We were already over a month in Australia and hadn’t consumed a drop of Australian wine yet, so it was past time to go on a day trip to the Barossa Valley for an afternoon of wine tasting. This wine region is supposed to be one of Australia’s best, and is only one hour north of Adelaide. We drove our campervan up there and took the Scenic Drive. It’s also possible to take a bus or go on an organised wine tasting tour. Another option is to stay in the Barossa Valley, go on a tour starting there or cycle the bike trail. In that case you won’t even need a designated driver.
Driving from Adelaide to the Barossa Valley
On our way over to the Barossa Valley we took a small detour via The Big Rocking Horse, situated at The Toy Factory. This factory produces wooden toys and sells them directly to the customer, thus avoiding the mark-ups when selling through a store. On our trip it was just a short stop to take a photo, but you can stay longer to visit the factory shop and the wildlife park.
Before reaching the Barossa Valley we pulled over at The Whispering Wall as well. The Barossa Dam was the first and highest arch dam in Australia. Its curved shape and quiet environment make it possible to carry your whispers over the entire length of the wall, which is about 140m. It really worked! I was looking for speakers, but didn’t find any, so there was no cheating involved. Truly amazing!
What to do in the Barossa Valley
We arrived in the Barossa Valley around noon, picked up a map and some tips at the Barossa Visitor Information Centre, and bought two brown and two white rolls ($3) at the Tanunda Bakery for a picnic at Kroemer’s Park. The bread was delicious, confirming our expectations after seeing the long line of customers at the bakery. We ate it with some leftover cheese from the Alexandrina Cheese Company, where we had lunch the other day. There wasn’t much to see at Kroemer’s Park, but the picnic tables, toilets, and barbies were clean.
Not hungry anymore, but still thirsty, we departed on the Scenic Drive, taking us through the wine valley, along the different wineries and vineyards. You’ll pass a little town called Angaston, known for its cheese. We decided to skip it, as we had a cheese platter at Alexandrina Cheese Company the day before. Seems like a perfect spot for lunch though. We tasted wines at three different wineries, and stopped at the Mangler Hill Lookout for a nice view over the valley. There’s a sculpture park at this lookout as well, and a hidden geocache, of course.
Wine Tasting in the Barossa Valley
Whenever the words “cellar door” are mentioned it basically means that you can participate in a wine tasting. Most wineries have a wine bar with a limited range of food as well. A wine tasting in the Barossa Valley proceeds as follows: you get a list of wines on offer for tasting. You can either choose a wine based on the description, or tell the host what kind of wine you like and they’ll propose one. Tasting is usually free, but wine tasting etiquettes say to buy at least one bottle. There’s no limit on the amount of different wines you can taste, and if you don’t like the wine (or are the one behind the wheel), you can spit or pour it in the spittoon.
The first winery we visited would end up being the best one: Peter Lehmann Wines. We were a bit nervous, as this was our first wine tasting in Australia, but the staff was very friendly and helpful. The wine list included a small description of what the wine should taste like. We tried to put a name to what we tasted and could check in the wine list if we were right, fun! There were crackers and water to cleanse your palette in between wines, a nice gesture. The interior was beautiful, with a wooden bar and an authentic feel to the room. We ended up buying a bottle of the 2014 Layers White for $18, which was very good.
Our next wine tasting was at Seppeltsfield Winery, a much bigger winery with a legacy dating back to 1851. The family even has its own mausoleum. The staff was very friendly, but there was not as much choice as with Peter Lehmann Wines, and there was no description of the wines on the list. The cellar door felt more businesslike and less authentic, although we could appreciate the gallery with old pictures from the winemakers and their wine making process. They offer a whole range of activities and tours as well, including a Seppeltsfield Segway Tour. We bought a bottle of the Barossa Moscato for $16, a (very) sweet sparkling wine. When I said I liked the Schluck, a white port, as well, she immediately offered a discount of 10% if we bought a bottle of both. We kindly declined the offer, but now you know what to do if you’re interested in more than one wine.
The last winery was our least favourite. The Yalumba Winery is the oldest family owned winery in Australia. Although we loved the wooden interior, the staff was not that friendly. There was only one host at work in the tasting room and there were three groups of clients tasting wine. It was probably a long and busy day for her, but that shouldn’t have to be an excuse. We were looking for a red wine, but didn’t really find one we both liked, except for a really expensive one. She recommended a similar but cheaper wine, The Scribbler, which we eventually bought for $19.95. We were relieved to have found a wine we liked, so we didn’t have to ask for yet another one to taste.
Nevertheless, we had a great afternoon, tasting some lovely wines and enjoying the beautiful views in the Barossa Valley. There are a lot of wineries in the area, so you shouldn’t necessarily stick to the ones we tried. We do recommend to visit Peter Lehmann Wines, as we felt comfortable during the tasting with very helpful staff and delicious wines.