The chill in the air, the twinkling lights, the buzzy Christmas market – Winchester is the perfect place to get into the festive spirit. And one very special event captures this sense of fun and festivity perfectly: Wine Festival Winchester.

 

This acclaimed annual event, now a firm fixture in the annual calendar, takes place on the last weekend of November (this year, Friday 24th and Saturday 25th). Winchester’s stunning Guildhall provides the perfect venue to savour wines from all around the world, from top-quality English sparkling wine to vintage port. With over 300 bottles to choose from, there’s no shortage of options – and passionate, knowledgeable exhibitors bring the wines to life for the hundreds of eager visitors who flock into the halls and make this event a regular sell-out.

 

The festival is co-hosted by married Masters of Wine and TV presenters, Susie Barrie and Peter Richards. Susie & Peter are familiar faces as wine presenters on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, a job they’ve relished for over a decade.

 

‘We can’t wait for the festival to come around,’ comments Susie. ‘It’s always great fun, with loads of new and exciting things to try – and lots of people to meet!’

 

One of the keys to the festival’s success has been its Follow Your Taste scheme to help visitors navigate the ocean of wine. This colour-coded system breaks wine down into seven basic taste categories, each with its own cheeky strapline, from ‘Like it Fresh & Racy?’ to ‘I’m a Big Smoothie’ and ‘Sweet Tooth & Sticky Fingers’. Each bottle at the festival has a neck tag advertising its style, while guests are encouraged to wear coloured stickers to communicate their favourite styles to exhibitors. It’s a route map, time saver and ice breaker all in one.

 

So popular has Follow Your Taste proved with visitors that the festival has launched its own dedicated web app along the same theme. It’s a game that follows a treasure hunt model, which invites users to track down and rate different bottles around the festival based on their personal taste preferences. Prizes can be won at all stages of the game and users are subsequently emailed all their ratings in a user-friendly format, with live-links to buy should they wish.

 

Since the very first event in 2014, the festival has been a proud supporter of local charities, having raised over £6,500 for good causes to date. This year the festival’s charity partner is child bereavement charity Simon Says.

 

Tickets cost £30, masterclasses £10 and are available (as long as they last) from www.thewinefestival.co.uk

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