Do you fancy lashings of chocolate, pepper, and plum with a luscious nose and a toasted oak finish? Learn to talk the talk and appreciate all things wine in one of the world’s major wine-producing regions.
The South Australian Wine Industry Association is the premier body representing the state’s wine industry, and it holds a variety of courses at the National Wine Centre of Australia, an impressive complex with wine barrel-inspired architecture near Adelaide’s Botanic Garden. In addition to training courses for the industry, short courses for the public include the three-hour wine essentials class, providing a broad overview and basic tools for wine tasting, as well as weekend-long and five-week courses on understanding wine. The center also features wine events and tastings open to the public.
Blend Your Own Wine
A popular hands-on experience allows you to play winemaker for the day and blend your own vintage. Penfolds, one of the country’s top wineries, offers the chance to do so at its Barossa Valley cellar door in Nuriootpa. In the winemakers’ laboratory, guests can blend their own version of Penfolds’ Bin 138—made from Grenache, Shiraz, and Mataro grapes—then bottle it to take home. These sessions run daily at 10.30 a.m.
Other wineries have gotten in on the act, including d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale. Their blending tour allows you to mix a variety of wines to find your own balance and body. Wynns in Coonawarra is famous for its rich Cabernet Sauvignon, and guests blend this variety with Shiraz and Merlot.
Some wineries offer not just samples of their wines, but educational tours that explain the process, the finished product, and the basics of wine tasting. Seppeltsfield has a range of tours around their winery in the Barossa, famous for its fortified wines produced since 1878. Every year, they release a hundred-year-old vintage, and offer a tour that gives visitors the chance to learn about fortified wines and try the vintage from the year they were born straight from the barrel.
Also in the Barossa, Jacob’s Creek, one of Australia’s biggest wine export brands, has walking tours of their vineyard with explanations of the 14 grape varieties they grow, tutored wine tastings, and a two-course lunch. Penfolds offers a range of tours including their taste master class with a guide teaching you how to match cheese with a selection of their wines. Saltram, one of the other big players in the Barossa Valley at Angaston, has historical tours that take in premium wine tasting in the barrel hall and finish with tawny port and chocolate in the underground cellar.
In McLaren Vale, d’Arenberg hosts a Shiraz master class. In addition to a focus on the region’s specialty grape, Shiraz, tours explain winemaking techniques, including foot treading and basket pressing.
Practical Tip: While you can sometimes just turn up to the wineries and join a tour, advance bookings are usually required, particularly on weekends. Courses at the National Wine Centre should be booked well in advance.