Wine regions may be the most underutilised tourist destinations on the planet.
We breeze through in cars, limos or charter buses, taste enough vino to become tipsy at far too early an hour and move on with it. Few visitors, it seems, really take the time to do anything more than just sniff, swirl and sip.
But why not fully experience wine country? Why not learn how the wine is made, eat amid the vines and find the best local produce to pair with that newly purchased bottle? The Barossa Valley, Australia’s most internationally renowned wine region, brims with such experiences. Its marketing team no longer sells it strictly as a 'wine destination'—that would be too obvious.
Rather, they’ve unleashed a million-dollar campaign to sell the Barossa, and indeed all of South Australia, as the total-package: Wine, food and culture getaway. The restaurants here are 'farm to table'; the eggs are 'free-range', the meat is 'hormone-free', the wine is 'biodynamic', the trash is for 'compost', and the vegetables come from the 'community garden' and are 'homegrown'. And heaven forbid you don’t 'buy local'.
It may sound a bit pretentious and fad-like, but it is actually the traditional way many wine and food producers here have been following for decades. In fact, the Barossa never feels elitist or fad-hungry. Not just in terms of its Farmers markets and fine farm-to-fork restaurants, but more than ever, in the context of its wine makers.
Jacob’s Creek wines is possibly one of the best examples of this. Over the last four decades, the winemaker, one of the oldest in Barossa, has steadily developed a wonderful, rich and diverse portfolio of easy-to-drink and great value-driven reds, whites and rose. With simple labeling, pairing suggestions and a friendly presentation, they’ve successfully taken out the fake snobbery and initimidating jargon-like approach to enjoying wine.
And this humble attitude has a lot to do with the history of the Barossa brand. Today, it is owned by Pernod Ricard, but it began actually with the settlement of South Australia. Colonel William Light who surveyed the city of Adelaide in 1836 made his way north west in 1837 to the Barossa Valley, which he named after a famous English naval victory at Barrosa in the south of Spain. Jacob’s Creek was also named by Light, after his surveying assistant,
William Jacob who subsequently settled on the banks of the Creek with his brother. But to get back to the story, in 1846 a German immigrant, Johann Gramp, purchased land further up stream. A year later he planted Barossa Valley’s first commercial vineyard, on the bank’s of Jacob’s Creek.
The vines flourished and the vineyard was gradually extended. In 1850 Johann produced his first vintage of a hock style white wine.