Barossa Vintage Festival celebrates 70 years

By Lana Guineay

Time moves differently in the Barossa. Just an hour’s drive out of the city, it’s a world away from the hustle, where world-class produce, rich traditions, and a slow pace of life awaits.

“There’s no traffic jam at any point at any time, if there are three cars ahead of us we panic – though we occasionally get stuck behind a grape harvester,” says Barossa local and caterer Eli Beer.

As a first-generation Barossan, Eli is classified as something of a ‘newbie’. “I was born here, my kids were born here… but I think you have to bury a few to be a real local,” she says with a laugh. “We’re treated as locals. Mum and dad very deliberately chose to live here, it’s our home and our heart.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by most Barossans, and never is the local spirit more buzzing than at the bi-annual Barossa Vintage Festival. Celebrating its 70th birthday this year, it’s Australia’s oldest wine festival; this year’s line-up features more than 90 events over five days, shining a spotlight on the region’s unique culture, stories, food and wine.

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Photo by Daniel Purvis

Eli runs a catering company with her sister Sas, as well as ’The Farm’, a spectacular function centre sharing the location with mum Maggie Beer’s renowned Farm Shop. The sisters have a busy week ahead as the Festival kicks off, with events ranging from a “very decadent” black tie cocktail party, to a shoes-off party-hard sign off, to a DIY gin-making workshop.

Her seventh festival over the last 14 years, this year Eli will host over 1500 people. “We only do this every two years for a very good reason,” she says. “We need time to recover.” Previous Festivals have seen over 55,000 people head to the region, making it South Australia’s largest regional festival, injecting money back into the local community.

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What makes for a good event? “It could be as simple as nothing goes wrong!” Eli says. “The devil’s in the detail, people are there to have an experience where everything is seamless and taken care of, from the music to the food. Quality is everything.”

With local free range chicken from sister Sas, Apex Bakery supplying the bread, and Hutton Vale lamb, as well as local specialty small goods and charcuterie at hand, quality is easy to come by.

“We do it because it’s always been done this way; we have developed our farms and breeding stock and produce in a simple way because we had to. It’s not overly processed or messed about with – it’s common sense.”

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Like most locals, Eli has an contagious enthusiasm for the region. More than just a place to work, the sense of community, foodie culture, and beautiful scenery make for an unmatched place to call home. “We all know each other, we share common interests, professionally as well as being friends. The Festival is what we all grew up with, it’s how we remember celebrating. At least 70% of Barossans are psychically involved in the Festival in some way.”

“For the Parade in particular, the streets are lined. It brings everyone together on the largest scale. It was under threat a few years back, but if it was cancelled there would have been a riot in the streets!”

“What will surprise visitors is the level we deliver on. Regional or not, we have a sophisticated offering – we can play with the best in the world.”

To sample the best of Barossa for yourself, see the full program here.

Top photo by David Dalenberg

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