It was during our tour through the Barossa Valley in South Australia that we found out that we could make our own blend of wine. Being big fans of all things wine we thought this would be a very cool experience to try. They sell a $625 bottle of wine at Penfolds so if we get the chance to use their grapes to make our own wine, how could things go wrong?
Some of Australia's most famous wineries are located in the Barossa Valley. A tour through the valley will take you through a gorgeous countryside to visit wineries such as Wolf Blass, Lehmanns and the aforementioned Penfolds just to name a few. Located an hour outside Adelaide, it's is a beautiful region to explore.
If you want to truly enjoy the experience, we recommend hiring a car and driver. Not only will your driver be able to take you to his favourite cellars, show you the secret viewing points and give you a history lesson about the region, you will also be able to taste all the wine you want without fear of having to get behind the wheel.
The Barossa Valley also has some of the oldest vines in the world. At the Langmeil vineyards, you'll be able to see the vines planted in 1843 by German immigrants. They are old vines that only produce a small amount of wine each year and I can only imagine what they taste like. That wine is probably expensive too, but not as expensive as the $625 Grange Wine at Penfolds.
The Grumpy Spaniards
I didn't think we'd ever get the opportunity to try a $600 bottle of wine, but thanks to a grumpy couple on our tour we got our chance. This couple was from Spain and they refused to acknowledge that Australia had fine wine. The kept telling the Vintner that they have better wine in Spain and that Australian wine was far inferior. So to butter them up a bit, the people at Penfolds offered them a taste of the good stuff, and since we were on the same tour as them, they had to give us a taste too.
The verdict? The couple finally relented and decided the $625 bottle was fine, but not worth the price tag.
We on the other hand, decided that it was the best wine we've ever tasted. I do believe we were completely swayed by the price. How can you not like a $600 bottle of wine, now matter what it tastes like? It's $600 people!
Blend Your Own Wine
After tasting the best wine we've ever had,(it had to be because it was the most expensive we've ever had) the pressure was on. We now had to blend our own wine. Can we make it as good as the $600 bottle we just tasted? We'd have to wait to see.
First we had to have a tour of the place. As we stood in the lobby and looked at photos, our guide told us about the history of Penfolds. My eyes glazed over as she spoke and I pretended to listen, but seriously, I couldn't tell you a thing she said as my mind was on the wine. The challenge was on and I was ready to meet it.
We went to our stations in the lab which was exactly like my high school science room. I was pretty nervous that we were going to be tested at the end of the day, but I put all insecurities aside and started blending. Who cares that we had the grumpy couple from Spain was standing across from. Sure, they were the ultimate wine snobs but we can keep up to them. I can smell the difference between cherries and peppers. Dave has a nose for days. He can tell you every ingredient in a bottle. He's taken a smell test in Niagara to prove it.
We diligently went to work and started our blending to make the best possible bottle of wine on the planet. We had three bottles to work with – Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre. These are the three blends that make up the famous Penfolds Bin 138. It is up to the wine maker to put the perfect blend together and decide on the final price, but today, we were blending wine to suit our palette. I wonder how expensive my taste is?
It was fun to pretend to be scientific for a day. The wine blending process uses all the instruments that you'll remember from chemistry class. We used beakers and measuring cups, stir sticks and funnels. We were prepared.
Our guide told us the percentage of blends that the Bin 138 wine was, but I can't remember what she said. All I know is that Dave and I both decided to go in the opposite direction for our first blend. Why not? We can always buy a bottle of Bin 138 if ours doesn't turn out. (Note: Don't worry, Bin 138 s not $625)
We had three tries to make our perfect blend.
It turned out that going in the opposite direction was not a good choice. That batch was bad! Ok, the second attempt would have to be a little closer to the real deal. I looked over at Dave and he was so cute. He was doing the mathematical calculations to get the right mix and I couldn't help but smile at how serious he was. I had better smarten up, I was falling behind and making some serious bad wine and quite a mess. My white station was quickly turning red with all my spillage.
I kept asking our guide if it was ok to put a certain amount of Mourvedre over Shiraz. You see, Shiraz is not my favourite wine, so I was trying to keep it out of my Shiraz mix. She just kept saying, “what every you like” I could feel her judgement. Who doesn't put Shiraz in a Shiraz blend, that's madness!
In the end, I settled on a near carbon copy of the Bin 138 blend. Both Dave and I did actually. Hey, there's good reason that it's that particular mix. It's one of their best selling wines and if it's good enough to ship around the world, it's good enough for us. Plus, we wouldn't have to buy a bottle when we left, we had our own bottles of our own wine to take with us.
All in all it was a very good tour, save for the grumpy Spaniards. They went through their blend so fast Dave and I actually started to feel stressed about how long we were taking. We had just poured our first bottle by the time they blended three and corked up their take home bottle. They were out the door while we were still taking our wines.
Give me a smack if I ever get that grumpy while on vacation, or at least give me a glass of good wine.
- To book your own luxury wine tour of the Barossa Valley, visit Life is a Cabernet
- The Penfolds Wine Blending Experience starts at $65 pp including a bottle of wine to take home Find out more at Penfolds
- For everything South Australia, visit the South Australia Tourism Board who sponsored our fabulous trip to South Oz