Bell rings joyfully to hail another vintage

In a tradition that spans five decades, Wirra Wirra’s great Angelus bell tolled joyfully once again across the vineyards to hail the beginning of the 2017 McLaren Vale wine vintage.
Nanjing Night Net

This year the ceremony was held on Friday February 3 with reigning monarchs, Bushing King Stephen Pannell and Bushing Queen Fiona Lindquist reigning over the district celebration.

“For us, the bells signals the last chance for a social get together, sharing food and wine before the toil of vintage overtakes our lives.”Bell ringing MC Tony BrooksIt was the second consecutive year the couple have had the honour, with Mr Pannell noting a spike in attendance.

“This time last year we were picking whatever we could and we weren’t going to stop for the next six weeks,” he said, addressing the local wine community.

RING THE BELL: Reigning monarchs Fiona Lindquist and Stephen Pannell heralded in the 2017 McLaren Vale wine vintage at the Bell Ringing Ceremony.

“And here we are today hoping for veraison [onset of grape ripening] to finish.

“We’ll be waiting a little while for that greenness to go away –but enjoy.

“The reason we are here is because we live in the most consistent viticultural region in this country –in the world.

“And I’m sure it’s going to be a good vintage.”

McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Associationgeneral manager Jennifer Lynch said other winemakers and grape growers were equally optimistic.

“It will be much later than other vintages due to a number of rain events we’ve had but our members are saying the fruit is looking exceptional,” she said.

But why ring the bell?

Master of Ceremonies Tony Brooks explained that the annual event was inspired by the European tradition where church bells ring out “and all would know that was the time to start picking the grapes”.

The concept appealed to great friend, the late Gregg Trott, who introduced the ceremony in the 1970s.

“RG Trott Esquire was very keen on events that brought the community together,” Mr Brooks said.

“For us, the bells signals the last chance for a social get together, sharing food and wine before the toil of vintage overtakes our lives with the sort of monastic rule till the job is done.

“So out of the vagueness of time –and Trott’s erratic organisation –a tradition has been formed and crystallised to become fixed in the McLaren Vale wine culture.”

The Bell Ringing ceremony is hosted by Wirra Wirra and the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association.

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