“We are absolutely committed to the Marlborough Wine & Food Festival. But our greater commitment is to the safety of our industry and our community.” Marcus Pickens
The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival will not run in February 2022, due to the risks Covid-19 poses the wine industry and wider Marlborough community, says Marlborough Winegrowers Association Board Chair Beth Forrest.
“The festival has always been a wonderful way to prepare for the harvest, in a last big hoorah before the industry gets to the vital business of picking grapes and making wine, in the exciting and exhausting buzz of vintage,” says Beth. “But hosting thousands of people on a single site could put our wine industry and community at risk.”
Marlborough’s harvest runs from February right through to late April, and in making this difficult decision the board took into account the vulnerability of the industry to Covid-19 at harvest, “especially given the shortage of staff and scarcity of experience in wineries, due to border restrictions”, says Beth.
The safety of the community remains the priority, and it was clear to the board that the potential risks far outweighed the potential benefits of running the 2022 event under the new and untested Covid-19 Protection Framework, she says.
The board decision was unanimous, supported by the Wine Marlborough team and a survey of the organization’s membership, which includes approximately 700 grape growers and wine companies.
Despite the uncertainty of events during Covid-19, ticket sales for the 2022 event were on par with previous years, which is evidence of the enduring support for the iconic event, says Beth. “That gives us confidence that when we hold the next festival, its fans will be ready to come together and celebrate our place, people and wines.”
The board did not feel a postponement date was viable in such changeable times, so all tickets for the 2022 event will be 100% refunded. Those who have booked to come to Marlborough in February will still find an array of cellar doors and smaller summer celebrations, “to help build lifelong memories of Marlborough”, says Beth.
The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival will remain a highlight of the region’s calendar, celebrating the wines that have made Marlborough famous around the world, and the people and places that create those wines, she adds. “This is such an important event for our region, and we can’t wait to be able to share it with all the people who love Marlborough and its wine.”
Wine Marlborough General Manager Marcus Pickens says the organisers appreciate the support offered by the Government, in terms of funding assistance and underwriting the event. “But what cannot be secured is the viability of our industry at the most critical time of year – when the year’s wine is made,” he says. “We are absolutely committed to the Marlborough Wine & Food Festival. But our greater commitment is to the safety of our industry and our community.”