The Barossa Valley in Australia is one of the New World's most interesting wine regions, having been established in the late 19th century by German settlers. The region benefits enormously from the relatively temperate climate, which ranges from being hot on the lower parts of the valley, to quite cool as the altitude increases on the valley slopes. Barossa Valley produces mostly Shiraz wines, and has become one of the key Australian regions for this distinctive grape varietal which has gone on to be a major grape for the Australian wine industry. Despite suffering from a poor reputation in the mid 20th century, by the 1980s, plenty of unique and forward-thinking wineries set up in Barossa to take advantage of its excellent climate, and set about producing the excellent red and white wines which the region is famed for today.
A grape varietal which certainly requires no introduction, Cabernet Sauvignon is not only the principal component of the great Bordeaux wines, but also reigns as the grape varietal most widely known for putting the U.S. on the wine making map. It is grown prolifically throughout America, perhaps at its best in Napa, Sonoma and Washington. Even though in this country we see many 100% varietally based wines, Cabernet Sauvignon is usually blended to add complexity and to round out the often tough-to-handle tannins which are characteristic of this wine. It should be full-bodied, rich, firmly structures and powerful. It is reserved in the bouquet, yet the tell-tale black currant, dark berry, cedar and vanilla (from oak barrels) often show themselves. When grown in a cool climate, it can smell of green pepper or olives, but beware of unripe fruit that can be weedy or even vegetal. Some of its popular grape blending companions include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.