Sion’s future finally revealed

Justine Kidding

THE historic Our Lady of Sion convent is set to become a major tourist attraction, with plans revealing the building will be redeveloped into a distillery.

If the project gets the support it needs, the distillery will be part one of a three-phase plan.

The other two phases include transforming one of the former convent’s wings into a brewery, and another into a winery and eatery.

The first phase – the Spirits of Sion Distillery – will involve the manufacture of ‘Holy Fire-Water’, before expansion into beer and wine down the track.

Developers shared the plans with our journalists in an exclusive scoop this morning, with the project’s spokesperson, Vic Brew, saying the announcement ended months of speculation as to what might happen to the iconic building and its surrounds.

“We have plans to lay a slab onsite soon – it’s all very exciting,” Mr Brew bubbled.

“As far as Gippsland goes, the venture will be a holy grail … a tourist mecca.”

Mr Brew said the project would capitalise on the proud history of the convent by naming beverages to reference the building’s past.

“Some of our signature drinks will include Bishop’s Brew, Nun’s Rum, Mother Merlot and Sister Shiraz,” he spilled.

The project’s other notable nods include baptismal fonts spouting gin and a bread and wine special on Fridays.

Mr Brew spoke reverently about a particularly intoxicating part of proposal.

“Using the building’s old science labs, we were able to employ experts working with innovative technology, fresh from Rome, where water goes in one end of a machine, and comes out the other converted into wine,” he enthused.

“It’s a bit unorthodox, but we know the end result will be divine.”

Welliboots Council finance officer Owen Money said council had given its blessing to the project, describing it as a “corker of an idea with lots of flow-on benefits”.

“We’re in seventh heaven thinking about all those tourist dollars – I mean, council hopes the proposal will attract visitors that will spend income in town.

“We really want to encourage people to get into that habit,” he clarified.

Clearly drunk on the thought of Sale becoming Victoria’s tourism capital, Mr Money said council was considering a number of complementary art projects about town to solidify its new title through a baptism by fire.

These include a controversial art sculpture at the Port of Sale – a giant port glass – and refurbishing the iconic water tower to the west of the city with a giant olive on a toothpick.

“We’re just draught-ing it up now, so the RAAF can sign off on it,” he said.

Mr Money said another initiative being floated was changing the name of Sale to ‘Ale’ – to capitalise on the same fame afforded to the Victorian towns of Beveridge and Nar Nar Goon.

However, not everyone is happy about the proposals flowing from the convent and council, with some concerned the project may actually see Sale fall from grace.

Sale’s notoriously glass-half-empty resident Mona Wyner said she was nun too pleased during a bitter phone call to the The Gippy Crimes, where she went, frankly, off tap.

“Just recently, someone obviously under the influence dressed up a bunch of wooden spoons in some pipecleaners and left them in the middle of my naturestrip with a sign saying Spoonville,” she screamed down the phone line.

“What kind of sicko does that?

“Schooner or later, things will come to a head, and I don’t want a bar of it.”

Mr Brew, however, assured the community that the venture would be a responsible one, adding it was really not such a stretch that a religious building would be used to house such a venture.

Mr Brew confessed he had Googled to make sure religious orders had a strong history of making food, wine and spirits through the centuries.

“It was monks who largely preserved viniculture in Europe, with religious orders such as the Benedictines and Jesuits becoming expert winemakers,” he spouted

“And although beer may have been invented by the ancient Babylonians, it was perfected by the medieval monasteries that gave us brewing as we know it today.

“Also impressive is the religious contribution to distilled spirits.

“Whiskey was invented by medieval Irish monks, who probably shared their knowledge with the Scots during their missions, chartreuse was perfected by the Carthusian order almost 300 years ago, and DOM Bénédictine is reputed to have been invented in 1510 by an Italian Benedictine named Dom Bernardo Vincelli to fortify and restore weary monks.

“So you can see the crux of the matter is getting back to basics, honouring history and consecrating Ale and district as an almighty tourist drawcard,” Mr Brew said.

– with Zara Puke and David Bratwurst