Wine Island is an annual boutique wine festival which is set on Clark Island, in the picturesque Sydney Harbour. The four-day event allows patrons to learn about and experience different wines and foods, in a luxurious island setting. It sounds like a wonderful holiday idea except you may not even need to leave “home” and you can participate and learn a lot thanks to some wonderful tastings and masterclasses. The Australia Times Gourmet sat down for a chat with Kristen Francis, the founder and director of Wine Island to learn more about this exciting event.
- Can you briefly introduce yourself and describe your involvement in Wine Island?
Aloha! I’m Kristen Francis, the founder and director of Wine Island.
- How long have you been involved with Wine Island? How did you come to be involved?
I came up with the idea a few years ago when I noticed that we had some beautiful and relatively untouched islands on our back doorstep. At the time I didn’t think of how difficult producing an event on an island would be!
- Italy has around 500 different grape varieties and it looks like Wine Island may have a focus on Italian varieties. What is your favourite variety and why?
My go-to wine is Riesling. It reminds me of my grandfather, however it tastes a lot more refined these days!
Lately though, I’ve been delving into a lot of prosecco, “researching” our King Valley winemakers who will be showcasing this variety on the island at King Valley Prosecco Road.
- What are you most looking forward to at Wine Island? Why?
I always like to know a bit more about the story behind the wine, so I’m really looking forward to chatting to the island winemakers and also taking part in some of the masterclasses. We’re introducing a silent disco to educate people on music and wine matching along with a Dessert Island class where stickies will take centre stage, something I’m sure they’re not used to.
- Wine Island takes place at Clark Island. Why was this location chosen?
It’s such a beautiful little island and no one really knows it exists. In fact, Sydney has a lot of islands that most of us are unaware of. I just wanted to create a little holiday in our backyard and show off Sydney to both locals and tourists.
- Wine Island looks set to feature a number of masterclasses. Can you tell us more about this? Do you have one in particular that you’re looking forward to?
We’ve expanded our masterclasses this year as they were a big hit in 2015. Part of Wine Island’s philosophy is unique wines in a unique location so we will be featuring all the tongue-twisting grape varieties that are up and coming. There’ll be a Bubbles Off! which will feature sparkling and prosecco. We also like to match-make so there’ll be a cheese and wine masterclass along with our silent disco drops, which is all about music and wine matching, which I’m interested in exploring a lot further as they’re two of my favourite things.
- Why do you think people should attend Wine Island?
Wine Island is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves wine, relaxing, great company and something ‘oh so Sydney’ in equal measure. It’s about combining our love affair with this beautiful city with quirky yet laid-back experiences with wine, food and culture. This is the place where you can feel like you’re leaving the city while entering the very heart of it.
- In your opinion, what makes a good wine? What things make good pairings with wine?
Wine is very subjective. So for me, I really enjoy an old smoky style of cab sav. Then for a perfect pairing it’d have to be a good tawny port with blue cheese.
- Can you tell us about what kinds of food will be available at Wine Island? Why were these particular foods chosen?
We have a high-end BBQ featuring kingfish, maple-glazed pork and pepperberry corn paired up with vermouth by Banksii Vermouth Bar & Bistro (opening in Oct at Barangaroo). This will also feature 4 -5 of Australia’s up-and-coming vermouth brands which is one of those old-school wines we like to re-introduce and educate visitors on.
Pairing up with the King Valley Prosecco Road winemakers, who will also be showcasing Italian varieties, will be Italian food hut Puntino / A.P.E. featuring bowls of mussels, pasta wheels, etc.
Then Chur Burger will be teaming up with GAGE Roads Brewing Co. from Fremantle to introduce a beer infused burger, and to finish off the complementary food offerings, we have Hunter Valley Cheese Factory platters and roaming oyster shuckers so you needn’t lift a finger.
- Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers of The Australia Times Gourmet magazine about Wine Island Sydney or wine in general?
Not only are we unique by location, but we also like to show off unique wines for a further point of difference. Winemakers are experimental at heart and wine drinkers like to try different grape varieties and learn more about the process, but in a fun and relaxing environment which is exactly what Wine Island offers. There is nothing else like it in Sydney, or the world for that matter!
The other thing that makes Wine Island special, is it’s a small island so only limited capacity which give each guest a first class experience. No crowds here, just you and a few hundred of your closest friends.
Wine Island takes place at Clark Island, Sydney Harbour from: Thursday 10 November to Sunday 13 November 2016 inclusive. For more information and tickets please visit: http://www.wineisland.com.au/
Originally published in October at the following website: http://www.theaustraliatimes.com/magazine/gourmet/issue/410/#20
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