So says Kristen, aka Kippy, Perrin, a Canadian sommelier who tweets under the handle @KippySipsWine.
Australia has over 60 designated wine regions, and countless microclimates within them. The specific terroir (climate, soil and topography) for each vineyard allows for a vast diversity in wine styles and unique tastes. While Australia has no native grapes, the Australian terroir often improves upon old world grapes (there was scandal in nineteenth century France when French judges realized that some of their favoured wines came from Australia and not France).
Visiting a vineyard allows you to taste wines that you may not be able to find in your local wine shop, whether you live in Australia or not. You’ll learn a lot about wine making, and about your own tastes in wines. And you can bring home an incomparable gift for the next dinner party you attend.
“If you like big, bold jammy reds”, says Kippy, “then southeastern Australia, specifically Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale are your best bets.”
Barossa Valley is in South Australia, an hour from Adelaide. Famous wine like Jacob’s Creek and Penfolds come from the Barossa, and there are another 150 wineries to discover. A wine tour, like Barossa Epicurean Tours, is recommended — not only can you rely on their expertise to take you to excellent vineyards and beautiful sites, but you’ll not risk drinking and driving.
Peter Lehmann Wines grows its own grapes and buys from local independent growers. The staff will explain how weather and other factors affect the quality and quantity of a vintage, and you can sample a range of wines, including some super premiums. The 2013 vintage is expected to be of exceptional quality!
A stop at Penfolds is a good addition to the lesser known wineries. Here, you can mix your own blend of shiraz, mourvedre and grenache grapes, and see if you can better Penfold’s Bin 138 — “a complex blend [that] sits quite apart from any other wine in the Penfolds portfolio”.
In McLaren Vale, stop in for a tour and tasting at Sabella Vineyards where they focus on quality with low-yielding vines, small batches and traditional techniques, or at Coriole Vineyards where you can taste at their cellar door or, for rare and reserve wines, in their Wine Room.
Across the other side of the country is Margaret River, in Western Australia, where wine lovers in the know all want to go. Kippy explains: “the cooler climate here allows for the varietals to posses a similar structure and weight to their old world regions, like Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley in France”.
There are about 150 winemakers in this region, famous for its exceptional chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends.
Some to sample:
- A visit to Adinfern Estate provides not only tasting of award-winning wines, but a walk through the vineyards. Learn about this vineyard’s sustainable farming techniques where they use ducks to control insects and sheep to eliminate the need for herbicides. You can even stay on site in one of their two rammed earth cottages.
- Mongrel Creek is the vineyard to visit for quality wines that are more affordable. You’ll also appreciate their “no pretence, no bullshit” attitude while tasting their award winners at the cellar door.
- At the Swooping Magpie, a micro vineyard and boutique producer, you can enjoy their range of ten wines by the glass or bottle with lunch at their garden café. Their 2010 Cabernet Merlot was released in March 2013.
Kippy’s recommendation: pick up a bottle of shiraz or cab sauv from your favourite Margaret River vineyard and “then get yourself some tasty lamb to accompany and let the magic unfold onto your palate”.
And don’t forget to buy a couple extra bottles so you can drink to your vineyard vacation when you get home.