Set among the oak trees in North Canterbury, the Waipara Wine and Food Festival is one of best loved local celebrations of New Zealand’s bountiful natural produce
The relatively small-scale event, which is also known as the North Canterbury Food and Wine Festival, attracts thousands of visitors to the Glenmark Domain near Christchurch and the surrounding wine regions of Waipara Valley and Waikari. This area of New Zealand’s South Island has emerged as one of the fastest growing premium wine growing regions in the country, stepping out from the shadows of Marlborough and Central Otago with a reputation for producing highly acclaimed Pinot Noir and Riesling in particular. The Waipara wine festival showcases exceptional wines from many of the region’s leading wineries alongside delicious wares from local food producers, award-winning chefs and restaurants within the area.
Although the event has been running for some time, a recent change in marketing strategy has focused on creating an independent, countryside fete-like atmosphere where visitors can enjoy an eclectic range of food stalls, a diverse selection of the region’s wines, live music and family-friendly entertainment. The draw of the Waipara Wine and Food Festival was all too apparent at this year’s event – held on Sunday March 12 – which attracted over 2,000 visitors despite the wet weather and brisk winds attempting to rain on its parade. Festival organiser Peg Morgan told Stuff NZ: ‘A lot festivals put the focus on music or entertainment; we have tried to put our focus on quality food and wine. Adding that the intermittent rain has simply instilled a ‘hardy North Canterbury vibe’ to the event that is scheduled to continue its evolution and return again next year.
Visitors can enjoy sampling some incredibly good value wines surrounded by landscapes that have been used as fantastical scenery for the blockbusting Lord of the Rings films as well as fine dining experiences featuring fresh local produce at many of the wineries’ on-site restaurants and at the Waipara wine festival itself.
There are over 1,400 hectares of vineyards crammed into picturesque countryside across the Waipara Valley, which has the highest summer temperatures and lowest annual rainfall of any of the country’s wine regions. Despite investment from commercial scale producers such as Pernod Ricard, Villa Maria, Constellation and Craggy Range, most of the region’s wineries that contribute towards the Waipara Wine and Food Festival are small boutique estates specialising in award-winning artisan wines.
The region is renowned for producing quality cool climate classics such as Pinot Noir and Riesling – as well as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and the country’s signature Sauvignon Blanc. Waipara Valley is also considered as the ‘greenest wine area in the world’ courtesy of the collaborative efforts of many winegrowers to develop a sustainability project.
Visitors can enjoy sampling some incredibly good value wines surrounded by landscapes that have been used as fantastical scenery for the blockbusting Lord of the Rings films as well as fine dining experiences featuring fresh local produce at many of the wineries’ on-site restaurants and at the Waipara wine festival itself. The valleys are also strewn with olive groves, nut farms and fields of lavender, creating an almost surreal sense of natural beauty that is only enhanced by visiting the disused Iron Ridge Quarry Park which has been converted into an outdoor art gallery complete with enormous steel sculptures.
Within easy reaching distance from both Christchurch and Marlborough, the Waipara Valley also attracts visitors as part of the so-called ‘Alpine Pacific Triangle’, which includes the main tourist centres of Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura at its other apexes. Hanmer Springs is a haven for adrenaline fuelled activities such as bungy jumping and bush walking, which can be enjoyed before soothing your tired muscles in the natural hot pools. And, the picturesque seaside town of Kaikoura is famed for its marine mammal encounters – with whales, dolphins and seals all frequenting the coastal waters.
If you are interested in visiting the Waipara wine and food festival, contact our local expert in New Zealand for more information and inspirational ideas before planning a bespoke trip.