Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia

Meet the characters: Fiona Donald

Fiona Donald spent more than three decades working in the wine industry, with roles at some of Australia’s most well-regarded wineries, before joining Seppeltsfield in South Australia’s Barossa Valley in 2009. A previous winner of the Barossa Winemaker of the Year award and an honorary ‘Baron of Barossa’, Fiona is Seppeltsfield’s Chief Winemaker and also acts as the custodian of the Centennial Cellar. This astonishing collection, dating back to 1878, houses barrels of single-vintage tawnies that are aged for 100 years before release.

“I love going up to the Centennial Cellar with someone who’s never been there before,” says Fiona. “You tell the story and you see the slight disbelief, the wonderment and the awe of Benno [founder Oscar Benno Pedro Seppelt] laying down that first vintage and the fact you can eyeball an unbroken collection of tawnies from 1878 to now. That always reminds me it’s not just my workplace – it is a very special cellar.”

And what does a 100-plus-year-old tawny taste like?

“It’s just an incredible experience,” says Fiona. “The concentration of acidity, the amazing array of flavours of ground spices and darker characteristics ... these wines have incredible length on the palate and wonderful freshness.”

While the venerable winery is best known for its heavy after-dinner wines, like tawny and sherry-style apera, Fiona and her team are revisiting traditional fortified varieties, such as grenache, touriga and mataro, as contemporary table-wine styles. “Our ambition is to match our reputation for fortified wines with that of our luxury still-wine collection.”

The Centenary Tasting tour and Taste Your Birth Year experience at Seppeltsfield invites guests to learn about the intriguing history of the winery and taste your birth-year tawny, straight from the barrel. 

Over 130 years of history is housed in Seppeltfield’s Centennial Cellar located in South Australia’s Barossa Valley - a world away from the established wine regions of Europe.