A freelance writer, reviewer and broadcaster passionate about South Australia's fabulous wine and food.
Fabulous food, wonderful wine
The small township of McLaren Vale is well known as the centre of the scenic McLaren Vale Wine Region, where some of the best red wines in the country are produced each year. Close to the magnificent coastline running from Christies Beach to Sellicks Beach, and nestled behind the majestic Southern Mount Lofty Ranges, this tiny region punches well above its weight on the world stage. The Mediterranean climate not only produces fine wines and olives in abundance but the area is also becoming a gourmet's delight with many superb restaurants and the country's first Farmers' Market, alongside the orchards, cheese makers, distillers and brewers that make up this captivating region.
It is also a tight-knit community and in 2012 a dedicated group of volunteers decided a new get-together was needed to replace the now-defunct Bushing Festival, which celebrated the annual release of the new wines. They initiated the Harvest Festival in mid-January to bring together the local community in celebration of the annual grape harvest.
The festival started with a family fair day, featuring food and entertainment for young and old. As it grew bigger, a gold coin donation was collected at the gate and the proceeds donated to the McLaren Vale & Districts War Memorial Hospital.
A gala dinner held the night before the fair day soon proved to be a big drawcard, as did an art exhibition focused on harvest themes. Over the ensuing 6 years, in excess of $100,000 has been raised for the local hospital, as well as smaller donations to other community groups.
In 2018, the theme is 'Celebrate the Harvest' and the Art Competition is currently on display at the Stump Hill Gallery in the McLaren Vale Visitor Centre, with the major prize of $500 being taken out by an outstanding watercolour from one of Australia's leading artists, Alan Ramachandran.
Art prize winner, Alan Ramachandran with Jenni Mitton of Willunga Farmers' Market. Photo by Dudley Corbett
The Fair Day has now become a biennial event, so the next will be held in 2019, but the Blessing of the Harvest will still take place, although in a much more low key format, from 2pm onwards on February 18th in the attractive Piazza della Valle in McLaren Vale's main street. A sausage sizzle, food trucks, local wines, music and free kids' entertainment will be on offer, after a procession of children bearing harvest produce and a multidenominational blessing by local ministers. This is a free event, with everyone welcome - just bring a chair if you need one.