New Zealand Food and Wine Festivals

Spending a sunny summer’s the day out with friends at a Wine and Food Festival is far more my style than in a mosh pit at a music festival.

Over the past few years long-running festivals on the New Zealand calendar such as Harvest Hawkes Bay and the Devonport Wine and Food Festival have been discontinued while new ones with tighter, focused themes such as beer or seafood have popped up.

Here are a few Food and Wine Festivals I’ve been to around the country and what I thought about them.

Taste of Auckland – Auckland, November

Held at Victoria Park over three days Taste of Auckland targets a glamorous audience with food from the finer Auckland restaurants. Taste festivals happen in 15 cities all over the world and the Auckland version celebrated it’s fifth birthday in 2013.

I loved trying the new products such as Rekorderlig Passionfruit Cider, seeing local celebrity chefs Nadia Lim and Josh Emett hosting or in action and sampling food from Depot, Toto and The Grove all in one location.

I was impressed this year with the movement from paper ‘Crowns’ (the festival currency) to an electronic card. Toast Martinborough, held the same weekend was still using paper Francs which blow around in the wind and end up pretty tattered by the end of the day. Taste were also donating a small amount to charity for every card recycled at the gate.
Another new innovation at Taste of Auckland were the unbreakable wine glasses. While they lacked festival branding, avoiding the presence of broken glasses among boozed people in jandals is a definite win for safety.

Toast Martinborough – Martinborough, November

Toast Martinborough was one of the social highlights of the Wellington summer in my early 20’s (followed by the races and the 7’s tournament). I’ve traveled both via train and private bus to and from the event and can see downsides to each – trains don’t wait if your friends are still in the bathroom queue and being a passenger over the Rimutaka Hill isn’t the best fun even when you’re sober.

It’s largely the same wineries taking part every year and you question whether they stand to make any money once they’ve paid for the entry fee, staff, set up etc. and are pouring glasses of wine at a discount with few bottles of wine sold to take home.

Being full of typical young kiwis it gets messy towards the end of the day, people move in large groups, and while the girls look completely over dressed it is perfectly acceptable for the guys to go more casual.

Harvest Hawkes Bay – Discontinued

A similar event to Toast Martinborough, Harvest Hawkes Bay ran for 15 years before being dropped in 2012. I went back in 2009 with my Uncle and found it a much more sophisticated event with an older crowd.

The wineries were much more spread out than those in Martinborough, meaning several different bus routes and really having to plan out where you wanted to go. Taking a wine expert with me meant we definitely got the most out of the day visiting Vidals, TK, and the Gimlet Gravels.

Devonport Wine and Food Festival – Discontinued

Having enjoyed the Devonport Wine and Food Festival this year I saw no reason behind the decision for it to not return in 2014 following 25 successful festivals.

In this case I (shamefully) spent much of the day drinking wine from only one winery – Omaha Bay because I was so impressed with their sparkling wine and rose.