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Barossa Valley – the legacy of Gramp and Gilbert

By Peter Bailey Senior Analyst Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation

The Barossa GI zone comprises two regions, the Barossa Valley and the Eden Valley. The Barossa Valley stretches from Williamstown in the south, to Kapunda and Truro in the north, with the major towns of Nuriootpa, Tanunda and Lyndoch in between. Eden Valley includes the area from Truro in the north through to Mount Pleasant in the south, with the main towns of Eden Valley and Springton in between. Angaston straddles both regions.

Vines were first planted in the area in 1847 by Johann Gramp in the Barossa Valley at Rowland Flat and by Joseph Gilbert at Pewsey Vale in the Eden Valley. The Barossa has the world’s oldest Shiraz vineyards, some dating back to the 1840s. Temperatures and rainfall vary across the Barossa.

The Barossa Valley is generally less than 400 metres above sea-level and temperatures across the region can vary, with the warmest locations to the west and north-west of Nuriootpa (mean January temperature of 21.2°C) and the coolest to the south near Williamstown (mean January temperature of 19.2°C). There is a marked increase in rainfall, from 500–750mm, from the northern to southern extremities of the region.

Due to its higher altitude (between 400 metres and 600 metres above sealevel), Eden Valley is cooler and wetter than the Barossa Valley (mean January temperature of 19.3°C and annual rainfall of 730mm). At an altitude of around 500 metres the High Eden vineyards at the southern end of the Eden Valley are appreciably cooler than the more northerly vineyards at an elevation of 380–400m around Keyneton. Overall, growing season temperatures are significantly lower than the Barossa Valley and the final stages of ripening and harvesting take place in much cooler conditions. The higher vineyard sites are well suited to Riesling production.

Based on data collected by the ABS 2007 Vineyard Survey, 12,520ha were under vine in the Barossa in 2007. The Barossa Valley accounted for 85% (10,629ha), Eden Valley 14% (1799ha) and the area outside both the regions but in the zone 1% (91ha). The Barossa Valley has the fourth-largest vineyard area in Australia, with 6% of Australia’s total vineyard area, behind the Riverland, Riverina and Murray Darling (Victoria). Eden Valley falls just outside the top 20 with 1%.

Of the total area, 94% (11,762ha) was bearing fruit in 2007. Whilst the bearing area was 22% higher than it was in 2002, plantings in the region have abated with 310ha planted in 2007 compared with 584ha in 2002. Barossa Valley contributed 290ha to total plantings, Eden Valley 16ha and 3ha in the remainder of the zone. In the Barossa Valley, Shiraz accounted for three quarters of the plantings. In contrast, 70% of the plantings in Eden Valley were from three white varieties, Chardonnay 38%, Riesling 23% and Pinot Gris 10%.

In the Barossa Valley, red varieties accounted for 77% of the bearing area and whites 23%. In Eden Valley, the split was more even with 54% red and 46% white. While the share of reds in the mix has increased over the past five years in the Barossa Valley (up six percentage points), the opposite is evident in Eden Valley, with a seven percentage point decline in the red share. Changes in the Shiraz bearing area was the main factor in both regions with Shiraz bearing area up 58% in the Barossa Valley and down 25% in Eden Valley.

Four varieties accounted for 94% of the Barossa Valley red bearing area – Shiraz dominates with 62% (4767ha) followed by Cabernet Sauvignon with 18% (1395ha), Grenache with 8% (620ha) and Merlot with 6% (433ha). Other red varieties under vine in the region to a lesser extent, in descending order of area, include Mataro, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, and Petit Verdot. While arguably best known for Shiraz (number two in area behind the Riverland), Barossa Valley has the largest area of Grenache in Australia (accounting for just over 30% of the total).

Shiraz also dominates the Eden Valley red bearing area but with a lesser share at 56% (521ha). Cabernet Sauvignon at 26% (244ha), Merlot with 6% (51ha) and Pinot Noir with 5% (48ha) are the other major red varieties.

Four varieties accounted 90% of the Barossa Valley’s white bearing area – Chardonnay at 32% (751ha), Semillon at 29% (665ha), Riesling with 23% (533ha) and Sauvignon Blanc with 6% (140ha). While only small, Viognier bearing area has grown from 26ha in 2002 to 83ha in 2007 and is the second largest area of Viognier in Australia.

Riesling dominates the Eden Valley white bearing area with a 48% share (377ha). Chardonnay is next with 33% (257ha), followed by Semillon with 7% (51ha) and Sauvignon Blanc with 5% (40ha). Eden Valley is third behind the Clare Valley and the Barossa Valley in terms of Riesling bearing area. Of the lesser-grown varieties, Pinot Gris bearing area has increased from zero in 2002 to 17ha in 2007.

The full article can be found in the March/April issue of the Wine Industry Journal. To take out a subscription to the Wine Industry Journal, telephone +618 8292 0888 or visit www.winebiz.com.au

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