You’re sitting in a glass-walled visitor’s centre, staring out at rows upon rows of neatly manicured Shiraz vines that are snaking up and around wooden trellises. You’ve just been offered a glass of the Jacob’s Creek Century Hill Shiraz, which you’re quaffing along with dessert, a dish that includes pears poached in the wine, with beetroot ice cream and vanilla cream.
You’re not sure that your taste buds can distinguish the various notes that Nicholas Meyer, the wine ambassador at Jacob’s Creek is asking you to recognise. This is after all, your eighth glass of wine — and it's not even noon. There’s a metal spittoon on the table, but you haven’t really made much use of it, choosing instead to drain each glass as you go along.
It's your fourth day in South Australia, and you’ve sampled umpteen bottles of local wine, in restaurants, on picnics, in the middle of a national park, and elsewhere. South Australia, with Adelaide as its capital, is blessed with rolling valleys with names like Eden and Barossa — and some of them now produce quality wines that are being exported all over the world. Jacob’s Creek is located in the latter and is probably one of the best-known international wines to come out of the region.
You were under the impression that you would only be tasting four wines — two whites and two reds; a Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Shiraz — but after the initial batch, each of which is paired with a bowl of ingredients that brings out the subtleties of the terroir, you’re suddenly presented with four more bottles. These are aged for much longer, with more complex flavours and whereas the first sell for about A$20 a bottle, these are A$50-80. The more expensive bottles are being paired with a meal that plays off the bottled flavours — expertly using local produce to sometimes amplify, sometimes cut and sometimes open up the wine in front of you.
The previous day, you were at d’Arenberg, a winery in McLaren Vale, a name straight out of Game of Thrones. There you met John Paschke, who leads you through a session that allows you to taste three different Shiraz variants, and ultimately leaves you to your own devices to come up with your own blend. The Blending Bench, as the experience is called, is interactive, and calls for multiple sips of wine. After all, how else are you to decide which proportion to add each of the wines in, and then make further adjustments? You leave with a 750 ml bottle of wine, ready to share it with friends once you’re back home. You make a promise to yourself to get better acquainted with terms like tannin, terroir and more, because you’ve heard them being bandied about by people at every tasting you've been to.
You think back to that second day, when in an interesting experience you visited the Hahndorf Hill Winery, where their Grüner Veltliner and Blaufränkisch are paired with artisanal chocolates. At the time, your vocabulary was woefully inadequate and so you struggled to find the words to describe the flavours you were tasting. Now, towards the end of the trip, you wonder if you should do it all again, so that you can put your expanded vocabulary to use, and if the five days of tastings have allowed you to distinguish subtler flavours.
If you’ve had your fill of wine-based experiences, there’s a lot to taste in the many restaurants and bars that can be found across Adelaide’s central business district (CBD). One of your favourites may be The Islander Rosé, from neighbouring Kangaroo Island, which has a minerality and crispness that complements the summer day you tried it on. At another restaurant, the barkeep lets you taste his favourite Kangaroo Island Shiraz (it's by Snow Dragon), because here, everyone takes his or her wine seriously.
At the end of the trip, you've come to realise that you've only just scratched the surface of what South Australia has to offer. You promise to come back and the explore further — you've heard Victoria and Tasmania do some pretty great wines too!
In part one of this South Australia travelogue, read about the wildlife.
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Updated Date: Dec 30, 2017 17:30:53 IST