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Thursday 11 January 2024

Holy smoke! Hunter vignerons mark the start of 2024 vintage

Hunter Valley vignerons have marked the start of the 2024 harvest.

Over one hundred local winemakers, vignerons, and representatives from the tourism industry gathered at Tyrrell’s Wines to partake in the Hunter Valley Vintage Smoking Ceremony, led by local Wannaruah elder Uncle Warren.

The smoking ceremony ritual was performed to cleanse and purify this year's harvest from negative energy, both in a physical and spiritual sense.

The age-old practice involves burning indigenous plants such as eucalyptus or emu bush, creating smoke with antimicrobial properties that are then transferred to the vines and soil.

Uncle Warren explained that the ceremony and its rituals are intended to safeguard the vines and fruit, providing guidance for the vineyards to achieve a successful harvest.

"Through this ceremony, producers will establish a profound connection with the land, gaining the support of Mother Nature and the spirits of Baiame and Kawal,” he said.

“This protective influence will ensure the well-being of the vineyards and their roots throughout this vintage, guiding the quest for the optimal balance of rain, sunshine, and all the essential elements from Mother Earth for a prosperous harvest on this terrain."

Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association president Chris Tyrrell said the annual event is quickly becoming an integral part of harvest and the broader industry.

“The industry views it as a means of further enhancing our connection with the land, as well as seeking the endorsement and safeguarding of nature and ancestral spirits for our vineyards,” he said.

“This ceremony is a testament to the collaborative bond between vineyard owners and local Indigenous communities, nurturing a deep-rooted appreciation for the land and its cultural heritage.”

For many producers in the Hunter Valley, the harvest season has commenced. White varietals such as chardonnay, semillon and some other alternatives have already been picked and crushed into juice. Red varietals, including the region's flagship red varietal, shiraz, are expected over the next few weeks.

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