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Grampians Grape Escape: The pride of the region

Grampians Grape Escape: Celebrating 30 years! 

When Kevin Erwin was asked to be the Grampians Grape Escape Festival Chair, he admits it was an easy decision.

The renowned food, wine and music festival is a true celebration of the region and what it has to offer and for Kevin, being part of those festivities is a pleasure.

Now celebrating 30 festivals, Kevin can look back on his time with the festival, about a decade of service, and be proud of what everyone has been able to achieve. He stresses it is a joint effort, from Festival Directors Vanessa Briody and Kate Kirkpatrick, all the way to the hardworking volunteers on the ground come festival weekend.

“The Grampians certainly punches well above its weight in food and wine,” Kevin says.

“I’ve tried a few glasses of Shiraz from around the world, and ours are by far the best.

“And the festival attracts people from Melbourne, South Australia and beyond to experience the area, with many then returning for a holiday.”

Although a lot of hard work, Kevin knows how worth it is for the community, from the accommodation providers, growers, makers, and other business owners that enjoy the influx of people to the region.

“The sheer number of wineries has grown in the area, we are spoilt for choice,” he says.

“It’s really been tough for the wine industry the past few years, so it’s a great platform to promote them.”

One of those winery owners is Tom Guthrie of Grampians Estate. After producing wine with his first vintage in 1995, Tom decided to take his two drops, a Chardonnay and a Shiraz, to the Grampians Gourmet Weekend.

“We were so excited about the event that we have exhibited ever since,” Tom says.

As well as being a loyal exhibitor, Tom has been heavily involved in the festival and has seen attractions come and go, and the festival grow exponentially.

One such attraction that Tom misses is the wine tunnel, which saw people walk through and experience the smells and tastes of different wine in a truly immersive way. The grape stomp, still going strong in 2023, was something Tom backed from the beginning, initially providing the half barrels competitors would jump into to crush the grapes.

Tom is so passionate and involved in GGE that he was named the first-ever life member of the festival. He is one of seven life members. He is just as enthusiastic as ever and so glad to be part of the festival again.

“It’s so exciting to see this event, what it is today, compared to the earlier days,” he says.

“What really sets our Grampians region apart from most others is our unbroken history. So many wine regions were wiped out for a long time with disease, but Bests, has the oldest Pinot grapes in the world, Seppelts have a history with sparkling wines and their underground cellars, and the Great Western vineyard where our cellar door is has vines that go back to 1878.”

Tom said one of the best parts of the festival was being able to show off not only the well-known wines, like his very popular Sparkling Shiraz, but other varieties that are lesson known, but still amazing.

“What Grampians Grape Escape does is allow the younger generations who may only know about the Sauvignon Blanc to come to the festival and see a whole variety of wines from different producers, you get to talk to the winemakers and owners of those businesses, and they are mostly are small, family-run businesses with a passion for wine,” he says.

“You’re talking to the people who grew it, who made it.”

Tom says he will keep working at GGE until his body physically stops him – he loves the festival that much.

“It’s good fun and it’s incredibly rewarding,” he says.

Kevin is also looking forward to raising a Shiraz to 30 festivals fondly, and to many more festivals to come.

“I just love the atmosphere. It’s great to see so many people enjoying themselves. You feel proud of the area, it’s in a beautiful setting, and it’s great to share it all with so many people,” Kevin says with a smile.