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by Nick Carne
You could spend a lot of time at Seppeltsfield Estate these days without actually taking part in a conventional cellar door tasting.
The relaunch of the historic Barossa Valley winery last November after an 18-month redevelopment has put an even greater focus on cuisine (at the new Fino restaurant on site), art and craft (at the Jam Factory on site), a diverse events program, heritage experiences and even guided Segway tours of the property.
The Jam Factory
"The original Seppeltsfield was an artisan community and very self-sufficient and that's the vision: to bring the place back to a multi-layered destination where people can get involved and leave with a real sense of connection to the place," said Sales and Marketing Manager Chad Elson. "We recognised the opportunity to bring the property to a new generation and to do that through fine food, art and culture."
The response has been very positive, with more than 2000 people a week visiting the winery (including Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall) and the respected Drinks International magazine giving Seppeltsfield its 2016 award for Best Visitor Centre - an award that recognised the strategy, proposition, investment and creativity required to turn a vineyard into a long-term tourist attraction.
A wine tasting straight from the barrel at Seppeltsfield
The judges in South Australia's inaugural Best of Wine Tourism Awards were also impressed, naming Seppeltsfield the winner in two categories: for Wine Tourism Services and Art and Culture.
The awards were held as part of Adelaide's membership of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network. Seppeltsfield and five other category winners will now compete in the international finals in Portugal in November against national winners from eight other countries.
The 165-year-old winery is famous for the 2000 much-photographed Canary Island Date Palms that line the approaching roads, but the centerpiece remains the Centennial Cellar, which is unique in the world as it holds an unbroken lineage of every vintage back to the very first in 1878.
Visitors can pay to taste a 100-year-old tawny, the vintage of their birth, five vintages marking significant events (including the moon landing, D Day and Elvis's death) or any five years, dating as far back as 1902, that mean something to them.
"It might be the year they were born, or their parents were married or someone special to them passed away, but whatever they choose, the impact can be quite something," Chad said. "For us it is a way to get across a sense of the history and heritage of what we do, but for those tasting it can be an emotional experience."
Introduced this year, the tasting is called "This is Your Life" and a British wine reporter recently described it as "the most special tasting I have ever done".
As part of its redevelopment Seppeltsfield has employed a historian two days a week to preserve objects, creative signage and oversee the development of an archival library, while also venturing into the future with virtual reality technology, in an Australian first for the promotion of wine tourism.
The smartphone tour was created in partnership with South Australian business Schwerpunkt. When used with special lensed headsets, it provides the sense of physically standing surrounded by the 12 heritage-listed buildings on the 170-hectare property or within the dining and art precincts.
Seppeltsfield won the international award for the Best Of Wine Tourism Services category in Porto, Portugal on 10 November 2016.
Seppeltsfield Proprietor and Managing Director Warren Randall said "This award signals a completed transition of Seppeltsfield from a staid - albeit it historic - wine property, to a dynamic and multi-experiential destination, where wine, regional food and art are equally celebrated and promoted. The Barossa and South Australia can be proud of a now internationally – benchmarked tourism asset. It’s now time to promote this achievement and capitalise on any visitation potential."
The prestigious Great Wine Capitals Global Network brings together cities linked to internationally renowned wine regions. Adelaide / South Australia officially became a member on 1 July, after being unanimously elected by the eight other members: Bilbao / Rioja (Spain), Bordeaux (France), Cape Town (South Africa), Mainz-Rheinhessen (Germany), Mendoza (Argentina), Porto (Portugal), San Francisco / Napa Valley (USA) and Valparaìso / Casablanca Valley (Chile). Since the 2016 annual general meeting, the Great Wine Capitals network has welcomed Verona as the tenth member.