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Friday 29 December 2017

Taste of Tasmania gets it right this time

For several years now, Hobart's once-groundbreaking Taste of Tasmania wine and food festival has been limping along on the waterfront as the Sydney-Hobart fleet glides into town. 

Aldermen Sue Hickey and Ron Christie, particularly, kept telling everyone how good the week-long festival was - and stallholders and visitors generally disagreed. 

Among the recent debacles have been 2015 when organisers Hobart City Council opted for a cashless card system of payments that failed miserably. 

The new payment system came under heavy fire with stallholders claiming major discrepancies with transaction records and visitors of long waits to pay. 

The reaction was so bad a group of stallholders came together to write a scathing open letter expressing their anger.

In 2016, poor weather saw crowds dramatically reduced and complaints that alcohol stalls far outnumbered those of food vendors. 

There was also the long-standing issue of the main Princes Wharf One building being overcrowded and stuffy - and complaints of nowhere to sit. After seven years of regular patronage, I skipped last year but returned on day two this year. 

A gamble by HCC in bringing in new festival director Brooke Webb has paid off big time - with a better ambience, more interesting choices and far more room to move. 

The main hall is lighter and brighter with more fresh air and far less crush - and I also like to colourful parasols decorating the ceilings.

More chairs and seats have been added, the lawns have been opened up to live entertainment (Launceston singer-songwriter Eve Gowen was most impressive today) and the popular smaller-sized tasting plates are back.

The Fromagerie and Providore stalls featuring small producers are also welcome additions.

Now in its 29th year, the Taste is still free - and better than ever, although the new set-up still has to be tested under full weekend conditions. 

Among my favourites on my first visit this time around: the multiple-award-winning nfBream Creek 2016 Riesling, the 2017 Spring Vale Shiraz Rosé and the Goaty Hill 2017 Pinot Gris. 

Dishes worth trying: the sublime smoked mussel pate from Charlotte Brown and Vineyard Seafood Café, lip-smacking mushroom martabak from Festival Martabak and delightfully light crepes from Miam. 

Thumbs down, however, to Flamecake for only serving whole wheels of deliciousness, rather than by the slice and to the lack of buskers. Both issues can be rectified.

# The Taste of Tasmania continues through January 3 and entry is free except for on New Year's Eve.   

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