Wednesday, 18 October 2017

If you are promised "Champagne service" can you expect Champagne?

A Canadian man has launched a lawsuit against an airline that promised "Champagne service", but instead poured him sparkling wine in a plastic cup. 
Daniel Macduff from Quebec opted for return flights to Cuba as part of a holiday package last year that included “Champagne service”. In return, he expected to be served a glass of the French fizz.

While he did receive a glass of wine on the outbound Sunwing trip in February this year, it was “only sparkling wine” and it was not offered on the return flight. Macduff said that he had received a “couple of ounces” of the sparkling wine in a plastic cup.
He has now filed against Sunwing for misleading business practices and false representation and is seeking both compensation for the difference in the cost of the sparkling wines, as well as punitive damages.
Sebastien Paquette, a lawyer from Montreal representing Macduff, said the issue is more about untruthful advertising rather than the difference between the two wines.

“You have to go beyond the pettiness of the [wine cost] per head,” he said in a statement. “What’s important is you’re trying to lure consumers by marketing something, and you’re not giving them that something. It’s a dishonest practice”.
Sunwing, however, has dismissed the lawsuit as “petty” and “frivolous” despite some of their ads (like the one to Paris below) clearly offering "a glass of Champagne". 
I'm with Macduff. Why should airlines be allowed to get away with false advertising? They even spelt Champagne with a capital C. That is either stupid or deceptive. Either way, they should pay up. 
In a statement, the airline said: “Sunwing has always been proud to invest in experience-enhancing features for our customers”.
“We consider any legal action relating to the marketing of this service to be frivolous and without merit.”
The airline has also added that it has used the terms “Champagne service” and “Champagne vacations” to denote the level of service, rather than the type of drink that will be served.
After the lawsuit was filed, Sunwing’s website has been updated and now states that passengers will receive a “welcome glass of sparkling wine”.
In effect, they've held up their hands and declared themselves guilty. 
Sunwing Airlines offers scheduled and charter services from Canada and the US to several different destinations. 

$3000 a bottle for a new-release non-vintage red blend

Penfolds has released a unique wine blended from three Grange vintages spanning seven years, named Penfolds g3.

A Penfolds first, these vintages of 2008, 2012 and 2014 (a vintage to be globally released in 2018) have been blended together to create “a completely unique Grange expression”.

Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago said: “Put simply it’s Penfolds ‘house style’ distilled”.

Gago adds: “Penfolds g3 is a natural end result of the venerated art of blending. It is a blend where each individual vintage selected delivers a depth of character and flavour honouring our flagship Grange”.

Blending across vintages is part of Penfolds winemaking philosophy and has been since 1844.

Penfolds Tawny styles, famous in the mid 1800s, continue a long tradition of fortified wines that celebrate this particular blending style.

Two of the Grange vintages selected for this wine are recognised as being among the finest Granges released, so why blend them?

Gago said: “It wasn't about selecting the biggest or the best Grange vintages, in fact, it was
about making something different – but not just to be different.

“Each Grange vintage component selected to make this wine brings something different to the final blend. Broadly: Grange 2008 is a big bold wine, Grange 2012 is about elegance and sophistication, while 2014 is a young wine that serves to ‘freshen up the blend’." 

Launched in Hong Kong last night, g3 is impressively complex and will be much-sought-after by collectors. I was able to taste the wine a few weeks ago (and then sworn to secrecy) but to be totally honest it did not float my boat. I'll take 30+ bottles of St Henri any day. 

The original experimental 1951 Grange created by Max Schubert is now a wine regarded as one of the world’s most celebrated collectables.

Only 1,200 bottles of g3 are available around the world and the price will be $3000 for a 750ml bottle. You can't buy it just any old where. Expressions of interest can be lodged via

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Qantas unveils its "game-changing" new aircraft

Australia's national airline, Qantas, has unveiled its first Boeing Dreamliner, the "game-changing" aircraft that it says will open up new routes and new levels of comfort for travellers.

The latest addition to the Qantas fleet, the 787-9 Dreamliner features next generation seating in economy, premium economy and business class, with more space and a lower passenger count than most of its competitors.
Other Dreamliner features include larger windows to create a greater sense of space, better air quality to help reduce jetlag and ride dampening technology to minimise the effects of turbulence. It is also quieter, more fuel efficient and generates fewer greenhouse emissions than similarly-sized aircraft
At a ceremony at the Boeing factory in Seattle, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the first Dreamliner signalled the start of an exciting new era for the national carrier and for the travelling public.
“Taking delivery of a new type of aircraft is always an important milestone for an airline and the 787 is a game-changer," Joyce said. "From the distance it's able to fly, to the attention to detail we've put into the cabin design, it will reshape what people come to expect from international travel.

“The Dreamliner makes routes like Perth to London possible - which will be the first direct air link Australia has ever had with Europe. And it means other potential routes are now on the drawing board as well.
“There are lots of elements that combine to make the Qantas Dreamliner special. The seats, the lighting, the entertainment, personal storage, right through to the special crockery, cutlery and glassware that weighs on average 11% less.
“We're working with sleep specialists, dieticians and other scientists at the University of Sydney to see how adjustments to our in-flight service can improve wellbeing and help people adjust to new time zones.”
A total of eight Dreamliners will be delivered to Qantas by the end of 2018, enabling the retirement of five of the airline's 747s.
Two Dreamliner routes have been announced so far – Melbourne to Los Angles starting in December this year and Perth to London starting in March next year. While I'm not sure I want to fly non-stop over such longer distance, many travellers will welcome the new aircraft.
The name Great Southern Land was chosen for the first aircraft out of 45,000 suggestions from the travelling public. Each Dreamliner will be named after something that is uniquely Australian, including animals, places and literature.
As part of the aircraft unveiling in Seattle, Australian band, Icehouse, performed its anthemic 1982 song Great Southern Land, the inspiration for which came to singer and songwriter, Iva Davies, as a Qantas flight crossed the country's red centre.
The Dreamliner is painted in Qantas' updated livery, first revealed in late 2016 in preparation for new aircraft entering the fleet and the airline's centenary in 2020. This marks only the fifth time the iconic Flying Kangaroo has been updated, with those updates traditionally coinciding with the introduction of a significant new aircraft type.
The Dreamliner, registered as VH-ZNA, is scheduled to land in Sydney on Friday morning (October 20) after it performs a flyover of Sydney Harbour, weather and air traffic control permitting.

Cool-climate Yarra Valley rock stars to hit downtown Sydney

There is something special about the wines of the Yarra Valley.

While chardonnay and pinot noir are the regional rock stars, the terroir is varied enough for shiraz and cabernet sauvignon also to shine, along with a range of alternative varieties. 
Several of the best Yarra Valley producers will be celebrating cool-climate diversity at the Establishment Ballroom in Sydney on October 25. 
Wine lovers are invited to taste their way through wines (and gins) produced in the Yarra Valley at one central Sydney location. 
The tasting kicks off at 6:30pm, or 5:00pm for an exclusive VIP session limited to just 30 people.
Wineries on show will include Bird On A Wire, De Bortoli Wines, Four Pillars Gin (distillery), Giant Steps, Goodman Wines, Handpicked Wines, Helen & Joey Estate, Innocent Bystander, Oakridge Wines, Rob Dolan Wines, Rochford Wines, Santolin Wines, Six Acres, Soumah of Yarra Valley, TarraWarra Estate, Tokar Estate and Warramunda Estate.
General admission is $60 or $70 for the VIP session through Eventbrite. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

The no-nonsense lowdown on what to buy from the new Penfolds Collection

The new Penfolds Collection wines will be in store from Thursday - and there is good news for those who do not have $850 to splash out on the albeit excellent 2013 Penfolds Grange.

Of the 18 wines in the collection, headed, of course, by the 99-point Grange, there are 10 with recommended retail prices under $100. 

And while Penfolds has built its reputation on red wines, there are four whites in the collection ranging from the 2015 Yattarna Chardonnay ($150) to the 2017 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling ($30). 

There are several price increases, with St Henri and Bin A both now $125 (up from $100). The Bin 138 and St Henri are my picks for those who want to buy and drink, rather than collect.The Eden Valley Riesling is a steal. 

With a lineage dating back to 1844 and iconic status, the new release of a Penfolds Collection is very much an occasion. Here is my lowdown on the highlights (I've left out those that did not appeal, including a very un-pinot-like 2016 Bin 23 2016 Pinot Noir): 

Penfolds Bin 51 2017 Eden Valley Riesling: lemon blossom aromas, tangy tangerine notes, vibrancy with lime/tangelo flavours and terrific acid backbone. Briskly intense. 92 points. $30.

Penfolds Bin 311 2016 Tumbarumba Chardonnay: High-class cool-climate chardonnay with grapefruit and smoky oak. Has still to fully blossom. 93 points. $45.

Penfolds Reserve Bin A 2016 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay: An expressive nose and a seamless palate. 94 points. $125

Penfolds 2015 Yattarna Chardonnay: Profound, intense with 65% new oak sucked up by the quality fruit. More citrus than stone fruit with a great acid backbone. One for savouring. 95 points. $150.

Penfolds 2015 Bin 138: A blend of grenache, mataro and shiraz that has florals, richness and balance. Christmas cake on the palate with oak in support. 94 points. $45.

Penfolds 2015 Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz: Everything looks great here with shiny fruit, silky palate, spices and hints of eucalypt. 94 points. $45.

Penfolds Bin 28 2015 Kalimna Shiraz: Big, bold and brooding. Needs time to open up with its assertive American oak. 92 points. $45.

Penfolds Bin 150 2015 Marananga Shiraz: Simply delicious. Brightness, intensity, dark berries and oak. 95 points. $100.

Penfolds Bin 389 2015 Cabernet Shiraz: A blend of fruit from six different regions comes together impressively but sings rather than shouts. Excellent. 95 points. $95.

Penfolds 2014 St Henri: One of the stars of the show with pure fruit allowed to take centre stage. Brambly with plenty of length and enjoyable young. 97 points. $125.    

Penfolds 2015 Magill Estate: Intensity and personality in a wine that is beautifully knitted together like an Aran wool  jumper. Great structure and one for the cellar. 96 points. $130. 

Penfolds 2015 RWT Bin 798: Very sweet fruit with oak in the background. Wild berry flavours and overall deliciousness.97 points. $200.

Penfolds 2015 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon: Cool-climate elegance and hints of eucalypt. Great architecture and will blossom in the cellar. 96 points. $500. 

And here is the 2013 Grange review:


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Home Hill winery to host inaugural Huon Blues Festival

Home Hill is not only one of the leading wine producers in Tasmania; it is also home to an outstanding cellar door/restaurant complex with superb vineyard views. 

And just a couple of weeks after the three-day Cygnet Folk Festival a few kilometres down the road, Home Hill's Ranelagh complex will now host the Huon Blues Festival. 

Multiple-award-winner Diesel and bluesman Ash Grunwald will headline the inaugural event. 

Diesel, best-known for 1990s hits Come to Me, Tip of My Tongue and One More Time, will appear with a full band. 

Diesel and Grunwald will be joined by several local support acts including the Ross Sermons Band and blues guitarist GB Balding and there will be several food vendors on site to feed the hungry hordes. 

Tastings will also be available of Home Hill's range of outstanding pinot noirs and other table wines. The family-owned winery won the Jimmy Watson Trophy for its reserve pinot a couple of years ago.  

The Huon Blues Festival will run from noon on January 28 and buses to and from Hobart will be available. General admission tickets are $55.59. Bookings and more information:

Friday, 13 October 2017

Australian destination named world's first "Kindness City"

One of Australia's most popular holiday destinations, the Gold Coast, has been named the first World Kindness City.

The World Kindness Movement (WKM) bestowed the honour on the City of Gold Coast at a special ceremony in Seoul, South Korea.

WKM head Michael Lloyd-Wright said the association had been monitoring several cities and the Gold Coast was the first to really 'walk the walk, not just talk the talk' when it came to kindness.

What is the World Kindness Movement? Your guess is as good as mine. A quick Google search reveals it is "an international movement with no political or religious affiliations" and has received a letter of support from that notorious charlatan Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

It is not clear whether cities being "honoured" have to pay for the privilege. And I wonder if WKM members have visited the Gold Coast during Schoolies week.

"The Gold Coast has now set the bar for other cities around the world," Lloyd-Wright was quoted as saying in a Gold Coast Tourism press release which mysteriously identified the WKM as the WKA.

The honour comes after five years of the City of Gold Coast council working with the WKM/WKA.

Gold Coast Tourism CEO Martin Winter says being known as the world's kindest city is appropriate for a destination that welcomes some 13 million tourists and visitors a year to its idyllic beachside offering.

"It's a great compliment to the residents and businesses here too," Winter said.

"As we prepare for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in April this award really lays down the red carpet of welcome to visitors."

The Commonwealth Games will be held April 4-15 attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors and drawing a broadcast audience of 1 billion people globally.

The Gold Coast has a population of 600,000 and is Australia's sixth-largest city.