Wine. Its the reason for a grape’s existence; the hope that it will one day grow and end up being squished into delicious oblivion. Actually, its one of the reasons modern society exists as it does: The amount of ancient trade routes that led to cultural interactions, sharing of technology etc. in part due to cultures that couldn’t grow good wine wanting a piece of the Mediterranean action… and also because drunk people come up with ludicrous plans that sometimes turn into amazing ideas such as Buffalo Wings and the Ironman Triathlon!
Following in the footsteps of other great alcoholics, we take on two of the best wine regions in Australia. The Barossa valley by train, bus & bicycle and Mclaren Vale in a tiny super cheap rental car ($24.90 per day inclusive) and discover that visiting wine country can be affordable for backpackers… so long as you don’t buy too much wine!!! Our webisode takes a fun look at the wine, the scenery and the food, ways to save money and some must see wineries. Then below we look at the pros and cons and the prices to compare our two experiences.
Mclaren Vale & Barossa Valley: The Webisode
As referenced at the end of the video, we have another video and article specifically focusing on hiring bikes in The Barossa valley and the wonders of drunky cycling!
And the gold goes to……Winery Awards
Before we hit the pros and cons I’d like to give out some “best” awards. Wine is all a matter of taste, so its always hard to recommend, but these are our picks.
Best Value Wines: Thorn Clarke (Barossa)
A lot of cellar doors have nothing under $20. Some do, but their cheap wines fall by the way side when the try to upsell you to the premium wines, so you either end up with a massive hole in your pocket or with nothing. Thorn Clarke (Barossa) have a few amazing wines around $20 (Especially the Shotfire Quartage). Shingleback (Mclaren Vale) is also of note for sub $20 wines. Peter Lehman & Rosemount have plenty of sub $20 wines that are ok.
Most interesting cellar door: Alpha Box & Dice (Mclaren Vale)
Watch our webisode above to find out more about this winery. Really quirky and eccentric, and great wine to boot.
Best Wine: Langmeil (Barossa)
And when I say best wine I mean that almost all of their wine was good. Some wineries have a signature bottle and some average stuff, Langmeil are consistent throughout their massive range. As for the best overall wine… their is no such thing!
Best cellar door for scenery: K1 by Geoff Hardy (Mclaren Vale)
Its a long way out of the way but its really worth it. We visited on a monday and so were the only people there. Peaceful, serene, amazing. The wine is pretty good too and the lunch platter is delicious but a bit pricey by five dollar traveller standards. Great views can also be had from Samuels Gorge (Mclaren Vale)
Best cellar door staff: Can’t decide!
We met some great people who loved wine and we met some people who just wanted to make sales. A positive experience, good wine knowledge but above all great wine is what sells wine at a cellar door in my opinion. Some notably good service came from: Sorby Adams, Alpha Box & Dice, Rosemount, Lambert Estate, Langmeil.
Best Overall Winery: Langmeil (Barossa)
Firstly because of their awesome wine (as awarded above). Secondly, because the cellar door is cool, there is a free tour to see the old vines (1.30pm daily), the staff were friendly and they even let us taste the $100 bottel. The only negative is they get a lot of tour groups through, so it can get very busy.
The Pros, Cons and Prices.
The wineries are spread out. Doing a wine day on foot just isn’t an option which is why the tour companies make an absolute fortune charging you a massive premium to do the driving for you. Nobody likes spitting out wine, especially not awesome premium wine, but Five Dollar Travellers also don’t like handing over wads of cash to sit on a tour bus. So lets compare the two independent options we tried out to each other and to getting a cheap tour.
|Self Drive||Public Transport/Bike||Tour Bus|
The cheapest we found was $24.90 per day (Plus fuel costs).
Total for 2 days: $68.80
Train from Adelaide to Gawler = $3 off peak. Links Bus from Gawler to Tanunda $11.80 (Its the Gawler to Angaston Bus). Bike hire from hostel $20.Total for 1 day bike hire and return transport to Adelaide per person: $49.60
Barossa Valley is flatter than Mclaren Vale so is a better candidate for cycling.
The Price depends on what tour you take of course…for the purpose of comparison I’ve found one of the cheapest ones that also includes return travel to Adelaide. This tour includes visit to 3 wineries, the lookout, Lunch at the Vine inn, Nuriootpa, a visit to a toy factory ?!?! and some other scenery stops.
Total: $90 per person for a full day tour. I don’t deny there may be better tours, but this is a bargain basement price…
Convenient & Flexible: Set your own schedule, travel to whichever wineries you want at the times that you want. You can even reach the out of the way places that you can’t easily by bike.
Air conditioned: In the summer heat that is quite a plus!
Cheapest option: If you have 2 or more people in the car.
Don’t have to worry about driving so you can drink plenty of the awesome free wine! (It is illegal to cycle over the limit in Australia… Technically)
Cheapest option for the solo traveller
They do all the driving: Drink what you like.Easy. They pick up and drop off in Adelaide
Make new friends: often one of the best reasons to do an organised tour.
Someone has to be the designated driver.
The cheapest rate on the car has a very high excess (about $3000) so don’t crash!
In hot weather it can be tough going… still, we survived! Just choose an easy route.The train/bus trip is almost 2 hours, much longer than by private transport.
Certain wineries will not be realistic to reach on bike, and overall you will get to less wineries.
NO flexibility: No matter what tour you get it will be a fixed route. You will never get to as many wineries on a tour as independently unless you pay much more for a personal tour.
Less personal service: If you arrive as a large group the staff at wineries will not have as much time to talk to you.
Most Expensive option.
More info on hiring bikes in The Barossa valley. (With video!)
The best value way to see the wine regions is to get 3 or 4 people together, rent a car and share the costs and the driving. If you want to cycle, which is quite an adventure, get the car anyway and then hire bikes on one of the days when the weather is suitable. There are two many amazing wineries off the beaten track that you will miss out on if you are restricted by cycling or stuck with a set tour route.
Ultimately, the most expensive part of visiting wine country is ending up buying awesome wine… awesome wine costs money 🙁 and Man cannot live on box wine alone!
3 days of drunken havoc: The Complete list of wineries we visited
For those of you who want the info, here is a brief rundown of all the wineries we visited – 22 & 2 breweries. We only went to places which offered FREE wine tasting.
- Kaesler Wines (Pictured Left. Really great wine, and right on the main road)
- Thorn Clarke (out of the way place, but great wine! Check out the “Shotfire”)
- Sorby Adams (Great Staff, Good wine, try the Morticia sparkling Red)
- Lambert Estate (Helpful staff, loved the chocolate port!)
- Langmeil Winery (Great cellar door and amazing wine. They claim to have the oldest Vines in the world. A short tour daily at 1.30pm is free)
- Peter Lehmann(Good value budget wines, wasn’t too fussed about the service or the premium wines)
- Chateau Dorien (They have Mead. I love mead, their mead is not bad. The cellar door is a castle, but a really weird castle)
- Olivers Tarranga (Nice cellar door with some history exhibits)
- Coriole (Good views, average wine, amazing olives and goats cheese! which they let you try whilst tasting the wine)
- Rosemount (Reliable wine, massive cellar door)
- Samuels Gorge (Amazing views of the whole valley – pictured below. Nice cellar door)
- Settlement Wines (Great pizza and a nice location to eat it outside – like being in Italy!)
- d’Arrenburg (French style wines, busy cellar door)
- Hugh Hamilton (Very funky 360 degree cellar door)
- Hardys Tintara (A bit generic, some ok budget wines)
- Alpha Box & Dice (Eccentric, quirky and good wine!)
- Tapestry (Nice cellar door with a deck out front)
- Ekhidna (Wines and a microbrewery! A 5 beer tasting paddle cost $5, the ginger beer was great.)
- Pennys Hill (Massive tin shed, didn’t float our boat)
- K1 by Geoff Hardy (Simply stunning scenery, a must see, but it is way out of the valley)
- Battle of Bosworth (Semi-organic winery, various preservative free etc. we liked it. Nice scenery)
- Gemtree (Organic wine. Cellar door is more like an office)
- Mclaren Vale Beer Company (Brewery. Good craft beer, but limited selection on draught)
Where to Stay Barossa Valley:
Looking for more accommodation options in the Barossa Valley – Click Here
Where to Stay Mclaren Vale:
Looking for more accommodation options in Mclaren Vale – Click Here
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