Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2019

A unique opportunity to taste boutique wines from Tasmania

Have you ever sampled a pinot noir from Resolution Vineyard, a gewurztraminer from IQ Wines, a Riesling from Mapleton or a pinot noir from Sailor Seeks Horse.

This weekend, March 2-3, vineyards in the south and east of Tasmania will open their doors to the public for wine tastings, food, entertainment and sales

The wineries involved will include several that do not have regular cellar doors, like Mewstone/Hughes & Hughes (above) and whose wines can often be hard to find.

New names include Altaness in the Huon Valley, Cathedral Rock in the Channel and Quiet Mutiny in the Derwent.

Leading Cider producers including Willie Smith's and Pagan are also involved in the two-day festivities.

Some wineries will offer food and entertainment and most will feature free tastings, with a handful charging a token sum.

Some, like Coal River Valley producers IQ Wines, Back Paddock and Six Friends, along with Derwent Valley producers Laurel Bank and Quiet Mutiny, will share a tasting facility, whi…

QueenBot adds a drag-queen touch to hotel info

Meet Australia's first drag-queen-inspired Mardi Gras Facebook chatbot, named QueenBot.

As official accommodation partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Accor Australia has launched its "fabulous new virtual Facebook assistant".

Attached to the AccorHotels Australia Facebook page, QueenBot has been designed to help the hotel group's 1.7 million Facebook fans across the Mardi Gras Parade weekend, with everything from last-minute Mardi Gras hotel reservations to providing Mardi Gras parade information, telling jokes and more.

Designed in-house by the Accor Australia Social Media team, QueenBot is aimed at giving followers a "shakeup with her ‘out-there’ personality".

QueenBot is the drag identity of AccorBot, Accor’s original Facebook chatbot, which was launched in September 2018.

The bot has since helped thousands of guests with everything from providing detailed city guides, to assisting with customer care. QueenBot is able to assist with everyt…

MONA: When in doubt what to do next; let the wife have a crack

"There is a subsonic musical note that is said to cause humans to lose control of their bowels."

Only David Walsh and his team at MONA, Hobart's Museum of Old and New Art, would start a press release like that.

For MONA's next exhibition, opening on April 13, Walsh has handed over the reins to his artist wife Kirsha Kaechele, who will curate Eat The Problem.

The exhibition will feature the world’s largest glockenspiel and will be accompanied by a series of immersive feasts where the so-called ‘brown note’ will be played.

Eat the Problem is described as "a highly performative exhibition that will engage visitors in various acts of transformation". It is the culmination of Kaechele’s surrealist exploration of turning flaw into feature, using invasive species - including humans - in food and art.

After entering the gallery space in complete darkness, visitors will encounter a monumental glockenspiel - the largest in the world - illuminated in the full colour spe…

How much "corkage" is fair?

How much is a restaurant entitled to charge for corkage if you bring your own bottle of wine? 

Somewhere between $10 and $100 a bottle would seem fair to me, given you are using the restaurant's stemware and not  buying wine from their list. 
A charge of $1000 for each bottle, though, seems extortionate, but that is what British wine industry magazine Drinks Business is reporting one high-end Melbourne eatery charged an unsuspecting overseas guest. 

The details are sketchy, and Drinks Business used The Daily Mail as its source but it claimed a Swiss wine buyer visiting Australia was allegedly charged $8,000 in corkage, having brought eight bottles of his own wine to show to guests in an unnamed restaurant in Melbourne.

Each of the eight bottles he brought with him reportedly cost just $200, but he was charged a fee of $1,000 a bottle, costing a total of $8,000.

At $1,000 a bottle corkage, this would be the priciest corkage charge of any restaurant in the world.

Chef Tom Keller’s restaur…

Singapore tourism continues to boom

Despite the arrival on the scene of popular new Asian tourism destinations like Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, 2018 marked another strong year for Singapore's tourism sector, with both tourism receipts and visitor arrivals achieving new highs.

Visitor arrivals rose 6.2% to 18.5 million people.

Keith Tan, chief executive of Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said: “We are pleased that Singapore's tourism sector performed well in 2018 despite some economic uncertainties.

"We were fortunate to have benefited from a confluence of positive factors such as strong Asia-Pacific travel demand, increased flight connectivity to Singapore, and various high-profile events. It is also heartening to see our marketing efforts and collaborations with industry partners bearing fruit."

A total of 14 out of Singapore's top 15 markets registered growth in 2018 with seven – China, India, Philippines, UK, USA, Vietnam, and Germany – hitting record-high visitor arrivals.

The hotel industry continu…

Sparkling rosé aims to cut through in crowded wine market

Rosé table wines have been all the rage for two or three seasons now, while Australia's cool-climate sparkling wines are acclaimed as being among the best in the world.

Why, then, have sparkling rosé wines not yet made a major breakthrough with consumers? 

De Bortoli Wines’ rosé aficionados Leanne De Bortoli and Steve Webber have long aspired to create a sparkling rosé after enjoying some "posh Laurent Perrier Grand Cuvee Rosé" many years ago, saying it was the best they’ve had. 

The Yarra Valley couple believe they’ve cracked the holy grail with their new pale, dry La Bohème NV Cuvée Rosé. 

Inspired by Australia’s growing love affair with all things pink, La Bohème Cuvée Rosé is a new addition to De Bortoli Wines’ popular La Bohème range. 

This very approachable rosé bubbly is kept pale and dry (just 8 grams per litre of residual sugar) and is blended in batches or cuvées using vintage and reserve wines. 

Chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, the three classic Champagne g…

Immerse yourself in Mudgee wine and food

The Mudgee Wine Region in central western New South Wales will celebrate its diversity with the annual Mudgee Food & Drink Trail to be held throughout the region on the weekend of the March 23-24.

The range of wines, beers, spirits and food is one of Mudgee’s greatest drawcards, with new venues and menus included in the 2019 event.

“The ‘Trail’ has grown considerably over the past few years,” said Mudgee Wine Association President Jess Chrcek. “It is a fantastic weekend where our wine and drink producers showcase their specialities, mixed and matched with a small, regionally inspired dish.

“This weekend is an immersion into Mudgee. Visitors can engage with the winemakers, the brewers and local foodies to enjoy a taste of the region.”

Visitors can select their destinations on the self-guided trail and make their own way around at their own pace.

Mudgee has a proud tradition of winemaking, and this is now being complemented with locally made beer, spirits and artisan beverages.

Trail and …

One small step: major milestone for leading family winery

It is 50 years since Sydney hotelier and publican Bill Taylor Snr decided to establish a family wine estate in the Clare Valley.
It was a time when fortified wines still ruled the roost in Australia, but Taylor was determined to replicate some of the great wines of Bordeaux. 
On July 20, 1969, Bill Taylor first set foot on a site by the Wakefield River. It was the same day that Neil Armstrong took man's first steps on the moon.
Plantings of cabernet sauvignon vines - gifted by the famous Wynn family of Coonawarra - were the start of the estate, which is known as Wakefield Estate outside Australia. 
While the Taylors, now led by third generation Mitchell Taylor, already have premium wines The Visionary and The Pioneer (both outstanding), they will launch a new ultra-premium red blend to mark the 50th birthday of the business and the family legacy. 
The details are currently being kept under wraps but will be revealed at a special function at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney …

Enjoy the many different flavours of China - in Sydney

There is really no such cuisine as "Chinese". Most Chinese restaurants in Australia serve up a hybrid version of Cantonese, but there is so much more to enjoy. 
Holy Duck!, the modern Chinese eatery in Sydney's Kensington St precinct, will give locals the opportunity to take a journey through the various provinces of China with a new regional dinner series. 

Each series will focus on a different province of China, kicking off with Sichuan (Feb/Mar), Cantonese (Apr/May), fiery Hunan (June/July), and finally Shanghainese (Aug/Sept).

The series will offer up a select number of specially chosen dishes that highlight the distinct characteristics of each region’s food. 
The first menu is inspired by the spice of Sichuan with dishes including steamed chicken with chilli sauce ($22); lightly battered shrimp, stir fried with dry long chillies, Sichuan pepper, celery and broad-bean sauce ($28); twice-cooked pork belly with leek, long fresh red chillies, black bean with homemade chilli…

One destination; dozens of festivals

Macao is one of the most fascinating destinations in Asia with its melange of Chinese and Portuguese cultures. 

The autonomous region is gearing up for a busy 2019 with a calendar filled with a mix of festivals and events to mark its 20th anniversary as a special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China.

Much of the limelight will be on Macao’s billing as a member of the elite global list of UNESCO Creative Cities for Gastronomy.

The former Portuguese territory and its 650,000 residents are preparing for a year-long program of events that will be headed by mascot Mak Mak, a black-faced spoonbill native to Macao. 

Among the event highlights are: 

· A-Ma Festival, where homage is paid to Macao's most popular deity, the Goddess of Seafarers (April 27)

· 30th Macao Arts Festival, various locations (May 4 – June 2)

· Procession of Our Lady of Fatima (May 13)

· Macao International Dragon Boat Races and Festival (June 1, 2 and 7)

· 19th Macao Lotus Flower Festival (June 3-16)

A new way to discover the delights of Bangkok

No visitor in their right mind would dream of driving in Bangkok; a city where traffic chaos is the norm.

The SkyTrain is a good option but only covers certain parts of the city. 

Taxis are a possibility but the meter can tick over rapidly when trapped in gridlock. The brave might try tuk tuks or motorbike taxis, but now there is a new option for novice sightseers wanting to take in the city's highlights in a more relaxed style.

Siam Hop is a new hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus service that covers many of Bangkok's major tourist sights and entertainment, business and shopping locations.

Siam Hop says its service is designed to help tourists plan trips in Bangkok with comfort and safety, as well as making better use of their time.

There are four different routes available with HOP Heritage having 15 stops taking in landmarks like the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

HOP CBD comprises 10 stops exploring the Silom, Suriwongse and Charoen Krung business districts, while HOP Entertainment ha…

An evening taste of Tasmania in a Sydney laneway

Sydneysiders are being enticed to sample a slice of some of the best tastes of Tasmania at a one-off laneway celebration. 

The Laneway Cellar Door Taste of Tasmania will be held from 4-8pm on March 7 in Bulletin Place Laneway in conjunction with the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel and Three Bottle Man.

There will be several stalls highlighting wine brands from the familiar: Jansz, Ninth Island, Pooley and Josef Chromy, to rising stars like Hughes & Hughes and Tolpuddle.

Expect multiple stalls showcasing Tasmanian wines and spirits, interspersed with live oyster shucking, interactive cheese stations, food stalls and roaming trays of hot food.

The food will be crafted from the freshest Tassie ingredients and produce by European-trained chef, Raphael Szurek from Silvester’s Restaurant.

The Laneway Cellar Door will be the inaugural event to mark the launch of the year-long Taste of Australia series, showcasing signature food and beverage offerings from each of Australia’s six states over …

Another airline crashes out of business

You may recall my piece a few weeks ago about the risks of trying to save money by booking cheap flights on small independent European airlines.

Yet another has just crashed out of business, leaving more flyers out of pocket.

British regional airline Flybmi has cancelled all its flights and filed for administration, the BBC reported.

The company said it had been badly affected by rises in fuel and carbon costs and uncertainty over Brexit (Britain's absurdly chaotic exit from the European Union).

The East Midlands-based airline, which had 376 staff, operated 17 planes flying to 25 European cities.

Affected passengers have been told to contact their travel agents or insurance and credit card companies.

A Flybmi spokesman said: "It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement.

"The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU's recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full …

Wading through PR gobbledygook in search of a story

I get a lot of press releases that don't make a lot of sense, but one headlined "Kafnu to open in Sydney" had me baffled.

It turns out that Kafnu is is used as branding by international hospitality outfit Next Story Group.

Next Story wanted to report the "market entry" of its "genre-defining" Kafnu brand into Australia with the opening of Kafnu Alexandria in Sydney.

Kafnu Alexandria, set to open on March 1 (below), is the group's fourth Kafnu property following Hong Kong, Taipei and Bengaluru. Oh, and one soon in Colombo. 

The press releases says that "all Kafnu members have access to all Kafnu properties around the world".

Err, that's four properties, but "this enables members to stay connected to the Kafnu community and continue to enjoy the benefits of engaging spaces, locally-relevant facilities and thoughtful amenities when they travel for work and leisure."

Kafnu takes its name from a hamlet in Himachal Pradesh in the nor…

A chilled falanghina followed by a Nero di Troia

I enjoyed a delicious glass of falanghina last night; followed by a savoury Nero di Troia and then a piedirosso. 
All three were from the Chalmers vineyard at Merbein outside Mildura, all were from the 2018 vintage and all were first releases of the relative grape varieties in Australia. 
The wines are part of he 2018 Chalmers Project wines, the first Australian wines to be made from a suite of 10 new grape varieties selected in 2011, introduced in 2013 and released from quarantine in 2015.
Five of the 10 varieties are brand new to Australia, the other five are new clones of grapes which already have a small presence on Aussie soil.
So wine lovers might have tried a verdicchio or a teroldego before, but maybe not a ribolla gialli, or an inzolia.
I'm hugely impressed by falanghina (also known as beneventana), a white from Campania, north of Naples, that sits somewhere between soave and muscadet in style and is a fine partner for grilled seafood. 
I can't wait try some more piedirsoss…

A swish new cellar door in the Barossa

The first Kalleske family members arrived in the Barossa Valley in 1847 and various branches have been involved in grape growing and the wine industry ever since.

John and Barbara Kalleske purchased land and vineyards near Atze’s Corner in 1975 and have been developing vineyards in Ebenezer and Koonunga Hills since then.

The oldest vines on the current estate date back to 1912 on what was previously the Atze family property.

In 2005, Andrew Kalleske - the current vigneron - produced their first batch of shiraz called Eddie's Old Vine.

Atze’s Corner now also produces wine from mataro, graciano, petite syrah/durif, montepulciano, grenache, cabernet sauvignon and vermentino.

Now, in a plus for visitors to the Barossa, Atze's Corner wines can be sampled in an architecturally-designed space that has undergone a remarkable transformation from a mezzanine floor to a sleek cellar door with offers views over the valley.

Think rustic charm with copper, marble and timber fittings, as well a…

A destination for those with a sense of adventure

Ever wonder why you read so much about cruising, or vacationing in France, or Bali?

And so little about holidays in Albania, Uzbekistan, Costa Rica or Bulgaria.

It's because the mainstream media is driven by advertising dollars - and some destinations have a lot more to spend than others.

Take Mongolia, for instance. A fascinating destination that certainly flies under the radar.

A 12-Day Trip to Mongolia's Golden Eagle Festival certainly sounds fascinating.

In remote Bayan-Ulgii, a dwindling number of ethnic Kazakhs carry on a 6,000-year-old tradition - hunting with golden eagles, one of the world’s largest predatory birds.

The Golden Eagle Festival sees the eagle handlers display their birds’ speed, skill and training, as well as the bond that forms between bird and human.

The tour also features Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, with its Buddhist and nomadic heritage, and the fabled Gobi Desert, as well as a visit to Kazakh families around Tolbo (Frog) Lake, hearing about the…

Lifting the bar when it comes to economy class meals

A lot of airline food is generic and close to inedible - particularly in economy class. 

I once did several legs on the same airline and was served four variations of a ham and cheese sandwich. 
Among the best airlines for economy food is Malaysian-based budget airline Air Asia - and now En Route has announced the launch of innovative hot hand-held snacks, developed exclusively for Malaysia Airlines. 
Passengers flying on selected flights from Australia to Malaysia will be able to enjoy the hot snack trio.

The hot snack, consisting of two pastries and a calzone, draws on the cultural heritage of Malaysia by bringing together Malay, Chinese and Indian flavour influences (plus Italian with the calzone, which has nothing at all to do with Malaysia).
The trio will contain lamb rendang, Chinese barbecue chicken and tandoori paneer. There will also be a vegetarian option available.

Lau Yin May, Head of Customer Experience, Malaysia Airlines, said: "At Malaysia Airlines we are always looking…

Fifty-year milestone for Australian women winemakers

At a time when women winemakers are the new normal in the Australian wine industry it is extraordinary to note that Ursula Pridham was the first commercial woman winemaker in Australia in 1968 - just 50 years ago.

Pridham (below) was born Ursula Rauschl in 1935 in Austria and was educated in Germany and Austria, training as an electrical engineer.

She migrated to Australia, married Geoffrey Pridham in 1961 and established the Marienberg Winery in 1966 in McLaren Vale. Her first commercial vintage came a couple of years later under the guidance of the late Sid Hamilton.

Pridham used to say she made wines in a "feminine way" which garnered a lot of media publicity for the brand. She was one of the first winemakers I interviewed when I started writing about wine in the 1980s.

Marienberg Wines was sold in 1991 but Pridham was a true pioneer, ahead even of Pam Dunsford, who a few years later became the first Australian woman to gain a oenology degree.

No-nonsense Dunsford was the …

Are you ready for a little moxy in your life?

Get ready to welcome yet another new hotel brand to Australia.  Moxy Hotels, described as Marriott International's "playful, experiential hotel brand for the next generation of travellers", is set to debut in Australia with the opening of Moxy Melbourne South Yarra (artist's impression below) in July 2021. 
The 180-room, new-build standalone hotel is being developed by Melbourne businessmen Hector Ktori and Peter Arvanitis and will be designed by architectural firm Rothelowman.  What is a moxy? You may well ask.  Decades ago, when I worked for the Associated Press wire service, I was baffled when a senior editor told me I had a "whole lot of moxie". It apparently means "showing force of character, determination, or nerve", although I think he actually meant that I was bloody rude and cocky. Moxie and moxy are apparently the same and there are 30 Moxy hotels across Europe, North America and Asia and more than 80 properties in development.  The blurb says…

Health-conscious Australians cut back on alcohol

It sounds downright unAustralian, but people from the land down under are drinking less alcohol than before. 
A new report from the Roy Morgan organisation highlighted a gradual decline in the percentage of the Australian population aged 18 and over who consume at least one type of alcoholic drink over an average four-week period.

Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Currency Report September 2018 showed that 67.9% of adult Australians had at least one drink in an average four week period, compared to 70.1% in 2013, The Shout reported.

The report also detailed the type and volume of alcohol drunk and showed declines over the four-week period for all major categories of alcoholic drinks, except for cider (below), which recorded growth.
Wine is consumed by 43.3% of the 18+ Australian population over an average four-week period, ahead of beer with 38.4% and spirits on 26.7%. 
Cider is now consumed by 12.3 per cent which has increased from 10.3% five years ago. The incidence of cider drinkings is …

When was the last time you tasted a Malvasia?

Queensland's Granite Belt wine region is known for promoting its "Strange Bird" grape varieties.

Regional pioneer Ballandean Estate has just launched its 12th alternative variety - the 27th in the region - with a limited production of malvasia istriana.

Widely grown throughout northern Italy, Croatia. Greece and Spain's Balearic islands, just 90 cases of malvasia istriana were produced from the 2018 vintage.

Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi, fourth-generation Ballandean Estate family vigneron, said: “We had a block of chardonnay vines that we were looking to rejuvenate.

“Dad (Ballandean Estate owner Angelo Puglisi) is always keen to experiment with Italian varieties. His interest in Italian varieties is not just about the increased diversity of smells and flavours, but most importantly about structure: and, specifically, acid.

"Grapes grown for natural acid balance deliver a fresh expression of our granitic terroir, and require minimal intervention in the hands of the win…

Discover Australia's spectacular new dive site

Scuba divers from around Australia are expected to descend on the Fraser Coast, Queensland, to exploring the underwater wonderland created by the wreck of the HMAS Tobruk.  Commercial operations will launch on February 25.
Fraser Coast Tourism & Events general manager Martin Simons said many divers had been waiting for months to dive on the wreck and operators were likely to be busy in the coming months as they worked through long waiting lists. “The ship is resting on her starboard quarter about 25 nautical miles from Hervey Bay in 28 metres of water and will be an extraordinary experience for beginner and experienced divers alike,” he said. “The side of the ship will be within about 10 metres of the surface and divers of all skill levels will have access to the vessel's major compartments as well an outside view of the propeller and rudder.” When in service with the Royal Australian Navy, the 127-metre amphibious heavy-lift ship could carry up to 18 tanks, had two helicopter deck…

Epic Paris-to-St Petersburg Cycling Tour Announced

You'll need to be a very fit and accomplished cyclist to want to attempt the new Paris-to-St. Petersburg "Napoleon" Cycling Tour.

Ride & Seek Adventures, the adventure travel company known for its Hannibal Expedition cycling tour from Barcelona to Rome, has announced an even more audacious excursion taking riders on a 36-day bike tour from Paris to St Petersburg.
The “Napoleon Epic Adventure” will cross seven countries following in the footsteps of Napoleon’s Grande Armée and cover over 3,700km. 

It begins in Paris with a spin down the Champs-Élysées, followed by aperitifs under the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe before departing for Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Russia 
The scenery will include rolling vineyards, forests, medieval villages, and historic cities. The tour is slated for July 6-August 10, 2019 and prices start from $15,850 USD. 
There is an option to ride 8-day or 15-day stages of the tour starting at $3,560 USD. 
“Our guests will experienc…

Tasmania's clean, green image takes a hit

Tasmania has carefully crafted a clean, green image to boost tourism - but that image has taken a couple of major hits. 

First, bush fires meant air conditions in the Huon Valley were worse than those in Delhi and Beijing, then came a report that metal contamination levels in lakes in Australia's island state were among the worst in the world. Lakes within the state’s Wilderness World Heritage Area have been badly polluted by mining, the Australian National University study found.  Its report said atmospheric metal contaminates from historic mining activities in Queenstown and Rosebery in Tasmania had “contaminated most of the Wilderness World Heritage Area”. The six lakes studied – including the heritage-protected Dove Lake at Cradle Mountain, Perched Lake, Lake Dobson and Lake Cygnus – were contaminated with lead, copper, arsenic and cadmium. The readings for Owen Tarn and Basin Lake – closest to the Queenstown mine – were even worse.  Lead researcher Larissa Schneider compared the T…