Johann Gottlob Schrapel and his family arrived in South Australia in 1844, just eight years after the colony was settled. They arrived in Port Adelaide as free settlers (as opposed to convicts or indentured servants as did most of Australia's early European immigrants) seeking a new life in a mysterious, time worn land "down under" that we know as Australia. Curiously, the Schrapels arrived in South Australia aboard a vessel named George Washington, which served as their bridge to freedom and a life far better than any they could have imagined in the old country. Upon arrival, they settled in the Barossa and quickly built a home and cleared the land to grow crops and raise sheep. They also planted a vineyard and constructed a wine cellar. Today, the fifth generation descendents of Johann Gottlob Schrapel, Geoff and Rob Schrapel, carry on the family tradition at Bethany Wines.
Bethany is a quaint, cottage-style winery in the successful garagiste tradition of Bordeaux. Located in a quarry high in the Barossa Ranges, the picturesque Bethany Winery overlooks the historic village of Bethany and the family's 66 acres of old vines, many of which require hand selection and traditional methods of pruning. The Schrapels own three of the most important vineyard blocks in Bethany, including the well-known Bethanien Block, the Old Manse Block, and the Homestead Block. In typical South Australian fashion, Bethany Wines grows a multitude of grape varieties within these three vineyard blocks: Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Grenache are all represented in these vineyards and each finds its way into a Bethany wine or two. As master craftsmen, the Schrapel brothers know how to fashion more than one kind of wine, and we would be hard pressed to find a Bethany wine that was not at the top of its game. Nonetheless, in Barossa Shiraz is king, and Bethany's Barossa Shiraz ranks among the very best that South Australia has to offer, as countless awards and trophies will attest. In fact, Bethany's stunning, very limited 1992 Grand Reserve Shiraz was judged to be the Best Shiraz at Australia's National Wine Show. Subsequent Shiraz offerings from Bethany have received similar accolades in international competitions.
Bethany's unique location on the foothills of the Barossa Ranges affords it a unique microclimate and a distinct advantage over many of it neighbors. From the Barossa Ranges, a cool evening breeze emanates that fans the grapes throughout the night. In a hot, dry climate such as Barossa, where daytime temperatures can exceed 110° F, a cool evening breeze is a respite for the grapes as well as the people who grow them. Moreover, this cooling effect each night allows the grapes to retain their natural acidity and still achieve full sugar levels, without becoming over-ripe. In short, the wide variation at Bethany between day time and night time temperatures translates into well-balanced, full-flavored wines with structure and finesse that age extremely well.
At Bethany, sustainable methods of agriculture are the norm. The Schrapels employ very little spraying and utilize only a minimum amount of sulfite. Gravity is used to reticulate the must from the crusher to the tanks and barrels for fermentation, and each wine is handcrafted in small lots. And unlike most Australian wines, which are the product of huge conglomerates, Bethany wines are made the old-fashioned way – by hand with tender loving care by the people who care for the vines.