AFTER eight years and seven sell-out festivals, organisers of a popular Winchester event have called time.

Wine Festival Winchester has announced that it will no longer take place having raised £16,000 for good causes and seen thousands of wines enjoyed.

The organisers have citied ongoing pandemic restrictions, continued uncertainty surrounding live events and a lack of a regular venue for the decision.

Festival director Claire Quigley Ward said: “It’s incredibly sad to have to say goodbye to the festival, but we are proud to have created one of the very best events of its kind.

“We’re going out on a high with fun memories of an amazing event. We want to celebrate all the many positives from the festival, as well as say a huge thank you to everyone who has attended and supported over the years.”

Organisers have said that mounting costs and administrative burdens due to Covid, including insurance and public health protocols, were further factors.

The festival’s long-standing venue, Winchester Guildhall, has transitioned to host HM Law Courts, severely restricting the building’s capacity to host external events.

Co-hosts of the event Susie Barrie and Peter Richards, both Masters of Wine as well as local residents, sounded a positive note.

Susie said: “It’s been an amazing adventure. We never realised what this initial idea for a fun wine festival would grow into – it’s become like an extended family of thousands of people celebrating everything that’s good about wine. We’ll miss it, and everyone involved with it.”

Peter added: “We’d love to say a massive thank you to our festival team. It’s been a privilege to work with such a talented, enthusiastic, brilliant bunch. From day one this was a local, team effort and we’re so proud of what we’ve achieved together.”

In response to the Covid-19 lockdown, while many other events were cancelled or postponed, in November 2020 the team launched Wine Festival Online. The event was hailed as a success, attracting record numbers of participants from all around the world, but the organisers have said that the online model was not sustainable long-term for the festival.

They added that the ongoing uncertainty surrounding in-person food-and-drink events in winter time had made the decision to end Wine Festival Winchester an inevitable one, despite many exhibitors, sponsors and visitors being keen to participate in 2021.

Full refunds are being offered for all ticket holders and exhibitors.

The first Wine Festival Winchester was held in 2014 and it was quickly recognised as one of the leading events of its kind. It was described variously as, ‘Magical’, ‘Iconic’ and ‘The best show in the business!’.

The festival was widely featured, from BBC TV and radio to Marie Claire and The Guardian, even being cited as one of the reasons why Winchester was ranked top in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live in Britain.