"Glory to Barossa," chanted Andrew Caillard as he sipped 100 year old Para port from a silver chalice both blessed and tarnished with a lifetime of memories.
"Glory to Barossa," chanted Bernie Hickin, appropriately humbled by the moment, before passing the chalice to the grinning giant beside him.
A murmur of good will rippled through the crowd as big Bob McLean took the vessel and drained its unctuous, wonderful contents in one schluk.
"Glory to Barossa," he drawled, and thus were three new Barons annointed to the thunderous applause of the crowd.
We unworthy Qwoff Boys were lucky enough to be amongst that crowd, and in one evening’s dinner and the following morning’s auction, we were reminded in the most wonderful of ways of just what the Barossa was made of.
The Baron’s Dinner, as we’re calling it (Further Clarification, to be honest, simply did not do it - this was a Feast of Kings!) was one of those nights we will never forget.
It was like getting an invitation to the greenroom at the Grammies and hanging with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney and the Kings of Leon. The legends whose music we’ve danced to, snogged with, conjugated our lives by…
But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s set the scene.
7 o’clock, the sun’s set on another day of the Vintage Festival, and the historical Angaston Town Hall is waiting. Inside, the utilitarian hall has been transformed, not just with elegant drapes and soft lighting, but with wines and people - BLOODY AMAZING wines and people!
Steven Henschke stands behind a table, ‘95 Hill of Grace in hand, with a warm smile and a generous pour. Chris Ringland, Charlie Melton, Rolf Binder, Grant Burge and dozens more, all sharing the very blood that beats in the heart of the Barossa - 98 Rockford Basket Press, Meschach, Grange, Nine Popes, Greenock Creek, Black Pepper, Octavius, Wolf Blass Platinum Label…
A line-up of wines that could humble even the most extravagant of wine lovers, shared by the hands of the creators themselves - but this was no solemn occasion, this was a room alive with belly laughs and bear hugs and kisses on the cheek and it was all just so… embracing!
It was history, it was the future, it was right here, right now, and it was bloody fantastic.
We sat down at three long tables - hundreds of us - and dined on Pigeon and Mushroom pies, some sort of exquisite lamb tart, creamy mash and all sorts of amazing and rustic delights, and all the bottles and so many more were thrown down on the tables and shared like favourite stories.
And with all of this merriment around and before us, we got to bear witness to the ritual that saw the anointment of three new Barons of the Barossa - a ritual resplendent with red and gold robes, ancient staffs and tastevins.
"It’s often fashionable to look forwards," commented MC Paul Henry, "but sometimes the answers lie behind us."
We woke the next morning with dry throats and pounding heads (well deservedly so!), and steered the kombi on over to the Penfold’s barrel hall, for the Rare and Distinguished Barossa Wine Auction.
Many of last night’s faces were there, with hundreds of wine lovers with big wallets, and the sparkling Shiraz - Barossan breakfast of choice - was flowing.
To sit and bare witness to the 130 lots of wine on auction was again to be reminded of just what the Barossa was capable of.
To see first-hand the confidence that wine lovers all around the world had in “First Growth” brands like Penfolds and Henschke as bids exploded past the $5K, $10K, $15K mark, and the eager demand for “newbies” like Rockford, Torbreck and Chris Ringland - was a humbling reminder that we need to either start making more money, or get invited to more Baron’s dinners!!
But beyond the dollars, the numbers, the smashing hammers, and the testosterone of the bidding battles, sat the wines themselves - wonderful, complex, balanced, patient and utterly delicious masterpieces that would soon be enjoyed around tables, proudly displayed in trophy rooms, and ultimately, hopefully shared among friends over the next few months or fifty years.
"Glory to Barossa," Justin whispered, humbled and inspired.
"Bloody oath," Andre replied, "pass me that RWT…"