Wine: Big flavours from Barossa
Published 20/02/2010 | 05:00
There can be an affinity between a land, its people and its wine. Try Australia's Barossa Valley, a lush, rolling landscape where bountiful farmers' markets groan with richly flavoured goodies such as smoked pork loin, hams and spicy sausages.
The rich Germanic cuisine was introduced here in the 1840s by religious refugees from Silesia, in what is now Poland. With it they brought a tradition of grape growing and, seven generations on, those families remain the sturdy backbone of the Barossa.
Like the food and landscape, the wines are full-bodied and generous, the best and most famous of all being Barossa Shiraz. Shiraz is France's Syrah, one the big grapes of the Rhône Valley.
Settlers brought it Down Under where, paradoxically, some of its vines there are now older than their French antecedents, because of a rampant louse that devastated European vineyards in the late 19th century.
So, Barossa lays claim to some of the oldest vines in the world, which is important because vine maturity can bestow greater complexity in the glass.
It is home to iconic Australian wine names such as Jacob's Creek, a brand inspired by the spot where one Johann Gramp planted the region's first commercial vineyards in 1847.
Other familiar names include Wolf Blass, Peter Lehman, Henschke and Yalumba.
Australian Shiraz starts at around a tenner, much of it labelled as a wine of South Australia or South Eastern Australia, from grapes grown across a wide geographic spread.
But if it says Barossa then it has come from a 30km x 10km patch. The grape is known for dark fruit and black pepper flavours, and a basic Australian Shiraz, while always bold and upfront, will be fairly straightforward.
From the Barossa comes a concentration and complexity which may unfold on the palate as layers of oozing plums and prunes, black cherries, savoury olives, liquorice, mint and, most characteristically, roasted dark chocolate -- as opposed to perhaps the milkier chocolate and berries of nearby McLaren Vale.
Alcohol can be high at 14-15pc, but the intensity of fruit should provide necessary balance. Expect it to be ripe, but not jammy, with sweet and silky tannins that give it the versatility to partner a wide range of dishes, from turkey with all its trimming through to rich beef stews.
Just the thing for chilly nights!