Prior to attending the Eat Drink Blog conference we were asked to select between attending a three-hour writing workshop in a conference room or hop on a bus and head out to the wine regions of South Australia. I believe in the value of workshops because I was only going to be in South Australia for such a short time, I really wanted to see and experience it as much as possible and so I chose a wine tour. )And another minor deciding factor was that I knew there was a strong chance there would be beverages on offer at the vineyards!)
There were two buses heading to the vineyards and one was going to the Barossa Valley and the other was heading to McLaren Vale. The bus to the Barossa was full but there was a spare seat on the bus to McLaren Vale so I jumped on board.
That bus was going to d’Arenberg Wines which is one of more than 65 cellar doors in McLaren Vale that is just 40 minutes from Adelaide city.
Arriving at d’Arenberg is like stepping into an oasis where the very green vineyards surround you and beyond is the countryside stretching to the coast. We were shown through to the old stables that have been converted to ‘The Blending Bench’ which is where for $60.00 you can make your own d’Arenberg shiraz blend that is poured into a bottle, capped and you can take it away with you.
The winery is family owned and was started by Joseph Francis one hundred years ago. Joseph Francis’ son was a doctor and after a few years of practising medicine he left his career and joined the family business. The doctor’s son, Francis d’Arenberg, affectionately known as ‘d’Arry’, started working with his father at the age of 16 and is still working today with his son, Chester as the Head Winemaker.
The winery today has a staff of one hundred. 60-70% Of the wines are exported with their biggest exports going to the USA, then the UK and they see China as an emerging market. Sales are also made to the Cunard line so look out for them on your next luxury cruise.
Once inside the blending bench we sat at tables where there were three bottles in front of us. We were introduced to ‘d’Arry’ who gave us a brief overview of the d’Arenberg story, then the head winemaker, Jack, came and spoke to us about the wines. We had to taste each of the wines in front of us, (I needed no encouragement), then write on a sheet of paper what we could taste like oak, cinnamon, licorice, floral notes etc. Then we had to make a litre of wine writing down the percentages used from each bottle to make a blend. When the wine was made we were given a bottle with a little dry ice in it to stop the oxidisation process and we filled the bottle then labeled it. My bottle was sealed and I brought it home with me.
The whole experience was like being in a very earthy science lab where the experiments are a lot more fun. After the wine was made we were taken out side where we were given sparkling wine. The sparkling is the first sparkling wine the vineyard has made and they made it to celebrate their 2012 centenary. The wine has been called Dadd and the label has the red line running diagonally through it a lot like the French champagne, Mumm! We were given canapes from the restaurant to enjoy and I then went for an explore to see the beautiful restaurant, the stunning view from the restaurant and the tasting room where I bought my husband a bottle of The Laughing Magpie and The Wild Pixie that both retail for $30.00 a bottle.
As I was making my purchases I was told it was time to board the bus and head back to Adelaide. McLaren Vale is very beautiful and very much worth visiting. I would highly recommend the ‘make your own wine’ workshop as it is very hands-on, a unique experience and a lot of fun. But, if you can’t get there, try to find d’Arenberg Wines in your local bottle shop.
Osborn Road, McLaren Vale SA 5171