The Old Vine of Maribor Harvest in Australia

The Festival which has a long tradition in Maribor and is a European cultural event celebrating the oldest living vine in the world, has been transported seven years ago to Australia the McWilliams Lillydale Estate in Victoria. Since then it has grown beyond expectations in an almost miraculous>
Since 2000, Mr.Vinko Rizmal who had brought the vine to Australia has organized an annual festival of the Old Vine every year in October. It has become a very important annual event for Slovenian community of Victoria, attended also by Slovenian Australians from other states, Slovenian Charge d'Affaires, Embassy of Republic of Slovenia and local dignitaries.

Last Sunday, 6th April the annual festival was for the first time held at the time of grape-picking, Australian time. Thus the first Old Vine Harvest was celebrated in 2008, beginning a new tradition.

People had come from far and wide to partake of the ancient feast. We were greeted at the entrance by a group of young people in Slovenian folk- costumes, who offered a taste of the Old Vine wine, the 2007 harvest. The wine is a Slovenian specialty called modra kavčina/Blue Francoian or žametovka/Velvet Black. We decided that we liked it, it tasted sweet and fresh.

The first visit was to the glorious Vine of Maribor, striking in its size, with huge dark green foliage turning into autumnal red hues, and dominating with its presence the surrounding vinyard landscape. Under the expansive pergola built to accommodate the vine, we found groups of people, discussing, enjoying the shady domain, eyeing the grapes, and taking snapshots. The enjoyment and interest was palpable.

A great many people were there already, more were arriving, drawn first of all to the Old Vine Pergola, then to the tables, to meet, mix and wait for things to happen. It was a feast of traditional Slovenian fare and wine, a joyous, lively mood to the sounds of Slovenian language and Slovenian polka music, with greetings, laughter and goodwill. There were hundreds of people, from all parts of Victoria, in some cases whole families came, parents, grandparents and children - a family get-together.

After the speeches, letter of congratulation by the mayor of Maribor and others, followed the harvest blessing by Fr. Ciril Božič, the Slovenian community priest. Then a small traditional ceremony: five official grape-pickers in long aprons were presented to the public. To the amusement of the audience, they had to give a solemn promise to treat the vine of Maribor with respect, to handle the grapes gently and not to eat any. Then the harvesting began, providing a great photo opportunity for the keen photographers. The crowd that gathered under the Old Vine of Maribor, had a taste of the grape.

It was a wonderful festive occasion. The attendance was high, so that some families spread a picnic on the grass. The music was provided by the Slovenian ensemble Trio Platin, the rest of the entertainment by the Australian Slovenian youth, folkdancing group Iskra, Lenti Lenko with his legendary accordion, the well-known young singers Zalika Rizmal, Leah Fistrič, Melissa Fistrič, Kris Rizmal.

We congratulate Vinko Rizmal for bringing this piece of Slovenian heritage to Victoria and making it into a living Slovenian tradition on Australian soil.

You will find the images of the Old Vine Harvest Festival 2008 on, Gallery, Community section.

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