Almanac Life – A Year in the Barossa: “Glory to the Barossa!”







Sunday morning. We are short of time. The kids have taken some urging, but somehow we’ve managed to get them into the car.


“Why do we have to come Dad?”


We are charging along Krondorf Road, away from the parched Barossa Ranges, through vineyards laden with bunches of plump purple-black grapes. “Well this is an important event for your new community,” I explain.


“So.” It’s a primary school chorus.


“Let’s just have a look. See what happens. Then maybe we can get some lunch.”


“What’s it even for?”


“Is it church?”


A month ago, we left The People’s Republic of Northcote – with all of its inner-Melbourne-ness and where they don’t say grace before school lunch – to spend a year in the Barossa.


It’s very new for the kids – but not for me. I have grown up in the Lutheran tradition. But I have never lived in the Barossa, which is sort of Rome for Australian Lutherans. In Tanunda alone there are four Lutheran churches (doctrinal differences will do that) and on the outskirts there’s another church at Bethany, which is where the German Lutherans first settled in the 1840s and where the  congregation still exists. There’s dozens of Lutheran congregations across the Barossa and beyond. The kids are going to school at Faith Lutheran College.


During the week, one of the kids has told us they’ve been reading Genesis at school. “Let me guess,” I say. “The creation story.”


“How did you know?”


“What else?” I ask.




“Let me guess,” I say, “the story of Moses and the escape from Egypt to the Promised Land. And the manna from Heaven. And the Red Sea. It’s quite a story really.”


“Yes. How’d you know that?”


“Good guess I suppose.”


“It’s a good story. But do you know what Dad, there’s not one mention of Indiana Jones.”


We drive past the turn off to Adelaide, past the caravan park where many of the grape-pickers are camped for the season, and up the rise into the main street of Tanunda.


Signs warn us of a detour, which we must take, until we get a park in Edward Street, just behind Tabor Lutheran Church where The Blessing of the Grapes has just taken place. I find these rituals interesting and they can be moving. In Dingle on the west coast of Ireland I was in church when a scrum of priests said Mass for The Blessing of the Fishing Fleet – the locals then took us away to stand us a pint at O’Flaherty’s, which was followed by lunch. Or the Footy Almanac’s Blessing of the Footy Season by Percy Jones at the North Fitzroy Arms – which is traditionally followed by lunch.


We get out of the car just as the organist is playing the recessional and the worshippers are spilling out the front door. Many of them are in some sort of regalia, a red and yellow combination, clearly ceremonial. The pastor, in white with green vestments, is greeting them.


The kids notice the special garments.


“What are they wearing Dad?”


“Good question. It’s what the Barons of the Barossa wear?”


“Who are the Barons of the Barossa?”


“They’re a group of community leaders really?”


“What do they do?”


“I suppose they lead,” I explain.


We duck through the pub’s beer garden, which is right next to the church, and we’re back on the main drag, Murray Street. Something is clearly about to happen. People line the street. Locals. Tourists. Families. Tanunda Brass Band members are on the footpath fondling their instruments. They are in traditional uniform – after all the band has been around since 1857 – which includes a collection of Tyrolean millinery.


It’s a sunny morning of big skies, but no heat. Indeed, it’s Autumn-cool, as many Barossa mornings are. The light is pure. The trees remain summer-green. People sit eating brunch in the cafes. For a moment I wonder which sinner first brought avocado to the Barossa. Susan and the kids wander off because I am talking for too long. People are chatty and friendly.


I am interested in the procession of vehicles – which totals four. Drivers stand by their front doors in readiness for the beat of the bass drum. I chat to the owners of a claret-coloured Citroen 2CV. And I am in Provence. I chat to James Fox who will steer the Rockford winery’s Bedford. And I am in the Barossa in 1949. I chat to a bloke who has driven a polished black car with bug-eyed lights and running boards. And I am in an episode of Hogan’s Heroes and expecting General Burkhalter to get out.


The driver is actually Peter and the car is not a Mercedes but a late-`40s Jag.





The procession is about to start. The band leader gets them going and the street is filled with brass marching music – which takes me to Germany. The baskets of grapes are carried by an entourage of students from Faith College.





Then the Barons – men and women – follow. I’ve worked it out. Although sans mortars, they look like they’re about to be awarded PhDs. This could just be the finest gathering of Lunchers ever assembled. One very well-lunched chap shuffles along with the aid of his walking stick, but the pace is Teutonic-solid, too quick for him and he drifts back through the peloton until he’s rescued by his support crew. (This may have happened before).


People are smiling. Some visitors are puzzled, if not bemused. The rather German-Australian procession reaches the lawn and gardens around the very British-Australian rotunda.


Everyone has moved to gather round and we stand on the footpaths behind the seats kept for the invited guests. The ceremony begins. It’s a combination of many things including reverence and liturgy: “Glory to the Barossa” is followed by the response “Glory to the Barossa” from The People. The pomp-meter is climbing.


But the sentiment is heartfelt, and it has a hint of Bacchanalian smirk in it. You wouldn’t want to let John Cleese near it! Although John Cleese is no dill either, and he would see in this moment a respect for the land and the weather and the people and their enterprise (sometimes futile, sometimes productive) which is central to Barossan Life. He’d see the hope in it.


John Hughes is named Winemaker of the Year and makes a truly beautiful speech with a voice that breaks here and there; in those cracks is the depth of his connection and the gratitude he feels. “This means more to me than words can express,” he says, and, despite having never set eyes on him before, I totally believe him. He is followed by Bill Holmes who is named Viticulturalist of the Year and, and via his off-the-cuff and down-to-earth delivery, leaves us in doubt that growing grapes is “bloody hard work.” Then a jocularly jocular fellow with a big jocular beard and a jocular smile gives a jocular Vintage Report. “We are expecting some of the finest wines for a long time,” Adrian Hoffman says, “because, with Covid restrictions, winemakers weren’t able to go to lunch for much of 2020.” In the tradition of old newspapers reports, I must add (Laughter) and (Hear! Hear!).


The grapes are tipped into the old wooden crusher and John Hughes turns the wheel. The juice is poured and shared with the whole crowd.


The Vintage is declared after a taste. “It’s better than the last one.”


I get to have a taste too. Beautiful.


“Glory to the Barossa,” I mumble to myself, looking into my cup.



Read more by John Harms HERE.



The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE


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About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. It sounds like this will be a good year for the Harms family.
    Children tend to adapt very well.
    Good luck with it all, JTH.

  2. Good luck to you and your family JTH. Surely a FA lunch or two at the Greenock pub or similar is a given. Yes, the Barons are elite lunchers!

  3. Wow!
    Bonne continuation aux Harms!

  4. Danke Mathilde. Du bist ein wunderbar Freund (that could be rough – German speakers please straighten that one out for me)

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Have you adopted the Tanunda Magpies yet?

  6. Thanks Smoke. And, thanks Mickey. We’ll tee something up.

  7. Swish, took an interest in them years ago.

    Will keep you informed once the heart settles on a team. Now that Eudunda play in a different league.

  8. Close to many a fine drop of red Harmsy, but how will the Cats survive without your closeness?

  9. Daryl Schramm says

    A very nice opening offering JTH. Don’t miss the TTB and their Melodynacht (?) In winter each year.

  10. Glory, indeed.
    What a magnificent story.
    Indiana Jones!
    Thanks JTH.

    At times such as these I am reminded of the great philosopher Madonna in her song Vogue:
    “Beauty is where you find it.”


  11. Hmm, warum der ins Barossa?

    I’m curious if the ‘old’ Friday Almanac lunches at Haskins will survive. JTH, you’re in the Barossa, Tex is now running the Union in Heathcote, unsure of Percy’s current moves/plans.

    Anyhow John, Alles Gut.



  12. Brian BRIGGS says

    Great piece Harmsy..notice the political correctness.. I was there experiencing the day with you.
    Looking forward to more tales from the Barossa. Living the dream as they say.

  13. Did Grade 5 & 6 in Renmark in the days before the Kingston Bridge was built. A long trip to Adelaide when “the punt” was the only way across the Murray River. The beautiful white spired Lutheran Church at Light Pass was the first sign that we were on the last leg of the drive. Then down the hill into the main street of Nuri; and edging around Tanunda before Gawler and the city.
    I still look for that church whenever I am in the Barossa. So many dark and solid affairs but Light Pass lives up to the name.
    Hope you’ve signed Theo up for junior membership at the Pines. 14 is a good age to start.

  14. PB, I think I need to do a spire count, or a church count. We are living near the Zum Kripplein Christi Lutheran church which was built in the 1860s I believe and decommissioned in the 1950s and is now a B and B. We would be a couple of ks from Bethany. Re golf, I am trying to find the middle rode between encouraging and pestering.

    BB, good to hear from you. Wonder of wonders. Life in the law will do that to you.

    Glen! The lunches at the North Fitzroy Arms (known by many as Haskins) will continue. First one is on March 19. Details to come.

    Daryl, I’m looking forward to Melodynacht. We just have to get through the Tanunda Show and Vintage and a few other events first.

    Rod, I thought the AFL had scheduled all Geelong away games at the Adelaide Oval. Or is it just R1? Good of them to do that anyway.

    ER, plenty of beauty to find here. The light makes the hills an ever-changing canvas.

  15. Roger Lowrey says

    Sounds like a marvellous year ahead of you JTH especially if the virus continues to take a dive.

    We’re over your way at Easter. Keep your eye out.


  16. JTH- the B,L&G footy season opener on April 10 with Tanunda hosting Kapunda might be pivotal in shaping your (non-Eudunda) local allegiance and I’d love to get along and likely see you there over a Coopers. However, I’ll be busy spending the afternoon getting married to Claire on Kapunda High’s croquet lawn before easing down the hill to the footy club at Dutton Park for our reception. I love that we had to consider our hometown’s winter sport fixturing in our planning as well as factoring in Easter and the tailend of the cricket season. It might be dependent upon how many Westhoffs turn out for the locals but I fear the Magpies might be too good at home for the Bombers. Mickey

  17. Superb Harmsy. Crikey how did this tradition survive the modern world. Don’t write about it, hide it away lest it be banned.

    Sounds like a brilliant start to the Barossa adventure. Not completely unlike Stawell on Good Friday – back in the day. The marching band, some “glory bes”, some reverence, some story telling. Love it. Looking forward to drinking the vintage in years to come.

    Pandemic 2020 Shiraz anyone?

  18. Sounds like a wonderful place to spend your twelve months’ sabbatical, John. Enjoy!

  19. Mickey (and Claire), congratulations. Didn’t have any idea that was on the cards. Hope the passionfruit is suitably passionfruity (refer Normvaille piece) else it could start rockily.

    PS Heard from Goose the other day.

  20. RDL, see you over here.

    Thanks Jan.

    Dips, it’s a time-honoured SA position – don’t tell too many people about it, else the hordes invade.Not unlike the attitude in the quiet fishing villages of northern NSW. (Don’t tell anyone about Brunswick Heads)

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