Premium Tasmanian wines and beers, fresh local ciders, bold Tasmanian spirits, and an ever-changing landscape of food stalls, on-site entertainment and culinary events.

That’s been the Festivale recipe for success over recent years, and event organisers say 2020 will be no exception at Launceston’s renowned ‘party in the park’ this weekend.

Image courtesy Mark Smith.

In fact, judging by the number and quality of stall offerings this year, there’ll be so much to take in that fervent Festivale goers will be making a beeline to the City Park venue on each of the event’s three days.

The family-friendly, smoke-free extravaganza is staged annually in the north of the State. This year’s Festivale begins on Friday 31 January at 4pm and runs until 11pm that day. A busy 12-hour program commences at 11am on Saturday 1 February. Meanwhile, Sunday 2 February sees the event settle gently into wind down mode from 10am, with 4pm being the appointed time for all visitors to leave the park venue.

Adult (15+ years) entry costs $25 per person on Friday, $30 on Saturday, and $15 per person on Sunday. There is no charge for children under 12 who are accompanied by an adult. Adolescent (10-14 years) entry costs $7.50 each day. Adult 3-day tickets are available and can be purchased for $55 per person.

Like Hobart’s Taste of Tasmania, held in late December and early January, Festivale has come a long way from humble beginnings. It began way back in 1988 as part of Launceston’s contribution to the Australian Bicentenary celebrations. The first seven of Festivale’s annual events were held in the city’s central business district, and were promoted as big multi-cultural street parties.

Image courtesy Festivale Tas.

The move to Launceston’s picturesque City Park in the mid-1990s proved to be the making of Festivale as we know it today. The three-day event now draws almost 30,000 patrons to its celebration of Tasmania’s summer lifestyle.

Fancy tasting some of this State’s best sparkling, whites and reds? Be prepared for an eclectic mix. Festivale’s website lists more than 160 different wines from Tasmania’s cool climate vineyards, along with a small number of fruit wines and around 60 different non-alcoholic beverages.

Not surprisingly, producers from the north and north-west of the State will be in relative abundance. But navigate your way carefully through the event’s meandering trail of stallholders and you may discover wines with more far-flung origins. Producers from the East Coast are particularly well represented, with Boomer Creek, Bream Creek, Gala Estate and Spring Vale all plying their trade this weekend. Each one will be able to pour you a significant medal-winner from the recent Tasmanian Wine Show.

Drop by any one of two dozen or so stalls with wines for sale and there’s a good chance the hands that offer that glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir grew the grapes and made the wine as well.

You’ll find all of the State’s major wine grape varieties featured on labels around the park, as well as a handful interesting minor varieties like Chardonnay Musqué (stall 74), Frontignac (stall 33) and Schönburger (stalls 12 and 125).

Lovers of white wines that are gentle on the palate will have plenty of choice, with Riesling producers being able to pour a diverse range of styles. You’ll find good examples of off-dry, medium-sweet, sweet, and luscious (botrytis-affected) wines, not to mention more typical dry wines in conventional table wine and sparkling wine formats. By all means, read their label fine print. Even better, strike up a conversation with the stallholder. They’ll want you to enjoy your Festivale experiences.

Festivale

Masterclasses are popular Festivale events. Image courtesy Festivale Tas.

Quiet Mutiny (stalls 44, 45) and Sharmans (stall 49) now figure among the small but ardent band of Tasmanian producers with Shiraz (aka Syrah) to offer cellar door clients. Meanwhile, at stall 72, Velo will be pouring that uniquely Australian red wine blend, a Cabernet Shiraz.

Make some enquiries as you move about the venue. Wines from small scale producers will soon be unavailable or in short supply at your local city or suburban retail outlet, especially those that have left good impressions on wine media and show judges. Most can be bought by the glass as well as by the bottle. Buying by the glass is a good way of sampling a range of some of the best wines the State has to offer.

Festivale wouldn’t be Festivale without its food and beverage masterclasses and its bevy of guest chefs demonstrating their culinary artistry. Joining talented Tasmanian chefs Elliot Chugg, Nick Raitt, Emma Warren, Adam Lockhart and Thomas Pirker this year will be celebrity chef Karen Martini. The renowned restaurateur, author and television presenter is back by popular demand following her very successful appearances in 2018.

Headline acts live on stage include Motor Ace and Eskimo Joe (Friday); Jack Jones and Vanessa Amorosi (Saturday); the Whitlams and Russell Morris (Sunday).

Now that’s a party in a park.

Russell Morris features among Festivale’s headline acts this weekend. Image courtesy Mark Smith.

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE: ANNE LAYTON-BENNETT IS OUTSIDE THE FENCE, LOOKING IN


DIARY DATES

On Tuesday 4 February, Hobart’s Drysdale Campus of TasTAFE will host a tasting of all gold medal winners at January’s 2020 Tasmanian Wine Show. Doors open at 5:00pm, with admission costing $30 per person for the two-hour event. Concession fee: $25.

On 22-23 February, the inaugural Tasmanian Wine Festival will be held at Hobart’s iconic Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. The summer event will showcase top wines from around 20 participating vineyards. Fab food along with local and interstate live music and entertainment. Tickets from $25 per 4-hour session Saturday; one 5-hour session Sunday. See www.taswinefest.com.au

On 23 February from 10:30am to 4:30pm, Ulverstone’s ANZAC Park plays host to Festival in the Park, a major celebration of lifestyle, food, wine and entertainment of Tasmania’s north west coast. 

On 29 February – 1 March, vineyards in southern and eastern Tasmania will open their doors to the public as part of their annual Open Vineyards Weekend. Tastings, food and entertainment vary from site to site. For details, including location and hours of operation of participating vineyards, see openvineyards.wine or facebook.com/openvineyards


Hobart’s Mark Smith wrote his first weekly wine column back in 1994. Now more than 1600 features and 25 years later, he continues to chart the successes of Tasmania’s small scale, cool climate wine industry with regular contributions to some of Australia’s leading industry publications.


PICK OF THE CROP

Mark gives you his honest opinions about the best wines available right now from Tasmania’s wine makers.

NV Jansz Premium Cuvée $25

Tasmania’s celebrated sparkling wine industry began with Jansz. Almost 30 years on, the Hill-Smith family brand is becoming a household name with a reputation for combining quality with affordability at the Premium Cuvée level. The current release is a smart wine, with citrus elements combining with subtle toasty/nougat notes in a style that is bright and fresh without unduly assertive acidity or sweetness. Attractive everyday drinking. www.jansz.com.au

 

 

2013 Delamere Blanc de Blancs $65

Special occasions call for special wines and this bottle-fermented sparkling from Shane Holloway and Fran Austin at Pipers Brook is a real showpiece. Chardonnay from the vineyard’s oldest vines was given kid glove treatment in the winery before five years’ cellar maturation laid foundations for the wine’s commercial release. The years have been kind. This is a lovely artisan wine with beautifully evolving aromas and flavours of citrus and brioche. A joy to drink. www.delamerevineyards.com.au

 

 

2017 Gala Estate Constable Pinot Noir $100

The Greenhill family at Cranbrook on Tasmania’s east coast have really made a statement in pricing their property’s top wine. But what a top wine it is – rich, smooth and powerful, like a Rolls Royce of yesteryear. Pinot Noir is really in the driver’s seat – red fruit accented, with genuine polish and refinement evident in its long finish. Nothing has been spared in the making, so partner it with the best Tasmanian produce you can muster. Aged beef or venison would open the proceedings. www.galaestate.com.au

 

2017 Bream Creek Cabernet Merlot $35

Large-scale events have been critical to the success of Bream Creek Vineyard. Its wines – from Tasmania’s south-east coast – are always popular with patrons, for they combine satisfying varietal flavours with ready drinkability. Cabernet blends are something of a hard sell when compared with more accessible Pinot Noirs, but add braised or roast lamb and the wines come into their own. This 2017 won a gold medal in Berlin last year, no small achievement on a continent that likes its reds on the dry, slightly firm side. www.breamcreekvineyard.com.au