For a while now, I’ve been planning a trip to the Barossa Valley to investigate some of the food producers and local food traditions that I know are lurking just an hours drive from the city. Noted world-wide for it’s high quality red wines, the Barossa is on every wine-lovers visiting list when they come here and, being so close to the city, it is a popular day trip. For us locals, though, it can be easy to take some of our regional treasures for granted. It’s been a while since The Husband and I spent much time in the Barossa so I was very happy to take up an offer of lunch with some of the local producers, last weekend.
Originally planned as a picnic, but hastily re-organised into a sit down lunch when the weather failed, a group of us were invited to enjoy the historic surrounds of the iconic Yalumba winery. Yalumba is Australia’s oldest (and one of the largest) family owned wineries, occupying land that was first settled in Angaston over 160 years ago. Today Yalumba is one of Australia’s best known wineries, with an enviable international reputation, and has shown a commitment to sustainable winemaking which has been recognised internationally, recieving awards in both the US and the UK for their environmental practices. While some things have changed (a lot!) over the years, others have remained the same and we were treated to a look at some of their very special spots.
Yalumba is the only winery in Australia and one of the very few in the world to have their own cooperage. Using timber imported from France, the United States and Hungary, the three full time Yalumba coopers construct their barrels using no nails or glue at all and make up to 1/3 of the barrels required by the winery. The timber is aged for up to 8 years, the barrels are banded and the insides of them are toasted with braziers to help the wine achieve the desired flavours. The cooperage is open to visitors who are able to watch this age-old craft being practiced – and this is the only winery in Australia where you can do this!
We were also treated to a look at a couple of very remarkable function rooms that have been constructed using the old underground wine storage tanks. The rooms, called Tank 11 and Tank 12, were concrete tanks that were constructed about 60 years ago. Louisa Rose is now Chief Winemaker, but one of the first jobs that she was given in her early days at Yalumba was to be lowered into these tanks to clean them out. The walls have been polished, but the red wine stains remain and, with floating timber floors and some extraordinarily stylish lighting installed, these rooms look simply amazing – certainly a venue with an ambience like no other.
On our way to the Signature Room, where we were to eat, we were allowed a wander through the riches housed in the Museum Cellar. Contained in a labyrinth of cellar rooms, Yalumba keeps not only their own, but some of the worlds greatest wines from vintages dating back many years – some dusty treasures that provoked more than a few sighs.
Our delicious lunch consisted of a buffet of some of the very best food that the Barossa Valley has to offer and included local Barossa chicken, Barossa Valley Cheese Company cheeses, Schulz traditional sausages, Apex Bakery breads, VBG dukkah, Doms olives and fresh salads featuring local produce. Dessert was a divine Apple Galette made with Claire Wood’s sinfully delicious Careme Pastry and it was all washed down with some excellent Heggies Vineyard and Pewsey Vale wines.
“Well”, I hear you mutter, “it’s all very well for her to be swanning around the Barossa”, but with the week long Barossa Vintage Festival just around the corner – from 23 April to 1 May – and the Barossa Valley just up the road, you can take the opportunity to remind yourself of what we have on our doorstep. There are dozens of different events over the course of the Festival, including music, food events and, of course, wine.
Yalumba will be hosting their annual Harvest Market over 2 days, on the 26th and 27th of April. This family event features a wealth of attractions including a market square with over 40 of the local Barossa producers, traditional food demonstrations, cooperage demonstrations, kids cooking classes, cooking demonstrations by Stefano De Pieri followed by a Long Table Lunch and special museum tastings. Showcasing local food, wine and skills, this event is a Vintage Festival favourite and one I that I’m looking forward to.
Lamb’s Ears and Honey was a guest of the South Australian Tourism Commission.