The Barossa is Australia's most famous wine region, comprising the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. It is home to some of the oldest Shiraz vineyards in the world, acclaimed Rieslings and iconic wine brands. The Barossa is a gourmet's paradise, enriched by a strong cultural heritage reflected in its wine, food, buildings and people. Diverse experiences, including festivals, events, the arts, bushwalking, golf, cycling and shopping, can be enjoyed in a stunning landscape of rolling hills, manicured vineyards, and closely linked towns and villages.
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The history of the Barossa reflects the philosophical dream of South Australia as a haven for 19th century free enterprise and religious and political freedom.
Unlike the eastern Australian convict colonies of New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria, South Australia was a planned free settlement, designed by philanthropists in London who saw an opportunity for honest, hard-working men and women, English yeomen, to establish a new life in the Antipodes.
Soon after the colony was proclaimed in 1836, George Fife Angas, the founder and chairman of the South Australian Company, instructed a German mineralogist, Johann Menge, to survey the ranges north of the infant city of Adelaide. Menge's glowing report: "I am quite certain that we shall see... vineyards and orchards and immense fields of corn throughout all [of this] New Silesia, which is matchless in this colony," encouraged Angas to select land encompassing the valleys, hills and open rangeland.
The colony's Surveyor-General, Colonel William Light, named the region Barrossa after the site of a victory by the English over the French in the Spanish Peninsular War. The word means mountain of roses but misspelling on later maps gave it the unique Australian name, Barossa.
Even before Light had named the Barossa, a dissenting Lutheran pastor from Prussia, August Kavel had met with Angas in London, seeking a place of refuge for his congregation. Kavel's "Old Lutherans” refused to acknowledge the revised Lutheran service ordered by King Frederick William III and, rather than face imprisonment, he arranged for them to migrate to Australia.
Arriving in Australia in 1838, the dissident Lutherans eventually reached the Barossa in 1842. They developed a typical agrarian Prussian village which they named Bethany. Subsequent waves of German speaking settlers started other villages such as Langmeil, Lyndoch and Light's Pass, while English free settlers tended to converge on the town of Angaston (named after the region's founder) and the Barossa Ranges.
This combined influence: hard-working German peasant farmers and artisans and middle class English settlers who aspired to a "country gentleman's lifestyle”, interwove creating the Barossa culture which remains unique amongst Australian settlements.
True to the South Australian dream, the Barossa community grew, establishing its own traditions. Self sufficiency was important and the peasant traditions of smoking meats, preserving fruits and making cheeses flourished. Fine music was an integral part of Lutheran worship and the English culture, so choirs and orchestras were established. Artistic pursuits were valued and encouraged. For the Lutheran settlers, wine was an important ingredient of their lives and grape growing was a fundamental agricultural activity.
The wealth of the English gentry sponsored the development of a commercial wine industry in the 1850s and 1860s but the real growth took place from the 1880s onwards. Entrepreneurial English and Lutheran settlers built wineries, and sold their wines to the vast market of wine consumers in London through their imperial connections.
The Barossa wine industry developed in a way different from that of Europe where, traditionally, grape growers were winemakers. Although some growers did make wine for their own use, the majority sold their grapes to established wineries.
The Barossa is unlike any other wine region in Australia or the world.
The Barossa's strength and success has thrived on this difference. Over 150 years about 750 expert vignerons have blended their knowledge of the land and its climate with modern viticultural practice, creating a partnership with the 50 large and small wineries whose specialist skills make the most of the superb fruit.
The Barossa is not a new world wine region like Chile or the United States; nor is it fettered by centuries-old restrictions as in Europe. The first settlers used their European experience and, over 150 years, their descendants have adapted it to suit the soil and climate. Through such energy and innovation they have developed a unique Barossa identity.
The Barossa symbolizes quality and cultural complexity and guarantees integrity.