Hawke's Bay's Winter Food and Wine Classic begins this Friday, a series of events held over four weekends based around seasonal food and wine.
Martin Bosley, Ruth Pretty, Simon Gault and Richard Emerson are among those getting involved in the masterclasses, competitions, restaurant specials and other culinary experiences filling up the festival's schedule.
Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas says about 30 per cent of those who attend the annual festival are from out of the area, most of those being Wellingtonians taking the short trip north for the weekend.
Hugh Crichton, head winemaker at Vidal winery, is hosting the event My Chardonnay Rules, where teams of four will create their own chardonnay blend. "It will be interesting to see what people come up with, and there's no 'right' style. However, they will be judged on balance."
The event is not just for wannabe wine connoisseurs, but more about having fun with wine.
"Wine can be a bit pretentious but we want to break that down. People find it easy to judge food, but for some reason don't trust their tastebuds so easily when it comes to wine."
Traditionally common in France, wine blending takes the best components of different wines and combines them to make the best wine possible.
Crichton says a wine variety can be affected by various conditions - how many grapes are on the one vine, different soil types, how leaves cover the grapes and seasonal factors.
Experimentation with chardonnay is bringing the tipple back into fashion, Crichton says.
"The issue is that many producers started producing chardonnay that was very oaky, buttery and quite alcoholic, a big full wine that lacks freshness and acidity. New Zealand wasn't the worst offender."
But chardonnay is going through an evolution here and in Australia, he says. "We are going much more for the complex, fresh, food-friendly style. It's not to say one is better than the other, but it's just a sign of the industry maturing.
"Ultimately we don't want chardonnay to taste the same wherever it comes from. It's not McDonald's. We want it to reflect where it's made and how.
"Hawke's Bay is making some of New Zealand's best chardonnay. We're not trying to be like sauvignon blanc, but I think if people try it, it won't be the one they remember 10 years ago. They'll be pleasantly surprised."
Go to fawc.co.nz for the full programme and to book tickets.
- The Dominion Post
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