Over a wine driven lunch in February 1984 in Bairnsdale a group of local grape growers and wine lovers decided that it would be a good idea to form the “ Gippsland Grape growers and Winemakers Association Inc.” It would be an all of Gippsland body aimed to raise the level of knowledge about grape growing and winemaking, to promote Gippsland Wines and to represent its members to Government and other groups. The core beliefs were that collectively we could achieve more than as individuals and a vision that Gippsland had a future as a wine region with well regarded, distinctive wines. The inaugural Chairman was Ken Eckersley of Nicholson River Winery, who was also the youngest in the initial group.Gippsland is a large sprawling area, some 20% of the State of Victoria, with diverse climates and soils, “mountains to the sea” type of area. Not surprisingly the wines are diverse too. The main varieties grown are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah(aka Shiraz) and in all total about 240 ha in area at 40 vineyards and perhaps another 40 in tiny plots. There are 36 cellar doors selling wine to visitors.With over 50 years of wine grape growing experience in Gippsland it can safely be said that many wine varieties can flourish and produce marketable wines. Different wine styles, apart from the usual dry table wines, like sparkling and sweet botrytis can be produced if needed.The critical factors are the costs of production, high for small operators, and being able to sell in a market saturated with wine at all price points. Hence the importance of direct selling at the cellar door and value adding at the winery’s restaurant or function centre. Gippsland wineries play an important part as attractions, bringing in visitors and building the region’s natural image in being productive and having an enjoyable lifestyle.Gippsland Wines are distinctive. They are flavoursome with strong varietal features.Generally they are not mainstream Australian wines, more full flavoured than full bodied and more elegant than harsh. They are good wines to accompany foods.Above all each winery is offering a unique experience.
Image Anita Foard