Just because the Wairarapa region only produces 1% of New Zealand’s wine harvest doesn’t mean it can’t throw one of the country’s largest festivals. Held on the third Sunday of November outside the town of Martinborough, the Toast Martinborough Festival is a gathering of 10,000 global wine enthusiasts looking to sample succulent cuisine, sip award-winning wines, and dance the daylight hours away to some of New Zealand’s most toe-tapping and rhythm-inducing acts.
Scattered across ten boutique, often family-run vineyards, the Toast Martinborough festival is a way for the small yet growing wine region to showcase some of its handcrafted wines and the flavors of the popular region. While the flagship wine of Martinborough is Pinot Noir, other varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling are poured en masse during the raucous and popular event.
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Started in 1992, this festival, which once took months to sell out tickets, now sees them go in a matter of days. Consequently, anyone planning on visiting Toast Martinborough must plan ahead not only on securing tickets, but also on nailing down accommodation and local transport.
While shuttle buses provide transportation around the various festival sites, making the 1.5 hour journey north from Wellington can occasionally be a formidable process if train or bus tickets haven’t been secured in advance. Thankfully, given the inland microclimate of the Martinborough area, the weather is often warmer and drier than in neighboring Wellington, thereby creating a climate perfectly suited to enjoying an outdoor festival in the sun.