Sanguine Estate Festival

When Vulture contributer and homemade sausageroll extraordinaire, Betty Barker, found a festival that combines music and wine in a tidy little weekend of g-rated fun, she had to have a chat to one of the organisers, Chris Howlett to see what it’s all about. Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce to you the Sanguine Estate Festival from Friday 9 – Sunday 11 March.

The picturesue location

How did the idea for the weekend come about?

I have had a close association with the Hunter family from Sanguine Estate for several years, and Howard joined me one weekend at the beginning of the year on a visit there where it quickly became very apparent we all shared a passion – almost obsession! – for great music, great wine and great food. Walking around the beautiful Estate we saw the barrel room and all thought the acoustics were excellent…. Well, by evening the idea of the Festival was born. The fact also that the Heathcote area has not had an event like this before, and is poised to blossom as the Yarra Valley and the Peninsula have done, was also an encouraging factor. We are delighted how enthusiastic the local community is about this idea, and all see this as a long-term project.


The programme covers a diverse range of styles and offers an insight into the workings of the musician’s and winemaker’s minds. Is it directed towards people just developing a love of both wine and music, as well as more experienced aficionados? This mix of established and emerging seems also to be reflected in the line up of performers.

Absolutely. This is about sharing the process as well as the product – as well as putting real and approachable people as spokespeople for their art and craft: quality doesn’t need to be daunting in any way! There are stars but no divas. So all of us will be sharing, learning and above all, enjoying.

 The programme is festival fare in the best sense – some familiar works but also several under-appreciated gems – again quality, excitement and beauty being the defining criteria. Also several of the artists will be performing together for the first time, a wonderful thing for them as well as for the audience, only really possible to this extent at a Festival like this.


The programme seems to invite a sharing of ideas: Inside the Music Concert, Conversations Concert, Meet the Makers session. Is a ticket to this festival “One big backstage pass” as Howard Penny has suggested?

 Yes. Everyone involved in the Festival is an artist in their own right: the musicians, the winemakers, the chefs, and yes, the audience. We want to have an intimate atmosphere which encourages a relaxed sharing of skills and conversation so everyone gets to know each other’s world a little better.


Do you see a close affinity between wine and music?

 Absolutely, apart from being perfect partners for an evening! When you think of the process of production, in both cases, the bottled product or the concert represents just the tip of the iceberg. An enormous amount of background work and skill goes into producing either – in fact a whole lifetime. Each also reflects a time, a location and a person or people, and both are living organisms, changing with time too.


You are co-festival director with Jodi Marsh (Sanguine Estate General Manager). Is a chamber orchestra a natural fit for a more intimate venue such as the Sanguine estate venue?

 Chamber music, not an orchestra in year one! But who knows for the future…. But yes, the small scale is important to keep it personal, and the music was written for venues this size. We want no actual or perceived barriers between the creators and the appreciators.


As a cellist specialising in chamber music, how does that differ from being part of a larger orchestra?

 Much more obvious individual responsibility and flexibility, as well as the ability to react to the inspiration of the moment.


Is this a musical weekend for gourmets or a gourmet weekend for music lovers?


Betty Barker


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