International presenters are back this year at Winetopia, with Chef and TV personality Colin Fassnidge joining the line-up in Auckland (21 – 22 July) and Australian wine guru Mike Bennie headlining Wellington (16 – 17 June). They join a solid local cast of educators and entertainers, including comedian and TV Presenter Ben Hurley hosting the Main Stage in both cities, Masters of Wine Bob Campbell and Stephen Wong, well-loved wine personalities Candice Chow, Mermaid Mary and Joelle Thomson. Winetopia is New Zealand's most comprehensive wine celebration, and each presenter is tasked with providing laughs and helping visitors discover their new favourite wine.
Originally from Dublin, Colin Fassnidge is best known for his long-standing role as a judge on My Kitchen Rules and as a chef and restaurateur of Banksia Bistro and the Castlereagh by Fassnidge, both in New South Wales. Colin will be at the event all three sessions, sharing a glass with visitors at the Main Stage, cooking up his favourite dishes to match with wine in the Gaggenau Sommelier Sessions and meeting ticketholders in the Premium Lounge.
Colin said he looks forward to exploring all the fantastic wines at Winetopia in Auckland.
"They say so many wineries are coming that I am guaranteed to find a new favourite. I hope to meet with many food and wine lovers over the two days, and it will be great to visit Auckland during Elemental AKL," said Fassnidge.
Wine expert, Mike Bennie will also be making his first visit to Winetopia Wellington. Mike is the wine/drinks editor for Australia's leading food magazine, delicious., Editor-At-Large and contributor/writer to Australia's most interactive wine commentary website, WineFront.com.au.
Mike is famous for his untraditional approach to presenting and will be leading tastings on everything from Pinot to Rosé and some intimate masterclasses. Mike Bennie said he is looking forward to joining the Wellington version of the event, having already been involved in Auckland.
"There's so much great New Zealand wine to discover right now. I am looking forward to sharing my favourite picks in the masterclasses."
Winetopia has always offered visitors a deep dive into the very best of the New Zealand wine scene, with a collection of wineries from across the country, showcasing Albarino to Syrah and everything in between. This year the events will also feature a new exhibit, "Wine Art with CCL Label", with designs from some of our more striking wines displayed in large format at the event to unpack the story behind the wines.
Exclusive to Winetopia Wellington, visitors can "Date the Maker" - a wine-centric version of speed dating. First, visitors select the session they like, Beautiful Bubbles to Rosé or Pinot and then enjoy a rapid-fire tasting with a top line-up of winemakers. "Wine Blind" is the Winetopia version of blind tasting and a fun way of trying a range of different wines and then figuring out which one is which with a seasoned guru leading the process.
Exclusive to Auckland is the Gaggenau Sommelier Sessions, which will see chefs and sommeliers collaborate in food demonstrations and wine pairings. This is an intimate and highly sought-after experience at the event, and this year the luxury kitchen set-up will feature chefs Colin Fassnidge, Des Harris, and Tim Reid and sommeliers Joe Wong, Candice Chow and Jeremy Ellis.
Winetopia Auckland, part of Elemental AKL this year, has a new venue, the Viaduct Event Centre, and a range of pop-up Auckland restaurants. This allows more people than ever before to explore the best of our wine and food scene during the city's winter festival. Other new additions to the programme include a Māori wine and food experience, "Ngā hua a te whenua - A gift from the land with Tohu", and an exploration of Auckland wineries being led by Mermaid Therese-Blair (AKA Mermaid Mary) on the Friday evening.
Winetopia is about celebrating excellence – the best wine, the best food and the best entertainment. This year that includes two brilliant music ensembles, led by Fat Freddy's Drop Trombonist, Joe Lindsay, and Supergroove Saxophonist Nick Atkinson, in Wellington and Love Square in Auckland. Friday's performance will also feature Nick Atkinson plus Finn Scholes on trumpet, Alistair Deverick on drums and Synthony's Lewis McCallum playing the saxophone on the Saturday sessions.
This line-up complements the considerable collection of wines from around the country. Each New Zealand wine region is represented at the events, with prestigious brands like Craggy Range, Rippon and Nautilus Estate and new boutique wineries such as Shed 530, Stad Ko and Mora. All wines can be considered premium, and the optional Golden Coins even offer visitors a chance to try bottles of wine that retail for over $100 per bottle and have achieved top marks from reviewers. Delicious food options in each city range from fresh Mahurangi Oysters to cheeses and chocolates – something for every palate and every delectable wine match.
Tickets start at just $49, including a Spiegelau glass to take home, five tasting tokens and all the action on the Main Stage.