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In Barossa's high country, dotted with stands of ancient red gums lies the Eden Valley. Known as the "Garden of Grapes and Gums," this picturesque region is one half of the overall Barossa zone, and together with the Barossa Valley, is one of the most important regions for quality wine production in Australia.
A little over an hour's drive north east of Adelaide will find you in the heart of the Eden Valley. It joins the Barossa Valley along its western edge, separated by a geological boundary known as the Stockwell Fault. To the south it borders the Adelaide Hills region.
Like its neighbouring region, the Eden Valley was first planted to grapes in the 1840s. The very first vineyard to be established here was Pewsey Vale which was planted to Riesling in 1847. It's a vineyard that is still in production today.
With its rugged beauty and pristine environment, the Eden Valley is a sparkling jewel in South Australia's viticultural crown, and home to some of Australia's most premium and highly sought after wines.
The major difference between Eden Valley and Barossa Valley, is the altitude that Eden sits at. It is significantly higher than Barossa, meaning cooler temperatures, and generally more elegant and finessed wines. The higher altitude gives Eden a cooler classification, though it is still a Mediterranean climate. The Eden Valley also contains a single sub-region: High Eden. As the name suggests, High Eden sits at one of the highest points of the valley.
The varied topography of this region gives rise to a range of mesoclimates, with the best vineyards located on moderate slopes well exposed to sunlight. Almost all of the vineyards in the Eden Valley are planted at 280m above sea level, or higher, with the most elevated vineyards sitting at around 500m. Warm sunny days with much cooler nights produce an extended growing season, which gives Eden Valley wines their concentrated flavours and naturally bright acidity.
The soils throughout the region vary, but are mostly comprised of predominantly weathered rocks and gravels in clay-based sub-soils. The soils are shallow and rocky, with low fertility which naturally controls vine vigour and tends to result in smaller more concentrated bunches of fruit. These shallow soils are well suited to dry land viticulture but there are also patches of weaker sandy soils on the slopes, underlaid by weathered mica-schists, which have reduced water-holding capacity. This means that irrigation is sometimes necessary during drier vintages, but given Eden's average rainfall, it is usually manageable.
Like its vinous sibling, the Barossa Valley, the star performer for the Eden Valley is Shiraz. If Barossa is the powerful, opulent, rich version, then Eden is the refined, elegant, and more finessed style. Both show depth, complexity and incredible concentration, but thanks to Eden's cooler climate, the Shiraz produced here tends to be lighter and finer. Some of the best Shiraz in Australia comes from Henschke's Hill of Grace Vineyard, which is over 100 years old, and produces an globally iconic wine.
The other shining star for the Eden Valley is Riesling. The high altitude, cool climate sites are perfect for the production of this variety, with the low-yielding old vines creating wines of unbelievable depth and complexity. Pewsey Vale Vineyard is the standout, with wines still produced from their original 1847 vines.
Apart from these two standout varieties, other grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre (Mataro), Grenache, and Chardonnay are also grown and produced here with great success. Small parcels of Viognier can be found too, but these are rarely vinified as single variety wines, instead used for blending with Shiraz.