06/06/2006 - 22:00

Festival celebrates the state’s best

06/06/2006 - 22:00

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The 10th annual Western Australian Food and Wine Festival was the biggest on record, attracting an estimated 20,000 people.

Festival celebrates the state’s best

The 10th annual Western Australian Food and Wine Festival was the biggest on record, attracting an estimated 20,000 people.

The event, held this year from June 3-5, is WA’s largest and most important collaboration of food, wine and hospitality service providers. This year’s attendance eclipsed last year’s mark of 17,000 following a concentrated radio advertising campaign.

The festival has grown in size and stature since its recent move from the Burswood Resort to the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre. This year, a record 230 exhibitors came to display their wares.

There were more than 120 wineries, more than 50 cooking demonstrations, a pizza competition and appellation wine challenge to keep the punters entertained. The mix between wineries, chefs, baristas and tour guides was easy, fluid and well organised.

One of the festival’s most endearing features is the mix of exhibitors. This year, micro producer Adinfern was located right next to wine giant Voyager Estate, making for the most egalitarian marketing platform the industry has to offer.

Saying that is one thing, but the event does represent different things to different people. For former Plantagenet employee turned independent winemaker Gordon Parker, it is a significant opportunity to introduce his eponymous label.

“This is my first show and it is really great,” Mr Parker told Gusto.

“These events are so important. For me as a small boutique producer they are vital in spreading the word and meeting new people.

“It’s not a financial reward scenario, it is definitely about hand-selling your product and just telling people about your point of difference.”

Proof of how seriously the industry takes the three days of the festival is evident in the names and on the faces of those operating the stalls. Food and wine companies both large and small are more often than not fronted by the people who own, run and control the products. Rather than using the services of hired promotional staff, they prefer to meet the people and explain their products face to face.

John Griffiths was pouring his own wine at the Faber Estate stall, fresh from the launch of his new vintage. WA Business News 40under40 1st Amongst Equals winner Darren Haunold was holding down the fort at the Will’s Domain stand, talking in his infectious way about the winery’s new releases and its expansion into Dubai and Canada.

Tony Devitt, the immensely talented winemaker from Margaret River’s Ashbrook Estate, was pouring his own gold medal winning chardonnay and enthusing as to the importance of the festival.

“Being a small winery, you’ve got to keep on top of opportunities like this. Its all part of trying not to be inconspicuous,” Mr Devitt says.

He joined other wine gurus who made up a ‘dream team’ of local vintners – even Charles Melton was there.

And Vince Garreffa, owner of Mondo Di Carne and one third of the ‘3 Tenors of Italian Cooking’ (with John Maiorana and Mirko Grillini), was in fine form. This year, the festival directors bestowed upon the butcher extraordinaire the honour of being the ‘2006 Festival Friend’ in honour of his contributions to the event.

“I’ve been involved in this event since its second year,” Mr Garreffa says. “Over the years I have seen an amazing improvement in the professionalism not only of the operation but also of the exhibitors themselves.

“The whole industry has lifted together, not just in their presentations here but also in their businesses outside. We have all stepped up together and I think that it is an offshoot of the way we have come together as an industry.”

Again, the festival crowned its pizza champion for the year, naming Delizioso owner and chief pizza artisan, Raffaele Brotzu, as the winner for 2006.

Mr Brotzu successfully defended his 2005 title ahead of several other talented Perth pizza experts. With the win he gains entry into the ‘Best of the Best’ national pizza competition later this year.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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