Here in the southern hemisphere, the 1st December is the first day of Summer (arguments about equinox etc aside). It hasn’t been a great start to summer – one day it’s a sunny hot 26 degrees, the next it’s 5 degrees with hail and rain. However the weather played ball yesterday for the annual South Island Wine and Food Festival held in Hagley Park. It wasn’t hot, but it was a reasonable day. The Wine & Food Festival is timed perfectly, I think. The silly season and Christmas rush is all starting to take off, and this day in the park just gives a fabulous break from all things Christmas.
I would call myself a moderate drinker. I can go weeks without a drop of alcohol. I go to a monthly wine club tasting, and if I have some wine in the house, I’ll open a bottle and get 3 evenings out of it. I’m certainly not a glass every day, and I’m no longer up for the big sessions I used to have the energy for in my 20s! Yesterday was probably the biggest intake of alcohol I’ve had in quite a long time, and even that was done with decorum!
You see the great thing about this wine and food festival is it tends to be a maturer group attending. At $44.90 gate sale tickets you can see why. We purchased early bird tickets, which are a fair bit cheaper, and that gets you entry into the festival, a wine glass and three tasting tickets for specified wineries. It’s a bit of a pot-luck as to what wineries you’ll get tickets for so we based our choice on the first ticket you can see – if you get one “good” (as in well-known) winery then you’ll happily try a couple of random ones you’ve never heard of! After all, the whole point is to try new wines. My friend and I both like to at least get one good Central winery though too!
So we arrived about 1.15pm; the festival starting at 12.30pm. Neither of us had had much to eat other than breakfast so we’d agreed on the way in to have something to eat first! I didn’t want to be “that” person splashed on the front of Monday’s newspaper! So we had smoked bacon and avocado rolls from a Marlborough-based bacon company. After that tasty lunch bite, we were happy to try out a few wines.
We started with Melton Estate – one of the free tickets my friend had. We both had the Summer Rose – sparkling wine. A little sweet, however, so our next taste was from the stall next door, the fabulous Akarua and we had some of their Rose Brut. Much drier and more our taste.
The wineries that got our planned patronage were: Bishops Head, Dustan Road, Lone Goat (one of the few with Chardonnay
this year), Crater Rim, Judge Rock, and Pyramid Valley – courtesy of our tasting tickets. We also had a little spend, buying a cap each – we’d taken hats, but changed them to these on the day!
Along the way between our 6 tastings and the three “glasses” we purchased (40ml vs 120ml pours), we wandered around, mingled with people we knew as we bumped in to them, enjoyed the music and had some more food. We had a great wee platter from Solotti – a platter of prosciutto, pistachios, bread sticks, bocconcini and pecorino romano. The bocconcini was served with salt, a drizzle of oil and some basil on the side. Mmmmmm took me back to Europe. I do love prosciutto! We also ventured to the Selwyn Food Trail area and sampled some True and Daring riesling, and enjoyed some of Emilio’s Stracchino Cheese paired up with a bit of Walnut and Fig bread from Breads of Europe.
We bought a glass of Akarua Rose and then a bit later a Forrest Estate Chardonnay to take down to the stage and sit and listen to some good vibe sounds, and decided to head home around 6pm. Before we went home though, we had to have dessert and chose the kiwi churros. While waiting in line for the popular churros (served with salted caramel sauce!), we had a Vidal Estate tasting and we got chatting to a fellow behind us. Turns out he’d spent all day drinking cider while his partner tasted wines and he gave us both a tasting ticket from the Conossieur tent! This meant we could chose ANY winery for our tasting! Random act of kindness, but as he said – he doesn’t drink wine, hence the cider, and someone may as well enjoy it! So we popped back round to Crater Rim and finished with a tasting from one of Canterbury’s finest. My friend had the late harvest (we’d just had dessert), and I had to have the Rose. A perfect way to finish the day!
This festival is fabulous – I hope it never changes too much. It was pretty much sold out, and the vibe was one of just pleasant summer chill. Although you saw a few people who looked a little tipsy or walked a little crooked, there was nobody passed out, emptying their stomachs… it was all just mellow and happy. I think it is aimed at the right age of people and it is a true cross-section of patrons. Two little things would have improved the day – if the wind had dropped, and if the music line up had had a bit more pizzaz. Previous years there have been well known names on the stage. This year, the music was good – perfect chill out summer sounds – but it wasn’t the drawcard that the previous two festivals lineups were.