Why does wine go so well with food? Wine is essentially an acid, which cleanses the palate. More importantly, wine provides an array of aromas, flavours and textures that, when combined with food, creates the epiphanic experience in which the sum of the two parts topples the individual components. It takes a bit of practice, so lucky for us, Wellington is stepping up to the mark with the newly formed Wellington Culinary Events Trust and a supporting partnership with Wellington’s very own wine region.
Traditionally, the winemaking and culinary customs of a region evolve in partnership over centuries. Italy, for example, has an epicurean history that stretches back to the fourth century bc. By comparison, we may appear a little less evolved when it comes to food and wine pairing. It’s a relatively new phenomenon for us. Yet what we have in New Zealand is a wealth of multicultural cuisines and a young, energetic wine industry. Rather than follow traditional practices of what goes with what, we can be far more adventurous and experimental. What benefits Wellington in particular is that our backyard playground is also our best source of fresh produce and artisan, food-friendly wines. Wellington food and wine are inevitably betrothed and this year become a formal union.
August 2014 sees the world-famous Visa Wellington On a Plate (VWOAP) festival entering a new phase, with the establishment of an independent charitable trust. Recognising that the VWOAP is both valuable and strategically important to the capital, the newly formed Wellington Culinary Events Trust sees as one of its core outcomes the development of a dedicated food brand for Wellington. This includes benefits to the Wellington economy; creating a ‘path to market’ in supporting regional producers and suppliers; showcasing regional strengths; and creating a culinary platform — all 365 days of the year.
In regards to the partnership provided to the trust by the Wairarapa wine producers, VWOAP festival director Sarah Meikle says: “Wairarapa wines and wines from Martinborough represent Wellington’s wine region. We want the Wairarapa, as a region, to be as synonymous with Wellington, as the Barossa is to Adelaide. The Wairarapa is New Zealand’s home of Pinot Noir, as well as a number of other specialist varietals, and it’s important that we share this message not just with Wellingtonians and New Zealanders, but with people internationally as well.”
For the wine producers of Masterton, Gladstone and Martinborough, the joint venture represents an opportunity to create a firm and unequivocal identity as Wellington’s (and New Zealand’s) source of food-friendly wines. When Wellingtonions feel the nor’westerly on their faces, so does the Wairarapa. And so do the grapes. That wind is expressed in wines, and that wine is the expression of a shared experience.
This year’s VWOAP programme offers over 120 events showcasing Wellington’s innovative food and beverage offerings. Wine pairing is strongly represented, with many opportunities to flex the taste buds, chomp, chew, slurp, swill and engage in your own private epiphany.