There’s a magical place in Sydney Harbour. An enchanted island. It’s where wineries bring their best drops to share with the lucky few who cross the seas and stumble ashore. I speak of none other than Wine Island.
Billed as ‘a drop in the harbour’, Wine Island is a four-day popup that showcases wineries from all over Australia, New Zealand and even Italy. With hammocks, tents, and beach chairs, essentially it’s the glamping edition of a wine festival.
Divided into two sessions each day, guests can choose from a 10.30am- 2.30pm ticket, or the 4-7.30pm evening adventure. The Plus Ones’ Sydney Director, Ace, and I opted for the Friday daytime excursion.
Wine Island is the perfect experience. It’s the little details that elevate an event from ‘this was great’ to ‘I’ll be talking about this for years to come’. As we sailed closer to Clark Island, there they were: huge white letters spelling out ‘WINE ISLAND’. Ringing the shore, tantalising white marquees housed dozens of wineries. The first thing we saw on shore was a map orienting us to food, coffee, fresh water. Chairs and tables, plenty of shade, and even games like beanbags added the perfect touches.
Where to go first, with a whole island beckoning? After a tasting at Geelong’s 6ft6 wines, we headed straight for the Rotari Bubbles Bar. A bubble machine pumping out soap bubbles lured us up stone steps to a hill. Charming Italian staff from Apertivo restaurant mixed us an Aperol Spritz. As we savoured our cocktails, we took a moment to bask in the heaven that is Wine Island.
It’s not all drinks at Wine Island: Hunter Valley Cheese Co. offered cheese platters (featuring their own delectable items alongside Victoria’s Milawa Cheese Co.). Then it was time to dive into more tastings. One comment we heard was that punters at Wine Island are interested not in getting blitzed, but instead are genuinely interested in learning about each winemaker. We found it remarkable how each winemaker took the time to talk to us about their products and wineries.
At Wine Island, you can tour the best of Australia in one spot. We imbibed drops from the Grampians in Victoria (Mount Langi Ghiran), the Barossa (St. Hallett), and ACT (Lerida Estate). Closer to home, the Hunter Valley’s Tamburlaine Organic Wines and Urban Winery Sydney showcased their lines. On a hot spring day, I stuck to refreshing whites and rosé, but Ace went with some bold Barossa Shiraz. Before we had a chance to purchase any wines (another feature of the day), we had to rush off to a wine and cheese masterclasses.
Included free with VIP tickets, masterclasses were situated in an enormous Wine Selectors teepee. Generous pours of wine, and huge chunks of cheese, made us happy campers indeed. Other masterclasses included an intro to Australian bubbles, and even a silent disco. (We’re huge fans of silent discos at The Plus Ones.) After all that, it was a wonder that Ace and I were capable of eating lunch, but we still smashed a Chur Burger each.
Sailing away from the enchanted shores of Wine Island made us sad. We’re counting the days until next year, when we can return to the magical place that is an island full of wine in the middle of the harbour.
See you on Wine Island!
Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Theresa asked Ace to pinch her so she knew she wasn’t dreaming Wine Island up.