Monday, 30 November 2015

Trees, beautiful trees everywhere

There is a whole lot more to bonsai than you might imagine. 

It is a surprisingly fascinating topic, which makes a visit to the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Saitama Prefecture both entertaining and rewarding. 

The museum is just 40 minutes from Tokyo and opened in 2010. It is Japan's first public bonsai art museum. 

If it doesn't sound like your scene, take a look at some of the 100+ artfully crafted masterpiece bonsai trees. I dare you not to be impressed. 










# The writer was a guest of Tobu Top Tours on a trip to promote the new Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train route from Tokyo to Kanazawa, which opens up regional Japan to overseas visitors. 
www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/travel-information/shinkansen/hokuriku-shinkansen/

Qantas flies twice daily to Tokyo via Sydney (Sydney-Haneda) or Brisbane (Brisbane-Narita). The Brisbane-Narita flights are operated by the refurbished A330 aircraft, with lie-flat seats in Business, brand new economy seats and new in-flight entertainment. The Sydney-Haneda flights are operated by a B747, which features the refurbished A380 interior. www.qantas.com 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Thousand Pound proves a million dollar hit

Rutherglen has a chic new wine bar that has been pulling in the punters since it opened early in 2015. 

Thousand Pound has been developed by Denis Lucey (Bottega Melbourne) and the Brown family from All Saints Estate and St Leonards. 


As you'd expect given such provenance it is a hip and happening affair with an excellent selection of wines both by the glass and the bottle - and a good range of gourmet snacks.

The venue is equally popular with locals and visitors; who flock to Rutherglen at weekends to sip on the region's famous fortified wines, durifs and shirazes. 

In a town with several old school pubs, it takes social drinking to a whole new level.



"After talking to the locals, it seemed that there was an opportunity to open a wine bar in the main street that was relaxed and inviting enough to come in alone and have a glass of wine at the bar or meet up with some friends," says Denis Lucey. "We feel that it will give the town a much needed meeting place for locals and tourists."

Originally only open for three nights, Thousand Pound is now open from Thursday to Sunday evenings.

Nick Brown says he crafted the extensive wine list with family and friends in mind. Wines have been sourced predominantly from ‘family owned’ wineries, and winemakers and wineries that he admires. 



"We grew up in a family that doesn’t judge a person on what wine they drink," he says. "We wanted our thirsty local crowd to be able to discover wines that we love to drink from ‘family owned’ Australian wineries to wineries abroad that we have a special affiliation with."

Thosuand Pound, which has a lovely warm vibe and friendly, helpful staff. also has a small offering of local and imported, cider, beers and spirits. 

Housed in an original Victorian store front in Rutherglen’s historic Main Street, Thousand Pound has bar has seating, and high tables in the main room, with an inviting alcove with wine barrels for intimate groups. 

Chefs Simon Arkless and Cait Mitchelhill from the hatted Terrace Restaurant at All Saints Estate prepare humble, fresh, bar food, such as house-smoked salmon, and local marinated olives.

Thousand Pound, 82 Main St, Rutherglen. (02) 6035 2222. 
www.thousandpound.com.au.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Brunch at Indigo Pearl is a sparkling affair


Take a superb beachfront hotel in Thailand, throw in Sunday brunch extravaganzas with unlimited Champagne and you have immense party potential.

Luxury resort Indigo Pearl has just re-launched its renowned Sunday brunch, which features surf and turf delights, fine wines and Delamotte bubbly.

The hotel boasts "the Old World and the New World being intertwined with maximum effect".

From noon to 3pm a live band will provide the musical accompaniment to five hours of grazing, lazing and being spoilt by free-flow bubbly.

A triumvirate of venues will be used to stage the buffet brunch, which will include Japanese, BBQ and Thai stations.

At Rebar restaurant guests will enjoy dishes including fresh lobster, foie gras terrine with duck confit, Wagyu beef rump and, for dessert, banana walnut cake.

Rivet eatery will serve dishes like bruschetta with a selection of grilled vegetables, poached blue swimmer crabs and prawns, and chocolate dacquoise.

Rivet restaurant 
Rounding out the food stations is Underground Café, a laid-back poolside experience and the place where gastronomic highlights include grilled antipasti, smoked calamari with lemon and raspberry, and mascarpone mousse.

Indigo Pearl's new general manager, Paul Jordaan, said he was excited to take the reins just as the brunch 'season' was getting underway.

Indigo Pearl Brunch is held every Sunday from noon-3pm with entertainment until 5pm. Price: THB 4,050++ (free-flow Delamotte); THB 2,550++ (with select wines); THB 2,050++ (with soft drinks).

Situated within its own tropical gardens where lush lagoons juxtapose post-modern art, Indigo Pearl is located on Phuket's sheltered northern shore, just 10 minutes from Phuket International Airport. www.indigo-pearl.com

Cheese and chardonnay make a surprisingly good match

The vast majority of us, I suspect, automatically choose a bottle of red wine to accompany the cheese course.

In Australia, particularly, this is seen almost as an unwritten rule – but rules are made to be broken and many white wines can do the job just as well as reds, particularly the leaner, more modern styles of chardonnay that are popular right now.

Matching wine and cheese can be a complex matter; and not all combinations are matches made in heaven.

Subtle wines can sometimes be overpowered by pungent cheeses, while delicate cheeses can be overwhelmed by rich, powerful wines.

Hugh Johnson, the veteran English wine writer, says: “Fine red wines are slaughtered by strong cheeses; only sharp or sweet white wines survive.”
Johnson says there are two basic rules: the harder the cheese, the more tannin the wine can have, and the creamier the cheese, the more acidity required in the wine.

Chardonnay, which can range in style from rich and oaky, to lean and acidic, can be a surprisingly good partner for a wide range of cheeses.

The rich, oakier styles do marry well with rich blue cheeses with plenty of bite but more subtle styles can be completely 
overwhelmed by some of the more powerfully flavoured hard cheeses. Pungent Stilton, for instance, is probably best paired with rich Sauternes or Australian dessert wine rather than chardonnay.

The combination of rich texture and high acidity generally makes chardonnay extremely cheese friendly, however, particularly those that are unoaked, or only subtly oaked, as is the way with many new-wave Australian chardonnays, which tend to be fresher and crisper than their predecessors and have the brisk acid to cut through the creaminess of many cheeses.

Cheeses with a hint of sweetness and nuttiness pair particularly well with high-acid and medium-weight chardonnays, particularly those that have not undergone malolactic fermentation (a process which adds creaminess to wine). These elegant styles offer the perfect counterpoint to the richness of cheese.

In France, the classic combination is to match cheeses with wines from the same region; say the rich Epoisses cheese of Burgundy with a lean chardonnay from the Côte Chalonaise or nearby Macon.

This rule works less well in Australia but if you are putting together a cheese platter and want to match it with a white wine, then good choices would be more subtle sauvignon blancs (which in France are a traditional match for goat cheeses) or an elegant and preferably younger chardonnay from one of Australia's cooler-climate regions; the Yarra and Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Orange in New South Wales, Tasmania or the Adelaide Hills and Eden Valley in South Australia.

Heggies 2013 Chardonnay
What a beautifully balanced wine this is; looking great at two years of age, it sits midway stylistically between fruit-forward Australian chardonnays and the more elegant wines of France. It certainly has a little bit of European swagger despite being made from fruit that is grown in the hard country of Eden Valley, above the Barossa in South Australia. The winters here are cold and wet, the summers dry. The gravelly soils produce grapes with intense flavour and minerality. Seven different chardonnay clones go into the blend, which offers a beguiling mix of ripe stone fruit flavours and tangy citrus notes, along with a hint of ripe green apple. Quality French oak plays a support role and there are some flaky pastry and creamy nuances, along with crisp acid, on the finish.

Food match
A chardonnay made in this medium-bodied style makes an excellent match for soft young Australian cheeses made in the style of Brie and Camembert, along with more powerful semi-soft imported French cheeses like Livarot and Pont L'Eveque. But this also paired superbly with a soft Tasmanian goat cheese made in the French chevré mode; “Zoe” by Tongola Goat Cheese, and also with a cloth-wrapped cheddar from Wicked Cheeses.

This is an edited version of a story from www.goodliving.com.au




Monday, 23 November 2015

The Hunter Valley gets a new drawcard

He's one of the greatest characters in the Australian wine industry; a larger than life fellow who is quick with a quip and even quicker with a smile. 

But until now Andrew Thomas, maker of high-quality Hunter Valley semillons and shirazes, has never had a cellar door to all his own. 

That has changed after Thomas finally opened a dedicated cellar door in the Hunter Valley.

Thomas Wines has gained a near cult following for its wines without a place to call home. 

Now, ahead of his 30th consecutive Hunter Valley vintage, Thomas and his brand have a new facility in the heart of the Hunter on Hermitage Road.

Over the years Thomas Wines have gathered an impressive folio of local growers, who each own some of the Hunter Valley’s most distinguished sites, producing world class, uniquely regional styles. 

Kiss Shiraz (say it slowly and you'll get a sense of the Thomas humour) and Braemore Semillon sit at the top of an impressive range, many of which have become Hunter benchmarks. 

Now fans will be able to taste and purchase the full range of Thomas Wines direct from the source in the new cellar door; which is part of the Tuscany Wine Estate complex, on the corner of Hermitage Road and Mistletoe Lane, Pokolbin.

Thomas joked that he “can finally pull all his trophies out of the cupboard and have them on display”, but the real driver for his decision to open a cellar door after so many years of relying on wholesale trade and shared facilities, was “to provide a destination where we can have some actual face-to-face interaction with the people who are loving and drinking our wines. 

"This dedicated destination will provide an opportunity build on the relationships we have with our loyal customers, as well as introduce some new wine lovers to the Thomas Wines brand.”

The new facility is open seven days a week from 10am-5pm. 
Phone (02) 4998 7134. www.thomaswines.com.au

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Meet the only Australian wine to win four Jimmy Watsons

It is the single most successful red wine on the Australian show circuit; the winner of no fewer than four Jimmy Watson trophies for best young red at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show and a total of 64 trophies and 298 gold medals to date.


The Wolf Blass Black Label red blend, first made in 1973 and an instant success, celebrates its 40th vintage next year. Once available for just a few dollars it now retails for $130 a bottle and is seen as an Australian benchmark.

“To have that kind of consistent success over 40 years is quite remarkable,” says Chris Hatcher, the winemaker tasked with carrying on the legacy of Blass and his winemaking sidekick John Glaetzer, who won the Watson trophy in 1974, 75, 76 and again in 1999. “There are not that many wines that can claim that kind of consistency over four or more decades.”

The Wolf Blass winemaking team with the maestro
The current release is the 2010, which didn't win the Jimmy Watson but has picked up its own swag of trophies and gold medals. As always, the blend changes from year to year (some years there is some malbec in the mix). This was a 51 percent cabernet and 49 percent shiraz blend from the Barossa, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale.

If you are looking to buy one as a Christmas present be warned the 2010 is already in short supply. The 2011, from an inferior vintage, was sold only at cellar door and the 2012 will not be released until March next year.

I was lucky enough to attend a recent tasting at which all four Watson winners (the 73 and 75 are still stellar) were lined up alongside some younger wines. What a treat! 

The 2010 is one of the very best Black Labels from an outstanding vintage and would make an excellent Christmas present for anyone with a wine cellar. 

It is unashamedly a big wine, voluptuous even, with delicious sweet fruit and great structure. It weighs in at 15 percent alcohol and the 60 percent plus new French oak has been sucked up into an impressive end product.  


Friday, 20 November 2015

Meet the winery owner who plays classical music to keep his vines happy

With his wild, flowing white hair and unruly beard, Peter Yealands is a man who stands out in a crowd.

This leading light in the New Zealand wine industry, and a major exporter to Australia, comes armed with a powerful sustainability message.




Less than a decade after releasing the first wine under the Yealands Estate label, the Yealands Wine Group has risen to be one of the top five wine producers in New Zealand; no mean feat in a highly competitive market.

Yealands happily admits that until a few years ago he thought cabernet sauvignon was a blend of red and white grapes. He also tells the story of how he’d never been in a winery until he built his own.

A former major player in both the aquaculture and forestry industries (he was once one of New Zealand’s major mussel producers), Yealands planted his first vines just outside Blenheim township, heartland of the Marlborough wine region, as an investment in 1998.

He only got serious about making his own wine when he established the Yealands Estate vineyard, winery and cellar door in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley. His aim was to become a world leader in sustainable production and to make “world-class wines that do not cost the earth". 



Today, although he sold much of his equity in early 2015, he has New Zealand’s largest
privately-owned vineyard, one of the world’s most ecologically and technologically advanced wineries, and exports to over 60 countries.

"It's a bloody big business for a one-man band and a family and I am getting older," Yealands said. "But I have a desire to stay here . . . I love what I do."

Yealands has enjoyed a remarkable 45 per cent growth year-on-year and his motto is: “think boldly, tread lightly and never say it can’t be done.”

He’s a down-to-earth bloke with a no-nonsense attitude who left school at 14 and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. And if something needs doing, or a problem needs solving, then he’ll probably do it himself.

When he bought his first vineyard property, Yealands says he’d “never been in a vineyard in his life”. He planted 20 hectares and sold fruit on the spot market. “I don’t usually take unnecessary risks, but that was high risk, high reward,” he recalls.

He constructed the contours and terraces of the vineyards with his own small bulldozer.

“A lot of people said we were crazy and that it wouldn’t work – but it has,” he says. “I guess I have a lot of self belief. I know that I can’t do anything unless I throw myself into it."


The $45 million high-tech winery opened on 8/8/08 (lucky numbers according to numerologists) with a Who’s Who of the New Zealand wine industry invited – to most of whom Yealands had previously sold fruit.

Yealands, who also farms sheep and Angus cattle, lives on the Awatere property with his wife Vai and his son Aaron, who runs the maintenance operations along with a staff of six.

Yealands is fast with a quip and a self-deprecating quote. He’s a PR’s dream, but says he’s at his happiest on a tractor, or in his workshop, building a new piece of machinery.

Out in the vineyards he says he’s constantly thinking about improvements and more sustainable ways to get things done effectively.

Tamra Washington (above), who has worked in Italy and California as well as in the Hunter Valley and Margaret River, heads his winemaking team.

Sustainability is important for both of them.

“Right from the start Peter has had a real focus on doing things the right way,” Washington says. “Our site is a rugged and tough one for growing grapes, but the vineyard practices have been a huge plus in making sure the fruit hits the winery in the best possible condition. Peter has a philosophy of putting more into the land than he takes out.”


Yealands Estate was the first winery in the world to be carbon zero from inception and the vineyards are all fully accredited through the Sustainable Winegrowers New Zealand.

Winery power and water heating is supplemented by wind turbines, solar panels and grape vine prunings. Yealands himself has converted a tractor that collects pruned material and turns it into a renewable energy source.

The pruned materials are baled, seasoned for six months and when burnt save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in power costs. The remainder of pruned material is mulched and then returned to the soil.

Yealands is using miniature Babydoll sheep to keep the rows clean “introduced to help reduce our diesel emissions by eliminating mowing” (larger sheep showed a tendency to eat the grapes), and also has used a small breed of Kunekune pig that he says eats vegetation and doesn’t dig up the ground like other breeds.

He has planted thousands of trees to encourage birdlife in and around the wetlands on his property and has installed a self-drive track for visitors to enjoy the spectacular views from his Awatere vineyard all the way to Cape Campbell.

There is no doubting Yealands is something of an eccentric. He even plays classical music to the vines in one vineyard block. “I read somewhere that plants like music, so I thought I’d give it a try,” he says. “But they only like classical music, not rock.”

There is good news from 2015, too, with Washington describing the fruit, and sauvignon blanc in particular, as “just sensational”.

# This is an edited version of a story that first appeared in Nourish magazine.
 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Internet access in the air? Qantas could be on a winner


Some people love the idea of internet access in the air; others loathe the very thought.

When I get on a long-haul flight I have two plans of action. First to eat and drink and secondly to sleep as long as I can. I want to be fresh when I arrive at my destination so I am ready to eat and drink again.

But on flights to Europe, or North America, it is impossible to sleep all the way, even if you have one of those luxury lie-flat beds in business class.

So I like the idea of being able to catch up on emails (both reading and sending), maybe even writing and filing a story, or a blog item.

For that reason I'm very happy when an airline like, say, Etihad offers wifi internet access at an affordable price.



Now Qantas is set to offer satellite Internet access on its flagship Airbus A380 flights to the USA as well as on selected domestic routes, CEO Alan Joyce has told the Australian Business Traveller website.

Qantas first experimented with in-flight wifi in 2012, but experienced minimal take-up rates on its A380 services, with less than 5% of passengers logging on. But now American Airlines' Boeing 777 flights between Sydney and Los Angeles feature wifi, it is back on the agenda.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Australian Business Traveller that “it didn’t really work well across the Pacific because I think people were sleeping a lot and not using it, but we’re very keen to continue to explore it.”

On the domestic front, Qantas could be an early customer for the NBN's new Sky Muster satellites which begin beaming broadband across Australia from the middle of 2016.

Exciting times for those who want to have the option of working when it suits them - including above the Pacific Ocean.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

KFC is all the rage in Sydney - and this place is hot

I was on my way to long-time favourite BBQ King in Sydney's Chinatown, having initially forgotten that it is currently closed pending relocation. 

When that finally dawned on me I was just a few blocks away in Koreatown, so "when in Rome", I decided to check out some KFC.



KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is the dish du jour in Sydney right now - and it doesn't come any more authentic than at The Sparrow's Mill. So authentic that I think I was the only non-Korean in the place - and it was packed on a Monday night.

Now NaruOne is the favoured KFC joint with many aficionados, but you can't go past the Sparrows' Mill for flavour and value. 



OK, the setting is dull, and the place is noisy as hell (many of the diners appear to be students). The servers are run off their feet (surely they could work out they need a couple more staff), but the food is great.

There is a wide choice of Korean dishes; but most seem to opt for one or other styles of KFC (I think there are a dozen in all, some bone-in, others boneless).

I ordered the sweet and spicy chicken; crisp, crunchy and downright delicious. It comes with some some spicy pickled vegetables (yum) and I ordered a bowl of steamed rice and a Korean Cass beer. A feast for $25. Water comes free in jugs. 


But be warned...if you do not dine early the popular choices tend to sell out fast - snow cheese chicken, spring onion chicken, and the gangjung and sweet/spicy chicken are all apparently firm favourites.

There is no fuss here, just good, spicy food at reasonable prices with a K-Pop soundtrack. My mouth was still tingling an hour after I finished eating. Can't wait to go back. 

The Sparrow's Mill, Shop 3, 116-120 Liverpool St, Sydney. (02) 9264 7109. Closed Sundays.



    

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A Sydney hotel room for $129 a night. What could possibly go wrong?

A room in a good hotel in Sydney costs around $250 a night. A room in a five-star hotel can set you back $500 a night, or more, depending on the season. 

So when I needed a night in a central Sydney location and saw a double room at the Sydney City Lodge, on Hunter Street, available for $129, I knew there had to be a catch. 


The www.wotif.com website rates the property at 3.5/5 and claims 78% of guests are happy. 

Well, if all you want is a small room with a bed then Sydney City Lodge will do fine for a night or night or two. Although if you are a couple be aware that a "double" means two single beds pushed together. 

Wotif says it is a "three-star Sydney aparthotel in Sydney CBD, near Sydney Opera House. Cable TV, coffee/tea makers, and hair dryers are featured in all 20 apartments. Refrigerators, phones, and desks are also available."

Cable TV, nah. None. Nada. Just the regular channels. And the sign in the bathroom that you shouldn't put toilet paper down the toilet or it would become blocked was also a concern.  

Lounge area. Clean and basic.
The hotel's website says it "assures you of a memorable and truly authentic Sydney experience". Hmm. The rooms are generic and bland. And mine was quite dark, although the aircon worked well. 

And be prepared to walk up three or four flights of very steep stairs to get to your room. The hotel claims heritage considerations prevent it from putting in lifts or escalators. The stairs certainly rule out elderly and/or infirm guests and it did concern me what would happen in the case of a fire.

There is a feel of faded hotel meets backpackers hostel. My room was small, but adequate, and the free wifi worked. And best of all you can check in at noon if your room is ready. 


Stairs. Lots of stairs. 
Oh, but if you check in at noon you will be subjected to the noise of renovations on the second floor. Think electric saws and hammers.

Ambiance? nuh. Charm? Not at all. But the City Lodge appeared to be very clean - and the shower provided hot water on demand. 

Not great - but you get what you pay for. And in Sydney terms you aren't paying a lot. But I still think I'd rather pay a little more for a little more. 

Sydney City Lodge,  Level 2, 15-17 Hunter Street, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia. 
(02) 9112 8888. www.citylodge.com.au 

    

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The ultimate gourmet retreat for lovers of the finest things in life



I am frequently asked where I would choose to stay if money were of no concern. As a lover of fine wine and food, and luxury surroundings, it is hard to go past Les Sources de Caudalie

For a start this delightful Small Luxury Hotels vineyard resort is just a short drive south of the world wine capital of Bordeaux and is surrounded by some of the finest vines in Graves, those of Château Smith Haut Lafitte. 


Hotel guests are offered a free guided tour of the cellars (in French or English), and a complimentary tasting. 


But there is much more to Les Sources de Caudalie than just vines, although it does make a fine base from which to explore Sauternes, Passac-Leognan, Cadillac and other great wine regions.




Les five-star Les Sources de Caudalie was opened in 1999 has has gradually, and tastefully, been expanded while maintaining a boutique feel and that seamless, multi-lingual service that the French do with such panache. 

Today there are 61 rooms and suites, two restaurants, a wine bar and a luxury Vinothérapie® spa combining the therapeutic effects of warm mineral springs with treatments using vine and grape extracts.

Les Sources de Caudalie is located in bucolic country, extremely quiet and peaceful but just a short-drive from the city. Many of the impeccably tasteful rooms overlook the vineyards, and there are several modern art sculptures dotted around the grounds. 




Most rooms have a terrace or a balcony and all are equipped with a bathroom with tub and shower, individual climate control, cable TV, mini bar, safe and hairdryer. And it is all so achingly tasteful. 
For a start there are no fewer than three places to drink, including La Grand'Vigne,  in a charming 18th-century orangerie, where chef Nicolas Masse earned his first Michelin star in 2010 and a second this year. 

Masse is known for creative yet traditional dishes using local, seasonal produce like carpaccio of Aquitaine beef with caviar from the region and quail’s egg, perhaps followed by pigeon with white artichokes, fondant potatoes with a giblet sauce, and cardamom jus. 

The wine list, as you would expect, is outstanding. You can expect to spend 100+ on food here, and with wine the sky is the limit. 

La Table du Lavoir, originally an open-air wash house dating back to the 19th century, serves dishes reflecting the local terroir in a relaxed bistro setting.



In summer guests can enjoy meals on the covered terrace. Here think dishes like a superbly rich foie gras, followed by a delicious pan-seared hake with fresh summer vegetables. 

And there is also the Rouge wine bar, open every day during high season, with a range of products from south-west France and a range of Bordeaux wines, including several by the glass. 

Oh, and breakfast. This is copious, delicious, and served either in the Orangerie or on a delightful terrace. 


There are all the services you'd expect at a luxury resort; porters to park your car, 24-hour reception, laundry service, hairdresser and leisure options including free wifi, bicycle hire, a gym room with treadmill, exercise bike, and rowing machine, a fitness trail through the woods, tennis, heated outdoor and indoor swimming pools and a jacuzzi.  

But wait....there's more. 

One of undoubted highlights is the Caudalie Spa with 20 treatment rooms, Turkish and thermal baths, and a huge range of treatments. 



The Caudalie cosmetics brand was created at family-owned Château Smith Haut Lafitte, from the discovery of a new way of using active polyphenol components found in grape pips. Maybe try a crushed cabernet scrub or a honey and wine wrap, all in a beautiful, wood and stone building. 

For such a luxurious resort the hotel prices are actually reasonable; rooms range from €210 to €630 for a large suite. 



Packages such as one night with breakfasts, one meal at La Grand’Vigne, the guided tour of Château Smith Haut Lafitte followed by a tasting start from €376. 

Forgive me if I've gushed a little. Regular readers will know I am usually far more curmudgeonly. This time, however, there really was nothing to complain about.    

Les Sources de Caudalie, Chemin de Smith Haut Lafitte, 33650 Bordeaux-Martillac. +33 5 57 83 83 83. www.sources-caudalie.com 

# The writer was a guest of Les Sources de Caudalie and Small Luxury Hotels 

Is this the best sparkling wine festival in the world?

I have just spent a couple of day at the second Effervescence Tasmania, the festival that celebrates the outstanding cool-climate sparkling wines from Australia's island state. 

Effervescence Tasmania features 15 of Tasmania's leading sparkling producers, who are now making wines that rival those of Champagne in both quality and price. 

The event is hosted at the superb Josef Chromy facility in Relbia, just outside Launceston, and features a cocktail party and gala dinner at which leading international chef Tetsuya Wakuda cooked up a storm. 

Other events, variously held in the barrel cellars, the estate gazebo and the winery restaurant, include wine masterclasses hosted by award-winning digital communicator Tyson Stelzer and featuring leading wine-makers including Louisa Rose (Jansz), Ed Carr (Arras) and Andrew Pirie (Apogee). 

There were also tastings featuring wines from all 15 wineries, a cooking masterclass, the matching of bubbles with cheese, and a superb producers' lunch featuring products from Huon Aquaculture and Robbins Island Wagyu beef along with Josef Chromy 2010 sparkling and 2014 pinot noir (yes, still wines get a small look-in). 

There were pigs on a spit, and gourmet salmon boxes to take away, along with live entertainment. 

Still to come: a Beats and Bubbles night and a rolling gourmet visit to three of the more southerly producers; Frogmore Creek, Moorilla and Stefano Lubiano. 

Some of the guests were keen to taste as much as possible, others content to sip as they relaxed on beanbags. I've selected some of my favourite images from the event. I hope you enjoy them. 

You might even see someone you know, or want to visit next year. 

I've been to a few food and wine festivals in my time, all over the world, and you'd struggle to find many better than this one. The organisation is exceptional, the staff extremely slick and efficient and the wine and produce top notch.