Palate Pleasures: Gourmet Escape weekend

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This month’s column comes to you from the beautiful Margaret River region in Western Australia.

 

We are here for the inaugural Gourmet Escape weekend – a celebration of the region’s diverse and sophisticated food and wine output.

The window of a much needed holiday just happened to coincide with this amazing festival, the first of its kind in the region.  Having always wanted to travel here, it seemed like the right time to do it!

The events of the last few days seem to align with the concept of ‘palate pleasures’. Indeed, the region itself conjures up some of Australia’s best wine and food. From luscious Chardonnays, Bordeaux-like Cabernet blends – wine that is polished and sophisticated, as well as being consistently high quality is produced here year in and year out. The south west’s lack of damaging eastern weather patterns such as storms or hail and the drier climate and low humidity make for spectacular vintage after spectacular vintage.

Food here is also a pleasure to behold. From venison chorizo, local handmade cheeses, olives to excellent seafood – marron, prawns, goldband snapper, the choices are sublime and the execution is pretty darn good.

Amazingly, winemaking in this region only began 40 years ago, with the vast majority beginning to grow grapes in the last 20 years. The already supreme quality of wines from such young vines can only hint at the potential from more mature vines as the years go by – indeed, there are already world class wines coming out of this region.

The Gourmet Escape event itself attracted a who’s-who of local and international culinary talent. The number one drawcard was Heston Blumenthal; tragically as has been all over the media, he was unable to attend due to an horrific and fatal accident that two of his senior chefs were involved in – in Hong Kong.

Other top drawcards were Rene Redzepi of the world’s number one restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, David Chang of New York’s Momofuko, and local gems Kylie Kwong, Neil Perry, Peter Kuruvita, Tetsuya Wakuda, Peter Gilmore … the list goes on.

It’s quite incredible that a veritable smorgasbord of the world’s most talented and famous chefs all made their way to this stunning, yet remote and isolated region to help celebrate its food and wine. It really just goes to show the ever increasing pulling power of Australia’s food and wine tourism.

And not to mention, the turnout to the event itself – thousands of ‘foodies’, vinophiles and industry folks converged on the beautiful gardens of Leeuwin Estate both days – many from Perth, many locals and a few like us from the eastern states and also from Asia.

This is what the appreciation of food and wine is all about – a gathering together of  farmers, retailers, suppliers merged with the general public and industry professionals. We’re all in it together – it’s less and less about the snooty waiter and unseen chef in a basement kitchen and more about getting out there and talking to those who grow, harvest and prepare food. Or it should be anyway!

Exciting times are upon us in the food and wine industry. Australia is slowly but surely starting to develop an emerging ‘regionality’ (not sure if that’s a word), as per European countries. When we look at a place like Margaret River and see how it has defined itself so quickly as an international wine and food mecca, we can see the potential for other regions across the nation.

Hmmm … who’s next? Perhaps it’s the Mid North Coast of NSW!

This story was found on issue 85 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus

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