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Marlborough Wine & Food Festival cancelled due to COVID-19

The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival has been cancelled for the first time in its 36-year history, to help protect the 2021 harvest from the threat of Covid-19.

Marlborough Winegrowers Board Chair Tom Trolove announced today that the February 13 event would not run in 2021, with Super Early Bird ticket holders offered a 100% refund.

“It’s been a really tough decision, and we realise this will impact businesses in our community. But the board was clear that in these unprecedented times, it had to prioritise the safety of the harvest. The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival celebrates our industry on the cusp of our harvest, and that’s a risk,” said Trolove.

“The past month has been a reminder that the world is in a time of uncertainty, and New Zealand’s situation can change at any time. What is certain to us is that we have to do all we can to protect the health of our people, and the economic lifeblood of this region.”

Marlborough’s wine industry makes up 77.7 percent of the national grape harvest, and accounts for at least 80 percent of all exports, which are currently worth $1.923 billion a year. A report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research found that the wine industry made up 19 percent of Marlborough’s GDP. The industry employs 4,850 people, or one in five jobs, in Marlborough.

“This industry is absolutely vital to Marlborough’s economic health,” said Trolove. “So no matter how much we love our iconic wine festival, with all its camaraderie and celebration, we cannot let it jeopardise our industry, or indeed our community.”

Deciding early to cancel the festival was important for event partners, festival organiser Wine Marlborough, and also the event audience, many of whom travel from other parts of the country to attend, he said.

General admission tickets were to go on sale on October 1, which also made an early decision important, he said. The buyers of the limited number of Super Early Bird tickets (150 tickets were released in February 2020) would receive a full refund on their ticket, “and we hope any of them from out of town will still visit Marlborough this summer”, Trolove said.

“It may not be a good time for 8,000 people to gather on a vineyard site to celebrate together with over 40 wineries, but it’s a fantastic time to visit Marlborough’s cellar doors and get an extraordinary insight into what makes this region’s wines amazing.”

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said the cancellation would be a blow to Marlborough’s events calendar, “but there’s no doubt that the wine industry’s main objective is to harvest its grapes in optimal condition and make the wine that helps put Marlborough on the global stage”.

Festival Committee Chair Tracy Johnston said the committee was disappointed the event was not going ahead in February 2021 but believed it is the right decision. “The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival will return as a proud and iconic event for Marlborough when it can be delivered without putting our industry and community at risk,” she said.

Wine Marlborough General Manager Marcus Pickens said the committee and organising team put their heart and soul into the event every year, ensuring it was a remarkable event for the industry, the Marlborough region and the country. “It’s gutting that we can’t do that for February 2021, but we fully support the board’s decision,” he said. “Wine Marlborough’s top priority is protecting the reputation of our extraordinary wine region, and right now that means doing all we can to help reduce the risk of holding a large event like this before harvest.”

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