I’m lost in a very, very special place ... the historic cellars of Seppeltsfield, right in the heart of the Barossa Valley.
Around me are casks of port from every vintage since 1878, when Benno Seppelt, eldest son of Silesian-born Seppeltsfield founder Joseph, laid down a barrel of his best to commemorate the opening of the family’s new cellar.
There are European wineries with older wines than this, but nowhere is there a collection that can match the Seppeltsfield continuum.
I’ve just found the cask of 1949, my birth year, and I am rewarded with a taste.
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The wine is a deep golden tawny colour and sticks to the side of the glass.
Attempting to describe such an elixir in terms of other flavours is simply doing it an injustice.
Let’s just say that it’s complex, multi-layered and absolutely delicious.
Each year, Seppeltsfield bottles and releases a small quantity of 100-year-old port and I’ve been lucky enough to taste several of them.
The flavours are in the same spectrum as those of the 1949, but multiplied several fold. Tasting these wines has always been an ethereal, spine-tingling experience.
You can buy the current release — the 1917 at the cellar door. The price of $2000 for 375ml is actually quite a bargain, especially when you consider that the loss through evaporation — quaintly deemed the angels’ share — from a barrel over a hundred years is something like 80 per cent. Lucky angels!
Tasting these wines — and several other luscious aged gems — is part of the Seppeltsfield Centenary Tour.
The tour also includes an hour or so exploring the historic buildings that hold Australia’s greatest trove of old, rare fortified wines.
The Barossans are deeply committed to local food and wine and are extremely proud of their food culture, a pride that has been made internationally famous by the likes of Maggie Beer.
Probably the best place to appreciate the strength of that culture is the Barossa Farmers Market, held each Saturday morning in Vintners Sheds in Angaston.
It’s a lively, friendly place where an assortment of bakers, cheesemongers, butchers, olive growers, orchardists, gardeners and purveyors of various condiments trade cheek-by-jowl and compete with each other in spruiking the invaluable role of the Barossa region as one of Australia’s great premium food bowls.
The Barossa Valley is packed with B&Bs and there’s the usual smattering of country pubs and family motels, but in terms of genuinely luxurious offerings it’s very hard to go beyond Novotel Barossa Valley Resort, just outside Rowland Flat, the village whose local stream, Jacob’s Creek, has placed it well and truly on the world’s vinous map.