In Winter we drink wine

Every Queens’s birthday long weekend in June since 1981, locals and visitors have flocked to the peninsula for the Winter Wine Weekend. Organised by the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association, the event offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in wine, wander with the winemakers, visit the vineyards and taste new vintages. Three days of wine, food and song, pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, shiraz, and a range of other less well known wines for the region, are matched with fine Australian cuisine, pizzas, emu snags and regional fare. Whether at a vintage review, a wine and food matching program, blending your own sparkling dosage, or simply chatting with the maker, the wines of the region will be on show in grand style.

Saturday June 10 is the opening event of the weekend which traditionally marks the beginning of the extensive Winter Wine Weekend program. Come along to taste more than 200 premium wines from 47 wineries under the one roof at the Red Hill Reserve and Showgrounds.

The three day program sees thousands of visitors to the warm cellar doors to taste new release wines, visit old favourites and experience the seasonal offerings of the region.

Heart-warming fine food prepared by chefs from leading peninsula restaurants, and music for your enjoyment adds to the festive atmosphere for you to experience on the day.

Over four decades the Mornington Peninsula has evolved as a serious wine region with dedicated winemakers who strive for continued high quality wine production. By 2012, respected UK wine writer Andrew Catchpole referred to the peninsula in Decanter Magazine as “a cracking place to produce teasingly elegant, supple Pinot Noirs and thrillingly crisp, refined Chardonnays in what is fast becoming recognised as one of Australia’s finest cool-climate regions”.

It all began in the seventies when a handful of likeminded people acquired land, followed their dream and independently planted vineyards. In 1972 Baillieu Myer planted the first vineyard and in 1975 Nat and Rosalie White planted and developed the first winery in the region. The local planning scheme was amended to allow the sale of produce from rural land in order for Main Ridge Estate to obtain a liquor licence and to develop their cellar door to proudly showcase their first vintages around 1981. The first Wine Seminar was held in 1976 at Elgee Park and this group of pioneers established meetings which were held every couple of months to discuss viticulture, winemaking or simply to taste each other’s wines.

Each pioneer has their own story to tell and many are still running cellar doors and happy to revisit these days for those who are genuinely interested. Some vineyards are still harvested by a dedicated group of family and friends who have participated since early vintages, others enjoy local mothers from the primary school helping out, and others have developed relationships with contractors who understand their grapes are precious. A couple of contractors have been around from the very early days, and been instrumental in developing best practice methods for growing and harvesting.

It was in the eighties that the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association was formed by this handful of people who connected and shared their experiences and dreams and learned from each other. The Department of Agriculture was forthcoming in providing advice in good faith, but wine growing knowledge had not included any experience in cool climate and maritime regions.  Much of what was needed was learned through experimentation and exploration and a commitment by those involved. The Association was formed from the grassroots level and has maintained a strong organisation since with around 120 members in 2012. New members brought new skills and further developed business models to establish the industry. In 1981 the first Winter Wine Weekend was held. This was an opportunity for everyone to come and see, talk and taste and invite Melbournians to see what had grown on their doorstep. This event has been held annually since.

For more information on the Winter Wine Fest go to

First published in Peninsula Essence – June 2017