Many people travel to Australia’s Barossa Valley to see the 100 year-old Shiraz vines. It’s a pilgrimage many set out on, like walking to Santiago de Compostela. It holds great meaning, and indeed, the sight of the thick, grey, nuanced trunks in the foreground of gum trees and an expansive sky is a marvel.
But I have to admit that when I went to the Barossa Valley, it wasn’t for such a significant reason: I had already visited the Yarra Valley and Hunter Valley and I figured the Barossa was the next Australian wine region I should visit. When I saw the old Shiraz vines at Langmeil, I tried to feel something, something special. It was like being at an ancient Greek temple trying to absorb the history but all you can think about is where to get your next Greek salad.
With my boots anchored in the rusty-coloured Barossa earth, I thought about how old the vines were and how they produced fewer grapes than younger vines. And I thought about how the grapes from these vines often made more complex and highly sought after wines. And I felt disappointed with my efforts.
It wasn’t until later I realised that there is something else inspiring about old vines, something that lies outside the realm of wine: It’s the way the vines represent both how vulnerable we are and how resilient we can be, and further, it’s their connection to the past that is intriguing and powerful.
I think we do have an innate drive to get in touch with the past, and with our own past in particular, and that this drive operates, at least partly, on an unconscious level. I know that at certain times, I have felt the need to get in touch with my past to learn what I perhaps should do in the future. This has not been in a ruminative way, nor in a grieving way. But in a way that has helped me re-acquaint myself with who I am at the very core. I think this is because some of our desires and longings remain the same over time and sometimes we just need a little reminder of what is most important to us.
Sometimes a connection to the past feels like returning home, and it can offer some comfort before taking a leap into the future. Strangely, the Barossa felt like this, like home. From Wolf Blass to Barossa Valley Estate, from Chateau Tanunda to Langmeil, I felt a sense of returning home.
I worry that there are too many adages that tell us to avoid looking into the past. I agree that there are ample reasons to stay in the present moment and that is what we typically travel to places like the Barossa to do. But we can, too, savour past experiences, which propel us into amazing futures. In fact, it was in the Barossa that I looked to my past and decided that wine travels in the Old World (Europe), in particular in Spain, would be in my near future.
Feature photo: Old Shiraz vines at Langmeil, Barossa Valley
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