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  • Day37

    The Barossa

    November 26, 2017 in Australia ⋅ 68 °F

    It is wall to wall vines here and more cellar doors than you can shake a stick at! Lots we have not heard of, but others like, Penfolds, Jacobs Creek, Wolf Blass and Peter Leman are well known to us in the UK. As I hinted in yesterday's episode, this is an area with strong German influence. The names are a curious mix of English and German, such as Truro and Pewsey Vale and Tanunda. Some names were even more distinctly German prior to the 1st World War when the government enforced a change. Barossa's history stems from the arrival in the early 1840s of first English and then German settlers, who established settlements and created a unique interwoven culture that still exists today. Entire Lutheran villages moved from Silesia and Prussia to escape religious persecution. They were a God fearing and hard working people and German and English Anglican communities thrived side by side. Various agricultural practices were tried until vines proved to be perfect in the soils and climate of the valley. The success of these early pioneers led to the development of a commercial wine industry from the 1880s onwards. This is predominantly red wine and particularly Shiraz country, although one should not run away with the idea that that is all there is. The platters of regional fare offered everywhere are of the highest quality and each small village or town has its own very distinctive character.
    We have driven all over the the area today, visiting a huge and magnificent rose garden in Lyndoch, Rockfords Winery for a tasting session, which was excellent. It is the home of the Sparkling Black Shiraz I mentioned earlier, so we had to give it a look. Some of their other wines were equally exceptional and we will certainly try to track some down on our return home. Sadly, they had sold out of the 2016 sparkler and the 2017 will not be released for another week. Shame!!. Bethany was the first German settlement in the Barossa. In 1842 a group of 28 Silesian families came with their pastor to settle here and form a 'hufendorf' or village of farmlets. The village is still very much as it was with many of the original buildings still standing if adapted. There is a beautiful scenic drive that we followed to Angaston, which is of Scottish descent and this has retained lots of bluestone buildings of the time with intricately worked wrought ironwork. Tanunda is larger but equally historic, if relatively recent in European terms.
    We returned to the Louise late afternoon having had a thoroughly agreeable day and prepared to sample their tasting menu with its 'flight' of local wines. It was all very fine and the food and wine pairings quite different, even to the point of a red with fish.

    Our second day here dawned sunny and hot and we had mapped out a calmer day. We began with a visit to Seppeltsfield, a large Winery with history! Joseph Seppelt arrived here from Germany In 1840, with his wife Johanna and three young children. He intended to farm and in particular grow tobacco, which sadly proved not to be suited to the ground and so he turned to vines, about which he knew nothing. It was a steep learning curve, but the enterprise was up and running by the time he was succeeded by his son 'Benno'. Here was the true innovator and Benno expanded the business enormously, building huge cellars, wineries and a distillery, as he diversified into fortified wines and Brandy. Until 1960 the company had the monopoly of supplying 'medicinal' Brandy to every Australian hospital! By the 1920s Seppeltsfield employed over 150 people. They housed and fed their workers one good meal a day, on the basis that looking after their workers was the way forward to better productivity. (A lesson to be learnt here?). Feeding this vast workforce was the job of Sophie, Benno's wife. They married when she was sixteen and she went on to have 13 children, whilst masterminding all this. I sincerely hope she had help. The washing and feeding of her family would be enough for most!
    When the Depression hit in the 1930s, Benno continued this practice in an effort to keep his workers alive and the company going. The wine trade had bottomed out and he had the men plant huge stands of palms either side of the roads leading to Seppeltsfield. They are magnificent now.
    Typically, he of the 2nd generation expanded, his father of the 1st generation founded and his children of the 3rd generation lost it! The company is now, after various corporate buyers, in the hands of a single passionate owner once more, albeit not of the family. The estate is quite a sight to behold and something of a national treasure. There is an award winning cellar door, first class restaurant, the jam factory which house contemporary Art and Design studios. The original buildings are in great shape and used regularly, even if not for their original purpose. In the 1878 Centennial Cellar, Beeno started the legacy of maturing single vintage Tawney for 100 years before release. As a result the estate has an unbroken lineage of Tawney barrels of every vintage to the current year. This was certainly a Winery with a difference and we thoroughly enjoyed our morning there. There are wonderful rooms for private parties, some small, others seating up to 450. How about it wine group for the next Christmas Dinner?
    We moved on to Maggie Beer's Farmshop this afternoon. She is a television cook rather like Delia I gather. We had a fabulous light lunch of chicken and tarragon fritters and remoularde sauce with a of drink fennel cola. It was delicious and the cordial is made in the kitchens and topped up with mineral water. We wandered through to the farm shop in time for a cookery demonstration using some of her products. She uses by products of the wine industry to great effect. Things such as Verjuice, Vino Cotto, Sangiovese Verjuice to name but three. No, I'd never heard of any of this either, but would certainly use it if I could buy it in the U.K. Amazon could be the saviour here as they have just moved into Australia and I guess things they will be a-changing!
    We have thoroughly enjoyed our time spent here in the Barossa and move on tomorrow with the thought that we have covered it pretty well and can still walk to the car in a straight line!
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