People have been drawn to the Hunter from the early days of colonial settlement. Was it the search for the Good Life and all that concept entails?
There is something about the land, the hills and valleys that gets to us, the vistas, the endeavours of people to use the land productively and yes the wine…it’s long relationship with the vine is something special. There are vines that have grown continuously since before Phylloxera struck and wiped out the European vineyards in the 19th century. There are families whose attachment to the land seems to have been forever.
We at Tintilla are relative newcomers although we have connections that reach back to the late 1700’s and the discovery by John Shortland and the naming the River. As we approach our 25th year of developing our vineyard and cellar door here in Pokolbin it seems the efforts have been worthwhile. Is it the Good Life as they say and certainly, the elements are all there. Purpose of endeavour, picturesque environment, shared goals with Family and our neighbours, great food and wine and enough social events to keep engaged.
Hugh MacKay in his exploration of what the good life includes a “willingness to connect with those around us in a meaningful and useful way” in his definition. I think visitors who seek to sample the good life see the results of our community efforts in the beauty of neat, ordered vineyards and well-maintained gardens in a wonderful setting and contrast this to the hectic city environment.
So many visitors comment on the Good Life aspect of coming to the Hunter and really enjoy their time here. We know of course a lot of effort goes into creating the wonderful Hunter environment.
Central to the enjoyment of the visits is connecting with the people including the winemakers and their extended families which includes their staff and often staying in small accommodation places and meeting the people behind the cottages etc. The many small vineyards and cellar doors are an important feature of our area
In many ways, it’s the diversity of the people that set us apart from other wine regions, the community, its history and the pride we take in our area. We are still close to the ground as it were, and this is reflected in the information and advice we pass on to our visitors.
The wineries and cellar doors, gardens, golf clubs, cottages and hotels, restaurants café’s and brewhouses all seem to have an understanding of the importance of “creating great experiences’. Indeed, the old UK TV series ‘The Good Life’ where the key to enjoyment is an unusual urban garden/farm seems to have created imagery that has led to the belief that escape to the country represents the Good Life.
So the new marketing plan for the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association (HVWTA) is based on selling “The Good Life”. Their market research suggests people are craving for this type of escape from the clutter of Sydney. Surprisingly the younger generations when testing in focus groups occurred, were unaware of the old TV show that their parents would have watched! No matter if it’s the good life they want we can give it to them!
Reflecting on the development of Tintilla Estate we chose a logo that is an ancient example of the good life. While on an archaeological dig with Sydney University in Jordan we visited the ruined ancient Greco-Roman city of Jerash. Carved into a pedestal in the Theatre was a Dionysian dancer- a maenad,
scantily clothed and enjoying celebrating with her God. It looked intriguing and we decided to use this image on our labels linking us with the ancient enjoyment of wine.
Tradition has it that these dancers drank wine to commune with Dionysius the god of winemaking and wine as well as fertility. The celebrations surrounding Dionysus included frenzied dancing along with drinking wine. These festivals were the driving force behind the development of the ancient Greek Theatres. In Roman times Dionysius was known as the god of wine – Bacchus. Some may remember the Baccus Balls held in the University of NSW years ago.
The image of our dancer shows her holding a fennel staff tipped with a pine cone and known as a thyrsus. This is a beneficial wand and weapon used to destroy those who oppose his cult and the freedoms he represents.
The wine, music and ecstatic dancing free his followers from fear and the oppressive restraints of society and those in power, thus opening up the good life – a getaway from reality!
Image of a Maenad dancing to a tune played on a pan flute along with a painting of dancing Maenads by the Italian artist Masini he did for one of our labels
Interestingly the cult of Dionysus was over 700 years old at the time of Christ and its celebrations well understood in the middle east so that the Christian concept of drinking wine to join with Christ was readily understood at the time.
So when it comes to promoting The Good Life, it’s more about the enjoyment that comes from the escape from city life, back to nature, food and wine in moderation and activities for our visitors. For us, it includes the coming together in a purposeful way to create an environment for others to enjoy and at the same time make a living in “God’s country – The Hunter Valley”.
The Good Life promotion by Destination NSW and the Alliance with the HVWTA is all about delivering a concept to our visitors and renewal of our industry. ‘All that is old is new again’ a fresh approach which has lots of support and goodwill.
I have used Hugh MacKay The Good Life: what makes a life worth living Pan Australia 2015
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Author: Robert Lusby AM
©Around Hermitage Association
Dionysus in old age, clearly not drinking in “moderation”