Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Barossa Valley and Other Vinophilic Temptations

As my dearest and I discovered after many a blurry morning, Australia is a wine lover’s (vinophile’s?) paradise. Everywhere we went we saw rows of vineyards, often draped in netting, marching up and down rolling hills: in Tasmania, on Kangaroo Island, and in hundreds of places in South Australia and Victoria. It is clear that wine is one of Australia’s main industries.
Furthermore, it’s easy and inexpensive to purchase wine. In Canada, liquor stores are government-run, over-priced and inconvenient. In Australia, Bottle Shops, as they are called, are ubiquitous and, get this, many of them are drive-through. Best of all, the prices are very reasonable, starting at $5 Australian per bottle; boxed wines are even more of a bargain. Of course, some wines such as the famous Penfolds Grange can exceed a thousand dollars per bottle.
One day we made a pilgrimage to the Mecca of wine, the Barossa Valley north of Adelaide in South Australia, where world-class wines have been produced since 1850. We wended our way through gentle arid hills dotted with eucalyptus trees. The vineyards, which spread everywhere, were turning golden and the harvest had just passed. With 73 wineries to visit (another 50 don’t have visitor’s centres) we selected three that sell widely in Canada: Jacobs Creek, Penfolds and Wolf Blass. The size of these operations was impressive and far larger than anything we have seen in Niagara or the Okanagan. The drive through the beautiful valley was grand and the tastings were wonderful. It was a delightful day ... as we can best remember.

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