There’ll be some full-bodied samples at the Gibbston Harvest Festival this year – and that’s just the help.
Twenty-five strapping blokes from the Arrowtown Rugby Club are volunteering at the annual wine and food celebration on Saturday in return for a share of proceeds.
But don’t worry – they’re more likely to be lifting crates and parking cars than expounding the subtle undertones of the last vintage.
Arrowtown club stalwart Aidan Winter, 29, says: “I don’t mind the odd wine. The boys are beer drinkers really, but they’ll drink wine if they have to – at weddings and that.
“There’ll be 25 of us helping out and two girls from the netball team, all in our jerseys.”
More than 3000 people are expected to attend the popular day out at Waitiri Creek Wines.
Punters will be able to sample the wares of 13 Gibbston wineries, from valley giants such Peregrine to boutique wineries like Brennan, and also 10 local restaurants.
It’s a celebration of the harvest and the community spirit that transformed the valley from a sheep-farming backwater to internationally-renowned wine-making area. So on top of master classes on wine tasting and food appreciation, there’ll also be bouncy castles, live entertainment and helicopter tours.
Waitiri Creek Wines manager Jason Moss says: “A lot of food and wine events tend to be quite snobby.
“This event is not about being a wine expert. Tickets are not $100, they’re $15. It’s a grassroots celebration and we see the same faces each year.
“We put out more than 300 tables and chairs so people can sit and relax, and there is a huge space for kids.”
This year’s master class food demonstration will be by restaurateur and executive chef Martin James of Wai Restaurant, who specialises in New Zealand ingredients.
Queenstown Resort College’s Chrissy Schreiber and Matt Abbey, of Wine Taste Central Otago, team up for the wine demo.
The harvest is in April and May and Moss believes the 2012 should be a good vintage.
“I don’t like talking about the wine until you physically taste it and know what the flavours are going to be,” he says.
“But 2012 is going to be a good vintage.
“When we look at the grapes, what we’re looking for is consistency. Some years you get small and big berries growing on the same bunch. This year it’s all nice even-sized berries, which tells you it’s going to be a good growing year.”
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
What: Seventh annual Gibbston Harvest Festival
When: This Saturday, 11am-5pm
Where: Waitiri Creek Wines, Church Lane Road, off Gibbston Highway
Cost: $15 for adults, gold coin donation for children
Transport: Snag Bus leaves the Pig ‘n’ Whistle, Queenstown, between 11am-2pm, and returns between 3-5pm. $25 per person. Free parking at venue
Wineries: Brennan Wines, Chard Farm, Coal Pit Winery, Gibbston Valley Wines, Hawkshead, Mt Rosa Wines, Peregrine Wines, Remarkable Wines, Rockburn Wines, Valli Wines, Waitiri Creek Wines, Wild Hare Wines and Waikatipu Wines
Activities: Wine and food tasting, barrel rolling, bouncy castles, master classes (gold coin donation)