By Rita Bratovich.
The Pyrmont Festival of Wine, Food and Art is about to celebrate its seventh year and, like good wine and cheese, it just keeps getting better. For 15 days people will have the opportunity to experience the synergetic pairing of Pyrmont’s finest cuisine with premium wines from the Mudgee Region.
The unique and much envied collaboration between the Pyrmont Ultimo Chamber of Commerce and Mudgee Wine Association/Mudgee Region Tourism is, according to Wine Festival Director Mike O’Malley.
“…a great model for collaborations across regions and across organisations. It’s a tribute to all the stakeholders: Pyrmont Ultimo Chamber of Commerce, Mudgee Wine, Mudgee Region Tourism, Mid-Western regional council and the sponsors…it’s everyone working towards a common goal and it’s mutually beneficial.”
O’Malley has been involved with the festival for six years and has seen it grow dramatically. The concept of not only bringing wine and food together but bringing country and city together appeals to the senses and imagination of people. Tourism in Mudgee spikes in the weeks around the festival, with many recorded visitors coming from Pyrmont, Ultimo and the Inner West suburbs of Sydney.
Pyrmont benefits from the influx of wine industry folk, as well as tourists and visitors and it’s a great boon for all businesses in the area. Many of the restaurants form supply relationships with the wineries – it’s an ideal marriage of economies.
“Pyrmont is seen as a premier dining precinct and Mudgee is a premier wine and tourism destination,” explains O’Malley. “By far this is the biggest external promotion for Mudgee.”
CEO of Mudgee Region Tourism Cara George agrees:
“The Pyrmont and Mudgee Wine and Food Festival is a wonderful opportunity for city dwellers to connect with the sophisticated country setting of the Mudgee Region, without having to travel further than their doorstep. In saying that, by providing a taste of the Mudgee Region in the heart of Pyrmont at this iconic annual event, we have seen excellent growth in visitation with many from the area taking the three-and-a-half hour drive north-west to reset their senses with a short break. Mudgee Region Tourism is again delighted to participate in the festival and is looking forward to showcasing our region’s best.”
There are 35 wineries involved as well as around half a dozen gourmet producers from the Mudgee region.
As part of the festival program, a handful of Pyrmont restaurants have been selected to host a special dinner on a given night. Each has been paired with a specific wine producer who will provide curated wines to accompany a custom created menu for the evening.
The Pyrmont Growers Market will close out the festival on May 27.
The highlight of the festival is the two-day fair in Pirrama Park featuring almost 100 stalls with wine tasting, produce, and art displays. There will be rides and entertainment for kids and a pop up beer garden showcasing three local craft breweries.
For a food tasting experience outside four restaurant walls, you can try some of Pyrmont’s favourite street and international foods including Vietnamese (Bhanh Mi), Iranian (The Persian Room), Greek (Love Crepes), Italian (Made in Italy) and French (Gourmandise de Paris).
Launched in 2007, the popular Pyrmont Art Prize returns this year. Local professional and student artists submit artwork on 12 inch square canvasses which the public can purchase and vote for in the People’s Choice award.
Music is an important feature of the event and this year the festival welcomes a special guest in the form of Hayley Jensen. Jensen first came to the countries attention as a finalist on Australian Idol in 2004 and made a stunning appearance on The Voice in 2014. She is a force on stage, playing to large crowds and in intimate spaces with equal aplomb. She writes or co-writes her songs and has recently released her second album, Past Tense & Present Peace which debuted at number one on iTunes.
Born in Albury and growing up in Bungendore, just outside Canberra, then living in Sydney for the last ten years, Jensen has one foot each in both country and city. She has lived in Pyrmont for almost three years and is happy to call it home.
“Just in the few years that we’ve been here we’ve seen more great restaurants pop up and cafes and it’s really developing its own culture,” she says of the lifestyle.
When she chanced to stumble upon the Pyrmont Festival two years ago she thought:
“I’ve got to get in touch with the organisers – I’d love to be part of the festival – it’s in my back yard!”
Last year she wasn’t around, but she was thrilled to be approached this year. While she hasn’t chosen her set list yet, it’s bound to have a country feel. When asked if she still feels connected to her country roots, she replied, “Yeah I do, I absolutely do and I guess that comes out in my music more than anything else…I’m a country girl at heart and I love going back there.”
Stylistically, Jensen might be considered a cross-over artist, able to perform pop, soul, r’n’b – really anything. But her true love is country.
“The community in the country music industry is like no other music genre. It’s just amazing how loyal and down to earth and amazing the supporters of country music are.”
And her wine preference?
“Red, definitely red.”
Pyrmont Festival of Wine, Food & Art, May 13−27, various venues and Pirrama Park, www.pyrmontfestival.com.au
Hayley Jensen, www.hayleyjensen.net