Weapon of Mass Consumptions in Barossa Valley

BY ANGELA HABASHY
Last updated 14:17 28/09/2009

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Driving through the Barossa Valley it's not hard to see what the region is famous for.

With every street in its charming little towns lined with vineyards it's no wonder this is one of Australia's leading wine regions.

But what might not be so instantly visible is that food is just as heavily embroidered into the fabric of the Barossa as its wine.

With both on offer in abundance, the Barossa has a way of transforming you into a Weapon of Mass Consumption, and I for one was happy to surrender to the metamorphosis.

You don't need to go much further than the Barossa Farmer's Market to get an understanding of how big a part food plays in the culture of the region.

Located on the outskirts of Angaston the market is a veritable hub. Everyone from the region's acclaimed chefs, local families and tourists stroll through filling their bags with the freshest of produce and delicious handmake treats.

And with everything from locally farmed lamb, artisan cheese, and handmade chocolates on offer there was no way I was going home empty handed.

Barossa icon Maggie Beer, who has really shone the spotlight on the amazing food culture of the region, is even spotted here. And making sure the Beer name is synonymous with quality food, daughter Saskia sells her range of handmade chareuterie at the market.

Her label, The Black Pig (products from which have been picked up by the likes of Sydney's Billy Kwong and Icebergs restaurants), includes bacons, hams and lacshinken (a German-style prosciutto) all made from locally farmed Black Birkshire pigs.

But it's the scrumptious goodies at the Careme Pastry stall that really get my attention. Established by husband and wife team William and Claire Wood in 2005, Careme is well known locally for the freshly baked sweet and savoury pastries and tarts sold at the market.

Outside the Barossa however, the only way you can get your slice of the delectable Careme pie is at the various restaurants who use their premium handcrafted pastry dough or at the many delis that stock it.

If cheese is more your thing, artisan cheesemaker Victoria McClurg is sure to tantalise your taste buds. Her business, The Barossa Valley Cheese Company, in Angaston produces a range of 14 cheeses distributed to more than 240 outlets across Australia.

McClurg's business, while delivering award winning cheeses also demonstrates a vital step in the evolutionary process of agribusiness - value adding.

By partnering with local dairy farmers, like Bill and Therese Fiebiger, and paying premium price for their milk McClurg is able to 'add to the region and add to keeping dairy farmers sustainable,' she says.

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She is also fulflling the Barossa's philosophy known as 'artisanal' - meaning products produced in traditional ways and often hand-crafted by small, family-owned farms or entities.

This win-win scenario not only gives farmers a sense of pride by seeing their part in a quality finished product but as McClurg quite rightly points out, "people also love knowing the story and the provenance of their cheese".

When it comes to fine dining in the Barossa, Appellation is hard to go past. Located at luxury retreat The Louise in Marananga, the site offers pure indulgence in every sense of the word.

Appellation's Executive Chef Mark McNamara is passionate about using only local produce from which he creates spectacular dishes like the thin slices of Barossa corn fed chicken and lachs-schinken with garlic and sage that I devoured.

Every dish on the a la carte menu is of course matched perfectly with a wine by the young and impressively knowledgeable sommelier, who just so happens to be McNamara's son.

From fine dining to fine wine. Torbreck is a label synonymous with quality, high-end wine. Founded by David Powell in 1994 Torbreck is all about terroir, expressing the delicate nuances of the soil, the vines, the growers _ everything that goes into making their wines so uniquely Barossa.

"What we're trying to do is express the essence of the vineyard as much as we can. So we don't add anything extra to the wine we let it do it its own thing and everything is as natural as it can possibly be," says winemaker Craig Isobel.

Another big Barossa name is Yalumba. Celebrating its 160th birthday this year, it's one of the oldest established wineries in the region. Taking part in the Barossa at Home event, Yalumba aims to display how a vineyard steeped in such history also values innovation.

According to senior wine maker Teresa Heuzenroeder, who is on hand to showcase this innovation in the form of Yalumba's Viognier range, "it's our job as winemakers to make sure we're keeping people on that journey of discovery".

Charles Melton, a man who is as down to earth and understated as the wines he produces, has also opened the doors of his Tanunda winery for Barossa at Home.

Melton himself is there to guide you through the tastings and chat about any of his wines from the well know Nine Popes to his amazing Vin Santo, only available at the cellar door. It's so good in fact it's always sold out.

Langmeil, home to some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world, has also taken part and offers tours, with winemaker Paul Linder, of these rare old vines that provide grapes for their Freedom Shiraz.

Having visited local eateries and wineries, Hutton Vale could be considered a one-stop shop. Home to generations of the Angas family, Hutton Vale is a mixed farm currently operated by Jon and Jan Angas.

They produce lamb, chutney, veggies and wine among other things because as Jon says, ''as farmers we've had to look at more enterprising ways to go about things than just shearing sheep''.

The stunning 1850s farm building on the property plays host to rustic lunches and dinners where everything on the table is from the farm and is all enjoyed by the warmth of an open fire _ yet another delight of Barossa at Home.

While Barossa at Home is more about the wines, for any culinary fan after the complete Barossa experience, the Barossa Slow event in October would be the perfect way to do it.

"The Barossa food and wine culture is very precious... The values of the settlers through five generations have been preserved and translated through the food and through the wine and Barossa Slow is about opening our doors up to share that," says Barbara Storey, Communication Manager of Barossa Food and Wine Association.

I leave the Barossa having had a truly memorable food and wine experience but it's the passion of the Barossa people who live and breathe the rich and intricate food and wine culture of the region, and whose story is told in every bite of their food or every sip of their wine that I won't be forgetting in hurry.

It's summed up by Jan Angas, with her simple wish: "All I want is for the people who make an effort to come here, I want them to leave having changed their life just a little bit. Having added to their perspective, or added to their desires or given them an experience they've never had."

Well Jan... mission accomplished.

- AAP

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