After more than two years as a Melbourne resident (I just can’t quite come to grips with calling myself a Melburnian) I finally made it to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. This year, whilst gathering an inordinate amount of tourist information for Max’s family and friends impending visits, I happened upon a MFWF brochure. The Cellar Door & Artisan Market event sounded like just my thing. Hundreds of Victorian wine producers, stall after stall selling gourmet produce (including, of course, Yarra Valley cheese), eclectic live music and, to Max’s great delight – ten local breweries, were to be found all in the one picturesque setting.
The standard entry fee was set at $20, but for $45, you were entitled to all the wine and food tastings one could possibly dream of. So when Sunday rolled around, bright and sunny and with a scorching 35 degrees on the way, we packed our picnic blanket and headed for the stately Como House in nearby South Yarra.
At the gate, we were presented with a gaudy wristband and a durable plastic tasting glass. We were expected to use the same glass all day, which I found a little bit iffy at first, but when you consider the alternative – thousands upon thousands of single-use plastic glasses that would end up in landfill – it was difficult to argue.
It had just nudged midday (okay, it was 11.45am – but close enough) so we eagerly headed for our first taste – the Seppelt Lawn Bar. Their sparkling wine was a delicious first drop, and their sparkling shiraz was surprisingly balanced and dangerously drinkable. We hurriedly marked a wine list and vowed to return.
We entered the main melee and tasted some exceptional wines from all over Victoria. Geelong wine producers wowed us with their rose, whilst an Echucha winery won our hearts with a devilishly sweet White Chocolate Port. Depsite some unusual red blends on offer, we decided to stick to white on the first round, and come back later with a fresh palate for the reds.
Alas, some 7 or 8 booths in we decided it was time to find some food, and fast. We followed our noses to the food area, where fragrant meats were being barbecued, and delicious cones of piping hot calamari compelled us to immediately join the longest queue in the complex.
The lure of a seat at a table saw us inadvertently sit through a lengthy and detailed presentation on the differences between pinot gris and pinot grigio (a distinction I had always wondered at). Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending which way you looked at it) the process of sampling various brands of pinot gris made it a bit tough to concentrate, and so I continue, none the wiser.
As the hours drifted on, we meandered down the hill to a lovely grassed area where we set up camp, complete with cheese plates, cupcakes and bottles of sparkling wine aplenty. It was an intensely pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. So pleasant in fact, that we were amazed to be told by a security guard that it was almost 6pm and time to head home. We packed up rather slowly, the wine and cheese having induced a somewhat drowsy state in all of us, and I spared a fleeting thought for all those delicious red wines I never got around to tasting.
But, I consoled myself, there’s always next year.