Barossa Valley Overview
- Valleys, vines and vales
- Country life
- Sublime food and wine
A breezy road-trip north-east of the capital of South Australia (take the scenic route via the Adelaide Hills), the Barossa Valley dukes it out with NSW’s Hunter Valley for bragging rights as the most celebrated grape-growing region in Australia.
The patchwork valley hillsides sustain more than 80 vineyards, producing over a fifth of Australia’s wine – mostly big, ballsy reds. A distinct local foodie culture has evolved alongside the drinkables, with cool cafés and sexy restaurants extolling regional fare with a doff of the cap to the valley’s Germanic heritage. Fleeing religious persecution, Lutheran immigrants came to the Barossa in 1842, bringing with them hardy vine cuttings. Historic stone-wall towns like Tanunda, Bethany and Angaston are infused with Teutonic tastes: admire gothic church steeples and brass band festivals and rifle through food stores for smoked wurst, pretzels and sauerkraut. Guten appetit!
Beautifully Barossa Valley
South Australia has half a dozen world-class wine regions, but the Barossa wins hands down when it comes to cultivating an historic, reverent atmosphere. It has a lot to do with the vaulted sandstone tasting rooms, the old European trees and the valley’s German heritage (play ‘Count the Umlauts’ as you drive past winery signs), but it’s also about the grape gravitas: weighty, substantial and brooding. This is no fizzy, fun-in-the-sun frolic. This is serious business. The old-school ‘Barossa Barons’ attract the lion’s share of trade and traffic, but sassy young boutique wineries have also carved out a market niche in recent years.
- Barossa Taxis (0411 150 850; www.barossataxis.com.au) operates around the clock, and has two nine-seater taxis if you're travelling en masse. Barossa and Light Cab Service (08 8563 3631) also runs a 24-hour service throughout the valley. A cab from Tanunda to Angaston costs around AU$20.
- Tipping culture
- Like elsewhere in Australia, tipping isn’t mandatory, but tip 10 per cent in restaurants and cafés if your service came with a smile.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Local shops and banks open 9am–5pm Monday to Friday; many shops also open 10am–4pm on Saturdays. Cafés start dishing up breakfast around 8am and close about 4pm. Restaurants generally serve lunch from 12 noon–2.30pm; dinner from 6pm–9pm. Most wineries open 10am–5pm.
- Packing tips
- Leave some room in your luggage for a few bottles of vintage Barossa red, and bring a sun hat for those long afternoons traipsing between cellar doors.
- Recommended reads
- In between appearances on the ABC TV show The Cook and The Chef, Barossa celebrity gourmet Maggie Beer has published some great books, including the superb Maggie’s Harvest, zooming in on the best Barossa produce. Barossa Food by Angela Heuzenroeder is also a worthy stomach-centric read.
- On the dining front, expect hearty German-style main courses – plenty of steak, schnitzel, chicken and oodles of sausage – in established restaurants, complemented by a new breed of café-style eateries featuring smaller servings with zing. Vegetarians take heart, the local cheese is also a winner.
- Regional specialities
- The Barossa is all about that ruby-tinted tipple – cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and grenache – but you can also pick up some fab bottles of riesling, gewürtztraminer and semillon if you delight in a great white. There are around 50 cellar doors across the valley, most offering free tastings, so you’ll never be short of opportunities to swish, swill and swallow.
- Australian dollar (AU$).
- Time zone
- GMT+ 9.5.
- Dialling codes
- Country code: +61; South Australia: 08 (drop the 0 if dialling from outside Australia).
- Do go/don't go
- Summer in the Barossa (December to February) can be hot and heaving with visitors: better to time your trip during autumn (March to April) when the grapes are being harvested, the days are fresher and the nippers are back at school.
Don't go home without...
listening to the Whispering Wall. The century-old concrete Barossa Reservoir dam’s incredible acoustics mean you can earwig a pal’s whispered conversation from the other side, over 100 metres away. Seven kilometres south-west of Lyndoch on the way from Adelaide to the Barossa via Gawler, it also makes a scenic stop-off.