08/11/2005 - 21:00

Fusion fires Margaret River festival

08/11/2005 - 21:00

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It's certainly not apparent these days but the much-vaunted Margaret River Wine Festival began life with a handful of its most dedicated winemakers pouring their wares for quizzical punters in the local tavern.

Fusion fires Margaret River festival

It's certainly not apparent these days but the much-vaunted Margaret River Wine Festival began life with a handful of its most dedicated winemakers pouring their wares for quizzical punters in the local tavern.

Now, 14 years later, it is the event on Western Australia’s food and wine calendar, generating national and international attention among wine lovers, professional and amateur alike.

Held from November 17 to 20, the festival is a fusion of local wine, food, music and relaxation, according to festival director Perpetua McInnes.

Now in her fourth year as co-ordinator of the event, Ms McInnes believes this year’s festival has grown to become the biggest and most dynamic yet.

On average the festival generates about $1.6 million and attracts about 8,000 to the region. However, expecting something of a dramatic increase in 2005, the print run of official festival guides has been increased from 20,000 to 250,000.

“In my time with the festival I have seen the region grow dramatically; there are now almost 98 cellar doors,” Ms McInnes says.

“And what we are noticing is there is no longer a definable tourist season, it is busy all year round.”

The biggest change to Margaret River’s tourist demographic has been a sharp increase in the number of visitors to the region from other states. This is expected to spike during the festival season as more and more food and wine events are added to an already enticing menu.

A total of 65 different events will run over the four days of the festival. Chief among these is ‘Fusion’, an event held in Cowaramup on Saturday November 19. At Fusion, 43 different wineries will be pouring the best of their vintages, local artisans will offer samples of their wares, and the more ‘boutique’ elements of the Margaret River wine community will be allowed to shine.

The idea for Fusion emerged three years ago, and the concept proved so successful that it is now a main festival feature.

The number of food-themed events has been increased this year with a continued emphasis on the region’s favoured produce. Each night of the festival features a range of different food and wine combinations offered by some of the region’s most enigmatic kitchen talent.

For example, Amberley Estate is hosting a barrel blending degustation dinner experience, while Cape Lodge hosts Moss Wood with a five-course meal matched and created by chef, Tony Howell.

Redgate enters the food fray with the inaugural winemakers dinner, while heavy hitter Clairault turns on the decadence with a Sunday afternoon six-course degustation.

But there is a collection of more relaxed dining experiences to be found throughout the festival dates. Some of the highlights will include cooking demonstrations at The Berry Farm’s Cahoots retail outlet, an antipasto lunch at Maiolo Winery, and Newtown House chef Stephen Regan’s Sunday afternoon servings from his highly regarded restaurant.

And if you don’t know your malolactic fermentation from your new French barriques, then why not ask a winemaker during any one of the Meet The Wine Maker seasons?

These often highly informative and well-patronised events allow audiences to meet the men and women who sign the back of the label, and who are generally responsible for some of the best wine produced in this country. Some are household names but all are passionate, well-informed and dedicated professionals, keen to share a story and a glass.

For those who make it to Sunday, the last day of the festival is usually reserved for those ancillaries to wine, such as music and art events.

There will be jazz at Eagle Vale Wines and Amberley Estate, and Irish folk music on Sunday afternoon at Willespie Wines.

Artistically speaking, a selection of paintings and drawings by Chris O’Doherty will feature at Vasse Felix, photographic works will be on display at Flinders Bay Wines, and glass sculpturing by Peter Kovacsy will be on show at Hamelin Bay Wines.

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