Charleston, S.C., natives and visitors alike look forward to the first week of March and, more deliciously, the start of the Charleston Wine + Food festival. Combining Southern hospitality, succulent dishes, and a beautiful locale, this 21-and-over festival is an immersive experience that provides a literal taste of all the area has to offer. If you’re in need of good food, good drinks, and even better company, now’s your chance to score tickets to the friendliest party around.
Charleston Wine + Food, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 2005 by proud members of the local community as a way to promote Charleston’s multifaceted culinary scene. Though the waterfront city is perhaps best known for its beautiful architecture, history, and balmy weather, it’s increasingly recognized as a culinary destination. At Charleston Wine + Food, top chefs, winemakers, authors, storytellers, artisans, experts, and food enthusiasts from around the globe gather for this five-day event held March 1-5, 2023.
This year’s iteration of the festival offers imbibers everything from lessons on orange wine to caviar and fried chicken pairings, tapping industry professionals for their beverage and culinary expertise. For those of you who have attended the festival before, expect brand-new offerings — and a brand-new face. Alyssa Smith, a Charleston native, who has served as the festival’s interim executive director for the past eight months, has dropped the “interim” from her title and embraced her role as the executive director.
“Having been part of the festival for a number of years now, there is nothing more thrilling than to be able to step into this leadership role,” Smith tells VinePair. “Over the past eight months as interim executive director, I have put a sharp focus on community. This is the city where I was born and helping to integrate this amazing festival more fully with my beloved hometown is an honor I do not take lightly.”
How Smith Is Merging Southern Tradition With Innovation
“For me, the festival is so much more than a five-day-long party,” she says. “It feels like a homecoming or a family reunion for our industry, a chance to connect with friends both known and unknown and to share the mutual love and admiration for this place,” Smith says.
Born and raised in S.C., Smith is Lowcountry through and through. She grew up on James Island, spending weekends boating, harvesting oysters, catching blue crab with just “a chicken neck and some string,” and, most importantly, learning how to show up for her people.
“I have been a part of this festival for so many years,” Smith tells VinePair. “There are so many things we have done right and so many things we hope to make better moving forward. My priorities for the near future include executing an exceptionally strong and revitalized festival in March, stabilizing the organization’s year-round revenue sources, and deepening relationships and impact in the community. I have a true passion for this city and community and I hope guests will see that reflected in the programming for the 2023 festival and beyond.”
What to Expect At Charleston Wine + Food Festival
The 2023 Charleston Wine + Food festival’s iconic primary festival grounds, the Culinary Village, are divided into neighborhoods with welcoming names including Street Eats, Shucktown, Grillin’ + Chillin’, and Farm Fresh. With unique experiences around every corner for guests, some of this year’s improvements include more efficient checkpoints at the entry, meaning you can get to the party faster. Inspired by the foodways of the Lowcountry, the festival has created new areas dedicated to Southern culinary delights but kept fan favorites such as the Beer Garden, Corkyard, and Artisan Market. Beyond destinations, the festival offers dozens of specialized events that run the culinary gamut.
Beer enthusiasts, no need to fear — the festival has plenty for you to enjoy as well, such as Hip Hops: The Remix. The Carolinas are known for great breweries and Hip Hops showcases regional beers combined with music from the Southern hip-hop group Nappy Roots, a DJ battle, a dance party, and more. Though it’s certainly a good time, the occasion highlights the relationship between people of color and breweries, which is notoriously underrepresented. April Dove, the first Black woman to release a lager in partnership with Charleston-based Holy City Brewing, will be there to share her industry knowledge and help diversify the palate of her community, one beer at a time.
For those who are always up for ordering the most intriguing item on the menu, don’t miss Chi Walker of Wildflower Hospitality and Nik R. Cole’s Fried Chicken & Caviar pop-up. These best friends creatively explore the unlikely combination of these two foods, merging both comfort and class, Southern roots, and quintessential delicacy. Like Charleston Wine + Food, their vision focuses on rewriting the rules, marrying ingredients and cultures all on one plate.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of wine, consider attending the Orange Crush experience. Discover the Eastern European roots of orange wine in this six-flight tasting. A panel of experts, including global wine consultant Doreen Winkler and VinePair’s tastings director Keith Beavers, will talk about the history of orange wine, how to properly enjoy it, and exactly how these wines get their distinctive color.
This is just a taste of what Charleston Wine + Food has in store for the 2023 festival. No matter which event sparks your interest, expect unique stories told through the language of food and drink, smiling faces, and emphatic encouragement to go back for seconds — or thirds, or fourths. For a full schedule and tickets, be sure to check out the website.
This article is sponsored by Charleston Wine + Food.