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‘Palates are more sophisticated’: winegrowers enjoy record sales at festival

By Vanessa Wiltshire

WHAT are the chances of meeting perfect strangers who have attended the Heathcote Food and Wine Festival every year since its inception?

Meet Kira Janowsky and her husband, Dennis Marazotto, Heathcote Wine and Food faithfuls since the very beginning.

The McIvor Times chanced upon the duo mid Sunday afternoon, after they had worked their way around the showgrounds "more than once", and taking some time out to "admire the pretty florals" outside Vinea Marson's tent.

“We have come every year since the beginning and have stayed at the Heathcote Caravan Park,” Dennis said.

“We love the festival and we love Heathcote. Over the years, the wine has really come forward in leaps and bounds — it's magnificent. Not just the shiraz, but the full array. It's exciting.”

Kira, a singer/songwriter who won the 'Minstrel' award at Maldon Folk Festival in 2018, said she was "unable to taste as many wines as I would have liked", but had still enjoyed the lighter styles, especially rosé.

This sentiment was echoed by president of the Heathcote Winegrowers Association Ian Hopkins, who said the festival was attracting an "increasingly sophisticated crowd, who are interested in sampling the full gamut of wines on offer".

“There is no doubt that shiraz is the anchor point for Heathcote,” Ian said.

“But the alternate varietals like Nero d’avola, Fiano, Vermentino are almost mainstream now. We’re finding people are much more embracing of the older traditional Rhone varietals, including Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne and Viognier.

“The variety broadens the offering of the region as a whole and makes the festival much more attractive.”

With 2650 people passing through the gates Saturday and 1100 on Sunday, event manager Jo Moody said a record number of tickets were pre-sold.

“2200 tickets were sold by 6pm on Friday, October 4,” Jo confirmed.

“It’s a big shift from last year and it's certainly a good sign. It means people are increasingly making plans to attend, marking the Heathcote Wine and Food Festival in their calendar, weeks, if not months in advance.”

Ian added the vast majority of winegrowers were close to their festival sales record, if not exceeding it.

“At Tellurian we’re very close, and significantly better sales than last year,” he said.

“General feedback from our members is along those lines. The vast majority had a far better Saturday than last year. Sunday is about in line with expectations.

“One of the greatest observations is the quality of the crowd and the mix of families and the older demographic enjoying the atmosphere.

“There are younger people too, and everyone is seeking a wine, rather than a drinking experience.

“Critical to the ongoing success of the festival is to build relationships with and attract an audience who want to learn and get greater understanding of what they’re drinking; how the grapes are grown and how the wine is made.”

Meet the makers

Heathcote Winery

People are really receptive to trying new varietals. Palate's are becoming more sophisticated. Having the VIP tent, Games on the Green and children’s entertainment has helped to attract a great crowd.

We’ve noticed people aren’t buying in bulk as much as they used to, we’re selling more by the bottle and glass. The festival is evolving and it’s great to see the same people come year after year. You can build a relationship with people, they come here because it does have a community and family focus. You can meet and speak with the winemakers, especially on the Sunday.

— Stephen Oates.

Chalmers

This is the first time we’ve participated at the Heathcote Wine and Food Festival. We weren’t sure what to expect, but the crowds certainly haven’t disappointed!

We grow grapes on 80 acres near Colbinabbin and make our wine in Mildura where our winery and nursery is. We also have another vineyard there.

We also sell two thirds of our Heathcote grapes to smaller producers and people who want to experiment. The vines here are 10 years old. We’ve found festival goers have been particularly excited to find a good variety of whites, and rosé, which has been a hit. Our rarer varietals — Dott label — have been extremely well received: Malvasia, Pavana and Schioppettino.

— Kim Chalmers

Red Edge

We’ve just released our sparkling shiraz for the festival. We picked it up on Tuesday and were labelling on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s been a quick turnaround, but the sparkling was a hit. It’s on the dry side, a great entry-point into the reds if you're not used to drinking them, or just starting to explore wine.

— Gerry Robinson and Will Dredge

Vinea Marson

It’s been a fantastic weekend. The whole family is here helping, plus some friends. Customers have said they love the Sangiovese. We’ve had a great time and will be back.

— Madeleine Marson

Silver Spoon Estate

The weekend has been so busy! There’s been solid interest across the board, especially our blends: GST (Grenache, Shiraz, Tempranillo), GSM (Grenache, Shriraz, Mourvèdre) and our Monster (Shiraz 17.3% alc/vol).

— Tracie Young

Sanguine Estate

Crowds this weekend were fantastic. We were excited to showcase our 2017 Inception Shiraz which achieved five stars, a gold medal, at Winestate’s 2019 Mainfreight World’s Greatest Syrah & Shiraz Challenge ($40-$45 category), placing seventh best shiraz overall.

We’re also excited to announce the results from our entry in the RASQ Mediterranean Challenge and Wine Show. Of our 12 wines entered, 9 got medals, with 2 gold, 1 silver and 6 bronze. Thanks to all of our team and our customers for such a fantastic effort.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the festival, The Heathcote Winegrowers Association and its members, volunteers including the Heathcote Football and Netball Club, Heathcote Tennis Club and kindergarten. Also food providers, including Fodder, who supplied the VIP tent with beautiful hampers. Thanks to everyone who attended, especially locals and people from the district. See you next year!