The Barossa Valley of South Australia is Australia’s premier wine growing area. So intertwined are the Barossa and wine, they are virtually synonymous. Barossa wines are hailed as some of the world’s finest and thousands of visitors flock to the valley each year just to enjoy the wine. When they get there, they are pleasantly surprised to discover that the Barossa Valley has even more to offer then wine.
The Barossa Valley was originally settled by German immigrants in the first half of the 19th century. Originally, the settlers were Lutherans who were being persecuted at the time in their native country. When the news got out that the Barossa Valley was blessed with the perfect climate and soil for vine growing, more Germans migrated to the area and have a strong cultural influence in the Barossa even today.
Those first settlers didn’t have it easy. They slept in tents and their first enterprise was back breaking labor in the limestone quarries. The first permanent buildings in the Barossa Valley were made out of those stones and their early building efforts are a testament to the skill, faith and labor of the early settlers. The spires of the many old Lutheran churches in the valley, set against the green vines in the vineyards, is a lovely sight.
Many of the vines you see in the Barossa Valley have their origins in Europe, since the settlers brought their roots with them from Germany. In fact, some of the oldest Shiraz vineyards in the world are in the Barossa Valley, their European counterparts having been destroyed by disease not long after they were brought to Australia in the mid-nineteenth century. Other varieties that can be found in the region include both reds and whites, including Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon and Grenache. The red varieties grow best in the Barossa Valley itself, while the whites thrive best in the Eden Valley and Menglers Hill areas.
It goes without saying that a region that has such a proud wine growing heritage is goint to celebrate its heritage from time to time. The longest running celebration in the Barossa Valley is the biennial Barossa Vintage Festival. Every other year, this extravaganza is held over the Easter holiday season. Featuring music, grand balls, sumptuous dinners and a world renowned wine auction, it has been going strong for over sixty years.
While it is true that the main attraction of the Barossa Valley is the wine, it is also true that visitors to the region are delighted to find many other attractions in the region as well. With its growing popularity as a tourist destination came a variety of wonderful galleries, shops and, restaurants and cafes. Proud of its heritage, the Barossa Valley also has fascinating museums that chronicle its history. The locations of some of these are as interesting as the museums are. For instance, the Barossa Historical Museum is housed in a charming old post office that was built in 1865, while the Herbig Family Tree is located inside of an old, hollow gum tree.