One of the highlights of Hawke's Bay's festival calendar, Winter Food and Wine Classic (Winter F.A.W.C!) kicked off last night.

The festival, which is in its fourth year and is the mid-year version of the Food and Wine Classic later in the year, runs until Sunday, June 26.

Tickets have been selling fast, with many of the 55 events sold out.

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager and F.A.W.C! organiser Annie Dundas said, "Winter F.A.W.C! just goes from strength to strength. We are thrilled with the sales to date and can't wait to see the region in full-swing this winter."


Getting Winter F.A.W.C! off to a good start last night were events at Picnic in Ahuriri, Mission Estate Winery, Elephant Hill Winery and Black Barn. Chocolate lovers got a special treat at Picnic, discovering "The Secret World of Chocolate".

There are a number of events on today and tomorrow including The Chilli Pepper Session at Farmhouse Kitchen in Havelock North, James Stapley and Pegasus Bay Wines at the Farm at Cape Kidnappers and Beggars Banquet at Mr D in Napier.

Winter F.A.W.C! also has a number of walk-up free events including the Napier Night Fiesta on June 10, Food Alley - Eat on the Street in Havelock North on June 16 and Mid-Winter Christmas Market at the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market on June 26.

In a statement, Napier City Council said the Napier Night Fiesta - Winter Style would feature music by local musicians including Ian Munro, salsa dancing and fire poi displays, a performance by Bay Batucada Drummers, and face painting and balloons for kids available. Top vendors will offer a range of goods, such as mulled wine, Vietnamese and Lao food, curries, kebab wraps and baked treats.

Ms Dundas said that once again F.A.W.C! by 5 would be run, with 17 participating restaurants across the region offering special menu offerings in denominations of $5 up to $50 per person.