It's on! We're now just one week away from the NZ-AUST travel bubble, so this column is staying firmly in the fantasy realm, with a historic wine festival in Australia that kicks off next Wednesday.
The Barossa Vintage Festival has been running biennially since 1947, and is one of Australia's longest-running festivals. This five-day party is a huge celebration of food, culture and heritage, and of course wine - all the very best of Barossa. This is arguably Australia's most famous wine region, with more than 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors to enjoy. They've been making wine here since the 1830s, so the area is steeped in history, as well as having a wonderful restaurant scene.
Around festival time, hundreds of scarecrows start to pop up around the region, created by locals, schools, businesses and vineyards. They're an integral part of the celebration, so grab a map (or use the festival's online Google map), and keep your eye out. barossavintagefestival.com.au/stays
Around the festival, this famous food and wine area offers a plethora of options for indulgence. At El Estanco, you'll find South American flair housed in a historic property that dates to the 1890s. There are chilaquiles (eggs and corn tortillas) for breakfast, charred octopus and roasted pork belly for lunch, and a special menu for los ninos of albondigas (meatballs and rice in broth) and helato (icecream of course). On Friday nights they offer a fiesta feast of pizzas for groups - no ordering is required, just sit back and enjoy. Elestanco.com.au
at Lou Miranda Estate winery and vineyard, at the southern end of the Barossa Valley, dine on modern Mediterranean made from local, seasonal produce. The restaurant serves customisable tasting menus of various lengths, such as Feed Me Quick, Feed Me Slow, and Feed Me Like Lou. If kids want to get involved, they eat for half price. Especially for the festival, Lou's is hosting an eight-wine, four-course meal hosted by the estate's winemaker - a very delicious way to get to know the local wine and food.
restaurant is set picturesquely in a modern glassed-walled barn, in the middle of a vineyard. After a tasting experience, sit down to enjoy a recently reinvigorated menu that aims to be flavoursome, accessible, and affordable. I'll take the parfait with kumquat jam and slow-cooked lamb with bacon salt potatoes, please. After that, take your wine tasting experience to another level with the estate's Riedel masterclass, which will teach you all about how a glass can draw out different characteristics of a wine, and influence the taste and enjoyment of the bottle you choose.
To stay, would you prefer luxury lodge or a self-contained apartment among the vines? If high end is your thing,
is a renowned luxury lodge, with a wonderful restaurant on-site too. You can expect to be greeted at your car (or helicopter) on arrival, and shown to a luxurious room featuring fireplaces, beautiful art, a private outdoor shower, and a patio that may give you a glimpse of a wild kangaroo or two.
If you'd rather be amid the vines, at the
Barossa Shiraz Estate
, near Lyndoch, stay in a luxury cottage with views over the valley. Each is self-contained and fits two to six people, so they're perfect to bring back your collections of wines from a day's exploration for a taste in the evening. Each is also different, so choose from the intimate The Residence for a couple's retreat, or The Willows for heritage charm that will fit an entire family. There are spa baths, barbecues, log fires, and of course proximity to some of the best vineyards and restaurants on offer in the Barossa.
Or stay in a historic Lutheran church at
at Charles Melton estate. Charles and Virginia Melton have taken a little church dating from 1864, and transformed it into a tranquil and luxurious accommodation, five minutes from the town of Tanunda. You'll find fresh flowers, two comfortable bedrooms, and games such a petanque to enjoy. Grab your complimentary bottle of wine and cheeseboard, and sit outside to watch the sun set over the grapes.
If you fancy getting a little more hands-on with your food, the Casa Carboni Italian cooking school offers weekly cooking classes for small groups. in the town of Angaston (about an hour's drive from Adelaide). Run by an Italian chef and his Australian wife, the classes make use of the fresh Barossa produce to create authentic Italian dishes. Guests have a say in the menu, and can expect to be hands-on and well fed - classes include coffee, tuition, a four-course lunch and a glass of wine. There's also a restaurant on site, if you'd rather not do the cooking. casacarboni.com.au