YOU can enter the Ballina Food and Wine Festival unschooled in the art of taste-testing but leave as an enlightened critic.
Yesterday, the best local quality produce was on show during the festival at Ballina Jockey Club and Function Centre and punters paid $30 entry to receive free unlimited tastings from 95 stalls.
Food and wine businesses from Ballina, Tenterfield, Casino, Murwillumbah and Bangalow showcased their produce.
"We've got local restaurants and their best chefs cooking some of their signature dish- es," festival co-ordinator Col Lee said.
"We only show businesses that have a spe- cific interest in quality wine and quality food."
John Forsythe of Ballina was refining his tastebuds during a 30-minute Wine Basics class in The Wine Bar Ballina tent.
"I learnt to actually taste the wine and the different flavours rather than just drinking it," Mr Forsythe said.
"We smelt it, and if it was woody we'd go into more detail and put it into other categories.
"I really enjoy wine so it's good to be able to analyse and identify it."
The Wine Bar Ballina co-owner Karin Parker was teaching the appreciation class and claimed wine has become an important part of Australian culture.
"For most of us, our socialising is structured around having a drink with friends, so I think it's important to know what you're drinking is good quality," she said.
"After this they'll be able to sit down in a restaurant, pick up a wine menu and order something, but under- stand why it's a good choice or not."
Yesterday, attendees were given complimentary wine glasses with neck straps, which stopped many glasses going missing.
The third annual festival attracted 2500 people - 500 up on 2011.