Monday, 14 September 2015

Australia's Barossa Valley and a wine master class

I'm standing at a bar in a winery trying to work out whether I am drinking a red or a white wine.  I am not blind folded, the wine has been served to us in black glasses so it is impossible to tell its colour.   As it happens all of us are able to pick which is a red and which is a white but the wine type is a little more difficult to judge, only one of us aces it.  Prior to the wine tasting we have sniffed at cotton wool drenched in various essences to test our ability to pick the key notes in various wines.Our group of ten  is at a wine master class at Jacob's Creek Winery in Adelaide's beautiful Barossa Valley.  This is my first wine master class and I had no idea it would be so interesting or so much fun.

At Jacob's Creek Winery
I am on a day tour of the Barossa Valley and a visit to Jacob's Creek was one of the stops which most attracted me to this particular tour.  For one thing I have a son named Jacob and secondly, as newly weds in the early 1970s, when the now famous New Zealand wine industry was still developing into an international industry, drinking wine from the Barossa Valley seemed glamorous with Jacob's Creek becoming one of my husband and my favourites.  A visit to the Barossa Valley was on my husband's bucket list which he, sadly, never made, so it is up to me to fulfil his dream.  It is no hardship.  The Barossa Valley is beautiful with verdant rolling hills, pretty villages, wineries and a number of unique points of interest.

Seppeltsfield Winery

Our first stop, after driving through vast plantings of grapes dripping gold for autumn, had been at the exquisitely maintained Seppeltsfield Estate. Seppeltsfield now belongs to a trust so that the lovely ochre buildings and courtyards adorned with palms and fountains can be enjoyed by the public.  There we had a wine tasting of 7 different wines. It's early in the day but, what the heck, I'm not driving!  We were also shown a 100 year old port which we could sniff but not taste.  It smelt like maple syrup.

Chateau Barrosa
Lunch is at Barrosa Chateau (the different spelling is correct) This faux chateau was built by Herman Thumm at the remarkable age of 85.  He lived to be 98. A tasty lunch is served here in an old fashioned  and slightly gloomy room. After lunch we tour Thumm's private museum in an  adjoining gallery.  This is an amazing collection of fine glass, porcelain, art works and furniture. The chateau's rose garden is purported to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere but it is the wrong time of year to see any roses.  It must be magnificent when in bloom, nevertheless, for some reason I find the chateau dreary and soulless.

Art Gallery at Chateau Barrosa

Next is a short stop at the Barossa Resevoir to test the Whispering Wall, a fascinating phenomenon, allowing someone to whisper a message at the far end of the dam wall which is heard clearly more than 100 metres away at the other end of the dam.  The story goes that it was discovered accidently by a boss who heard his staff complaining about him at the other end.  Rather embarrassing for his staff, I would think! We test works.

German Architecture, Hahndorf

The final stop is at the pretty German village of Hahndorf, founded by Prussian Lutherans in 1838.  It is a strange sight to see buildings with steeply pitched roofs designed  to cope with heavy snow which never falls in this part of Australia.  The shops are crammed with very expensive German souvenirs, cuckoo clocks, Christmas decorations etc.  There is a German bakery with delectable pastries and several German restaurants to choose from.  The village is pretty and quaint but rather ruined by the constant noisy traffic flowing right through it's centre.

German novelties, Hahndorf

Our trip back to Adelaide is through beautiful, lush, fertile countryside.   The long steep highway back into Adelaide from the top of the Adelaide Hills is a marvel, it seems to go down hill, almost straight, forever.  It's been a great day.  I'm happy.