Alright, where’s the wine?” my friend mumbled as we blurrily clambered off our tour bus at 9am, perhaps too early an hour to embark on another alcohol-inspired adventure. Or not. We had just arrived for a one-day tour of the Barossa Valleyafter all, and you don’t bother with this place unless you’re serious about one thing and one thing only: sampling the region’s finest wines. And what a day to do it!

Above us was a cloudless blue sky and before us were the rolling green hills I’d so far only read about in Nora Roberts romance novels (The Villa, anyone?), their velvety dips and curves lined with never-ending rows of the fertile grape trees synonymous with Jacob’s Creek winery.

Today one of the world’s most popular wine brands, Jacob’s Creek began humbly enough when a Bavarian immigrant by the name of Johann Gramp planted a few grape seeds along the banks of the creek in 1847, supposedly while reminiscing about the wine he missed from home. A mere 130 years later, the brand was born when Jacob’s Creek released its first wine: a 1973 blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Of course, Johann burying his seeds at the creek while contemplating his nostalgia was the last thing on my mind as I tasted wines ranging from the light and fruity Moscato Rose to the classic Shiraz, a red wine I think I’ll simply never appreciate despite its oh-so-appealing label description. Can anyone honestly taste this one’s pepper, plum and (last but certainly not least) “subtle hints of toasted oak”? I think I’ll stick with my $10 bag of goon, thank you very much.

We were rolling through the hills again before my cheeks could catch the drinker’s flush, and pretty soon I found myself walking under a charming, vine-covered walkway to the rustic home of Simpatico Wines. Unlike Jacob’s Creek’s long-established history, Simpatico Wines began only three years ago when the owners decided to take the leap from grape growers to winemakers. I’ve decided I like this place before I even taste their wine. With its tranquil, gum-tree lined borders and charming one-room showcase, it’s easy to forget that I’m merely a tourist.

Valley Girl

I sip on a classic Chardonnay and listen to our tour guide tell us about “simpatico”, a term referring to the idea of people being like-minded, or on the same wavelength, suggesting the idea that people can work in sync. She says the term also incorporates a strong value on “friendliness” and “having great relationships”. Well, I will certainly raise my glass to that!

Back in the van, we were quickly on our way to another of Barossa’s valleys. Barely 10 minutes passed before an undeniably dignified castle loomed into view. Alas, I had stumbled upon royalty!

Officially touted as a “Flemish style chateau” on the winery’s website, Richmond Grove’s kingdom dates back to 1897 and is complete with spires, trimmed hedges and… a moat? Well, not quite. But the tranquil North Para River, which sits adjacent to the winery, is a more than suitable stand-in as you enjoy a picnic and some wine on the manicured lawns.

Once inside, we’re shown just how our poison is produced. The long-winded tour guide attempts to excite us with gigantic fermenting vats, wine presses and massive storage barrels, though I only find myself fantasizing about what it would feel like to crush grapes here while barefoot, as I’ve seen in so many movies.

He soon gave up and guided us along to the main feature: tasting more wine.

By this point my head was admittedly fuzzy and, as I have no desire to be a wine connoisseur, I plainly stopped listening as the tour guide delved into the importance of allowing the wine to “breathe” in its glass before outlining instructions on sniffing the wine before sipping, a practice I’ve always found fairly pretentious. Man up and drink it, folks!

After enduring his somewhat passionate descriptions of each of five separate types of wine, I savoured the last bits of a citrus-y Riesling and made my way back to the bus with the rest of the crew.

This portion of the quiet drive saw tall palm trees welcoming us in neat rows along each side of the road, their leaves swaying as if just to say hi. These were the outer rims of Seppeltsfield, the most historic winery in Barossa Valley and one of the oldest in all of Australia.

Established in 1851 by Polish migrant Joseph Ernst Seppelt, this winery is best known for its signature Para Tawny Port, a bottle of which will cost you a measly $1,000. And who doesn’t have that laying around? Well, me for one. So, of course I simply opted for a budget-friendly $30 sip of the stuff. Can’t put a price on history, after all, right? Wrong. This particular afternoon saw me satisfied with sniffing for free. As tempting as the coffee, crème brûlée and cinnamon scents might have been, I’m still fairly convinced I made the right choice.

The afternoon had slowly come to a lethargic end and, as I drifted in and out of sleep on the hour-long drive back to Adelaide, I was content. The region’s down-to-earth Aussie spirit, combined with rich European history was refreshing and original, while the natural beauty of the place took me to a new height of tranquility. The Barossa Valley had indeed made its mark – I was satisfied, sleepy and even a little sauced. 

The damage & the details: A one-day Barossa Valley tour with Groovy Grape Getaways (Freephone: 1800 661 177, costs $79.