Barossa – the winds of change are blowing

Barossa Shiraz has a reputation for being the hairy armed Neanderthal of the wine world.  Driving into the parched valley; yellow grasses paying testament to the heat of the summer, it is easy to understand how it got this reputation.  However 3 days in this beautiful valley opened my eyes to the unique patch of dirt that these farmers have the fortune of working with.

There is a timelessness to this valley, a feeling of ancient power that radiates from those red soils that makes one acutely aware of how brief our history on this land has been.  It has highlighted our role of caretaker rather than owner in such a way that it has seen a distinct movement among the producers of the region.  Gone are the days of high volume fruit bombs reflecting nothing but a kowtow to profit, they have been replaced by a commitment to the earth and the history of the soil.  It has seen both the establishment of the Barossa Grounds Project, a vast undertaking not only mapping the huge diversity of the soils, but analyzing the impact of these soil types on the wine aromatics and structure.  This goes hand in hand with the Barossa Old Vine Charter, a record and protection for the old un-grafted vines of the region which range from the original vines brought from the Hill of Hermitage in the Rhone to 35 year old vines which are cuttings of these historic monuments and grown on their own roots.
The wines we tasted were a mirror providing a unique window into the soil through the gnarled roots of the hallowed old vines which have spent 165 years stretching deep into the world’s most ancient soil.  The ethereal perfume emanating from the ruby and garnet depths intrigued and excited the senses while the palate was a textural master piece of dark smoky perfume and intense minerality.  Fresh yet powerful, supple yet structured these wines showed soul and personality and the promise of longevity.  Shiraz is of course what we all associate with the Barossa and it is indeed something they do with aplomb, but overlook Grenache at your peril.  The Grenache and Grenache based blends were for me some of the most exciting and perfumed wines of the many that we tasted.  The fine boned Rieslings from the high hills of the Eden Valley were another beautiful encounter as they danced along the tongue and sent goosebumps up the spine. Perched up in the Steingarten Riesling vineyards with breath taking views down into the Barossa Valley, the cool breeze lifting your hair and the slopes in shadow, protected from the afternoon sun it was clear how the wines retained such beautiful aromatics and fresh acidity.
Though there are still a handful of bruisers clinging on to their Parkeresque past, the fact that these movements are still in their infancy promises the dawn of a bright new era for the Barossa Valley.  Pioneered by a dedicated group of intelligent and passionate men and women who are working to make a future that both protects their past and gives birth to a new style of fresh and perfumed wines.  The winds of change have started to blow.

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