Vintage celebration

Vintage celebration

The 2023 Coonawarra vintage is off to a smashing start, with a special vintage launch ceremony heralding the start of the new season.

More than 60 people gathered at the iconic Coonawarra Siding last week for the launch, which was the first of its kind for the region in many years.

Coonawarra and district community members, wine industry stakeholders and dignitaries came together to acknowledge and celebrate the significant time in the renowned wine region.

A Welcome to Country acknowledgement was followed by the echo of bagpipes performed by Coonawarra Vignerons Patron Doug Balnaves, a nod to Coonawarra’s founding father John Riddoch, who was a Scotsman.

Coonawarra Vignerons’ executive officer Hugh Koch led the ceremony and emphasised the importance of vintage, not only to the Coonawarra community, but for the national economy.

“Vintage in Coonawarra is more than when a wine’s grapes are harvested. It heralds the anniversary of a new year in Coonawarra, where we reflect and say goodbye to the previous season,” Mr Koch said.

“As a community it is the commencement of the economic driver that sustains our economy, creates our jobs, gives us our services, drives our visitation, and continues to put us on the map as one of the most pre-eminent wine regions of the world.

“A new vintage also allows us to reflect on our past years, the people that have laboured and led the development of Coonawarra.”

Taking centre stage at the launch with the support of Coonawarra Vignerons Patron Doug Bowen were Member for MacKillop Nick McBride, Wattle Range Mayor Des Noll and Coonawarra Vignerons Patron Wendy Hollick, who kicked off their shoes to take part in a traditional grape stomp.

Patrons Greg Clayfield and Bruce Redman marked the occasion by smashing a bottle of Coonawarra wine from last year’s vintage to symbolise the conclusion of the 2022 season and christen the new vintage.

“Traditionally a wine bottle is broken over a ship’s hull before its maiden voyage and to wish it good luck for a successful journey,” Mr Koch said.

“It is only appropriate that we adapt that tradition by creating one of our own, to symbolise the christening of the 2023 vintage (V23) and to wish our producers well, in the conditions and circumstances be the very best to allow Coonawarra ‘smooth sailing’ in harvesting and crafting the most premium wines possible.”

The ceremony was the perfect opportunity for an overview of V23 with conditions resembling that of a traditional vintage, according to collective comments from viticulturists in the region.

“Across the country, wine regions are seeing a delayed start to harvesting and Coonawarra is no different,” Mr Koch said.

“The region experienced a cooler spring, with favourable warm conditions throughout the flowering period.

“The heat arrived in mid-December, but mild conditions accompanied little rain in January and February and has been followed by long cooler days in Autumn, which has been most favourable for Cabernet grapes.

“Yield is expected to be moderate but pending the next few weeks, quality for red grapes is looking to be excellent.

“Many are describing it as an old-fashioned vintage where conditions will allow Cabernet will be picked in April.”

The Vintage Launch Ceremony was followed by a morning tea at the Coonawarra Soldiers Memorial Hall, where community members collectively raised a glass to V23 and passed on their well-wishes for the season.

Wattle Range councillor Emma Castine congratulated the organisers on the event.

“The Coonawarra Vignerons have done a wonderful job to initiate this celebration,” Cr Castine said.

“The morning was sensational.

“The misty fog, combined with the bagpipes by Doug Balnaves was just priceless.

“The energy and inspiration the vignerons are bringing to the region is commendable.

“I wish all the growers, producers and winemakers well for this season.”

Coonawarra Vignerons events and marketing officer Heidi Guyett said the launch received a great response and they planned to host the event annually for years to come.

“It was absolutely fabulous, it has been a long while since the region has done anything like that in a formal capacity and it was just a great atmosphere and good to have everyone come together,” Ms Guyett said.

“It really is an event that has brought the community together and it really does highlight the energy and the effort that goes into what each of our growers and winemakers produce year in and year out.

“To be able to congregate all of our members and the community together before it really gets hectic, it is a nice way to acknowledge what is to come but also to acknowledge what has gone into it leading into the vintage.”

Ms Guyett said they chose to highlight vintage with a ceremony arrangement because vintage contributes significantly to the economy, not only for the region but also nationally.

“A lot of labour goes into the preparation leading into vintage, so it is about the viticulturists on the ground looking after the vines leading up to the picking and then the processing and then the winemakers taking over,” she said.

“It also brings a lot of workers to the region, we are seeing a lot of internationals back on the ground that really bolster the population and our community, and it highlights us on a global front as one of the world’s finest wine regions.

“It is important to acknowledge, it really is a huge boost for the town and also for our region.”

For those who want to experience the buzz of vintage after hours, keep an eye out for Coonawarra After Dark approaching on April 14 and 15.

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