From the tasting team

Tasting Team on Tour: Dave Brookes heads to the Barossa Valley

By Dave Brookes

1 Feb, 2023

Over the next few months, each of our Tasting Team members will spend time in their dedicated regions tasting for the 2024 Halliday Wine Companion. Here's what Dave Brookes discovered during his visit to the Barossa Valley.  

It’s good to get your priorities straight.
I was at the carpark on Menglers Hill looking over the Barossa Valley, feet dangling over the edge of the wall, eating a bacon and egg roll and sipping on my first coffee of the day.
“Geez, it’s good to be home,” I thought as I stared out over the vineyards towards Tanunda. 
I thought this was an essential grounding experience for a return to the Barossa after Covid-19 lockdowns belted my plans last year, and to ready myself for a solid five days of tasting new releases in the impressive Barossa Cellar facility, nestled in the foothills of the Eastern Ranges.
So, what did I learn from my week in the Barossa?

Two men taste wine togetherDave Brookes with Stephen Henschke. Photo by Campbell Mattinson.

I learned that they are in a particular purple patch with a series of very strong vintages in a row and that overall, the quality level is exceptional across the board.
The 2022 riesling vintage looked excellent off the back of the stellar wines of 2021, and it was pleasing to see delicious white blends in the mix using exciting varieties such as clairette and grenache blanc.
In recent years, it has been gratifying to watch the ascent of grenache as it captures the hearts of wine consumers, and Barossan grenache has never been in a better place. Admittedly, there is a reserve of ancient, gnarled bush vines that is a national treasure, but over the last decade or so, the wines have become finer with increased detail and clarity. The variety has strong claims for the most transparent example of soil to glass transfer in the la sub-regional nuance!
The usual suspects are producing beautiful wines – Hentley Farm (hello, Jimmy Watson Trophy!), Yalumba, Turkey Flat, Head Wines, Cirillo, Tim Smith, Seppeltsfield, Kalleske, Greenock Creek, Torbreck, Tscharke, Brothers at War, Utopos, Sons of Eden and a raft of other producers. 
Campbell Mattinson, the Wine Companion’s chief editor, and I ventured out to Greenock one beautiful early evening to visit Alkina Estate for what was a very memorable visit. Beautiful light and wandering vineyards to visit soil pits to learn more about the estate’s terroir and exciting Polygon Project, a soil mapping project started in 2015 with renown Chinean terroir expert, Pedro Parra. The grenache wines, some raised in cement ‘eggs’, others in large format, old oak, were stunning and the visit was a highlight of the trip.

Three people walk through a vineyard at sunsetWandering vineyards at Alkina Estate. Photo by Campbell Mattinson.

Campbell and I also ventured out to Henschke for a tasting with Stephen and Justine of the new release wines, including a first peek at the upcoming Hill of Grace release, and as you’d expect, the wines were uniformly excellent. One personal standout was a crunchy little Henschke Roeslein Barbera from the Eden Valley, all glossy fruit and effortless drinking.
On the back of the run of excellent vintages, shiraz is looking very impressive and there is plenty of diversity on show from airy, ‘joven’ styles to the ‘bunchy’ numbers to the traditional classic shapes and everything in between. High in quality and rightfully famous across the globe.
As with many Australian wine regions, there are a few nervous glances being cast at the heavens after the recent rain events, but news that it is warming up and drying out are very gratefully received and here’s hoping for smooth sailing and a successful harvest for all Barossan vignerons.
Glory to Barossa!