Wine is more than a drink in your glass. It’s an experience with others. It’s a social event. At Bigibila, we like to think the best way to enjoy wine is with company, so we love sharing our wines at wine festivals across Victoria. It’s a great time to shine a light on our hearty reds, and meet our community that are out there drinking them! As Summer has wound down, and the harvest is coming in, we thought it the perfect time to share our guide to the best of Victoria’s Wine Festivals.
The first wine festival of the year is towards the end of March. Running over 300 events, the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival shows off the best local and rural produce. It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser with diverse events stemming from food markets for the masses to intimate degustations. The choice can be a bit overwhelming if you’re new in town, but the website is nicely curated. Our favourite spot is the City Cellars, right on the Yarra. Riverside setting, romantic evening ambience and a garden party vibe with plenty of food, wine and live music.
On a Sunday in early April, the Fromage a Trois Cheese Festival takes over the grounds of the stately Werribee Park Mansion. It’s a pairing made in heaven, as you can gather the perfect picnic hamper of gourmet cheeses and local wines, served with a side of live music. Chefs are on hand to cook cheesy dishes, and there’s plenty of fresh produce, craft beers and cider, to add a twist to tradition.
In our (North West) neck of the woods is the Pyrenees Unearthed Wine & Food festival. On a Saturday at the end of April, 15 local wineries descend on Avoca to offer our wares. Children are welcome by gold coin donation, and there’s live music, local cider, beer and gin, if the wine is not enough. Masterclasses are reasonably-priced, and with 3 shuttles coming from Ballarat you can take in a bit of the local history during your trip. It’s a great local festival – dare we say, one of our favourites? – with a quaint and intimate feel. We’d love to see some more international visitors stop by!
At the end of Harvest (early May) is The Grape Escape in the Grampians. There’s an incredible 120 stalls to take in across the twee Halls Gap. There are both Tasting & General tickets, so the designated driver gets to enjoy the music and cooking demonstrations without having to pay for wine. There’s a real feeling of being in touch with the land here, with an Aboriginal ‘Welcome to Country’ and smoke cleansing ceremony reminding us all of the importance of our environment. It’s also incredible to watch.
Across 3 weekends in May, the High Country Harvest runs 50 events across the North East of the state. There’s a good variety of events from wine-tasting to farm adventures for a proper paddock-to-plate experience. Some of these events take place on the weekend, if you want to make a holiday of it. There are some real rural gems but with the festival spanning hundreds of kilometres, it requires a little planning.
Kicking off June is Melbourne’s Good Food & Wine Show. Taking place at the Exhibition Centre, it’s the epicentre of a big day out. There’s a huge range of producers, masterclasses and activities. Tickets are reasonable, but you pay for everything beyond admission separately. Our favourite extra is the Winery Walk: a guided walk through certain stalls, where you can sample exclusive wines. There are always a number of celebrity chefs but the scale of the event lacks the boutique feel of a rural wine festival.
Across the long Queen’s Birthday Weekend in June are TWO wine festivals! The most famous is Rutherglen’s Winery Walkabout, which draws 15 – 20,000 wine-drinkers annually. Running since 1974, a hop-on, hop-off bus takes you between 17 local wineries, most of which will be running markets, food vans or other extra activities. Designated drivers come for free, but this isn’t a very child friendly day out. Tickets will sell out, so plan in advance!
At the opposite end of the state, on the coast, is Mornington Peninsula’s Winter Wine Weekend. 50 cellar doors around the region take part, but the Saturday has a hub of activity at Red Hill Showground with the Winter Wine Fest. This offers a taste of the festival, in one place, under cover. A welcome insurance as June’s chill sweeps through! Designated driver tickets are discounted, but other than 8 local restaurants and a cheesemaker, there’s little on offer for those not drinking.
The festival formerly known as Seriously Shiraz, Ballarat’s Red Series takes place on the last Saturday of July. It brings together more than 20 wineries from the Grampians and Pyrenees all under the Mining Exchange’s roof. Sat right in the centre of Ballarat, it’s a grand old building, providing a beautiful backdrop to some serious wine sampling. Early bird tickets come with the added bonus of discounts on bottle purchases, and there’s plenty of local produce to keep you satiated on the day.
As the days start to get longer again, Geelong’s Toast to the Coast kicks off. It takes place on the same November weekend as the Melbourne Cup, which is a blessing or a curse, depending on what you’re into. Shuttle buses ferry between the 33 wineries, where designated drivers and children are free and welcomed – though strictly not allowed to drink. The wineries are clustered into 4 main areas, so you ought to do a bit of research beforehand to make sure you get to the ones you want.
Taking place on the same November weekend, but on Albert Park’s rolling Pelican Lawn, Taste of Melbourne bills itself as ‘Melbourne’s Greatest Menu.’ Bringing all of the city’s best foodie venues into one place, it’s a great way to finally try that great new spot, without having to trek across town to get there. Great food can hardly go unaccompanied so there are plenty of exquisite wines on hand to complement the culinary delights. Running Thursday through to Sunday, this is a food festival that stays out late, closing its doors at 10pm for 3 of its 4 days.
The weekend after the Melbourne Cup in November sees East Malvern’s Central Park come alive with the Malvern Food & Wine Festival. It’s the perfect place to stock up for Christmas goodies, with many wine producers, craft breweries and artisanal producers setting up shop for the day. There’s even a gourmet treat for furry best friends at the Canine Wellness truck, as well as a full entertainment schedule for big kids and small ones alike. Entry is free, whilst tasting packages start from $20.
We will personally be attending Melbourne Food and Wine Festival City Cellar, Avoca Wine and Food Festival, Grampians Grape Escape, Good Food and Wine Festival, Ballarat Red Series and the Malvern Wine festival over 2018, and would love if you came to say hi!