By Jonathan Porter
In late autumn something very special comes to Adelaide’s city centre and surrounding regions, both during the day and under the stars.
Giant barbecue pits are dug, stalls set up and all of South Australia’s finest winemakers gather to show off their brilliant wares and latest techniques to dazzle each other, and incidentally thousands of lucky aficionados at Tasting Australia from April 30 – May 7.
The action is not confined to the city centre – with more 80 events taking place around Adelaide and throughout South Australia, from a tribute to Maggie Beer in the famed Barossa, to Coopers and Crabs on the spectacular Yorke Peninsula.
Other regional events not to be missed include Lunch in the Stables at Penny’s Hill winery on the Fleurieu Peninsula, A Seat at Our Table at a (whisper it) secret location in the Riverland to a degustation inspired by the ancient seafloor in the Flinders Ranges – which were last on the ocean bottom 800 million years ago.
If all that were not enough, a giant glass restaurant will take pride of place at Town Square in the city’s Victoria Square so guests can dine in comfort on repasts prepared by international chefs.
It is also where wine buffs can learn the latest trends – words like pet-nat (a fermentation process), natural wine, orange wine and skin contact will be bandied about.
After a ‘misspent’ youth travelling, playing punk music and surfing Ochota – an ambassador for the festival in 2017 – decided to settle down and become a rockstar winemaker.
So why should people drop what they’re doing and come to Tasting Australia?
“People can unwind, close their eyes and open their mind and let these winemakers take them on a journey,” he says like a shot – fully justifying his rockstar status.
Ochota’s own show will be on May 6 if you fancy a Saturday in the Adelaide Hills. Headlined as a Fresh Wine Disco, it is a tribute to the new guard of winemakers in the Hills, including the famed Basket Press with Robert Hill Smith, and will feature 2017 wine drawn straight from the barrel.
“It might have also something to do with mescal,” he says enigmatically.
Winemakers share their passion
Ochota says Tasting Australia is a unique opportunity to try and enjoy wines in a rare format.
“These chances don’t come up very often. When can you try 10 vintages of our finest iconic wines while talking to cutting edge winemakers from around the nation – they will be there to talk about their craft and share their passion.”
Fans of celebrity chef Marco Pierre White have three opportunities to dine among culinary royalty, one being at the Glasshouse Kitchen in collaboration with Jock Zonfrillo (Restaurant Orana) and Australia’s hottest chef in 2016, Clayton Wells.
Tasting Australia creative curator Zonfrillo said Adelaide’s burgeoning food and wine scene provides ample inspiration.
“It’s a super interesting time here in Adelaide with new cafes, restaurants and small bars. With world-class winemakers, brewers and distilleries all within 20 minutes of the CBD, it’s fair to say we have plenty to discover,” he says
“It’s great to be cooking with a lot of my peers and people I really admire, including these interesting bright young chefs. It’s not often that we get to cook together because we’re all busy in our own restaurants . . . the collaboration dinners at Glasshouse Kitchen are going to be a great experience.”
A range of experiences curated by East End Cellars will feature everything from free tastings with regional winemakers to flights of artisanal spirits and East End Cellars Masterclasses examining a decade of Rockford Basket Press and six vintages of Penfolds Grange.
The Great Wine Voyage, a city bar hop supported by Primary Industries and Regions South Australia, will see guests blind taste local wines and compare them to tastings from other global regions.
There will also be a focus on clustered events in South Australian regions, with visitors invited to explore the state’s many food bowls throughout the festival, including the Barossa, Fleurieu Peninsula and Adelaide Hills.
Tasting Australia creative director Simon Bryant says autumn is a perfect time to explore the state.
“From Town Square in the city to South Australia’s amazing regions, there are so many interesting food and beverage activities to enjoy during Tasting Australia,” he says.
“You can really get involved: visit a farm gate, meet a producer, do a tasting with a winemaker or try a master class with one of our visiting chefs.”
Big reds to warm many a cockle
Michael Andrewartha, supremo of East End Cellars, says one of the highlights for him on the fresh May evenings will be the 14 pop-up restaurant stalls cooking over charcoal in the middle of the CBD.
“The buzz around the city is phenomenal – about what we are creating and what we are achieving,” he says.
His advice for visitors, aside from bring a powerful thirst and healthy appetite: “Plan for cold weather, wear flat shoes and put on a big jacket and come and enjoy our hospitality.”
“There will be big shirazes and pinot that will warm many a cockle.
“It’s a snapshot of our cellars – everything we do well will be taken to Victoria Square.
“I’ve had pre-tastings and I looked at my cellars and my mates’ cellars and it’s overwhelming what they have done – nothing is too much trouble.
“I take my hat off to them.”
Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are located at Adelaide Airport.