Wine festivals sobering up

By Amelia Wade

Popular summer events are trying to discourage drunk and disruptive revellers.

Summer concerts and events at the Villa Maria winery in Mangere draw big crowds. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Summer concerts and events at the Villa Maria winery in Mangere draw big crowds. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

New Zealand wine and food festivals are taking a stand against drunk and disruptive revellers.

The Marlborough Food and Wine Festival says it's changing its February event so it's as much about food and music as about wine.

"We've noticed similar festivals are appealing to a younger and rowdier crowd and we've decided not to go down that path," said festival committee chairman Tim Crawford.

"We've made adjustments so the festival caters to a slightly more mature group."

Tickets have been capped at 8000 for the past few years. Mr Crawford said this had proven to be the "magical number" for maximum atmosphere without being overcrowded.

About 12 years ago, the festival had numbers of about 15,000.

"We're looking at a better balance of food and wine, rather than people just getting stuck into the wine," Mr Crawford said.

"It's not age, but attitude that we're looking at."

MasterChef winners Brett McGregor, Nadia Lim and Chelsea Winter have all signed on.

Mr Crawford said the well-known culinary faces would help make sure people lined their stomachs.

"I think the difficulty with some of the festivals is that some of the younger people aren't used to drinking wine.

"They often turn up there and it's a really hot day and people start drinking wine like they might drink beer and they don't have any food in them so it catches up pretty quickly."

Villa Maria, which hosts a variety of events over summer, is also "ramping up" efforts to ensure nobody gets out of control.

Last February, the company was forced to close the bar early at the Class of '81 event at the Villa Maria winery because some of the 4500-strong crowd got very drunk.

One punter described it then as chaos. "There wasn't real trouble ... [but] the place was filled with people in their 40s and 50s staggering around and trying to relive their youth. It wasn't pretty."

Villa Maria director Fabian Yukich said some people took exception to the bar being closed early and this year the winery was making sure nothing similar happened.

Mr Yukich said staff would be making sure there was plenty of food stands, circulating and looking for those who were too inebriated, advertising when the bars closed and ensuring people didn't bring alcohol on site.

"We were doing that before, but we're just ramping it up."

And organisers of the Classic Hits Winery Tour are also making sure no one gets too drunk and starts causing trouble at their events.

Co-promoter Campbell Smith said they always took "great precaution" that their annual summer series events had well-manned security and their liquor licence was fully complied with.

"We're about to have our hundredth show and we've never had an issue at any one of them ... our events are very family orientated."

- NZ Herald

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