Barossa Blog

Soil Matters

What’s in the soil that makes our Barossa Trust Mark holder produce so amazing? We get dirty with Nicki Robins from the Barossa Grape & Wine Association’s Barossa Grounds Project.

Nicki, you spend a lot of your time in the dirt. What exactly are you doing there? 

The Barossa is famous for its richly-flavoured Shiraz wines with a taste that evokes the character and stories of a unique and beautiful landscape. Our wines are connected to ancient genetic, colonial vine stock, varying microclimates, soils, topography and generations of effort.

Anecdotal evidence gathered over several generations suggests that the quality and character of Barossa Shiraz is strongly connected with locality and vineyard. Different climates, aspects and soil types possess unique characteristics that impact on the taste of Shiraz. 

Our job is to try to understand the sub-regions (or what we call ‘parishes’) of the Barossa, and the characteristics displayed in the soils and climate that gives each wine produced that special something. 

Barossa soil in a glass

So, you’re saying that not only can you pick a wine from the Barossa, you can pretty much pick the exact spot where its grapes were grown? 

Yes, there are distinctive and identifiable characteristics and flavours that come from sub-regions or ‘parishes’ of the Barossa, and once you are aware it is easy to pick them in a glass of wine. 

What are these sub-regions or ‘parishes’? 

There are two distinct regions within the Barossa zone – the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. The Barossa Grounds Project has identified that within the Barossa Valley region there are three distinctive ‘grounds’ and this is what we’re talking about today. 

Let’s pretend we’re drinking a glass from each area right now… 

Northern Grounds – Altitude 280-450m  

This includes vineyards in the vicinity of Seppeltsfield, Marananga, Stone Well, Greenock, Moppa, Stockwell, Ebenezer and Kalimna. The renowned Western Ridge runs from the north of Greenock, through Seppeltsfield and pushes into the Central Grounds near Gomersal.

The soils here are predominately red-yellow brown loams over red clay. Shattered ironstones are found in the soils of the Western Ridge and the soils are shallower here than elsewhere. A small section of yellow and white sands is found in the area of Kalimna. 

Wines from the Western Ridge are full-bodied, rich and concentrated with a deep purple red colour. The texture is round, velvety and firm with strong expressive tannins and aromas of blueberry, chocolate and cocoa powder. 

  • A Barossa Trust Mark Wine from the Northern Grounds is Torbreck RunRig Shiraz Viognier. 

Central Grounds – Altitude 180-280m 

This area covers the vineyards around Gomersal, Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Dorrien and Light Pass. There are dramatic differences in soil type across this section of the Barossa landscape. Vineyards around Krondorf, Bethany and Vine Vale are located along the Eastern Edge, one of the first areas settled in the 1840s because of its deep sandy loam soils, water-holding capacity and access. The soil and the gully breezes from Eden Valley bring a softness to the character of these wines, similar in structure to the wines of the South.

Wines from the Eastern Edge are medium to full-bodied and vibrant with aromas of red cherry, fruitcake, mint and chocolate. These wines display fine, supple tannins. 

Barossa regional soil

Some Barossa Trust Mark wines from the Central Grounds include: 

  • Bethany Wines GR Shiraz 
  • Chateau Tanunda 100-Year Old Vines Shiraz 
  • Cirillo Estate 1850 Ancestor Vine Grenache 
  • Elderton Wines Command Shiraz 
  • Gibson Wines Australian Old Vine Collection Shiraz 
  • Glen Eldon Wines Dry Bore Shiraz 
  • Langmeil Winery Valley Floor Shiraz 
  • Rockford Basket Press Shiraz 
  • St Hallett Old Block Shiraz 
  • Peter Lehmann Wines Margaret Semillon 
  • Turkey Flat Vineyards Turkey Flat Shiraz (also partly froms Northern ground of Stone Well) 

Barossa map showing soilsSouthern Grounds – Altitude 112-220m

The southern approaches of the Barossa Valley include vineyards around Williamstown, Lyndoch, Rowland Flat and Rosedale. The climate here is warm and the rainfall is higher than in other parts of the Valley, with soils ranging from sandy looms over clay, to black cracking clay, which we call Biscay. Wines from Lyndoch are medium to full-bodied, generous, lush, refreshing and elegant with a deep red to purple red colour. The tannins are fine and gentle (satiny and powdery) and the wines have a fragrant aroma of red and blue fruits, violets, mint and chocolate.

Some Barossa Trust Mark wines from the Southern Grounds include: 

  • Jacob’s Creek Centenary Hill Shiraz 
  • Jacob’s Creek Steingarten Riesling 
  • Schild Estate Moorooroo Limited Release Shiraz  

Which Barossa Trust Mark wines come from the Eden Valley region?

The Eden Valley has a higher altitude of between 217 – 630m, resulting in wetter and cooler weather. Daytime temperatures can be 2-3 degrees cooler than the Barossa Valley. 

  • Henschke’s Hill of Grace Shiraz and Poonawatta’s 1880 Shiraz are grown in Eden Valley. 

Glasses of soil

It’s really little wonder the Barossa produces such spectacular produce, when you consider these regions – from the Valley floor to high up in the hills – were the places where the original settlements were founded dating back to 1842. 

It’s fun to imagine the stories, the people and what went on above the ground, while drinking a glass of Barossa wine from vines grown in these magnificent soils. 

So at your next blind wine tasting dinner with friends, see if you can pick which Barossa ‘ground’ it’s from for extra credit points!