Since late March, our world has been turned upside down. Many have lost jobs, closed businesses, and lined up at ‘unemployment’.

However it is you have been affected by Covid-19, no one can escape the mass interruption and impact this will have on the rest of our lives. While Australia was heading into shut down, the winemakers and grape growers in our region were heading straight into vintage. March in Victoria is the most ‘hectic’ time of year for a winemaker with ‘vintage’ meaning it’s time for the grapes to come off and be processed. When the grapes are ready, there’s no time to wait. Forget meetings with accountants, forget dealing with mass cancellations of orders, forget getting busy finding ways to secure your income…the grapes have to come off, nothing else comes into play.

Winemakers and growers spend their entire year in the vineyard building up to this moment, and if you delay even a day, their whole year’s work is in jeopardy. For my husband, Owen Latta of Eastern Peake Vineyard, the timing of vintage this year was almost a welcome distraction from what will be one of the darkest years in recent history. Despite 90% of the family’s income coming from sales through bars and restaurants (and thus being subsequently lost overnight) Owen could look forward to what todays grapes would provide in about 12 months time when they’ll be ready to go into bottle. So… what kind of vintage was it? Yields were down across the board, grape bunches were significantly smaller yet more concentrated in flavour. So what was already a kick in the guts was made even harder with these leaner yields. Even though the grape quality was impressive, according to our local winemakers, it doesn’t cost any less to pick a lean bunch over a robust one!

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But Owen looks back on the last few months fondly. When I ask him why, his response is this “it was a return to the days of my childhood where friends and family would come together to pick the grapes and work the vintage.” “We couldn’t afford to pay pickers,” he says, “but it was amazing to see friends and family pull together to get the grapes off the vines in a time of need. There was laughter in the vineyard and such an upbeat feeling while entire industries were collapsing around us; ours included. But the hard work and kindness of our comrades is what I’ll remember most about the 2020 vintage.”

It’s this amazing passion and sense of belonging that is the inspiration behind winespeake cellar + deli. Winespeake is the newest business to open in Daylesford. I have opened with an amazing team, creating a haven for all things wine and cheese. The purpose of this store is to highlight little known producers from around the region and the world. The positivity I see generated through Owen’s vineyard and that of all our local, small-scale makers, is what I want to highlight. Unbelievable tenacity, great care for the land on which the grapes are grown, and pure joy for what they do; that’s the attitude from all the producers I stock in the store and that’s what I want to bring to the mainstream public.

It’s not just a bottle of wine. It’s people behind the product. It’s knowing you’re supporting hardworking families. It’s knowing you’re consuming a product that hasn’t been worked to within an inch of its life. It’s not been fined, filtered, tinkered with. It’s been left alone to represent the excellent vineyard on which it’s come from. As the very well-known Bindi winemaker Michael Dhillon says, “land not hand” in wine. We want to see the quality of the grapes, not the winemaker’s influence on the wine.

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Visiting Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, you will come across this attitude at every winery or business you visit. Such a sense of community exists here. If you’re someone that likes to make conscientious choices about what you eat and drink, winespeake cellar + deli is a great place to start. The cheese selection at winespeake follows the same ethos for which the wines are chosen…small producers doing wonderful things without the constraints of upscale commercial production. What you get is real, handmade, and unequivocally delicious! It’s an absolute must-visit if in the region. And you know you’re supporting the real people behind the product too. A true ‘win, win’.

Spring will not only be the corner we hope to turn in this fight against Covid, but a time for winemakers to showcase their new releases and reflect back on the vintage that’s just passed. It’s a wonderful time to visit the region. Cellar doors will be open again, winemakers will be eager to show you their wares. They’re a welcoming bunch, the crew up here. We hope to see you around the table for a tipple soon.

Winespeake is located at 4/26 Vincent Street, Daylesford

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About the author

Jennifer Latta, Winespeake
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Based in Daylesford, 'winespeake cellar + deli' has been 7 years in the making. In 2013, a little wine shop and bar called Wine and the Country was established, showcasing the region's and the World's most sought after producers. Owner Jen Latta started the business off the back of her husband Owen Latta's family vineyard and winery Eastern Peake, with the aim to bring extraordinary wines, into a relaxed and cosy atmosphere, in the heart of Daylesford.

Over the 7 years of having Wine and the Country, Jen also added a delicatessen/cafe next door (Dos Deli) and the two operated side by side and soon became must-visits in Daylesford.