Ghinni Wines is a boutique winery on the banks of the mighty Manning River and Ghinni Ghinni Creek. The Aboriginal name Ghinni Ghinni means the home of the mud crab, and the winery has adopted the mud crab as its logo. The winery specialises in fruit and vegetable style wines that everyone must taste at some stage. Winery owner, Tony Hammond, shares the boutique charm of Ghinni Wines.
How long have you been based here, Tony?
I was born and raised here.
I have been farming since 1977, and I got out of the dairy industry in 2000 after the deregulation commenced. We went from 54 cents a litre to 27 cents a litre, and you could not make money at half price. My father and I had a business, but I really wanted to start making wines back in the eighties. Dad thought there was more money in milk than in wine.
I established Ghinni Wines in 2000, turning a hobby into a career. I had been making wine for about 28 years and took it up when I stopped dairying. I started making Mead Liqueur, the oldest alcohol drink known to mankind.
Then I started developing some Fruit Liqueurs: apricot, mango, raspberry, blueberry, peach – you name it. One day I was at the Wingham Farmers Market and I saw a lady giving wine away. I asked her how I could get a license to do that, to which she replied, “Just fill in an application!”
So I did! It cost me $50 to apply, and 18 months to get it off the ground, and then it began. The cellar door opened in 2005 when the wines were ready, and I began trading.
> How many people do you get coming through per year?
I would say over 1,000 people each year, but we keep getting busier and busier. Christmas and holidays are most popular, and because we are on the highway, a lot of travellers stop in. Ninety per cent of drivers see the Ghinni Wines sign on the highway and stop in. I have started expanding to accommodate more people also.
> Is this your one and only business?
Yes, it’s me, myself and I running the business, and throughout the winter I sell hay, which works in really well seasonally.
> It’s so peaceful and isolated out here. Why do you love the location?
It’s right on the Manning River, it’s open fields, scenic and really peaceful. The fruit trees and fields of growing fruit are a spectacular sight. I love this job, because I can walk to work! My home is only 20 metres away! I can drink for free, or the way I like to look at it is, people pay me to drink … and it’s a creative passion. I like to describe the place as a boutique winery for travellers and locals.
Another reason why I love this job is because it’s creative. There are people from all over the world who stop in with interesting stories to tell too.
> Tell us about the process of making the liqueurs … how do you get it from the fields on the farm to the cellar?
Well, as you come into the winery, you will see the fruit fields. Now all those fruits – the strawberries, the mangos, the peaches – they are soaked in water and a Pectin enzyme (the same product they use for jams). The Pectin enzyme makes it turn into a jelly. You leave it for a week, submerging it twice a day, and then strain it, press it, and introduce the sugar slowly over two months. The Pectin enzyme ensures flavour.
With the vegetable style liqueurs, like the chilli, pumpkin and carrot, you boil the water and soak, and let the yeast develop its flavour. We have plum, lemon, fruit and mead liqueurs … it’s very exciting stuff.
> How can you transport these fabulous liqueurs to a dish to be used along side food?
You can use the liqueurs before, during and after. The lemon is superb with fish, add a nip at the end, flame it off and add butter, you’ve got a great sauce. Chilli goes well with Thai food and curries.
Mead, made out of honey, is great with sponge cakes and sweets. The Ghinni Wines Mead is about ten years old now, so it has a delicious thickness to it. The fruit liqueur is beautiful with apricot chicken too! When we had our Al Paca day here, that went really well. A local butcher brought out some produce – and the liqueurs married well with his meats.
> Are there any restaurants that stock your liqueurs?
The Water bird at Manning Point and other cafés and restaurants in Taree have used the liqueurs too.
> Why just liqueurs? Is there a possibility of producing and selling wine and beer too?
I have some barrels of white and red that I will release, but I am just really passionate about these boutique, niche liqueurs. The way I see it is that you can get wine and beer from a local store … where is the magic in that?
> Rumour has it you were recently selected by Parliament to showcase your collection at a luncheon.
Yes, Sydney Parliament chose the liqueurs. I have couriered some cartons down to them for their enjoyment! It’s good promotion for the area and the business.
Also, I sent a gift pack to the Steve Irwin Gala last year, and it sold for $240. Terry Irwin actually bought it!
> The packaging and bottle design is beautiful.
I get a lot of compliments on the design, and funnily enough, the shape is hard to come by in Australia. I have these designs imported from Barcelona, Italy. It’s not cheap, but I think that it complements the boutique charm of the product.
> How much do the liqueurs sell for?
The Mead is $40 and the others are $25 per bottle.
> What are your dreams for the business?
Just to keep getting bigger and bigger. I have a couple of trees that are shatoot, a king mulberry, so eventually I’d like to achieve the goal of producing my own sugar for the liqueurs, which saves me buying.
> What are the special benefits of visiting your winery?
It’s close, it makes for a special Christmas gift, you’re supporting local business and you can show the area off to your visitors and guests to make them jealous!
> How long do you plan on continuing with your winery business?
> Thank you Tony.