By David Sly
With its sophisticated wine and food presentation echoing chic European style, Vino Lokal in Tanunda offers a completely different vibe that visitors to the Barossa may not expect – and this is exactly the reaction that its proprietors, the Artisans of Barossa winemakers collective, want to achieve with its innovative new cellar door offering.
Creating the new tasting room in Tanunda’s main street is a bold step for the Artisans, which comprises five boutique Barossa wine brands that formed a collaborative marketing group a decade ago and have shared a communal cellar door tasting room overlooking vineyards at Vine Vale, just outside Tanunda, since 2011.
The winemaker owners of John Duval Wines, Schwarz Wine Co, Sons of Eden, Spinifex and Hobbs of Barossa Ranges recognise that small wine brands in Australia are under enormous pressure to connect with customers – especially when visitors travel to a wine region and are on the hunt for a unique and memorable wine tasting experience.
Their innovative shared tasting room set a new high benchmark for an informative cellar door tasting experience, yet now they have radically changed a successful operation by opening Vino Lokal.
“Since 2005, Artisans of Barossa has pioneered the clustering of small wine brands through effective marketing and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, but we still feel a need to stay ahead of the curve,” says Howard Duncan, Artisans of Barossa’s chief operating officer. “This will be a new positioning statement for both the Artisans and the Barossa.”
Vino Lokal, connecting the Spanish word for wine with the German term for local, re-imagines the winery tasting ritual by introducing a shift from just sampling wine, to sharing wine with food – and from standing up, to sitting down and slowing down.
The restored stone cottage in Tanunda’s main street has 50 seats across two rooms, offering twin experiences by taking bookings for tables in the Wine Room, but welcoming walk-ins for the more informal Wine Bar.
It illustrates the modern Barossa personality, underlining that a new generation of winemakers are looking to Mediterranean wine cultures for inspiration, while also respecting the Barossa’s deep German heritage and historic vineyards.
“A new history is emerging, and Artisans are very much a part of it,” says Howard. “This is not just reflected in the style of wines being made, but how we enjoy them in the company of good food and conversation.”
Artisans of Barossa’s shift to its new location has been swift – only 100 days from realising the site was available to opening its doors for customers – but they are delighted to have created a one-stop wine enjoyment shop, familiar to global wine travellers but not yet seen in Australia.
“This is the next phase of where culinary tourism is headed in this country’s wine regions, with a more complete integration of wine and food tasting,” says Howard. “It’s the facility that will create a broader conversation about how we enjoy wine and food together.”
The Wine Room’s selection of over 50 Barossa wines from the Artisan group’s winemakers tells the changing story of Barossa wine through different categories – of dry savoury rosé, of grenache and of blends, introducing mataro and cinsault into the conversation.
Importantly, underlining a Mediterranean accent promoted by the venue name, there is a category titled Not Your Usual Barossa Suspects, showcasing locally-produced tempranillo, aglianico, sagratino and pinot noir. Even the familiar shiraz category has been fragmented into different styles of expression – savoury and textural; soft supple and elegant; rich and flavoursome; bold and extravagant.
“All this is designed to take wine tasters further down the Barossa rabbit hole, and it’s an eye-opening experience to find so much variety in one winemaking region,” says Howard.
“It’s a different way of guiding people through a tasting. Rather than present a sliding scale of good/better/best, we encourage vertical tastings across artisan styles, to make comparisons and appreciate the points of difference.”
Visitors can book for Wine Skool tutored tastings, or purchase wines in flights of four, six or eight tasting pours, which can be accompanied by four bite-sized selections from a menu that also offers snacks, charcuterie, cheeses and Chef’s Plates created by Ryan Edwards, former executive chef at Appellation restaurant.
While Vino Lokal is now open for daily business, Artisans of Barossa wine tastings will continue at its original Vine Vale site until Sunday February 3, when the space will become the new tasting room for Calabria Family Wines, supported by food from Harvest Kitchen.
Artisans of Barossa will also commence building another new home from April, at Kroemer’s Crossing outside Tanunda, with plans to open in January 2020.
“We want to expand so that we can also present a great vineyard-based experience, where people can enjoy a longer, slower exploration of wine,” says Howard, explaining that Vino Lokal will also stay open, to offer two different Barossa wine, food and hospitality options.
“We’re confident the two Artisans experiences will happily co-exist. It’s an exciting time for us to keep our eyes on the horizon.”
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