Over three weeks in November 2019 I ran three tours in Australia. A number of people came on two or even three tours, and all of us had a fantastic experience – enjoying great Aussie hospitality, superb food and of course some amazing wines.
Between 15 and 25 people joined each tour (a select few actually came on all three), and it was lovely to see people comparing notes not just between the Australian tours, but also the other tours they have taken with me since they were last on tour together. We kicked off each week with a dinner in a local restaurant, and on every tour we certainly hit the ground running!
In Western Australia, were were based in Margaret River, and this was the destination of our visits on our very first day – tastings at the organic, phylloxera free Windows estate, and at Pierro where we experienced Nic Peterkin’s fascinating wines that combine old methods with an eclectic mix of grapes, and to finish the day, a seven course course degustation lunch at Cullen Estate.
Nannup and the Blackwood Valley/Bridgetown are emerging wine regions, producing some very high quality grapes – as we learnt at our visit to Whimwood Hill, enjoying vertical tastings of Chardonnay and Shiraz, and then at Sunnyhurst we expanded our horizons still further with a beer and cider tasting, a glorious lunch outside (with local truffles), and some fabulous wines.
Further afield is the region of Pemberton, one of Australia’s youngest wine regions. This did not show in the wines which showed beautiful elegance and balance at Mountford Wines, nor in the food during our spectacular lunch at Tall Timbers (accompanied by a range of wines served by a very generous Enomatic wine dispenser!). To make the day even more amazing, at Picardy we met both Dan Pannell and his father Bill, who are Western Australian wine royalty – as proven by a bottle of 2011 Reserve Pinot Noir!
We completed our exploration of Margaret River with visits to Stormflower and the lovely Voyager estate with its Cape Dutch architecture.
Half a continent away we explored South Australia, from our base in Adelaide. We commenced in probably the most famous of South Australia’s regions, the Barossa Valley.
Tim Duval, whose father John made the iconic Penfolds Grange, led a comparison of Duval wines with those from small artisanal producers, and we had a tasting and light lunch at Turkey Flat.
Clare Valley, some 90 minutes drive north of Adelaide provided visits to Stephanie Toole and Jeffrey Grosset’s neighbouring wineries, a five course tasting lunch at the Watervale Hotel, hosted by Warrick Duthy, a visit to Kilikanoon – voted Australian Winery of the year no less than five times, and even managed to pop in to Sevenhill which was set up in 1851 and is one of the oldest wineries in Australia.
After our epic day in Clare Valley, we had a shorter journey to the Adelaide Hills, visiting Tapanappa (and meeting the legendary Brian Croser) and fitting in both Mount Lofty and Deviation Road (who are sparkling specialists).
Our final day was in the McLaren Vale, visiting the amazing D’Arenberg winery, with its ‘Cube’ floating above a vineyard, and had an amazing final meal at Mitolo, where Italian influence was everywhere.
In Victoria we were based in Melbourne, and commenced our adventures with a day in the Macedon Ranges, a region that deserves to be much better known as we discovered at Paramoor and Curly Flat. This was followed by days in Geelong, visiting Provenance wines and Scotchman’s Hill, and the Mornington Peninsula, home to the Red Hill Collective and Polperro.
Our tour ended in the Yarra Valley, where we met award-winning winemaker Sarah Crowe at Yarr Yering, and enjoyed a picnic in the vines at Giant Steps – leaving just enough room for our final night dinner.
Trying to summarise three weeks of amazing tours at the final night dinner in Melbourne was quite a challenge. I think for all of us the welcome we received, the openness of the people we met – their willingness to explain their wines and share their stories – made this a very special experience given the hall of fame we found ourselves in. The quality, and particularly the elegance of many of the wines we tasted would confound the prejudices of anyone whose view of Australia is rooted in oaky Chardonnay and alcoholic Shiraz. The food was exquisite (although most of us had reached our intake limit by the end of the tour).
And of course, since our return, we have all been shocked by the reports from Australia of the devastating bush fires and torrential rains. I am relieved that none of the wineries we visited have been badly affected, and I know that our hosts will have been helping their less fortunate neighbours whenever they can. We can help them by buying their wine, and assuring them that we will return to visit them again.
We have made a donation to the Australian Red Cross – if you would like to support communities affected by these, this link provides a number of agencies involved in the emergency relief work.
What my clients said about this tour
“A thoroughly enjoyable tour with exceptional access to some of Australia’s best wine makers.”– Peter Goodhew, London
“Tim’s enthusiasm and knowledge make his wine tours special. Along with an uncanny ability to find vineyards where there are people who will go the extra mile, keen to share their knowledge, enthusiasm and wines with a bunch of wine drinkers who want to learn more. The Victorian trip was no exception, especially the unexpected self service comparison tasting of pinot noirs from the past 20 years and an impromptu picnic in a vineyard. Both pure magic!” – Sue R, Brentford
“First class quality tours in all areas: accommodation, wineries, the wine maker and quality of wine and meals, all excellent.” – Celia, Richmond
“The tours of South Australia and Victoria will long remain in our memories for the stunning locations and wines. Tim introduced us to a wonderfully diverse range of wineries which provided a real understanding of the quality of wines now coming from Australia. Access to the wine makers provided an additional appreciation of some of the challenges facing Australian producers. We came back from the tour feeling that our expectations had been well and truly exceeded.” – John and Kate Ellis
“An interesting and educative experience in great company that has led to a lot of jealousy among my friends when I describe my holiday!” – Paula, Reading
“An eye opening voyage of discovery – we had never tasted wines of this calibre coming from these regions before. It was fabulous.” – Jessica and Simon Shepherd, Reading
“It was just a great tour!” – Fred and Margaret Squire, Teddington
“A comprehensive introduction and informative series of tours.” – Mike B, Chiswick