1989 The Taste Festival first held in Hobart

The Taste festival became Taste of Tasmania. Image: Taste of Tasmania Facebook

The Taste Festival, later known as the Taste of Tasmania, was held on the Hobart Waterfront. It began after Christmas and ran through until after New Year, with the River Derwent and Hobart’s historic wharves and Salamanca precinct providing the backdrop. The festival coincided with the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and included wine, beer and food stalls, tours, entertainment and tasting tables.

The Taste Festival can’t claim to be the longest-running food and wine festival in Australia. The Barossa Vintage festival, started in 1947 as a local event, takes the honours when it comes to wine. And one assumes, given the unique heritage of the area, a certain amount of food was involved. Another South Australian festival with a lengthy heritage is Tunarama, in Port Lincoln, but while it does include a dinner celebrating the area’s seafood and wine, it’s perhaps more about throwing the food than eating it. The featured event is the annual Tuna Toss – not very respectful of the local catch.

Among capital cities though, the Taste Festival in Hobart was the pioneer. Supported by the city council and ideally timed to take advantage of the hoopla surrounding the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and New Year’s Eve celebrations on the waterfront. The event is free to enter except on New Year’s Eve.

Following Tasmania’s example, many other capital cities and regional towns introduced their own food festivals in the early 1990s. Orange F.O.O.D Week, started in 1991, claims to be Australia’s longest-running food festival, discounting the Hobart,  Barossa and Tunarama claims.

The future of the festival was cast into doubt in May 2021 when the Hobart Council voted to cease its ownership. Under the existing model, the festival was funded by the city’s ratepayers and the council was responsible for its organisation – a resource-intensive operation.

This followed the festival’s cancellation in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic. The council decided not to proceed with the 2021/22 event and to seek a new model that saw the Taste Festival under new ownership.

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