Adelaide is absolutely rammed tonight. It’s the opening night of the Fringe Festival and a vast parade is winding its way through the city. Hindley Street is heaving, a seething mass of people, beautiful and vulgar and loud. Screaming police sirens compete with the pulsing throb of electro from the bars and the shouts of fifty thousand voices. It takes ten minutes to walk 100 yards. While it is not yet in the same league as Newcastle’s Bigg Market, it’s not far short.
Meanwhile, over the Torrens River, Guns N’ Roses are playing at the Adelaide Oval. I make my way slowly across the bridge. I don’t have a ticket, but then thousands of others don’t either, so I join them on the grass outside the stadium. We might not be able to see them, but we can hear them. I open my bottle of Florita Riesling which Sam Barry gave me earlier and I pour it into a paper cup. The luxury of being a wine buyer.
There is an astounding contrast between this hedonism and the bucolic vine-growing fields in the surrounding hills. Crikey, this place is steeped in wine history. Earlier today I popped in at the revitalised Seppeltsfield winery, now transformed under the guidance of Warren Randall. I tried the tawny from the year of my birth – 1961 (a good year in Bordeaux, too)! It is the first time I have drunk my own vintage. Brett Wadrup then poured me a 100 year old Para tawny – sticky toffee pudding time! Even though the winery is now a tourist attraction, you can see from the original gravity-fed layout and remaining buildings which were built from imported wood, such was the lack of local hardwood, what an amazing feat this was. God, pioneers such as Joseph Seppelt were tough! During my tour my mind wandered back a couple of days to my long trip up from Melbourne, when I drove past the other Seppelt winery in the Great Western area in the north of Victoria. As a working winery, this has largely been mothballed by its multinational owners – the juice from their vineyards is now trucked hundreds of miles to another facility. Sad. If I’d had more time during my drive up from Melbourne I would have stopped in for a visit to their historic underground cellars – and then popped over the road to pay a visit to Best’s.
I also went to see Bleasdale, down in Langhorne Creek, at the invitation of Martin Strachan, with whom I worked when he was Negociants’ man in the UK a decade ago. This is another famous old winery, with reminders of their past everywhere. Frank Potts was the pioneer here. I tried a 16 year old Verdelho, an 18 year old Grenache/Shiraz Tawny and 20 year old Grenache/Shiraz/Verdelho. Priceless stuff! And the table wines are very good, too, including a textbook GSM. Funny region, Langhorne Creek. You arrive down a winding hilly road and you find yourself on one long single straight road from which all the flat vineyards radiate. It actually is a flood plain, and the waters which cascade down from the Adelaide Hills via the Bremer River provide the much needed irrigation. Martin tells me that they had no floods in 2013, 2014 or 2015, but they had five in 2016. The cooling effect of the nearby Lake Alexandrina, Australia’s largest freshwater lake, provides a respite from the heat. A week ago, when it was 41 degrees in Adelaide, it was 26 degrees in Langhorne Creek. There are only a handful of independent wineries here – but the quality of wine is exceptional, as I will confirm when I return in a couple of days to meet with our man Greg Follet from Lake Breeze, currently making exquisite Cabernet and Shiraz wines.
I can’t wait to go back!