Just 60km northeast of Adelaide, the Barossa Valley is one of Australia's oldest wine regions. Warm and dry, it is renowned for producing the distinctive Barossa Shiraz, a full-bodied red with notes of chocolate and spice. The valleys and sloping hills create several temperature ranges. But in summer, take it from us: it's just plain hot.
The soils range from clay and loam in the cooler areas to the classically South Australian sand and red-brown loam in the valleys. Irrigation is often required, but with water supply an increasing problem, many growers are practicing dryland farming, relying on what falls from the sky and clings from night fog. Couple this with the number of very old vines in the region (which produce limited quantities of grapes), and the result is fruit with deeply concentrated flavour which quickly ripen. A great foundation for some of the world's most acclaimed reds.
Settled in numbers in 1841, land in the area was offered to German settlers, and nearly 500 families braved the long trip to begin farming in this very different climate. Realising the climate was best suited to viticulture, the first vines were planted, primarily Riesling, and when the heat turned the wine brown, the logical thing to do was start making fortified wines. It was the 1980s, and the influences of Shiraz craftsmen Wolf Blass and Peter Lehmann that set the stage for the Barossa to become world renowned for premium Shiraz.
In addition to wine, the region has a very active gourmet foods community, notably the delightful Maggie Beer. For interstate visitors, it is certainly worth the trip up from the airport.
A short day trip north of Adelaide, several touring companies service the area and have great local knowledge of the cellar doors and eateries. Booking a driver and minivan is recommended, as there is so much on offer you'll want to share the tour with friends, and leave the drive back to town to someone else.