Festivale 2018: Tasmania’s food and wine heaven

Northern Tasmania’s premier summer event, Festivale, is a celebration of the finest produce and gastronomical delights the state has to offer.

The annual three-day celebration aims to present the beautiful foods and beverages that are crafted by restaurants, vineyards, and distilleries statewide.

The backdrop to the event is Launceston’s historic City Park, which has helped make the event iconic due to the ambiance and atmosphere it provides.

It has been running for more than 30 years, and attracts about 35,000 punters. This year, it’s on from February 2 to 4.

Many patrons are Tasmanians, but Festivale also draws people from interstate, and from other countries, to experience a food and wine heaven, in a picturesque setting.

Chairman David Dunn said patrons come to Festivale to taste the “best of the best” of Tasmanian food and wine.

“We’ve got such a high focus on Tasmanian produce, and on the quality of items that stalls are serving,” Mr Dunn said.

“Tasmania is like a unique food bank … patrons can come and really taste the best of the best that the state has to offer. We’ve got 14 new stallholders this year, and 90 stallholders all up.”

Patrons have the chance to mingle with producers and stallholders directly, to learn more about their offerings.

Well-known Tasmanian producers such as sparkling wine powerhouses Jansz and award-winning Ashgrove Dairy, meet iconic brands such as Josef Chromy, Boag’s, and Willie Smith’s Cider.

It also welcomes back some old favourites; among them is Lebrina’s Clover Hill.

The North-East Tasmanian vineyard just scooped the award for Best Wine for its Tasmanian Cuvée Rosé at The Taste of Tasmania. Cellar door manager Ian White said he’s looking forward to bringing it to Festivale.

“We haven’t been (to Festivale) for the past few years … we pulled back a bit due to the build of the new cellar door,” Mr White said.

“But we’ve still had a presence in the region; we’ve been established since 1986.”

“Festivale is an intimate event. The thing about Festivale that makes it really nice is the park and garden setting.”

We’ve got such a high focus on Tasmanian produce, and on the quality of items that stalls are serving

Festivale chairman David Dunn

Mr White said Festivale was quite a social event for stallholders.

“It’s a really good opportunity to catch up with people in the industry that you might not have seen for months,” he said.

Then there are the newcomers, such as Launceston’s own Good Food Float, regulars at the weekly Harvest Community Farmers Market.

The float is a vegetarian and vegan-friendly, ethically sourced and sustainable stall that runs out of a converted 1982 Tasmanian hardwood timber horse-float. 

Manager Christine Chandler said they are excited to be involved with Festivale, especially since the float had only been in operation for about a year.

“I’m very excited actually, especially being such a small business. I can’t believe it’s happening,” Ms Chandler said.

“A lot of people have tried our food and haven’t realised we’re plant-based and really enjoyed it. Being a vegan, it’s something I’m really passionate about.

“There aren’t many options available for vegans … and we get a lot of people with allergies that can come and confidently eat with us.”

Ms Chandler said their food is often inspired by seasonal produce.

“I try my best to support local businesses … I gather my produce at the Harvest Market,” she said.

“We change our menu for every event. The main item we’ll probably have (at Festivale) is a harvest plate, with dips, pickled veggies, bread and stuff like that. We’ll have some home-baked sweets as well.”

In terms of entertainment and layout, Mr Dunn said that Festivale has been “shaken up” this year.

“One of the major differences this year is that we’ve extended Cooking in the Park to two days. We’ve also moved it into City Park instead of the John Hart Conservatory. Having it out in the park makes it more inclusive … people can walk past and stop to watch,” he said.

The live cooking demonstrations will feature some of the best chefs in Northern Tasmania.

Chefs such as Chris Williams of Cataract on Paterson, Nathan Johnston of Hazelbrae House, Craig Will from Stillwater and Black Cow, and Christopher Wright from the Country Club’s Terrace Restaurant will be working with the best fresh Tasmanian produce they can get their hands on.

Festivale’s guest chef for 2018, Karen Martini, will also be demonstrating her cooking prowess to patrons on the Sunday. Martini will also cook an exclusive lunch at Stillwater restaurant as part of her guest role.

Festivale's guest chefs offer live cooking demonstrations and masterclasses as part of the event. In 2015, it was Peter Kuruvita.

Festivale's guest chefs offer live cooking demonstrations and masterclasses as part of the event. In 2015, it was Peter Kuruvita.

A key part of Festivale is interaction and education for attendees.

“After a lot of requests, we’ve added gin and whiskey masterclasses to the program,” Mr Dunn said.

The Tamar Valley Wine Route Masterclasses will allow patrons to experience the best Tasmanian sparkling wines, beers, and spirits whilst learning from industry professionals such as brewers, distillers, and winemakers.

“Tasmania produces high-quality gin and whisky, and people really want to learn more about it.”

Mr Dunn said he’s “very excited” about the entertainment line-up.

“All of the acts are going to appeal to different people each night … there’s going to be something for all age brackets,” he said.

Some of the “not-to-be-missed” entertainment includes Medhanit Barratt, live stand-up comedy from Tony Martin and Bob Franklin, and the roaming street performers.

“We’ve got a big focus on street performers, and people wandering around doing little shows,” Mr Dunn said.

“We like to keep people entertained.”

A big part of the entertainment annually is the headline music acts. This year, it’s Clare Bowditch, JR Reyne and The Paradise Three, Reece Mastin, and Renée Geyer, who will perform over the course of the three-day event.

For more information about admission prices and to book Tamar Valley Wine Route Masterclasses, head online to www.festivale.com.au.

To celebrate 2018, Fairfax ACM and Tourism Northern Tasmania is offering one lucky interstate guest to experience Festivale for themselves