Coronavirus boosts winery camaraderie

Three of Victoria’s top wineries are putting aside traditional rivalries to help each other recover from the coronavirus, using award-winning wines and food, nature, and the relatively low profile of the region as their biggest drawcards.

Tahbilk, Fowles, and Mitchelton – all located in the Strathbogie Shire – have been hit hard by border closures and Melbourne’s recent ‘ring of steel’, which separated regional Victoria from metropolitan Melbourne.

“Each winery is completely different. Yet, by coming together, we offer the chance for guests to experience the best of the Victorian wine industry in a day,” according to Fowles Wine owner Matt Fowles.

“This is a great opportunity for people who want real, authentic experiences.”

Like most businesses in the region, Tahbilk, Fowles, and Mitchelton depend upon holiday makers and day-trippers using the Hume Highway, which has almost completely dried up as a source of tourism as a result of this years’ events.

But now the renowned producers are fighting back, using the region’s natural hidden gems, and relatively low tourism profile, as part of a new campaign to secure their share of Victoria’s $10bn regional tourism market.

“Relatively little-known wine regions and townships, like nearby Nagambie and Avenel, now have a fighting chance to compete with better-known visitor destinations because of the virus,” Fowles said.

Tahbilk CEO Alister Purbrick said there were about 4.4 million people visiting and spending money in regional Victoria every month in 2019.

“That’s a lot of visitors, even before the pandemic begun, and that gives us a lot of heart to make a serious comeback from the ravage of this pandemic,” he said.

With Victoria’s regional tourism boom expected to go deep into next year, Purbrick said it made sense for the three wineries to band together to offer an attractive alternative to the regular touristy spots.

“In the coming months, we expect to see a surge in visitors from Melbourne, within the region, and even interstate, looking for places to visit and explore, which are different, unexpected, and safe,” he said.

“People will still want to have a great food and wine experience in a beautiful regional setting. “But, post-lockdown, they will also want to be able to stretch out, breathe, feel safe, and be totally free from the hassle of queues and crowds, which is exactly what we are offering.”

Chief winemaker at Mitchelton, Andrew Santarossa, said the Take Nature’s Road Trip campaign exploited the fact the region is not always top-of-mind, or on the ‘map’, for most day-trippers.

“For us, this has become one of our greatest strengths as we don’t have the same crowds, or traffic problems, which other more frequented regional wine destinations are likely to encounter this coming summer,” he said.

“But what we do have is an amazing natural setting boasting some of Victoria’s best wineries and dining, wide-open spaces, the Goulburn River and Ranges, bush trails and billabongs, and friendly smiles.”

Take Nature’s Road Trip will start appearing on main arterial billboards, social media platforms, and in the region’s local townships during December.

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