People from far and wide experienced the perfect blend of fine wine and exquisite cuisine on a picturesque autumn day at the one-of-a-kind Tinamba Food and Wine Festival last Sunday.

Organisers at Wine Gippsland said they had 570 tickets sold before the day, with a few hundred patrons buying them at the door. This puts the suspected attendance numbers at around 700 to 800 people.

The sun shone brightly over Tinamba as patrons enjoyed the beats, blends and tastes of the region.

The 14th annual Tinamba Food and Wine Festival was another success last Sunday.

The Executive Officer of Wine Gippsland, Bernadine Phelan, said it was a fantastic day.

“This is the 14th annual Tinamba Food and Wine Festival, so people (knew) it’s going to be a fun day out,” she said

Pours from local wineries like Blue Gables, Carrajung Estate, Glenmaggie, Lightfoot, Narkoojee, Nicholson River, Wyanga Park and Xavier Goodridge were enjoyed by all.

Festivalgoers gave the event high praise, with many recounting the fun they had over the course of the day.

Kristy Hallet from Sale, Boisdale’s Raquel Harris and Sale’s Steph Jones loved the vibe.

“It’s very much a community event, so we get much of the community involved. Heyfield Lions, Tinamba CFA, and the Tinamba Community Hall groups are all involved in setting up, logistics, and running the day,” Ms Phelan said.

Nobody was scared off from the festival due to the 2023 weather, as the Sunday forecast was always set to be a beauty.

Tinamba’s Bruce Allen and Annette Jule working with Wendy and Errol Blanch from Coongulla.

“Nine years out of 10, we get this sort of weather and it was just that last year was freakishly torrential rain, but we still had a good turn out last year,” Ms Phelan said.

Not only did people enjoy a bite to eat and a vintage to drink, the Hip Pockets, featuring some of Gippsland’s best-known musicians, rocked Tinamba Road. This 10-piece funk, soul, and R&B band, with their four-piece horn section and a setlist, got patrons up on their feet.

Parents brought the kids out to enjoy the many food options, with the Tinamba CFA’s gourmet sausage sizzle a huge success.

Bairnsdale’s Kirsty Long won the prize draw valued at $1500.

“I was in shock because I had no idea that I was in the competition,” she said.

Prize winner Kirsty Long of Bairnsdale with her son Jake, and Wine Gippsland executive officer Bernadine Phelan.
Photos: Zaida Glibanovic

Ms Long enjoyed VIP entry and will relax for two nights in the Georgian townhouse at exclusive Mansi on Raymond in Sale, she will also enjoy a chef’s tasting dinner for two at hatted Tinamba Hotel, and a mixed case of wine.

Ms Phelan said the festival was important to celebrate local industry.

“As Gippslanders, we are so used to being ‘the best kept secret’, and it’s about time we stop being a best kept secret and start shouting about how great we are already,” she said.

People from all corners of Australia came to Tinamba to experience the day.

There was eight different local wineries at the festival.

Ballina’s, Shelley and Cameron Bell said the day had been excellent.

“We love coming down to Victoria; the vibes at the festival have just been brilliant,” they said.

Ms Phelan said the festival was ultimately for the community’s enjoyment.

“In an environment when lots of festivals are struggling or not going ahead because of the cost of living – we’ve kept the prices down deliberately, but also this is a community festival,” she said.

10-piece R&B soul band, the Hip Pockets, on stage.

The many community groups that do help out take a percentage of the day’s proceeds, ensuring that the great day that Tinamba provides for wine is rewarded.

The Tinamba Food and Wine Festival is largely self-sufficient, but did receive some support from Wellington Shire Council in 2024.

With 50 wineries across Gippsland, eight East and Central Gippsland wineries were on display at the festival.

Jack Keillor and Maddie Turner from Sale.

The co-owners of Carrajung Estate in Willung South, Ivy Huang and Adrian Critchlow said the day was a fun celebration.

“It’s been such a good day”, Ms Huang said

Ms Phelan said that when it comes to expansion, finding a balance between keeping the event intimate and making it even bigger would be difficult.

“I guess it just depended on making the balance right between something that feels nice and intimate, and everyone feeling like they’re getting a good experience and they’re not far from the band,” she said.

Many patrons danced freely.

Cost-of-living pressures remain at the forefront of people’s minds, and Ms Phelan said the Gippsland wine industry was no different.

“Let face it, wine is a non-essential in life … when people are forced to choose their essential groceries and will they buy another bottle of wine, they might not choose a nice premium Gippsland Wine; they might choose something that’s a lot cheaper and not nearly as nice,” she said.

“Everyone is going through similar struggles in the hospitality business, whether it’s not getting enough people through the door because they aren’t spending as much at the moment or whether people aren’t travelling as much. There are a lot of factors that make it really challenging.”

Agnes Frackowiak and Robert Domanski from Maffra.

If running a local winery wasn’t hard enough in this day and age, a recent ABC Four Corners report found evidence of Coles and Woolworths selling phantom wines to compete against authentic wineries.

Phantom brands are essentially home brands in disguise. They are created by supermarkets to give the impression of diversity and choice on their shelves. These corporate phantom brands with elaborate wine-making stories have been undercutting real independent winemakers for years.

John Valentine from Newry enjoyed some beer with good mate Brian Fisher from Tynong North.

Ms Phelan discussed the effect these big corporations’ tactics have on small winemakers.

“It is disheartening to see big corporates take on the authenticity that we smaller producers can provide. Every single one of our guys and girls has a really genuine wine producer story to tell, and they are boots on the ground, tools in hand winemakers, so it really is disheartening to see a big corporation use that kind of story to mask something that isn’t a small winery,” she said.

Victoria Sutherland with little daughter Revna and Emma Maiden sold cakes for the Tinamba CFA.

Despite the wine industry’s challenges, with the weather providing the goods and the festival a certified hit, Ms Phelan thanked the various community groups and all the patrons for their support in continuing to make the Tinamba Food and Wine Festival a huge success.

More photos in this Friday’s issue.

Newry’s Jessie Hacket and Jess Hamil with Heyfield’s Shayla Heard and Maffra’s Deacon Williams.