The Barossa Valley climate is ideal for producing good crops of grapes that reach exceptional sugar levels and have plenty of colour. Historically these were used to produced fortified wines of high quality, particularly port. The three favoured varieties were Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro. I refer to these as the Barossa heritage varieties and many vines of great age survive.
We assume table wines were made from the 1840s though this market was small and was likely well under 10% of production, and from the 1880s the Barossa was noted for fortifieds. As the nation’s drinking habits changed from the 1950s towards table wines two varieties, Grenache and Mataro, were seen as less appealing.
Indeed, the fame of the Barossa moved from its ports to the extraordinary flavours of Shiraz table wines. While Grenache and Mataro had a role in blends labelled as dry reds these varieties having less appeal meant lower prices for grapes. The vine pull scheme of the 1980s was to assist growers to remove unwanted varieties and replanted with Shiraz, Cabernet and others considered more favourable to table wines.
It was not till the late 1980s that a younger winemakers began to investigate the potential of Grenache and Mataro inspired partly by the Grenache wines of Chateauneuf du Pape. While it has been unjust and slow Mataro now gets a day in the sun.
The Bright Spark is 14.9% alc/vol.