By Lauren Jade Hill
Situated to the northeast of Adelaide in South Australia, the Barossa Valley is an undulating landscape of flourishing vineyards, with villages and farms tucked amidst them. This verdant region is celebrated far and wide for its especially scenic landscape and award-winning wines, along with its exceptionally vibrant dining scene. It was in the 1800s that wine estates were first established here, and St Hugo was among the pioneers. Now, guests have the opportunity to celebrate this heritage while creating their own legacy by making their own red wine blend on St Hugo’s exclusive three-day Sainthood Experience.
It was in 1895 that Hugo Gramp was born in the Barossa Valley. The family were already renowned in the wine industry, having first planted vines in 1847, but it was Hugo Gramp who went on to establish the St Hugo brand, inspiring generations of winemakers to come for producing exceptional wines. In 1983, the estate officially took on the name St Hugo, reflecting the European tradition of naming vineyards after saints to inspire good fortune. And to this day, the estate is celebrated by wine connoisseurs worldwide for producing red wines that exhibit depth, intensity and complexity.
The latest development to the St Hugo brand took place in September 2016, which saw the opening of Hugo House. This new property was built to reflect the history of Hugo Gramp and his connection to the region, while providing sumptuous surroundings for guests to enjoy the estate’s wine in. Here, time can be savored in the luxurious lounge where floor-to-ceiling windows afford views of the surrounding land, before sampling wine directly from the barrel in the underground tasting rooms.
The resident chef Mark McNamara pairs each wine with fine dining plates in the Restaurant of Hugo House, showcasing the region’s outstanding produce in four and eight-course degustation menus. The courtyard is then the setting for al fresco dining, or pre-dinner drinks before dining in The Restaurant or underground wine cellar, The Hugo Gramp Room.
With Hugo House as the base, the estate hosts bespoke experiences for VIP guests, from tastings and dinners with wine pairing to tailor-made winery tours. The most exclusive tour among these is the Sainthood Experience, in which guests are taken on a once-in-a-lifetime journey through the Barossa Valley.
While staying in luxurious five-star hotels, guests set out on a tailor-made discovery of the valley. After being transported by charter flight to St Hugo in Coonewarra, the VIP guests are given the opportunity to stroll between the vines and experience the terroir, before selecting a row of vines where a permanent name plate is placed to mark the beginning of a new wine-making legacy. After a personally hosted private tour of the estate, guests are then given tastings of the finest old vintages in the underground cellar, and an exclusive fine dining experience.
The highlight of the Sainthood Experience though is the chance to craft your own red wine blend using fruit from the estate, including the grapes within your adopted row. Once the wine has matured, it is bottled by the winemaker and stored in the cellar at St Hugo, then over the following three years, a supply of this wine is delivered to the guests’ home by hand.
Even with this once-in-a-lifetime experience, the focus of a visit here inevitably falls on the estate’s award-winning wines. St Hugo specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, Barossa Shiraz, and Grenache Shiraz Mataro. One of the most celebrated wines produced here is the St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, which brings notes of blackberry, cassis and mint together with a hint of cedary oak and velvety tannins. As the estate’s flagship wine, this is a label that’s certainly worth seeking out.
The Barossa Shiraz, meanwhile, is known for its bold flavors and exceptional cellaring potential. Of these, the St Hugo Vetus Purum Barossa Shiraz is made in extremely limited quantities, using handpicked grapes from a single vineyard in Barossa. The bouquet of this wine is held in high regard for its complexity, with notes of plum, spice and clove, layered over chocolate and vanilla. Discover which wines to try during your visit by going over to the St Hugo website.
The three-night Sainthood Experience is $100,000 for up to two people, and is tailored to suit each guest’s preferences.