Here’s cheers: Grampians wineries throw open their virtual cellar door

Revenue dipped between 40 and 95 per cent at Grampians wineries during recent restrictions, but a virtual cellar door is helping to turn that around.

Necessity, the line goes, is the mother of invention. Grampians winemakers know that.

If people can’t visit cellar doors and buy wines in person, why not ship directly to homes so they can be enjoyed in the safety of our dining rooms?

Which is exactly what 18 wineries around Ararat, Great Western, Halls Gap, Buangor and Moyston – home to some of the world’s oldest wines made from 150-year-old vines – are doing.

They’ve launched an online shop called Made the Grampians Way, supported by Grampians Winemakers Inc., Grampians Tourism and Ararat Rural City Council, selling mixed cases of wine, in a bid to build brand awareness in markets such as Melbourne.

Helping to get the online store off the ground is a Stronger Regional Communities Program (SRCP) $50,000 grant.

Part of the Victorian Government’s Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund, the grant focuses on growing jobs, building infrastructure and strengthening communities in regional Victoria.

“The virtual cellar came about as a direct response to the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) on our regional winemakers, which has significantly reduced their sales,” says Dr Tim Harrison, CEO of Ararat Rural City Council. “They rely heavily on cellar door and the restaurant trade: the restrictions have caused a loss of up to a 95 per cent for some.”

Indeed, with signature events such as Seriously Shiraz and the Grampians Grape Escape postponed, tastings cancelled, on-site trade weakened by restaurant closures and exports taking a hit, online sales are becoming increasingly valuable to wineries, offering up a new way to build revenue streams and tap new markets.

Tim is confident the work they’ve undertaken during lockdown will only serve to benefit them in the months to come, as he expects online customers will become physical customers. “They can meet our winemakers, enjoy our hospitality and relax in our natural environment. From a crisis, we can start to build a stronger future for our winemakers and tourism sector.”

That future has plenty going for it given the quality of the product. The Grampians is known for its cool climate wines (riesling, nebbiolo, viognier, pinot gris, merlot and chardonnay) and is super serious about shiraz. A naturally-occurring chemical in their cool climate grapes called rotundone gives their shiraz an iconic peppery note. Worth a taste test at your place.

Q&A: Damien Sheehan, General Manager and Viticulturist, Mount Langi Ghiran

Image of Damien SheehanHow did the closure of your cellar door impact your business?

With metropolitan Melbourne unable to travel and with the loss of international tourism, our foot traffic is nothing like we’d normally experience.

Are Grampian wines under-rated? Is this a chance to build the Grampian wine brand and go head-to-head with other winery regions in Victoria?

Most definitely. We’re producing one of the most distinctive styles of shiraz in the country, we have 150 years of history and our heritage cellar doors makes us a great wine destination. And don’t forget, the Grampians National Park is in the centre of the region!

Which Grampian varietals would you recommend for the warmer months?
Riesling’s a standout white wine performer in this region, especially aged rieslings. And sparkling wines are part of this region’s DNA.

What will you be twisting open this summer from your winery?

We’ve just released our 2018 Langi Shiraz, which can be enjoyed in time for Christmas or if you have 30 years on your side, you can lay it down. The shiraz from this region is food friendly and won’t tire the palate.