Published in Warrandyte Diary
Melbourne’s migrant communities have long produced homemade wines in Australia. With the first wave of immigration from Southern European nations in the 1950’s, new Australians brought their skills and passion for homemade plonk, as well as a desire to maintain the traditions of their ancestors, and an amateur winemaking culture began.
Winemaking offers the personal satisfaction of producing something requiring patience and skill and the process itself can be a tactile and rewarding experience. Soon, the lure of wine production in suburban garages and sheds extended beyond those with ancestral winemaking roots, creating a cult following and a surge in amateur winemaking clubs.
Local amateur winemaking club, the Eltham Wine Guild, has been operating since 1969 and is hosting the 44th annual Eltham Wine Show at the Eltham Community Centre this month. The show provides an opportunity to sample the best on offer from around 60 exhibitors, 400 wine entries and 38 classes. The show itself has come a long way since its humble beginnings when, according to the Guild’s website, it was “held on a rickety trestle table out the back”.
The event showcases wines made from traditional grape varieties as well as categories such as “hybrid wines” – which are wines made from grapes mixed with things such as rose petals, beetroot or stinging nettles. There is even a category for “country wines”, which are defined as wines made from a variety of fruits, vegetables, roots, herbs, grains and even leaves.
According to Eltham Wine Guild member and show entrant, Geoff Neagle, all entrants are non-commercial but “competition is fierce and all strive to achieve a high standard”. Geoff himself is very proud that his 2009 Cabernet won a gold medal at the show three years ago.
Geoff says he “didn’t really drink wine” until his son Richard, now a professional viticulturist, first studied at Charles Sturt university. Under his son’s guidance, Geoff planted fabled, Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet clones at his Warrandyte property and the love affair with home winemaking began. Fourteen vintages later, Geoff says the amateur group is “all a bit of fun” but also, “helps people strive to produce a better wine”.
The 2013 Eltham Wine Show is on Sunday, 17 November between 11am and 3pm at the Eltham Community Centre. Entry is $15 plus $5 for a catalogue; BYO tasting glass or purchase one at the door for an additional $5.
- For further information visit www.amateurwine.org.au