day in Tanunda, the nearby town and ‘capital’ of the Barossa Valley wine area. After yesterday’s disappointment, it was a very pleasant surprise to find that Tanunda was pretty much everything that we were expecting Hahndorf to be – a small provincial town with very distinct German influences and vibrant local life. It is clearly a working town steeped in the surrounding wine industry. We arrive to find that the main street has been closed off and preparations are in full swing for the Harvest Festival parade through town. There was more of a dusting than a throng of people – but some folk were clearly settling themselves in by the side of the street and getting comfortable for the morning. We have much to do and so after finding a pharmacy for some cold medicine, we head on for the first tasting of the day.

Can't miss the placeThere are perhaps 20 or 30 wineries within a 10-mile radius of the centre of town, and we pick Chateau Tanunda partly because we think it might be the name that was recommended to us back in Adelaide. The building, whilst not really a chateau, is large and imposing and with a certain style. It is certainly one of the larger and older wineries. It also transpires that we made the right call by not waiting in town as the parade finishes at Chateau Tanunda and we get to see some of the floats file past. The downside is that the wine cellar is even busier than it would normally be. Whilst the tasting for the premium wines is only $5, its very impersonal, impossible to engage with the staff and the limited selection of white wines are too warm.

The artists and their model - a float from the paradeWe don’t linger, and after battling our way passed the mass of floats head on to the advertised viewpoint on top of a nearby hill. Again, a bit of a disappointment as there isn’t much of a view and whilst there is a ‘sculpture park’ it was all a bit ‘oh really?’. It is certainly very different from our experience last year in Burgundy with the rolling hills all green with lines of vines. Here the landscape is clearly very parched and even allowing for it being late autumn, the predominant colour is the red-brown of the dry earth.

No longer doing deliveries!As we head back ‘home’ for lunch we decide to call in at Turkey Flat winery and have a very much better experience. Whilst the cellar is still busy, we have a great tasting experience with a good selection of tasty wines and we are able to sit and chat with the staff and with another couple who were sat beside us – and our list of recommended wineries grows ever longer! Given my cold, it makes sense for me to be today’s driver but this is red wine country – and big red wines at that and so we only sign up for one tasting and share that. This works well and even better we’re able to set off the $10 cost against a bottle of red wine for us to enjoy in Alice Springs in a couple of days’ time.

Fete just getting started at Chateau TanundaLast night, as we walked into town, we passed a couple of wineries that advertised cellar door tastings – and one, intriguingly, also had a sign up saying ‘Bulk Port’. Dangerous, very dangerous! But an easy plan for the afternoon and saves the need for any driving. Both Kies and Burge are relatively small family run wineries with the owner on duty and happy to talk about the history of the winery and the area as well as show off their wines. One striking feature from all today’s wineries was the pride they had in their 100 or 150 year old vines which you just don’t get in Europe because of the Phylloxera (aphid) plague – though apparently, despite Australia’s strict bio-security measures Phylloxera has been found in a couple wine areas (in New South Wales). We also learned that harvest here in Barossa starts in February and this year was all done in 7 weeks (rather than the usual 11). Climate change is already a problem here.

The main restaurant at Lyndoch HillThe rush continues when we get back from these tastings (restraining ourselves to only one further bottle of wine) as we have an early start and a photography stop before dinner. We’d wanted to eat in the neighbouring Lyndoch Hill hotel (& winery) as we’d heard the food was good. However, it turns out that because of the Harvest Festival they’re running a special evening, dining on long tables in the wine shed with a ‘trust the chef’ menu and each course paired with their own wine. How could we refuse?? All very good but a 6:30pm start – and we need to be all packed as we have an early(ish) start tomorrow morning to catch the train. Of course we had a great evening and got talking to some interesting folk. The food was all cooked on the barbecue with the highlights being the venison and the pumpkin (along with the Tempranillo wine). The misses were probably the kangaroo and the octopus both of which were a bit tough.

Dinner in the Wine Shed @ Lyndoch HillFrom the low point in the middle of the night, the day has steadily got better. We’re leaving Barossa very happy to have visited and feeling that we understand it a little more even if we have only scratched the surface of the region’s wines & wineries. Very happy not to have to rely on politicians too!

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