Giant Steps sources grapes from sites like Nocton
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For obvious reasons, last year’s festival had to be canned. Have you been able to reinstate any of the events you were planning to have?

We really had to start from scratch as many themes linked to talent had to change, as did the capacity of venues. We have had to build Tasting Australia 2021 from the ground up, which has been a real labour of love. And while we can’t fly in overseas winemakers, the bottles are the bottles – and we can still get their great bottles from around the world to taste, discuss and celebrate. We don’t have to have the actual winemakers with us. The show still can go on.

Would you say that Tasting Australia has a stronger local focus?

It certainly does. We really stand firm in the fact that our local talent is top line in any language, and we should give them the recognition they deserve. This has been a good moment for the festival to take this step and stake a claim to Australian winemakers being among the world’s best.

What are some of the other key themes?

There is an increased focus on good farming practices. After all, good farming results in good quality produce and wines. Future Farmers – Biodynamic Winegrowing is an event that highlights this. We are bringing together people who are leaders in best practices in the winery, including Vanya Cullen from Cullen, in WA and Erinn Klein from Ngeringa, in SA. We’ll also have Marcel Giesen and Sherwyn Veldhuizen from Bell Hill in New Zealand, along with fellow Kiwi Anna Flowerday from Te Whare Ra in Marlborough. Flowerday was originally from South Australia as was Mel Chester, who joins the crew via Victoria’s Sutton Grange. Actually, that’s another theme we’re pursuing, inviting back winemakers, who are from here but don’t actually live and work here anymore, back to their home state.

The Tasting Table events seem to be a new direction for the festival.

Part of our new direction for 2021 is weaving the festival events into the bricks and mortar of Adelaide. The city’s small venues are an important part of our wine culture, so we are holding intimate tasting events in these spaces. It’s a good way to support venues that have worked hard to bring Adelaide alive with great wine over recent years.

And how about the festival’s traditional series of vineyard lunches?

They seem to have evolved.The logistics of doing vineyard visits as we’ve done in past years were proving to be challenging, plus we now want to present a more environmentally responsible theme for vineyards and wineries at the festival. I think we’ve achieved this with events like the Flame Tree Feast. Guests will take a walking tour of Koomilya vineyard, owned by winemaker Steve Pannell, taste some of his excellent reds and learn about land restoration projects, including visiting a fire pit using the biochar technique to help restore carbon into the environment. This is followed by lunch at the Salopian Inn, where their team is joined by Lennox Hastie from Sydney’s Firedoor.

I see Tasting Australia Airlines is still running.

This is really one of the highlights of the festival every year. We fly groups out to Kangaroo Island or to Coffin Bay to get their feet wet, and to enjoy amazing, food, scenery and some great wine. Chefs present their pick of local produce – such as seafood caught fresh the same morning. The people we work with in both places have become part of the festival family.

What are some of the other stalwarts of the festival on the program?

There are events that are so well loved that they have become part of the tradition of the festival, such as the Glory of Grenache and the International Chardonnay tasting, while the Sparkling Red Brunch is always a guilty pleasure for many. This year, Rick Kinzbrunner from Giaconda in Victoria will be joining us for the chardonnay event, which is quite a coup as the chance of him ever being available is very rare.

Are spirits, sake and beer still on the cards?

We’ve got Matt Young from Black Market Sake and Ollie Margan of Maybe Mae holding a couple of different sessions including Sake Stripes and another on the world of natural and low-intervention sake. We held the festival’s Spirit Awards last September, so that winners could make the most of their accolades through the busy holiday season. We’ll be celebrating those winning spirits at the festival through tastings and masterclasses where we’ll engage talent from the top bars to create and demonstrate drinks. We’ve also teamed up with Pirate Life for beer tastings and masterclasses.

So, what’s the not to be missed event?

The End of Vintage party will be sensational. We’re inviting every SA winemaker available to come to Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga for a beer. Guests can mingle with winemakers, try their wines and hear their harvest stories. Each winemaker will donate a top bottle of wine, which will form the ultimate South Australian wine cellar to be won by a guest. This event is a show of solidarity for the winemaking community of SA and beyond, and all about being behind our winemakers staking their claim to recognition on the world stage. It’s their time to shine.

Tasting Australia runs from 30 April to 9 May, 2021. For the full program, visit tastingaustralia.com.au/program