Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The perfect vacation trip for any beer lover?

Is this the perfect holiday choice for anyone who loves beer? 

Tauck has just announced details of its new 10-day Autumn Along The Rhine river cruise for 2019, which just happens to coincide with Munich’s Oktoberfest. 

There are only two departure dates: September 16 and September 24, 2019, which gives you plenty of time to get your act together. 
The trip will combine a seven-night river cruise on the Rhine with a two-night land stay in the heart of Munich to experience the world’s largest Oktoberfest celebration.

Destinations and sightseeing will include: Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Heidelberg, Strasbourg and the Alsace region, Lucerne and Munich and the beer festival. 

Highlights include a craft beer walking tour of Düsseldorf’s Old Town highlighting local craft beers, a beer pairing at an award-winning brewery in Heidelberg and visits to winstubs 

(traditional beer pubs) in the Ribeauville/Riquewihr in Alsace. 

There is also reserved seating for lunch in one of the traditional brewery tents at the Oktoberfest.

The 10-Day Autumn Along The Rhine…Munich’s Oktoberfest cruise is priced from $8590 per person twin share.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Sydney's colourful Vivid Festival returns for a 10th year

The world's largest festival of light, music and ideas, Vivid Sydney, will return in 2018 with a spectacular new precinct at Luna Park, the return of the much-loved Customs House, and a blend of everyday objects and Australian-inspired motifs on the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Vivid will run over 23 nights from May 25 to June 16 and will paint Australia's largest city in the colour and spectacle of Vivid Light, take over Sydney stages with Vivid Music's electric performances and collaborations, and provide a global forum for thought-provoking debate and creative discussion at Vivid Ideas.

Vivid Sydney is owned, managed and produced by the NSW Government's tourism and major events agency Destination NSW and in 2017 attracted a record-breaking 2.33 million attendees.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Adam Marshall said in a mind-numbingly dull press release: "Vivid Sydney has delighted and inspired people from around Australia and the world. With the festival now in its 10th year, visitors and locals alike can once again expect to be mesmerised by the Vivid Sydney program, with larger installations and a gripping Music and Ideas offering, so I encourage visitors to start planning their trip early to get the most out of this year's exciting line-up."

For the first time, Vivid Sydney's light walk will extend to a new precinct at Luna Park Sydney, where the iconic amusement park comes alive with large-scale projection on the facade of Coney Island. 

The show will celebrate the history, magic, creativity, engineering, fantasy and imagination that have come together to create millions of memories on the site. Luna Park's iconic ferris wheel will be lit for the festival following an LED refit.

Vivid Sydney's bright lights will also illuminate the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney again in 2018.

In celebration of their 100-year anniversary, May Gibbs' iconic and immortal characters, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and their stalwart companions will come to life on the façade of Customs House, while, as usual, all eyes will turn towards the World-Heritage listed Sydney Opera House at the centre of the Vivid Light Walk for Lighting of the Sails, to be created in 2018 by award-winning Australian artist Jonathan Zawada.

Other buildings which will once again be transformed, including the facade of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) with Virtual Vibration.

Popular precincts Taronga Zoo, Darling Harbour, Chatswood, Barangaroo and Kings Cross will all return in 2018.

Vivid Music ups the ante in 2018 with an electric line-up, from noise to jazz, sonic experimentation to soul. Highlights include a one-night-only performance by Grammy award-winning St. Vincent, as well as jazz maestro Branford Marsalis and chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux.

Vivid LIVE at the Sydney Opera House will host a stellar line-up. Highlights this year include American pop icons Mazzy Star, the "godfather" of West Coast rap Ice Cube and acclaimed '90s indie rock singer/songwriter Cat Power. A line-up clearly put together by someone in their fifties or sixties.

For full dates and details see www.vividsydney.com.

Barging through Burgundy - sounds like the ultimate vacation

I've been lucky enough to enjoy river cruises and ocean cruises and much prefer to travel by river than sea. 
I've never managed, however, to travel on a luxury barge through a wine region - which sounds to me like heaven on earth. 
This musing was prompted by a press release from hotel barge cruising specialist European Waterways, announcing the completion of a $500,000 upgrade and refurbishing program across the company's fleet as it prepares to launch its 2018 season. 

The upgrades addressed every aspect of the company's hotel barges, from the operation of the vessels themselves, to the dining, entertainment and sleeping areas, as well as the off-shore transportation of its guests, who are treated to daily guided excursions.
The company's latest upgrades include a complete redesign of the saloon for the 12-passenger L'Impressionniste hotel barge, which cruises Southern Burgundy. The hotel barge also received a new staircase, bar area, banquettes, and an oval dining table to help create more space and seating. 
The eight-passenger L'Art de Vivre, which cruises Northern Burgundy, was upgraded with new bathrooms, while the Anjodi, an eight-passenger vessel on the Canal du Midi, was fitted with a new hardwood sundeck to complement a new saloon last year. Deck furniture has also been upgraded across many of the vessels.
This all set me dreaming of a leisurely week or two on the waterways of France, coffees and wines at waterside auberges and visits to some of the great cellars of Burgundy. 
I can't recommend this company, but I do like the concept.
“It's the small details that make the difference between a good vacation and a great one,” said Waterways Europe managing director Derek Banks. “Once we have the engineering work completed, we are free to focus upon the exclusive, personalized service that our guests adore."
European Waterways' luxury hotel barges in Scotland, which cruise Loch Ness and the Great Glen between Inverness and Fort William on the Caledonian Canal, have been spruced up for the new season.
Founded nearly 40 years ago, the company owns, operates and markets a private fleet of luxury hotel barges with cruises in France, Italy, Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. For more information visit 

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Yes, you can have a beer, but first give me your shoe

Belgian beer glasses are so desirable that local bars lose thousands of dollars each year through theft.
Now two bars have taken action to stop the glasses going walkies; one installing a €4,000 security system and the other asking for customers shoes as a deposit.

Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reports theft has reached absurd proportions.

At the Beer Wall in Bruges, owner Philip Maes told the paper that his establishment loses “at least 4,000 [glasses] each year”.

“The tourists, especially, like to walk with them,” he added. “For some reason, the customers think that when they pay for something to drink, they get the glass as a present.”

To counter the glass thieves, Maes has attached small security alarms to each glass and  installed a €4,000 alarm system with a scanner at the door.

Another beer bar, Dulle Griet in Ghent, demands drinkers hand over a shoe as a deposit before being served a glass of house beer. 

“We then put them in a basket that we put up against the ceiling," said spokesman Alex Devriendt. "The basket has now become an attraction, but for us it remains a guarantee. The glasses are quite expensive because we have them made especially for us and tourists simply want a souvenir."

Belgians take their beer glasses very seriously and consider it particularly important that beer is served in the appropriate glass. Tourists simply like to nick stuff. 

Bee Hydrated - a thirst quencher that does you good

Australians don't drink enough water - so much so that many of us are in a permanent state of dehydration. 

According to Water Logic Australia, the average Australian only drinks 1.29 litres of water per day – which, for men and women alike, barely reaches half the recommended daily intake.

When we do choose to imbibe we often choose sweet fizzy drinks, or waters that use artificial sweeteners. 

Proper hydration is the cornerstone to maintaining optimal daily health and energy levels - but we often overlook its importance.

Enter Melbourne-based sisters Joanne and Marina Nikoloulea, who have combined together a "healthy dream team" of purified and mineralised water with 100% natural cold-extracted Australian honey to create Bee Hydrated Honey Water (clever name!). 

Containing just 3 grams of naturally occurring sugar per 100ml, Bee Hydrated blows many fruit juices and even coconut waters out of the water (joke) with its low-sugar content. 

The range boasts three flavours and comes in 100% recyclable bottles. 

Relieve is a combination of pure cold-extracted honey with orange blossom 
and cinnamon to promote a good source of calcium, iron and magnesium while providing a calming and relaxing effect on the central nervous system. 

Replenish (by far my favourite flavour and most thirst-quenching) is a blend of pure cold-extracted honey with lemon myrtle and green tea for a source of antioxidants and other phytonutrients to help replenish the mind, body and soul, while Revitalise includes pure cold-extracted honey, ginger and ginseng to aid in revitalising the metabolism while helping to strengthen the protective function of our immune system.

All stockist details and locations can be found at www.beehydrated.com.au

Friday, 16 March 2018

Aldi gets behind half bottles of wine

Australian consumer trends often follow those in Britain - so look out for an increased range of entry level wines in half bottles in the not-so-distant future. 

UK supermarket chain Aldi is promoting a range of 37.5ml wine bottles, which are selling under screw caps for £2.99 a bottle (just under $AUD 4.50). 

The wines are being sourced from Romania - an increasingly prominent supplier of entry-level wines - and from Chile. 

“With more and more consumers opting for a healthier lifestyle, half bottles are a great way to still enjoy a midweek tipple with dinner, without needing to open a whole 75ml bottle of wine,” Julie Ashfield, managing director of corporate buying at Aldi told Drinks Business.

While half-sized bottles have had a somewhat mixed past, their popularity with British retailers appears to be on the up.

Last year Waitrose launched a range of half-sized bottles as part of its mid-tier Blueprint Wine range. Its range includes a Rioja (RRP £3.99), a white Burgundy (RRP £4.99), a Pinot Grigio from Veneto (RRP £3.49), a reserve claret (RRP £3.49), an Argentine Malbec (RRP £4.49) and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (RRP £4.49).

Co-Op supermarkets, meanwhile, are trialling single-serve wine pouches across 598 stores nationwide under the Most Wanted label, in a bid to tap into convenience. 

The new 187ml pouches are available as either a Sicilian Pinot Grigio or a Mendoza Malbec, with a RRP of £2.49.

In Australia there has also been a Dan Murphy's/BWS-led push towards wine in cans produced by Fourth Wave Wines. Interesting times. 

Heath homeward bound to take over at Katnook Estate

Winemaker Tim Heath is quitting one of the biggest jobs in the New Zealand wine industry to return to his home state of South Australia and take over chief winemaker at Katnook Coonawarra. 

Heath is currently senior winemaker at one of the world’s most successful wineries, Cloudy Bay Vineyards, New Zealand, where he has pursued his craft for the past 14 years. 

During this time, he has been responsible for all facets of crafting Cloudy Bay’s internationally renowned wine styles, as well as overseeing winery infrastructure and expansion. He also has extensive experience promoting wine and liaising with key opinion leaders in national and international markets.

He takes over in June from long-serving Katnook winemaker Wayne Stehbens, who died a few months ago. 

Prior to his move to Cloudy Bay, Heath was winemaker at Mountadam in the Barossa Valley, during which time he assisted with vintage at Cave de Tain-l'Hermitage in the Rhone. 

Born and raised in Adelaide, Tim began studying a Bachelor of Science at the University of Adelaide, before transferring to a Bachelor of Oenology, when he realised that winemaking “looked like too much fun to be considered a ‘real’ job”. 

“I’m excited to be joining the team at Katnook, which has some of the finest terroir in the Coonawarra region, as well as an incredible pedigree and history,” Heath said.
Katnook’s executive director of operations and finance, Chris Pike, said of the appointment: “We are thrilled that someone of Tim’s winemaking calibre has accepted this role. Tim brings a wealth of international expertise and creative flair that is certain to build on the great legacy left by Wayne Stehbens and to take Katnook Coonawarra into an exciting future.”