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Ripe Wānaka is full of passion and energy only for the best wine and food of our region and our country – backed by a deep respect, appreciation and knowledge for the industry.

Wānaka resident Nathan White, who admittedly has a strong palate for Central Otago wine, is the founder of Ripe Wānaka Food & Wine Festival which is setting out to showcase the region’s world-class producers to Aotearoa and beyond.

The inaugural event in 2021 was a major success, gaining credibility as a new player in the list of NZ’s best wine & food events. And like many, after a year in hiatus, Ripe is coming back in March 2023 with more flavour and energy than ever before. We caught up for a friendly yarn with Nathan to see what he has in store for this year’s food and wine event.

Food and Wine Festival marquee in Central Otago

LWT: Kia ora Nathan! So, we’re curious to know where did the idea begin to bring Ripe Food and Wine festival to the community of Wānaka?

NW: I have a passion for events and knew that Wānaka needed something new. Being a part of the world-class Central Otago wine region made it an easy choice to put all of these together and create a premium event showcasing the region’s producers.

Woman pouring a wine from local vineyard

LWT: How did you choose what vendors would be showcasing at the 2023 event?

NW: Ripe is hosting 20 of Central Otago’s best wineries, we have limited the number so attendees aren’t overwhelmed with choice, I believe this  creates a more intimate setting. Other festivals overload the vendors and we are aiming to be one of New Zealand’s premium wine and food events so believe less is more in this case. A strategically chosen set of food vendors to match the vibe we are going for, enjoying a beverage with delicious food to match.

LWT: Although the venue really does speak for itself, tell us why did you chose Glendhu Bay to be the venue?

NW: For those that have been to Glendhu Bay they know how amazing it is out there. This site will hopefully be the long term home of the festival. John at Glendhu Station is extra helpful and has a vision to turn the space into the region’s premier spot for hosting large events.

For those who haven’t been there yet, imagine quenching your thirst watching awesome live music with the backdrop being unobstructed views of Lake Wānaka and surrounding mountains. To top it off, it is across the road from Glendhu Bay campground where a couple of food trucks will go to serve evening meals to campground guests.

View over looking a farm and Glendhu Bay

LWT: Like many others, we were gutted when hearing that last year’s event was cancelled. What did you learn and how will things be different in 2023?

NW: I am more realistic that anything could happen to get in the way of live events being put on nowadays. I plan for the best case scenario but have plan B, C and D in the background just in case! Last year Ripe Wine CO hosted a virtual event with winemakers presenting a couple of wines each and people seemed to be really appreciative of having something to do while in-person events were put on hold.

Group of friends enjoying food and wine at a festival

LWT: Where do you see the festival heading in the future?

NW: The majority of feedback from previous attendees told us they loved the space available and relaxed feel of the event so I can confirm that even if the numbers get bigger, we will not lose this aspect. I would love to see it grow into a 2 day festival with different wineries each day so you can go to one or Both days. As the event develops, we will add more side events to match, for these first events though we want to perfect the festival experience before spreading our focus too far and sacrificing attention to the main product.

LWT: What would you like to see for the region of Wānaka through the lens of wine and food?

NW: This event is primarily Wine focussed but we have a wealth of amazing restaurants and chefs in the region too. Wānaka could easily host an event where local food producers are showcased and we would love to be involved in making it happen!

People sitting at a Wine and Food show

LWT: Okay, last question. Give us 3 jolly-good reasons why we should buy a ticket to Ripe Wānaka?

NW: That’s too easy!

  1. The Wanaka package is showcased in one spot on one day….wine, food, entertainment, lake, mountains, camping. What more could you ask for.
  2. Only the best Central Otago Wine and Food producers involved, all specifically chosen to create our premium showcasing event.
  3. See some of NZs most famous and popular Wine & Food experts including Two Raw Sisters cooking showcase and “Match like a Master” with Bob Campbell, Master of Wine.
You honestly won’t want to miss out on this one! Grab a group of your closest mates (preferably the ones who enjoy a fine wine and decent feed) and get your final release of tickets!