Drinking and riding mix in South Australia

By Jason Cadden

Cycling and wine do mix and not just at the Tour de France - just head to Australia's own Tour Down Under.

South Australia's Tour Down Under will celebrate its 15th year in 2013. Photo / Supplied
South Australia's Tour Down Under will celebrate its 15th year in 2013. Photo / Supplied

South Australia's Tour Down Under 2012, to be held January 20-27, is the highest ranked cycling race outside Europe, the first of the year of the UCI WorldTour.

Therefore, it attracts many of the world's best cyclists.

In 2012, 36,000 people visited South Australia specifically to see the Tour Down Under but they didn't just come for the cycling.

Many combine watching the race with sightseeing.

Not a bad idea really, because the race takes in the best bit of the state, namely Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and, of course, the Barossa Valley.

Spectators can ride in the Bupa Challenge to get a taste of what it is like to ride a stage of a big race. Participants have a choice of distances - the full stage of 127km or as little as 20km.

The thing that struck me the most on my first visit to the Barossa was that it was a bit like the Blue Mountains, with many restaurants, and heritage buildings dotted along the Barossa Valley Way.

It's also compact - only 19km from Nuriootpa to Lyndoch, which are at opposite ends of the central part of the Barossa wine growing region.

The highlight of my trip was a visit to the Seppeltsfield winery, famous for its fortified wines, for a Centenary Tour.

It is one of the oldest wineries in Australia, established in 1851, and because of that it is in a position to sell 100 year-old Para Vintage Tawny.

When I had small amount of this rare port poured in front of me, I have to admit, I was more concerned about not spilling a drop than its taste.

Nigel, the cellar door manager, encouraged us to think about the wine's history and what life was like when they made this port.

Homes lit by electricity were rare. Cars were a very new concept, most people got around on horse or horse and buggies and there was yet to be a world war, let alone two.

Seppeltsfield believes it is the only winery with an unbroken lineage, therefore they can offer ports from any year back to 1878.

So we finished the tour by tasting ports from our birth year, straight from the barrel.

I have to say the port that I tasted from my birth year was better. Maybe I'm biased or maybe I was less nervous about not spilling a drop.

Many wineries offer a relaxing afternoon of tasting wines, or you can get hands on and make your own wine at Penfolds.

We weren't asked to take off our shoes and start stomping on grapes, but instead given white lab coats and taken to a room that reminded me of a high school science laboratory.

We were offered Penfolds Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre as our ingredients, which we tasted in order to decide how much of each to put in our blends.

My favourite of the three was the Mourvedre, which made up around 60 per cent of my own blend but when our host told us the make up of Penfolds' own blend it was quite the reverse.

The Tour Down Under has been part of the top tier of the professional cycling circuit since 2008 and is now South Australia's biggest tourism event.

Race director Mike Turtur says the Tour Down Under has gone from strength to strength since it became part of the top tier circuit in 2008.

"I would have never thought one of our biggest events would be a bike race,'' he said

"It was a good race before, now we have a great race.''

Mr Turtur said he doesn't expect the race to be hurt by the Lance Armstrong drug scandal.

Armstrong competed in three Tours Down Under - in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

"Based on past experiences it shouldn't have any effect,'' Mike Turtur said. "There was hysteria but it has calmed down."


IF YOU GO

The World Detours Down Under website offers a range of things to do while in the Barossa away from the cycling.

STAYING THERE:

For more on accommodation and activities go to barossa.com.

PLAYING THERE:

The Seppeltsfield Centenary tour includes, a taste of the 100 year-old Para Vintage Tawny, tasting a port from your birth year straight from the barrel and sampling the Paramount Collection of rare wines.

Penfolds Make Your Own Blend tours are daily at and bookings with 24 hours notice are essential.

Te Aro Estate is in Williamstown on the way to the Barossa. Its first vines were planted in 1919 and its tasting room is in the main street of the town. It also has tea tasting for the designated driver and there is an outdoor play area for the kids.

Murray Street Vineyards in Greenock is likely the youngest winery in the Barossa. Formally a dairy farm, it was up and running as a winery in 2004. Its wine tasting area overlooks the vineyard.

Lyndoch Lavender offers a change from all the wineries. Walk around the farm's grounds, which is on the side of a hill and enjoy the beautiful views. It has a cafe and a shop offering a range of lavender products such as soaps, lotions oils and aftershaves.

The Jacob's Creek Visitor Centre may not have a very creative name but the building was purpose built to overlook the wineries. It offers a great lunch as well as tasting one of Australia's most popular wine brands.

Getting There
Fly there with Air New Zealand Book now

Find out more at Australia.com


- AAP

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