Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Return of the Barossa Boomerang - Wine Blogging Wednesday 76

Well, slap me silly and call me Mary.

Gobsmacked I am.

As I sit here, half way around the world, waiting for our plane at the Adelaide Airport, imagine my surprise when I discovered that Adam Japko, of Winezag blog and the host of Wine Blogging Wednesday 76, announced that this month's topic would be The Return of the Barossa Boomerang. Boo and I have just finished a seven day tour - and drink-fest - through three of Australia's iconic wine regions - the Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley.I can't think of a more timely lead up to a classic post.

I'll be up front and admit that I'm a long time Aussie-phile - country, footy, wine, people, you name it, I'm likely a fan. This, however, was my first visit to the Barossa - after all, I think I can safely be forgiven for not counting that one-day bus tour out of Adelaide, 16 years ago, that included one or maybe two mass tasting room visits - and our three days still only allowed us to scratch the surface. Our little face-to-face visit with this winemaking Mecca finds me leaving with a whole new appreciation of what makes up the Barossa but we sure could have easily filled another three days - or longer.

Adam's prompt for today's confab didn't call for an entire travelogue on the region though. Rather, we're talking about a re-emergence of Aussie wines in today's mid-price (and even high end) market and about introducing everyone to (hopefully) a star of the Barossa that checks in at under $30. We're lucky in Vancouver in that we've long been the recipients of far more than [yellow tail] and the mass market brands from Down Under. Don't get me wrong, cheap and cheerful definitely has its place. In fact, my folks picked [yellow tail] to serve at a recent family landmark birthday. But, I never really abandoned Aussie wines like much of North America. I just cottoned on to the higher end wines a tad sooner than many others.

After our local BC wines, I've added more Aussie wines to The List than those of any other country - and that list includes a number of wines from Barossa producer, Langmeil.A long time favourite of mine, I figured a look at Langmeil's 2009 Valley Floor Shiraz is a perfect fit with WBW76 - especially since Boo and I enjoyed a wonderful tour of the vineyard and a full tasting of the winery's offerings. Our visit only cemented my admiration for Langmeil and I'm choosing one of their wines even though we didn't drink a full bottle of it while on the trip and can't, therefore add a bottle to The List. Not at this time anyhow.

The Barossa actually includes both the Barossa Valley and the neighbouring Eden Valley and there are well over a hundred wineries in the region. A good majority of the wines produced in the Barossa are made by a few big producers though. Langmeil is not one of them. The Valley Floor Shiraz sees the largest production of any of Langmeil's wines, but even it only sees a normal production of between 5,000 and 8,000 cases. The good news for us North Americans is that around half of that production is currently earmarked for global export.The even better news is that, if this wine can hit the shelves for under $30 in tax-riddled British Columbia (which it does), it's likely a bargain in other jurisdictions.

The Valley Floor part of the name refers to the fact that the grapes can be sourced from vineyards in any of five villages found on the floor of the Barossa Valley - predominantly the hottest sub-regions of the valley. As such, the wine is also part of Langmeil's aptly named Village Series - its introductory level for reds. As a regional blend, the winery sees this as a true expression of Barossa Shiraz.

And Langmeil should know its Shiraz. The winery is thought to contain what is believed to be the oldest surviving block of Shiraz vines in the world. Planted in 1843 and phylloxera-free for all those years, A lot of care and attention have gone, and continues to go into, the nurturing of the vines. At nearly 170 years of age, the vines don't produce a heck of a lot fruit - maybe enough for one bottle of wine per vine - and almost all of it is destined for the winery's flagship The Freedom Shiraz; however, it's not inconceivable that some of that fruit makes it into the Valey Floor as well. Not many wines can lay claim to be contain any grapes with such a pedigree. The fruit making it into the Valley Floor Shiraz holds up perfectly well on its own though - whether there's any of the 1843 fruit or not. The wine is deep in colour and the fruit on the nose and the palate matches that dark intensity. This is still a fruit forward, bold Barossa wine, but it serves up a smooth integration of flavor and structure. Ready to drink as is, we were told that it could easily age for ten years or longer.

The most unfortunate aspect of writing this post while on vacation is that I haven't got the foggiest notion of how to add any photos while working on the iPad - and we have some doozies. I assume there must be a way but it's well beyond my capabilities. I can always add some at a later date but it's not quite the same. You'll just have to treat this post as a trailer for the blockbuster movie still to come. (Note: OK I'm home now and finally able to retreat to my tried and true means of posting. Accordingly, I've touched up this post and it's not quite as bad as I made it out to be. It sure was a pain working on an iPad though. I've obviously got some learning to do.)

In the mean time, our plane, after an hour's delay, has finally been announced for boarding. One more Aussie wine region to come - Margaret River on the West coast - and I'm salivating at the thought. Thanks to Adam for a WBW topic that's near and dear to my wine-loving heart. I'll definitely look forward to seeing what everyone else writes about.


  1. So happy to see you back at the blogging Bob! Sounds like a wonderful trip and wine tour. Your posts are always informative, interesting and well written. Keep up the excellent work, looking forward to the next one from Oz...and a few missing links from the past ;o)
    Keep having fun.

    1. Goodness, it doesn't even look like I'm keeping up with comments nowadays. Guess I missed this while on the road, but thanks for the encouraging words. We're back and trying to settle in after the jet lag but I'm definitely going to try and work on those "missing links" and the myriad of wines we quaffed down in Oz. I hope you'll enjoy them.