An easy hour's drive north of Adelaide, this valley has long been Australia's wine calling card to the world and is home to some of our most iconic wines, including Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace.
The region's early settlers, who migrated from Prussian provinces including German-speaking Silesia (in central Europe), cleared and farmed the land and planted vineyards, market gardens and orchards. Their descendants continued the culinary traditions, and today still bake, smoke and cure meat, and preserve and pickle fruit and vegetables, with some businesses now run by the fifth and sixth generations of the same family. Indeed, the Barossa's food culture is as strong as its wine culture, as is evident at the weekly farmers' markets.
There are more than 70 cellar doors to visit. Among Barossa wines, shiraz has long been the star player, but other fine drops include riesling from the elevated, slightly cooler Eden Valley, Rhône-style grenache blends, cabernet sauvignon, and Spanish and Italian varietals. Today, Barossa winemakers and wine lovers are especially excited about single-vineyard wines and the terroir that reflects the soil and the microclimate in which the grapes are grown.
Gain a sense of the oneological heritage at historic wineries such as Yalumba, Australia's oldest family-owned winery, and Seppeltsfield. The latter, established by Silesian immigrant Joseph Seppelt in 1851, has extensive grounds and gardens (with daily tours), its own cooperage and an unrivalled collection of fortified wines dating back to 1878.
Beyond the wineries there's plenty to see and do, with accommodation for all tastes and pockets, plus cafes, art galleries and antiques stores in and around the vibrant townships of Angaston, Tanunda, Lyndoch and Nuriootpa.
Yalumba, Eden Valley Road, Angaston; (08) 8561 3200; yalumba.com. Seppeltsfield, Seppeltsfield Road, Seppeltsfield; (08) 8568 6217; seppeltsfield.com.au.
For the wine lover
Take a VIP tour at Henschke. Tour the vineyards and winery, then enjoy a tutored tasting of 10 wines including the flagship Cyril Henschke and Hill of Grace.
Step back in time at Rockford. When owner Robert O'Callaghan set up his winery in the 1980s, he made a conscious decision to use only traditional equipment - manual grape crushers, wooden basket presses - to create his wines, including the renowned Basket Press Shiraz. The relatively new stone buildings look as if they're more than a century old.
Get a taste of the future. Young winemaker Damien Tscharke, a sixth-generation vigneron, is articulate, passionate and visionary. While he's respectful of the Barossa's grape-growing traditions, Tscharke believes the terroir and microclimate are perfect for other varietals, including tempranillo, graciano, montepulciano, zinfandel and albariño, which he's making into superlative wines that you can taste by appointment or at his cellar door (due to open in July).
Henschke, Henschke Road, Keyneton; (08) 8564 8223; henschke.com.au; VIP tour $180 per person. Rockford, Krondorf Road, Tanunda;
1800 088 818; rockfordwines.com.au. Tscharke Wines, Seppeltsfield Road, Marananga; (08) 8562 1044; tscharke.com.au.
For the sybarite
Barossa luxury hits a high point at The Louise. Spacious suites decorated in soothing neutral tones feature huge baths, in-room espresso machines and private terraces with vineyard views; some have outdoor showers. The on-site fine diner Appellation, under the guidance of chef Mark McNamara, celebrates local produce (more than 80 per cent of which has travelled less than 30 kilometres) and specialises in menus created to match outstanding Barossa wines. As a guest at The Louise, you also gain access to exclusive personal wine and food experiences with Barossa identities. These might include a private lunch with sixth-generation farmer John Angas and his wife, Jan (a passionate driver of food culture for both the Barossa and South Australia as a whole), at their historic sheep property, Hutton Vale; or a vertical tasting of back vintages of Radford wines with Gill and Ben Radford at their charming Eden Valley vineyard, either with matched canapés or a four-course lunch.
The Louise, cnr Seppeltsfield and Stonewell roads, Marananga; (08) 8562 2722; thelouise.com.au; doubles from $429, including breakfast.
For the food lover
There's no better place to understand the depth of the region's food culture than at the Barossa Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Artisan producers sell seasonal fruit and veg, smallgoods, bread, honey, cheese, pickles and preserves and more. Look out for Saskia Beer's Barossa Farm Produce (free-range chooks, artisan charcuterie), Hutton Vale lamb and Barossa Plains Black Angus beef, as well as handmade chocolates and locally roasted coffee.
While the region's food culture has a healthy respect for the past, it also looks towards the future. Newcomer Ferment Asian is creating quite a buzz. Chef Tuoi Do marries her Vietnamese heritage with fine Barossa produce in delightful dishes with fresh, clean flavours: look for betel leaves with prawn, pork and sticky rice; masterstock-poached Barossa chicken with cabbage and Vietnamese herb salad; Hanoi caramel Barossa Berkshire pork belly; and red duck curry with lychees and pineapple.
Barossa Farmers Market, Vintners Sheds, cnr
Nuriootpa and Stockwell roads, Angaston; barossafarmersmarket.com; Saturday, 7.30am-11.30am. Ferment Asian,
90 Murray Street, Tanunda; (08) 8563 0765;
For the family
The Kirche at Charles Melton Wines is a former Lutheran church transformed into supremely comfortable accommodation that can sleep up to five (although with stairs and balconies it's not ideal for toddlers). Get a sense of the working vineyard, cook up a storm in the well-equipped kitchen and enjoy lunch at the cellar door, where the menu includes Hutton Vale lamb pies by Barossa pastry star Carême.
Also fabulous for families are the picnic platters of Linke's cured meats and Barossa Valley Cheeses at Peter Lehmann's cellar door. The kids can play in the extensive grounds while you enjoy a glass of Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz under a shady red gum.
The Kirche, Charles Melton Wines, Krondorf Road, Tanunda; (08) 8563 3606; charlesmeltonwines.com.au; from $515 for two couples per night (minimum two-night stay).
Peter Lehmann, Para Road, Tanunda; (08) 8563 2100; peterlehmannwines.com.
For a hands-on experience, head to Penfolds' Barossa Cellar Door laboratory where you can create your own grenache, mourvèdre and shiraz blend, then take it home in a personalised bottle. Penfolds, 30 Tanunda Road, Nuriootpa; (08) 8568 8408; penfolds.com.au; $65 per person.
It might sound kitsch, but riding in John Baldwin's "old girls" - classic Daimlers that once serviced state governors and royal visitors - you'll realise this is the best way to travel: with an affable, knowledgeable guide who'll brief you on each winery's gems, and no drink-driving worries. Barossa Daimler Tours; (08) 8524 9047; barossa daimlertours.com.au; half-day tours from $400 for four people.
The writer travelled courtesy of the South Australian Tourism Commission.