Over 100 local winemakers, vignerons, and representatives from the tourism industry gathered on Thursday to partake in a significant ritual at Tyrrell’s Wines ahead of the 2024 vintage.

Conducted by the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association, the traditional Hunter Valley Vintage Smoking Ceremony was led by local Wannaruah elder Uncle Warren.

The ceremony, which is performed each year to cleanse and purify the harvest from negative energy both physically and spiritually, is an age-old practice. Beginning with the burning of indigenous plants such as eucalyptus or emu bush, smoke is created with antimicrobial properties which 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 wellbeing 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.”

Chris Tyrrell, who was elected Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association President in December 2023, spoke about the annual event, which is now 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.

“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.”

The Hunter Valley harvest season has already commenced for many producers, with white varietals such as Chardonnay and Semillon already picked and crushed into juice. It is anticipated that red varietals will be ready to harvest in the coming weeks.

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