Tag Archives: Barossa Valley

Old Vine’s Down Under

Australia’s first grapevines were planted in 1788 in Farm Cove, today’s Sydney Botanical Gardens. This was pre-phylloxera (late 19th century), and because Australia vineyards weren’t affected by the deadly louse that wiped out vineyards around the world’s premier wine regions (Chile, the country of Georgia, and the Mosel region of Germany weren’t affected, either), the wines are considered Old World.

In a virtual tasting hosted by San Francisco Wine School, with special guests from Australia that included famed Aussie winemaker, Corrina Wright,  and winemaker Dean Hewitson, thanks to AustralianWineDiscovered.com, 11 wines were tasted by over 100 virtual guests, including myself. Over 1,500 mini bottles were shipped to approximately a dozen states. I happily share my top 5 favorites:

#1 – During my last visit to McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley, I fell in love with the grenache wines of these regions. True to form, my absolute favorite sip during this virtual evening was the 2016 Edgar Schild “Reserve” Grenache, Barossa Valley ($26). The family behind the winery is a story you’ll want to follow online. This old vine was planted in 1916 and reflects a warmer vintage that works for me! The wine aged for over a year in new and old French barrels and presents as dark ruby with opulent dark and red fruit notes leading to slight tannin structure of the same berries on the palate.

#2 – One of my favorite white varietals is semillon, and the 2019 Tyrrell’s Semillon, Hunter Valley ($27) was truly exceptional. Grown in sandy loam soils and a short time on lees before bottling, this minerally-forward wine is a delicious and perfect representation of semillon. Aromas of cut grass and lemon lead the way to a palate with… wait, was that dried ginger on the finish? Amazing.

#3 – OK, so I’m partial to semillon Down Under, apparently. And this one was even better than the last. The 2018 David Franz “Long Gully” Semillon, Barossa Valley ($29), is a showstopper. The grapes hail from ancient vines (134 year’s old!) dry grown in sandy loam. This bright straw-colored wine exhibited a weighty, rich mouthfeel and was so wonderfully greeted on my palate – as refreshing as a perfectly made lemon meringue pie.

#4 – It would be blasphemous to leave out a Shiraz recommendation. Thankfully, there was one crimson selection I enjoyed, right down to the finish with notes of sage and allspice. This was a 2017 Langmeil “Orphan Bank” Shiraz, Barossa Valley ($65). The name “orphan” is due to the vine’s history, as explained on the Langmeil website: “Ten rows of Shiraz planted pre-1860 were saved from the developer’s bulldozer and replanted alongside the original Langmeil vineyard on the banks of the North Para River. We called these ten rows the “Orphans”, but after 150 years they have a new home.” Drink this wine and you’re tasting history.

#5 – Blended wines can be tricky, but this 2015 John Duval “Plexus” Shiraz-Grenache-Mourvedre, Barossa Valley ($80) was poured from a magnum and delighted my senses as the final pour of the tasting. It was a textbook red blend of the old days, exhibiting the full spectrum of bright red licorice to dark berries and plum on the palate, finishing with baking spices.

Email help@sfwineschool.com to inquire on how to order any of the wines listed above.

Charlene Peters, a.k.a. Sip Tripper, enjoys sharing wine reviews and her discovery of wine destinations. Sign up for her e-newsletter on www.spavalous.com and receive travel inspiration, wine recommendations, and more tips related to travel, food, wine, and wellness. Be sure to order a copy of her book, “Travel Makes Me Hungry: Tales of tastes & indigenous recipes to share” available on Amazon.

St. Hugo of the Barossa Valley, Australia

We were chauffeured to the Barossa Valley, a premier wine region an hour from Adelaide in South Australia, in a vintage Daimler as part of an Ultimate Wine Experiences tour. First stop: St. Hugo winery.


Although we were in the one of the driest continents in the world, it rained off and on that day, mostly when our group walked through the vineyards. Our umbrella procession escalated in its amusement when we spotted a few kangaroos hopping between a few rows of grapevines. No need to worry about the grapes; kangaroos like to munch on the grass and offer free labor for their excellent vineyard maintenance.dsc02568.jpg

Inside the luxurious underground private tasting room, where a vault holds a time capsule of vintage wines, I tasted from a bottle of 2016 Shiraz that had no label. Like most Australian wines, it was secured via screw cap. This wine offered a lovely perfume of cherry with a slight of oak, and its taste was somewhat approachable, but could be more so once it’s released next year. The grapes for this Shiraz were sourced from several vineyards.

While at St. Hugo, I learned that from 1980 through 2008, the region only grew Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, but now there’s plenty of Shiraz, Grenache and a few white grape varietals, especially impressive are the Semillon grapes.

I taste a 2015 Barossa Shiraz with ripe tannin structure. Very nice, full-bodied. And then a 2009 Barossa Shiraz harvested during a drought. Those vines were stressed while growing in the ancient sea bed soil, and as a result, the wine offers an intense flavor and velvety structure with great tannins and leather aroma. If held for three more years, you’d get more characteristics of plums and pepper.

Next, a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon with no label was green pepper dominant in its aroma. St. Hugo deems this as its flagship cabernet. It tastes different than my palate recognizes as cabernet, but it does have a good tannin structure and I find it interesting in comparison to the 2009 cabernet that was so black currants-jammy and high in acidity that I craved a filet mignon to make it work for me.

Behind the Saint

Formerly the wine label Gramp & Sons, St. Hugo came about following a tragedy that occurred in 1938, when Hugo Gramp’s flight from Adelaide to Melbourne – with two other prominent wine industry members, Thomas Hardy and Sidney Hill Smith, ended with a crash.

Honoring Hugo as a legend in winemaking, in 1983, a wine labeled “St. Hugo” was released. The “Saint” was inspired by European tradition of naming vineyards after saints in order to bestow good fortune upon them.

The first St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon was made with grapes harvested in 1980 and hailed for its power and elegance, much like the great man himself. St Hugo sets the benchmark for excellence in Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.