South Australia produces 48% of all Australian wines. That’s why this state and the Australian Federal Government got together and opened the National Wine Centre in Adelaide in 2001. Its cellar contains up to 38,000 bottles of wine and several are always available to sample. We did this after the self-guided tour. At the southeastern corner of this city’s free and beautiful botanic garden, which is in walking distance from downtown, the National Wine Centre is also kind of free. Its fine self-guided tour is always doable, and daily guided tours are offered too. The building is like a modern cathedral.
The cellar is kept at 17 degrees Celsius year round. That’s 62.6º Fahrenheit. All cellar wines are available for purchase, even Penfolds Grange if you brought a wheelbarrow full of money. According to one display sign, Australia’s First Fleet of 11 ships had red wine aboard for “medicinal and dietary purposes” during the 8 month voyage. Fleeters also brought grapes and seeds for a 2 acre vineyard at Government Farm. The Barossa Valley near Adelaide became the first wine region.
Up a long ramp were several displays that provide details about varietals like Sauvignon Blanc. It’s vines, for example, are known for “rough, undulating, bright green three to five-lobed leaves with hairy undersides” in case you were wondering. Then there’s peeno nwa. One display assured visitors that “The bible says that Noah planted a vineyard on Mount Ararat after the great flood and later drank the wine he made from it.” It goes on to explain that a pottery jar with wine residue inside was found in a Neolithic house in what is now northern Iran, of all places. This residue was analyzed by the University of Pennsylvania, which declared that it was the world’s oldest evidence of winemaking. The University of Adelaide is involved in this National Wine Centre. I moved on to maps of the Australian states that produce wine. Every region was shown. This surprised me because I thought I had been to all the majors.
While I was engrossed in facts, Ruth as taking a virtual tour. At first her virtual winemaking skills were lousy, but she persisted and earned respectable plaudits for her 2nd attempt that was declared table ready. She was pleased. She joined me to immerse herself further in growing grapes, learning about Phylloxera, the history of the corkscrew, etc. If you don’t learn here, you’re not trying. I especially enjoyed the aroma descriptors that listed several varietals and gave realistic whiffs if you pushed a button. We headed back downstairs to see about “Australia’s largest tasting room experience”.
This experience would be fine for a group on an expense account but not for people traveling on a limited budget. Participants are given a glass and instructed to select a wine and help themselves. Machines dispense 3 serving sizes from a sip to a full glass. Everyone is assured that the wines sampled are available for purchase. This is clever and fun but can get expensive fast. A sharing-styled food menu is provided from midday until 6 pm. Breakfast and dinner bookings are possible too.