April 20, 2023

Tasting Australia raises the bar or two

Tasting Australia presented by RAA Travel is not just about the food, as this year’s curators of its accompanying drinks program attest.

Tasting Australia is Banjo Harris Plane and Meira Harel’s first foray into curating a drinks festival.

However, having each built their reputation as an award-winning sommelier at some of Australia’s best restaurants – Harris Plane’s roll call includes Quay, Bentley and Attica, while Harel’s includes The Lake House and The Town Mouse – the couple could probably pull this off with their eyes closed.

Co-curators of Tasting Australia’s drinks program, Meira Harel and Banjo Harris Plane. Image: Kelsey Zafiridis Photography

The couple’s selections will grace all of the programmed and highly anticipated dining events in Tasting Australia’s Victoria Square heartland – from the new Chef’s Table hosted dinners to the Town Square Kitchen brunches and dinners.

They have also selected the matched beverages featuring in the regional events curated by Tasting Australia’s food creative team of Karena Armstrong, Darren Robertson and Emma McCaskill.

As well, they have imagined and brought together a packed schedule of 26 masterclasses to be held in the University of Adelaide Masterclass Pavilion, and curated the seven public bars within Town Square that will exclusively serve local wines, spirits and beers.

In pulling together Tasting Australia’s drinks program, Harel said they were guided by “three pillars” – modern, diverse and inclusive.

“We’ve included many topics that we think are relatively new or should be talked about more,” Harel said.

“The only problem we had is we didn’t have enough masterclass spaces!”

While some of the topics will be saved for next year’s Tasting Australia, no- and low-alcohol beverages, women in the wine industry and sustainability will all individually feature alongside sessions dedicated to all things fermented, distilled and brewed.

Harris Plane said as co-curators, he and Harel wanted to “ignite a spotlight” on the diversity within the South Australian beverage scene and invite industry talent from overseas and interstate to be a part of this “celebration of the best of the best [and] the current industry zeitgeist”.

Harel mentioned US-based wine star Victoria James as one of the industry leaders not to be missed.

“[James] coming down here, I think is a very one-off opportunity to come and listen to an extraordinary woman who has a lot to share about the world of wine,” she said.

James is the director of beverage and a partner at Michelin-starred Cote in New York City and Miami, founder of Cote Wine Club, and a recent James Beard nominee for outstanding wine program. She is also the author of the international best seller Wine Girl.

She will be a panellist for masterclasses in The New Champagne – Growers And Grapes, Women In Wine and The Length Of The Boot – An Exploration Of Italy.

Recently returned from a “sake trip” to Japan where he visited sake breweries outside of the main cities, Harris Plane said the Tasting Australia’s drinks program reflected his own passions.

“The festival is an extension … We’ll be talking to people within the industry, whether they be bartenders or distillers or brewers,” he said.

“Ryan Davidson from Little Bang Brewery is hosting one of the masterclasses, and we’ve got Nick Tesar, who is a famous bartender in Melbourne and was awarded Best Bartender in Australia.

“It’s about engaging with people who are equally passionate and seeing what they can bring to the festival.”

Tasting Australia, presented by RAA Travel, is on from 28 April – 7 May 2023. See the website for the full program of events and to purchase tickets.