By Jo Burzynska
One late summer morning in the Valencian town of Pobla del Duc, lorryloads of grapes were dumped on the streets. On the stroke of noon, locals and tourists alike armed themselves with bunches of the local variety garnacha and the Battle of the Grapes began again.
This Spanish grape-throwing fiesta is one of the more way-out wine festivals, which have been occurring since the Greeks got together to honour and celebrate their wine god Dionysius.
In New Zealand, wine festivals are less extreme affairs. This summer there will be several enticing options.
Making its debut this summer is the New World Wine and Food Festival, held this Saturday in Hagley Park. It’s a celebration of the South Island’s wines following the region’s recent acceptance into the Great Wine Capitals Global Network. Grouped into wine villages, wineries from Canterbury, Waipara, Central Otago, Nelson, and Marlborough, will be showing their wines, along with Germany’s Mainz Rheinhessen, the featured international region.
The festival offers a chance to meet the wineries and enjoy live music, gourmet food vendors and cooking displays.
And if you fancy expanding your vinous vistas further, there’s also a programme of entertaining and accessible seminars.
These include a whistle-stop tour of the Great Wine Capitals wine regions with Master of Wine Bob Campbell; a Riedel glass master class; wine columnist Garth Galloway will be enticing tasters to experience wine beyond sauvignon blanc; Yvonne Lorkin is pairing wine with chocolate, and I will be creating sweet harmonies between wine and music.
Then, in Central Otago the following month, local and international pinotphiles will be gathering for the Central Otago Pinot Celebration. At this fun and highly informative event, held from January 26 to 28, a panel of winemakers and international pinot noir specialists will lead tastings and wine experiences.
These include a showcase tasting of current and older pinot noir from the event’s 40 participating local wineries, a tutored tasting of top burgundies from the 2006 vintage, a culinary programme from Queenstown’s finest restaurants and local wineries, and an opportunity to party with the region’s winemakers.
On February 11, the everpopular Marlborough Wine Festival will again showcase the region’s wines, alongside local food producers, in the Brancott Estate vineyards.
There will also be tutorials for wine lovers interested in more indepth tasting experiences, including The ‘‘Evolution of Sauvignon Blanc’’, with examples from older vintages.
At the end of the season, Waipara is holding its Wine & Food Festival on March 3.
Moved from its original Glenmark Church site after the building was damaged in the September 2010 earthquake, then cancelled in 2011 due to the February quake, the region is pleased to see it back in business 2012 at its new venue, the Mud House Winery.
Favourite festivals: The Wine and Food Festival is to make its debut in Hagley Park this weekend.