EVERY year food and wine festivals in Australia’s capitals bring together chefs, winemakers, restaurateurs and amateur foodies to showcase the best of their cities’ eating and drinking.
The annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is jammed with more than 300 events, including 25 free activities with 17 family-friendly events, and more than 30 countries and their cultures will be celebrated.
But big city festivals are far from the only options with wine regions, big towns and tiny villages around the country organising occasions that serve up delicious local produce.
And a regional food and wine festival is the ideal time to venture away from the big smoke to sample country hospitality when locals down tools to join the fun and celebrate all the good things about the place they live.
1. The High Country Harvest will fill lofty locations in Victoria’s northeast corner from May 13-22 when “local producers harvest the spoils of autumn’’ in a program packed with 40 curated events including village bonfires and grow-your-own adventures in 2016. See victoriashighcountry.com.au
2. Tasmanian produce is the focus of the Devonport Food & Wine Festival, which is running until March 31. Expect dinners, farm and factory tours, tasting sessions and masterclasses as well as the signature event Taste the Harvest along the city’s foreshore on March 13.See tastetheharvest.org.au
3. The Taste Tamworth Festival is the country music capital’s premier food event launched to highlight the region’s growers, makers and chefs in a 10-day event starting on April 1 that includes the Laneway Pop-Up Bar, The Long Lunch under trees in Bicentennial Park and Farmgate Trail. See destinationtamworth.com.au
4. Toowoomba residents guarantee those in the Queensland city on April 10 will “celebrate authentic country life’’ at the Felton Food Festival with a wide range of market stalls, cooking demonstrations and farm tours showcasing “delectable produce, stunning landscapes, and friendly people’’.See feltonfoodfestival.org.au
5. The Grampians Grape Escape weekend will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2016 on April 30 and May 1, gathering 125 “food and wine artisans’’ from the western Victorian region to share flavours with visitors who can also enjoy live music and family fun around Halls Gap.See grampiansgrapeescape.com.au
6. More than 20 wineries will take part in Clare Valley’s annual Gourmet Weekend on May 13- 15 with foodies able to meet local winemakers, join gourmet events like meals and masterclasses, and listen to live music performed at venues dotted around the South Australian landscape. See clarevalley.com.au
7. Queensland’s Fraser Coast will host Relish on June 4 and Maryborough’s heritage streets and riverside parks provide a location for much of the celebration. Other highlights include a “sweet’’ ride on a historic steam train and food matching sessions in the cellar of the historic Bond Store. See relishfrasercoast.com.au
8. The Canberra Region’s Truffle Festival (below) promises a “taste of midwinter magic’’ with the celebration of the Perigord truffle from June 21 to August 16. The festival includes degustation dinners, special menus at restaurants, cooking classes, wine-matching lessons, farmers’ markets and truffle hunts. See trufflefestival.com.au
9. Truffle Kerfuffle is Western Australia’s Southern Forests Food Festival. The 2016 frivolities, from June 24-26 at historic Fonty’s Pool Caravan Park in Manjimup, will praise black truffles produced in the state’s southwest corner with events such as a truffle dog demonstrations, cooking classes, local markets and Harvest Dinner.See trufflekerfuffle.com.au
10. Food, beer, wine and cider producers combine with local restaurants for the Ballina Fine Wine & Food Festival from July 1-3 at the Ballina Jockey Club. The festival, which includes the Tastes of Ballina Gala Dinner and Flavours of the Northern River Gourmet Tour, features the top tastes of this NSW Northern Rivers district. See ballinafinewineandfoodfestival.com.au
11. South Australians can enjoy the Kangaroo Island Art Feast from September 29 to October 3, which focuses on local art, food and wine during exhibitions and performances at 30 venues from galleries to shearing sheds and studios. See kangarooislandartfeast.org.au
12. Hepburn Springs and Daylesford’s Swiss & Italian Festa from October 19-23 spotlights the central Victorian district’s heritage – migrants arrived in the 1850s to find gold before uncovering the mineral springs. The food and wine happenings will include high teas, wine tasting, and themed dinners. See swissitalianfesta.com
13. Locals and visitors alike will gather for the Margaret River Gourmet Escape (below) from November 18-20. The favourite West Australian winegrowing district promises more than 50 affairs showcasing the best of the region at venues from Augusta to Busselton including long lunches at boutique wineries, beach barbecues, and feasts in the forest. See gourmetescape.com.au