• Bandesh Wine & Spirits Launch!

    Bandesh Wine & Spirits Launch!

    Tuesday 10 May 2022 - 6pm - 8pm

    It is time to celebrate and taste our wine and soon to be famous Arak and Gin!

    We are so excited to share this with you. Come and meet Farhad, see some of his exhibited works, and taste and toast and cheers!

    Farhad, Craig and Arnold will do a little speech and JQHQ will launch all things Bandesh Wine & Spirits.

    Where: Brunswick Food Hall - 29 Weston Street Brunswick VIC 3056 - light refresments provided.

    Please RSVP for venue considerations.

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  • Craig Foster AM addresses National Press Club of Australia

    Craig Foster AM addresses National Press Club of Australia

    An incredbile and profound speech by Craig that highlights Farhad's and refugees seeking asylum's plight along with many other issues powerfully articulated that concern all of us......it highlights the need for serious change. It really is worth the watch: Video

  • Farhad paints for the Archibald !

    Farhad paints for the Archibald !

    Farhad's self portrait entered into the 2022 Archibald. Titled 'Freedom is Beautiful'.

    Good luck Farhad....we think you are already a winner!


    Cheers to freedom: The drinks that embody one man’s fighting spirit

    Winemaker Farhad Bandesh has realised his dream the hard way. “This is a fight for all the refugees who are still held by cruel policy.”

    In Iran, Farhad Bandesh had to make wine in secret. The Kurdish artist and musician had grown up intrigued by the sweet wines his family liked to drink, and started making his own in his early 20s.

    “Wine is in our culture,” he says. “It’s in our history. But for more than 40 years [since the 1979 Islamic Revolution], wine has been banned in Iran. People cannot drink in public. So, we make wine in a separate way. For friends and family. Secret wine.”

    The suppression of Kurdish culture in Iran was one of the reasons Bandesh fled the country in 2013, leaving his family behind to search for freedom on the other side of the world. But when he got to Australia, he got caught up in the nightmare of this country’s detention system. He was detained for more than seven years, first on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, then at the Mantra Medevac hotel in Melbourne.

    On Manus in 2016, Bandesh met Melbourne-based activist Jenell Quinsee, who has been visiting detention centres for two decades. Quinsee works on creative writing projects with detainees; she and Bandesh would write songs together.

    Then, during his detention in Melbourne, he met another refugee advocate, Sarah Andrew, who works in the wine industry as a consultant, educator and co-president of Sommeliers Australia. Andrew taught him about Australian wines, and Bandesh recalls that they joked about each making a wine when he got out of detention: “We’ll compare them and see which one is the best.”

    I had to leave my family in Iran. Now I have a big family here. The people here, they are my second family. I don’t want to lose them.

    — Farhad Bandesh

    The seed was planted. When he was finally released, in December 2020, Bandesh told Andrew he was serious about working in the wine industry, and making his own wine. So, in the lead-up to the 2021 vintage, she introduced him to Yarra Valley winemaker Mac Forbes, who welcomed Bandesh to his winery, and helped him source shiraz and cabernet grapes from supportive local growers.

    Bandesh now works with Quinsee, who obtained a liquor producer’s licence. Now, a year later, the first products in the Bandesh range have been launched.

    The shiraz is called Time to Fly, and features an image of birds that Bandesh had painted on Manus after the immigration authorities cut all supplies to the detention centre. (About 600 detainees had stayed on there, fearing for their lives in PNG, after the facility was closed in October 2017; Australia had refused to resettle them.)

    “For 25 days we were without water, power, food, medicine,” Bandesh says. “But we survived. When they forcibly removed us to another [place of] detention, I decided to make this label on my T-shirt. Protesting every day, I’m wearing a T-shirt, and it’s like holding a sign that means freedom.”

    The cabernet is called Game Over, and refers to an Amnesty International campaign led by human rights advocate and former Socceroo Craig Foster, who also supported Bandesh.

    When I catch up with Bandesh and Quinsee to taste the range, they’ve brought something special: small glasses arranged on a serving tray.

    As well as wine, the duo are selling two spirits that they’ve made, a Kurdish-style arak (the anise-flavoured drink found across the eastern Mediterranean, traditionally served in these small glasses), and a gin distilled using Kurdish botanicals. These include wild thyme and a herb called nanokzwa in Kurdish dialect – Bandesh pronounces it as “nonn-hwah” – that grows on hillsides in his homeland.

    “You should have seen Farhad’s face when he opened the package of those herbs and the smell came out,” says Quinsee. “It was incredibly moving. He was just straight away at home, with his family in the mountains. It was really emotional.”

    I ask Bandesh whether there was a time, during all the years he was in detention, when he thought: “If Australia treats me like this, why should I stay once I gain my freedom?”

    “I left my family [in Iran],” he says, and pauses, looking at Quinsee and Sarah Andrew, who continues to support and advise the business. “Now I have a big family here. The people here, they are my second family. I don’t want to lose them. If I am here, it’s because of people. It is not because of this policy, not [because of] the government.”

    He points to the words on the back label of each of the wines and spirits: ‘Cheers to freedom’.

    “This is part of my journey,” he says. “And this is a fight for all refugees who are still held by cruel policy. We want to end this, forever. That’s why we put political words on the label. Wine is not only about drinking, dancing and music – this is beautiful. But sometimes we need to think about other people’s suffering; think about them and fight for them.”