The Mornington Peninsula’s must-visit winter festivals

Looking for some ways to fill your extra downtime over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend? Luckily, the Mornington Peninsula is hosting not one but two winter festivals – take your pick or attend both!

Winter Wine Weekend

An annual tradition since the ’80s, the Winter Wine Weekend is a celebration of the Peninsula’s best drops. It runs for three days every Queen’s Birthday long weekend, and is an important event for both the industry and the public. Olivia Barrie, chief executive officer of the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association (MPVA), explains:

“The MPVA is all about collaboration and being the collective voice for the region, so that’s where the event was born out of.

“To bring together all of the winemakers in one place at the one time rarely happens, particularly for consumers. To be able to enjoy more than 40 different wineries under the one roof is quite extraordinary!”

The opening – and hallmark – event of the weekend is the Winter Wine Fest on Saturday, June 8. Held at the Red Hill Showground, the undercover program showcases 200 wines from 47 makers, matched to a menu designed by eight chefs and one cheesemaker.  Throughout the rest of the weekend, wineries will open their cellar doors and pour glasses of old favourites and new releases for visitors.

“A lot of the wineries are quite small and don’t have cellar doors, either at all or open very much, so this is a great opportunity for them to show their wares,” Barrie says.

Wine production began on the Peninsula in 1886, but truly flourished in 1972 when several aspiring vignerons realised the area’s seaside microclimate carried potential for cool climate varieties, similar to some of France’s most successful winemaking regions.

“It’s so influenced by the seasons and the maritime setting,” notes Barrie. “Because we’re surrounded by the sea, it provides a beautiful, even, cool, steady growing cycle for pinot noir and chardonnay, and produces a very fine example of the varietals.

“There’s so many variations to the region, and that’s what makes it so special. There are these tiny pockets that produce maybe a couple of hundred cases of wine, and they’re really highly prized.”

Today, the fathers of the Peninsula’s wine industry and their families continue to carry on the tradition they began nearly 50 years ago.

“Everyone wants to share this banner of high quality wine, but also individuality and expression of our place,” Barrie adds. “We’re strong together.”

Mornington Winter Music Festival

Winter might be in full swing, but the Mornington Winter Music Festival will see Main Street warm up this long weekend. Venues up and down the bustling strip are set to host a range of musical acts.

Event organiser Bec Davis says that in its early days, the festival was exclusively jazz-focused, but as it grew over the past seven years and more venues became involved, artists of all genres have been added to the annual line ups.

“Different genres fit different venues,” she explains. “The venues are really the driving force behind the event. They all pay and host their own live music, and it’s quite incredible to have that wonderful backing.”

On Main Street alone, more than 20 venues will be participating – from small cafes where soloists or duos will perform, to the Grand Hotel, which can accommodate 600 people.

Some of the program highlights Davis is particularly excited about include Melbourne-based Latin jazz quartet Arandu, jazz ensemble Kissing Harriet, and folk-pop duo the Pierce Brothers, who’ve just returned from a US tour and will embark on a trip to Europe following the festival. The Sounds of Silent, a jazz group who perform improvised scores to classic silent movies, are also set to play alongside a screening of Buster Keaton flick, Steamboat Bill, Jr.

“This year will be the first year where we’ve really upped the street entertainment,” Davis says. “The Saturday, Sunday and Monday, we’ll have eight music zones with live music, playing free of charge in the street for everyone to enjoy.

“It really is a massive community event,” she adds, “and it really does add something a little bit unique and special for winter.”



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