First of all, let me preface this post by saying that in terms of natural beauty, I think it's almost unfair to compare the Barossa Valley to any of the wine country in New Zealand. Theres just no competing. That being said, Barossa definitely has the history and culture behind it that produces a truly superior wine, even to my completely unrefined palette.
Some of the oldest vineyards in South Australia and Australia at large were planted in the Barossa valley in the 1800s. At that time, a large portion of those grape vines were of the Grenache and Shiraz varietals. This was because at the time, one of Australia's primary wine exports was fortifiers, and the Grenache variety is well known to be capable of producing very high crop yields. Shiraz, on the other hand, was the wine of choice for blending and grew well in the hot dry summers of Adelaide. Unfurtunately, due to both fortified and blended wines falling out of favor, Barossa fell into a bit of hard times for a period. However, as those Grenache and Shiraz vines began to age and mature, they would become the Barossa Valley wine industries' salvation. Now that boutique wines are becoming popular again, interest is being paid attention to the region because they have the mature vines with a distinct 'terroirs' to complement the unique flavors of the grapes.
Jamie and I decided after a little back and forth on whether to take a tour bus or rent a car and drive, we decided to rent the car so we could pick our own route and take our time if we wanted, and breeze through anything that we didn't fancy. I think we made the right decision. We only had one winery we knew we wanted to go, so we went there first. Chateau Tanunda didn't disappoint. Their 'Terroirs' line does such a phenomenal job showcasing how the climate and soil quality can really change the wines nose and flavor. So cool. Jamie and I both remarked that the age of the vines clearly does affect the overall quality of the end product, even to us non wine buffs.
Our server Vicki at Chateau Tanunda was incredibly friendly, and she pointed us in the right direction for the rest of our day in the Barossa Valley.* Interestingly, all the servers seem to be friends with each other. Ben from one estate was roommates with Mel from another. They all seemed to really love their work, and definitely had a passion for good wine.
We only wound up buying two bottles of wine to take home, (wine in the Barossa is significantly more expensive than the wine in NZ) but having the opportunity to taste $700-bottle-wine was exciting. I definitely hope I have a chance to get back so we can tour a few more wineries. We managed to get to 5 of them, which I personally think is pretty much all one could handle in a single day, but thee were tons of other wineries littered throughout the valley, each with their own story and unique take on the local style.
Jamie has sworn off drinking because he didn't pour out any of his tastings,
*The prize for best personality of the day goes to a server at the Langmeil Estate. She was the reincarnation of Carol Burnette. When I asked our server what her official title was, "Carol" interjected cheerily exclaming, "Booze Hounds!"