During the month of March, two overlapping wine events — Boston Wine & Food Festival and Boston Wine Expo — provide ample opportunities to fête the grape with hundreds of fellow enthusiasts. Given the events’ similar names, you would not be the first to confuse one for the other; so a primer and a walk down memory lane are in order.
Boston Wine & Food Festival (www.boswineandfoodfestival.com), formerly called the Boston Wine Festival, is celebrating its 34th year at the Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowes Wharf. The annual event, founded by the hotel’s former chef Daniel Bruce, showcases prestigious wineries and makers at a series of wine-pairing dinners. Programming kicked off in January and continues until the end of the month.
The festival is notable not only for its longevity — heralded as the country’s longest running wine-and-food series of its kind — but for its ability to evolve with the times. After Bruce retired in 2021, and after a couple of tough pandemic years, the festival has re-emerged even stronger with the addition of master classes and pop-up events. That refreshed roster has everything to do with the festival’s leadership, which includes Nancy Bean, executive director of WISE UP Events, and wine director Nick Daddona, whom you might already know as the beverage director and sommelier of Deuxave and Boston Chops. Daddona is collaborating with Boston Harbor Hotel’s executive chef, David Daniels, to curate the dinner pairings.
Boston Wine Expo (www.boswineexpo.com) will take place the weekend of March 25 and 26 in the Grand Ballroom of Boston Park Plaza, the hotel located just south of the Boston Public Garden. The expo is short and sweet compared to the months-spanning Boston Wine & Food Festival, but makes the most of its one-weekend format by offering two grand tastings (featuring 100 wineries and product vendors) plus VIP tastings and seminars. In addition to wine samples, light snacks and water will be on offer, but not full meals, so plan accordingly. Also, don’t be shy about using the spittoons to pace your enjoyment.
This year’s expo, under new management and in a new location, marks the return of the convention conceived in the early ‘90s by the Boston Guild of Oenophilists. It was held annually at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center, usually on Presidents’ Day weekend, until it went on hiatus in 2018. Longtime attendees still talk about the gala that kicked off the festivities, benefiting the Anthony Spinazzola Foundation, named for The Boston Globe’s food and wine critic who penned reviews in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. This year’s relaunch of the expo — billed as more navigable in scale than the original — is produced by Raffaele Scalzi, the restaurateur behind Pazza on Porter and Next Door Speakeasy & Raw Bar in East Boston, doing business as Scalzi Hospitality Corp.
Both events abide by the notion that the more you know about what you’re sipping, the more you’ll appreciate what’s in your glass. At many of the festival’s gatherings, the featured winemakers themselves are on hand to provide insights into their generations-strong operations and the regions in which they craft their wines. And this year, the expo is partnering with Commonwealth Wine School (www.commonwealthwineschool.com) to conduct a series of onsite educational seminars ranging from an introduction to blind tasting to an overview of Bordeaux.
March in Boston is shaping up to be the most wine-centric month in recent memory. Let’s raise a glass to that.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at email@example.com