If you’ve noticed a bunch of harried-looking folk with extremely grubby hands wandering about town lately, don’t be alarmed. It’s simply a sign that the annual vintage harvest is well and truly upon us, which means crazy-busy times for those who work in the wine industry and party times for those of us who don’t.
That’s because wine regions statewide like to celebrate the grand tradition that is picking grapes and turning them into booze through swanky events and multi-day festivals.
History buffs delightedly note that such celebrations can be traced back to ancient Greek celebrations honouring Dionysus, the god of wine and grape harvests – though, being on the opposite side of the planet, these shindigs were generally held around September rather than April.
For those of us here in the Southern Hemisphere, the next few months promise plenty of wine-fuelled fun and a grand excuse to visit wine regions near and far. Crack open your diary and get planning.
Get your tickets quick, because this first-time festival – an offshoot of the annual Picnic at Marble Hill, which was canned last year – is on very soon. This is your chance to taste some of the Basket Range wines currently making headlines nation-wide, while chatting to the folk behind the labels about their more natural approach to winemaking.
The line up includes stalwarts such as Ochota Barrels, BK Wines, The Other Right, Whisson Lake, CRFT Wines and Charlotte Dalton. Even premium Barossa producer Henschke will make an appearance – turns out owners Stephen and Prue Henschke bought a 13-hectare Lenswood orchard back in 1981 and converted it to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Food from the Adelaide Hills’s newest crop of restaurants plus ciders and live music will round out the day. Tickets cost $25 or $50 including a return bus trip from the city. Head to the Basket Range Oval from 12pm to 8pm – and don’t forget a jacket. Hills nights are chilly.
April 19 to 23
This gargantuan festival is so hectic the Barossa community requires two years to recover, holding the event only biennially. This year’s 70th anniversary program is more packed than ever, with a mind-boggling 90 events – a third of which are free – planned within just five days.
If that’s enough to have you reeling from information overload, allow us to point you in the direction of a few must-see bits and bobs, such as Tanunda’s bustling Ziegenmarkt, a market in Goat Square dating back to the 1800s that still today features traditional German-style produce, wines and livestock, followed by a squiz at the nearby Barossa Made Market. There’s also a late-night gin bar, an end-of-vintage Chook Shed Social Club party and the prestigious Barossa Wine Chapters Auction and Lunch. Over-indulgers can even wrap things up with a 33km run through Riesling country (you score booze at the finish line).
But if you can only get to one event, make it April 22’s official Vintage Parade from Tanunda to Nuriootpa, a treasured tradition that sees thousands of locals and visitors stake out their roadside spot armed with picnics, sausage sizzles and eskies to watch dozens of colourful floats roll by.
May 19 to 22
Nestled among 30 acres of bushland, the Clare Valley is a beautiful spot to visit any time of the year – but it just so happens that this weekend, the region makes things easier for city dwellers by offering buses from Adelaide. Or, if you’re into sobriety, sign up for the festival’s designated driver program and help out your mates while scoring exclusive offers and deals.
Apparently the first food and wine event of its kind in Australia (so say the organisers, at least), Clare Valley’s Gourmet Weekend is a relaxed affair with more than 20 wineries participating, including favourites such as Kilikanoon Wines, Annie’s Lane, Pike Wines and Sevenhills Cellars. Wakefield Press will even launch On a Clare Day by Burt Surmon during a free event on May 19; food and Mt Surmon Wines are free.
June 10 to 12
Celebrate the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in royal style with this three-day affair, billed as McLaren Vale’s biggest weekend of the year. Sea and Vines this year turns 25 and is clearly out to impress with a packed program that includes intimate degustation dinners with winemakers and chefs, structured winery tours and fun stuff for families.
If you can’t decide, sign up for the Sunday Experience on June 11 and put together your own itinerary from a far-less-intimidating list of six different wineries that will pop on special events for the occasion. Sorted.
September 1 to 3
Details are largely still hush-hush at this early stage, but if past events are anything to go by, this year’s Gourmet Weekend will make another trip to the Barossa well worth your time. With a shuttle bus on offer to scoot you between cellar doors across the valley floor and nearby hills, this is the perfect chance to check out all those wineries that have long languished on your to-do list.
Plus, the weather’s usually still on the nippy side at this time of the year – perfect for indulging in decades-old port and the other rich fortifieds the Barossa is so well known for. Follow the Facebook page to be the first to know when full event deets are released.