Our History & Culture
For a New World wine region, Barossa has a long history and distinguished heritage. Its name has been synonymous with winemaking virtually since the day European settlers first arrived in what was then the colony (now the state) of South Australia in 1836.
The German mineralogist Johannes Menge had already reported back to the London-based South Australian Company that the fertile area north of Adelaide would surely support “vineyards and orchards and immense fields of corn which are matchless in the colony”. One early arrival noted similarities with France’s Rhone Valley. The area’s original indigenous inhabitants may have helped present it in such a positive light. The Aboriginal people regularly used fire to drive animals from the scrub and help regenerate native vegetation, and this continual process transformed the landscape into open parkland that appealed to the European eye.
Whatever the motivation, new arrivals wasted no time in planting vines and starting wine production. From the start there was a clear commitment to develop a world-class wine industry that would both use, and do justice to, what nature was providing. It is significant that four of the 12 oldest companies or continuously operating brands in Australia are based in Barossa. And all are household names – Penfolds, Orlando, Seppeltsfield and Yalumba. The region was also among the first in Australia to define itself based on characteristics such as topography, climate, soil type and land use.
The original name was, in fact, spelled “Barrosa” after the Barrosa Ridge in the Spanish region of Andalusia. However there was an error in the registration process and “Barossa” it was to be. The region’s German heritage is obvious to any visitor, but there is English blood in its parentage as well. The likes of Samuel Smith and William Salter made their mark alongside German pioneers Johann Gramp and Joseph Seppelt, leaving a remarkable legacy.
Undoubtedly, however, the two most important names of the early years were George Fife Angas, the English shipping merchant who chaired the South Australian Company, and August Kavel, a Lutheran Pastor seeking a place to resettle his flock of Silesian farmers and tradesmen who were facing religious persecution in Germany. The mutual respect between Angas and Kavel was central to the development of the unique society and way of life in the Barossa. Angas helped fund the first three ships that left Hamburg in 1838, and Kavel was determined that the German community’s debts to Angas would be honoured. He also encouraged his parishioners to remain in their communities rather than look elsewhere for work and helped Angas persuade English and German settlers alike to come together in an undivided settlement.
The villages of Bethany, Langmeil and Krondorf were laid out in a style used for centuries in the colonial lands of eastern Germany, and Barossa’s landscape is still distinguished by many Lutheran church steeples. Australia’s first bilingual newspaper, The German-Australian Post, was published in Barossa in 1848.