Wairarapa: A glass beneath the totara

By Sharon Lundy

Great food and wine - and no rowdies - make the day for Sharon Lundy.

Festivalgoers in Wairarapa are spoiled for choice. Photo / Philip Merry
Festivalgoers in Wairarapa are spoiled for choice. Photo / Philip Merry

Organisers of the Wairarapa Wines Harvest Festival have nailed the formula for a relaxing day enjoying the region's wares which the whole family can enjoy - and not a bouncy castle in sight.

They settled for some ancient, towering totara and kahikatea trees off the beaten track on the banks of the Ruamahanga River near Masterton, added live music, matched wine and food and restricted ticket sales.

And just like that, they created a wine festival without the ugly scenes which have marred some of its bigger cousins.

The weather in the region is usually guaranteed to be nice in March but even the Wairarapa suffered this summer.

However, the weather came right for the festival and the 600-1000-year-old trees provided a natural canopy for revellers.

The festival has been running for six years and this year's 2200 tickets were quickly snapped up.

Sixteen Wairarapa Wineries showcased their wines from the Gladstone, Masterton and Martinborough area, and food came from nine local eateries.

Offerings included an alpaca pie from Greytown's Wakelin House and Wairarapa wild duck sausage rolls from Bar Salute, also a Greytown favourite, and decadent white chocolate and mixed berry panna cotta from Carterton's Cornucopia.

A food and wine matching competition featured for the first time this year, judged by Cuisine magazine food editor and MasterChef judge Ray McVinnie and John Saker, Cuisine's wine editor.

Saker described the judging task as a "gastronomic pleasure, but not an easy task, which is exactly how it should be.

"Ray and I enjoyed the diversity you brought to the table, from both food and wine."

They awarded top prize to Wazoo Pizza's parma ham, mushroom, olive, rocket and mozzarella pizza matched with Shubert Wine's Syrah 2009, saying it combined "quiet harmony on the food side with a robust but perfectly pitched wine".

For us, it seemed a perfect day for rose and the 2011 Blairpatrick Estate Rose hit the spot while we lounged around listening to the live bands.

All were great but, as is often the way, it was the Irish tunes of the Shenanigans which had the crowd on their feet.

Event organiser Liz Pollock described the festival as the "quintessential New Zealand party combining great food, wine and entertainment with a family picnic day out in a spectacular country, riverside setting".

She'd be right.


Food and wine: Tickets for next year's Wairarapa Harvest festival go on sale through Ticketek in November.

Getting there: Air New Zealand has direct flights from Auckland to Masterton.

Where to stay: Peppers Parehua is in New York St West, Martinborough.

Further information: See wairarapanz.com.

Sharon Lundy visited the Wairarapa with assistance from Destination Wairarapa and Peppers Parehua Martinborough.

- NZ Herald

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