Tuesday, 31 January 2017

What to bear in mind when you start a wine cellar

There are many good reasons to put together your own wine collection.

You might want to always have a small selection of good bottles on hand for when friends drop by. Or perhaps you want to put away some high-quality bottles to enjoy in a decade or more. 


Or maybe you consider that storing some bottles sensibly might be a good investment.

Whatever your reason for wanting to start a cellar, it pays to move carefully. Poor planning can result in both disappointment and financial loss.

What do you plan to collect? Where do you plan to store the wines? Are you investing in drinking pleasure, or for profit? So many questions to be addressed.

Most people choose to cellar wines that they plan to drink down the track. But if you are a lover of big Barossa shiraz right now, how do you know your tastes will not have changed in 10-15 years time? Today's shiraz drinker could be tomorrow's pinot noir aficionado.

A purpose-built cellar, or even a wine fridge, can prove expensive for beginners, but an awful lot of wine has been ruined by being stored in a garage or under the bed.

Storing wine in a well-insulated shed in cool-climate Tasmania may work just fine, but in tropical Queensland it could be a recipe for disaster. Consistency of temperature is a key to maintaining wines in peak condition, but storage in air-conditioned, temperature-controlled facilities can be costly.

Wines you choose to drink now, say from organic, biodynamic or “natural” producers might not be what the investment market is looking for and wines that are low in sulphur are often best enjoyed in their youth. If making a profit is your (very optimistic) aim, it might pay to take professional advice on which wines to put away.

And are you prepared to take a risk on notoriously unreliable corks? Some collectors will tell stories of over 20% spoilage over a period of years due to faulty corks or premature oxidation. Yet markets in Asia and the United States still generally prefer wines under cork to those bottled under screw caps.


Leading US wine writer James Laube recently wrote in the magazine Wine Spectator: “Wines you buy to lay down should have some sort of rhyme and reason, but in the end most don't.

Wines are often more impulse purchases than careful consideration. And it's far easier to accumulate wines on whim than strategise. There's also something about the hunt that leads otherwise rational people to buy more than they need.”

All things to consider before you take a big jump into the unknown and start your collection.

I hope I haven't scared you off, however. There can be great pleasure in selecting a perfectly matured wine from your cellar and sharing it with friends – and the wines you cellar do not have be expensive icons like Penfolds Grange (the new 2012 release sells for $850 a bottle) or Henschke's single vineyard Hill of Grace Shiraz, which is only marginally cheaper.

Wine Ark, Australia’s largest wine storage provider, recently released its list of Australia's most collected wines for 2016, with Penfolds far-more-affordable Bin 389 topping the list by knocking off big brother Grange after nine years in the top spot.

Wine Ark’s list of the 50 most collectable wines, released every three years, has become a “go-to” guide on the subject and the results are a clear indication of trends when it comes to cellaring.

The list presents a genuine reflection of what Australian wines are being cellared in this country in almost real time,” said wine educator Jeremy Oliver.

John Cuff, Wine Ark chief executive officer, said Penfolds Grange was arguably the most collectable Australian wine.

We know its amazing power and finesse, steeped in history; however it sells for a hefty price,” Cuff said. “The Penfolds 389 Shiraz Cabernet is considered by most collectors to be a cellar staple. I believe you would be hard pressed finding a cellar that doesn’t have at least a few bottles of 389 and our results clearly illustrate this.”

In other words, wines are being stored as much for future drinking pleasure as for investment purposes.

My advice is this: Go ahead and build your cellar; whether it is in your home, or located elsewhere. Choose enough space to assemble an interesting collection, but do not be overambitious so your collection overwhelms you, or costs more than you can afford.

It is far better to start small, choosing maybe just a few six packs of wines that you know you will enjoy over the next two or three years, and then expand slowly.

Names to consider: Clonakilla, Mount Pleasant, Tyrrell's, Best's Great Western, Wynn's Coonawarra Estate, Yalumba, Elderton and SC Pannell. And for bargain basement buys: Larry Cherubino Wines, Bleasdale, Alkoomi, and Hay Shed Hill. 

If you don’t have a lot of experience with older wines, or aren’t even sure if you like them, don't put all your vinous eggs in one basket.

Choose carefully, even buying labels that you know and trust, or select wines that have both structure and complexity. Cellar-worthy wines are usually tannic, acidic, well-structured and balanced – and usually from well-established wine regions.

There are exceptions to every rule, but in Australia reds made from shiraz and cabernet, or a combination of the two, are considered most “collectable”, while semillon, riesling and, sometimes, chardonnay, are whites that develop with age.

Right now you might enjoy wines from Australia and New Zealand, but as your budget and experience grow, there are the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo and Rioja to discover. 

Independent retail stores like Five Way Cellars in Sydney, Boccaccio Cellars in Melbourne and East End Cellars in Adelaide are good sources of advice.

Campbell Mattinson, one of Australia's leading wine experts, wrote on the Wine Front website that: “When I was first buying wines to cellar I bought too many wines of the same style, and too many wines that were medium-term agers. I leant towards quantity rather than quality. Everything in life is a reaction to what has immediately come before – when I noticed my mistake, I then swung far the other way, buying a host of long term wines of high quality (and price).”

So be prepared to make mistakes, but enjoy the journey and the discoveries you will make along the way.

Or, alternatively, if you prefer wines that are young fresh and vibrant like sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio, you probably don't need a cellar at all. 

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

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Orange blossoms with two great events

It is one of the funkiest small towns in Australia. Think top-notch restaurants, a thriving coffee culture, vibrant arts and crafts, and a slow-paced way of life.

Orange, in the Central West of New South Wales, a three-and-half-hour drive west of Sydney, is booming as a weekend playground for big city refugees seeking a slice of sophistication with lashings of country charm.



Much of the boom in Orange (new hotels, bars and eateries) has been driven first by the success of the region as a food bowl (apples, cherries etc) and over the past 20 years by the immense success of the region's makers of cool-climate wines and ciders. 

And Orange has two major events coming up over the next couple of months: The Banjo Patterson Australian Poetry Festival and the F.O.O.D Week 2017, Australia's longest-running regional food festival, now in its 26th year.

The festival incorporates a number of signature events designed to appeal to both residents and visitors, as well as over 80 satellite events held by local restaurants, cafes and wineries.



Here is a list of some of the key events to what your appetite. 

Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival 

February 16-26, 2017

Rotary Brekky & Poetry in the Park  February 16, 18, 23, 24 & 25 from 7.30am-9am
Breakfast with Banjo February 17 from 7.30am - 9am
Banjo Paterson Festival Night Market February 17 from 5.30pm-8.30pm
Banjo Paterson Poetry Competition February 18 from 7pm 
Emmaville Cottage Family Market Day February 19 from 9am-2pm 

F.O.O.D Week 

March 31- April 9

Orange F.O.O.D Week Night Market, March 31, Robertson Park
F.O.O.D HQ – Daily from 11am -12.30pm at The Agrestic Grocer
Forage - April 8  
Sunday Producer’s Market – April 9, Cook Park

For details see https://brandorange.com.au/ 


Friday, 27 January 2017

One of the most beautiful places to stay in France

Languedoc Roussillon is the south of France without the hustle and bustle – and the region around the delightful market town of Pezenas is an ideal base from which to explore the history of Carcassonne, the wines of Corbieres and a wide range of chateaux, cathedrals and abbeys. 


A small group of us are sitting on the terrace of a beautifully restored old water mill on the banks of the sleepy River Herault. With some rooms dating back to 1313, the Moulin de Pezenas is a quite extraordinary place to stay.


Newly refurbished in exquisite style, the multi-storey five-bedroom, five-bathroom mill is impossibly stylish, set in remote countryside and surrounded by vineyards. It directly overlooks the river and a gentle waterfall. It's surrounded by beautiful gardens and has been renovated by local winemaker Jean-Paul Mas, the Arrogant Frog, who played in the ruins of the mill as a child. 


The terrace of this recognised historic monument is just delightful; sunny and tranquil – the ideal spot to wind down with a glass of local wine, some cheese, charcuterie and a fresh baguette -- all of which can be provided by excellent staff.


Fully equipped, totally private and with all provisions able to be provided ahead of your arrival, the Moulin de Pezenas is the perfect Languedoc base for several couples or a large family group.


The bedrooms are exquisitely furnished, every little thing beautifully considered. Staying here is living the rock star lifestyle for a few days, and a cook can be provided should you require one. Just perfect. 

THE FACTS

Etihad Airways and partner airline Virgin Australia offer daily one-stop flights from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to 20 destinations in Europe, via Abu Dhabi. For bookings
visit www.etihad.com or call 1300 532 215.

The Moulin de Pezenas starts from 2,200 per week to €4,500 in peak season. Contact mill manager Babette at www.hoteldevigniamont.com (an excellent bed and breakfast in Pezenas) or visit the website www.pierresdhistoire.com.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Flying high: a great way to explore the Grampians

The best way to get a full view of the vineyards of the Grampians and the Pyrenees is on a flight with recent arrivals to Stawell, Grampians Helicopters.

Headed by flying fanatic Justin Neofitou and his wife Justine, Grampians Helicopters has a large range of trips to gourmet destinations, and can also put together bespoke tours.


Neofitou, who has worked in Ayers Rock and Darwin, is also a wine enthusiast, full of local knowledge.

The Grampians Wine Tours offer spectacular views of the Grampians National Park as well as visits to Best's, including a cellar tour, and Montara Wines, near Ararat, for a wine tasting and local produce tasting plate. This tour lasts around 3 ½ hours.


Another option is a Pyrenees Wine Tour that includes stops at leading wineries Mount Langhi Ghiran, Blue Pyrenees (with a seasonal produce platter) and Dalwhinnie, which lasts around 4 ½ hours.

There are also lunch tours to destinations including Deirdre's at Laharum Grove, an organic olive grove, and to the Royal Mail Hotel at Dunkeld. Short flights can also be arranged. 

Grampians Helicopters, Aerodrome Rd, Stawell. 0438 981 438. www.grampianshelicopters.com.au.


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Tasmania's new one-stop shop for vinophiles

Tasmania has a new regional one-stop shop for wine lovers at Bicheno: the Farm Shed East Coast Wine Centre.

The centre, opened late last year, offers tastings and sales of 48 wines from 18 (soon to be 19) local vineyards between Triabunnna to just north of St Helens, including many that do not have their own cellar doors.


There are five varieties from five vineyards available to taste at a time. Those on taste are also available by the glass.Tastings cost $5, which is refunded on the purchase of a bottle. 

The experienced team of Subi Mead and Helen Bain, formerly of Swansea's Left Bank, pour the wines and tell the story of the vineyard in question. 

There will also be detailed tasting notes from each of the vineyards.


The Farm Shed can also make up mixed cases and post them home so you don’t have to risk breakage and excess baggage – there is a licensed Post Office on site. 

The featured East Coast vineyards include Darlington, Hurly Burly, Boomer Creek, Lisdillon, Kelvedon, Milton, Spring Vale, Freycinet Vineyard, Gala Estate, The Bend, Craigie Knowe, Overtime, MacLean Bay, Diamond Island, Apsley Gorge, Iron House, Priory Ridge and Sterling Heights. 

The centre is designed to highlight regional wines, but also has a coffee and wine bar and a retail gallery featuring Tasmanian artists and designers. 

The multi-use building, inspired by an old farm shed, it is located on the southern entrance to Bicheno on the Tasman Highway. 

The Farm Shed is open 9am-6pm seven days a week at 53 Burgess Street, Bicheno. (03) 6375 1868. https://thefarmshedtas.com.au

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Paying a bond that a hotel holds onto is a disgrace

Remember the good old days. You'd check into a hotel, they'd take your credit card details and would deduct the sum you owed when you checked out. 

Nowadays, hotels are blocking fairly hefty sums of money from your credit card when you check in, just in case you smash the TV, run off with a couple of towels or maybe nick a Coke from the mini bar. 

I checked into the Crown Metropol in Melbourne yesterday with my room and breakfast pre-paid. 

The receptionist still insisted on "blocking out" $400 from my credit card for my one-night stay. Effectively a $400 good behaviour bond. 

So when I checked out this morning, I asked for the $400 to be unblocked. Not possible, of course. 

While a sum can be blocked from a credit card in just a second, it takes "three to five working days" for it to be unblocked. The Crown website says "up to 10 days".
I insisted, was given the impression I was being unreasonable, and was told that would mean "having to send a fax" to the bank. 

Yes, Jamie Packer, multi-millionaire, operates his hotel empire by sending faxes.

A couple of questions about this dubious practice. 

1. What happens to the $400 while it is blocked? There are several hundred Crown rooms, which could mean they have up to half a million dollars "blocked" at any one time. Who has use of that money?

2. What if someone only has a $2000 credit card limit but stays in several different hotels over a week. Their entire limit could end up being blocked, rendering their card useless. 

3. If it only takes a second to block money from a credit card, why does it take five days to unblock it? Surely the technology exists to do better. 



I will be refusing to hand over my credit card for "blocking" in future. I'll either leave a cash deposit, or the hotel can make a copy of my card, like in the old days. 

Of course, if I had used my credit card to pay for any extras I would then have been charged a "service fee" for using it. So much for Australian hospitality.          

Friday, 20 January 2017

World Degustation Day: a chance to splurge in the Blue Mountains


January 26 may be Australia Day but January 27 has been declared World Degustation Day at the the classic Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains. 

The hotel is promoting dishes from exotic global locations infused with local flavours served by staff from around the world. 

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: "The Hydro Majestic has always embraced cultural diversity, not because its first owner Mark Foy was politically correct, but because he genuinely loved people of all races, their culture, art and food – just as we do today.

"In fact, what is seen as progressive, even outrageous today, has always been normal at the Hydro Majestic." 


Staff from 15 language groups work at the Hydro Majestic including English, French, Canadian, Russian, Chinese), Portuguese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Italian, Indonesian, Thai and more. Bruegger is German and head chef Mate Herceg has a Croatian background.

"People visit the Hydro Majestic from all over the world and we must understand and accommodate their cultural needs,’’ Bruegger said. "In an internationally renowned destination such as the Blue Mountains, it is expected of us and certainly received by our guests."’

Guests at the World Degustation Day banquet will be treated to global gastronomy through a decadent food safari featuring flavours from all seven continents. 


"We’ll also have a dish that’s quintessentially Aussie, because after all that’s our shared experience and we all love being here in this fantastic country of opportunity and diversity," Bruegger said.

The multicultural feast at the grandest of the grand hotels in the Blue Mountains will be designed and prepared by chefs from various cultural backgrounds including Michelin-star-restaurant-trained sous chef Max Vloet.

World Degustation Day will be held at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath, from 5.30pm to 9.30pm on Friday, January 27. Cost: $145 pp includes seven-course dinner, with beverages including with a refreshing sparkling lychee & mint cocktail on arrival, and entertainment. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au or (02) 4782 6885.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Henschke pulls a switch with new-release Mount Edelstone

Being an independent, family-owned business can have huge advantages. 

With no shareholders to answer to, companies can move quickly and make decisions that are right in the long-term rather than making a few more dollars in the short term.



The Henschke family, Australian winemaking royalty, are quite prepared to do things differently when required.

They decided not to release a 2011 Hill of Grace, their benchmark wine, because they were not happy with the quality of the fruit. 

Now they have moved to release their premium 2014 Mount Edelstone before the 2013 vintage.


After only three years the 2014 is perfectly poised for release,” says winemaker Stephen Henschke (above). 

“It may be young but it is a truly beautiful wine. The 2013, in contrast, needs patience. It is a structural beauty, although slower developing. With time in the cellar, it should unfold and bloom into its full potential.


The 2014 Mount Edelstone ($225) – made from fruit from a 105-year-old Eden Valley vineyard - will be released on February 1, and buyers will have to be quick as it was a vintage with very low yields and a much smaller-than-average volume. 


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Qantas courts controversy by adding in-flight wifi


There are differing opinions about the provision of in-flight wifi on planes.

Business people welcome the chance to do an extra hour or two of work while in the air, while those who seek sanctuary from technology when flying are far less keen,

Qantas will start a free in-flight internet service next month when it unveils "technology trials" on a Boeing 737-800 jet.

Passengers stepping on board the Boeing 737 on domestic flights will be able to connect their laptop, tablet or smartphone to a wifi hotspot and jump online for what Qantas promises will be a broadband experience good enough for streaming movies and live TV, Australian Business Traveller reports.

The upgraded 737 will serve Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the main business destinations, with possible flights to Perth.

The Boeing 737 will connect NBN Co's pair of Sky Muster satellites which take all of Australia under their wing. The speed will be equivalent to fast ADSL2+.

“The technology we’re using makes us confident that we’ll be able to provide a fast internet connection to passengers," a Qantas spokesman told Australian Business Traveller.

"It will be enough to comfortably stream video and given we’re offering it for free, we expect take-up to be strong."

I'll certainly be very keen; having found Etihad's wifi offering (although not free) very useful on a recent return trip to Europe. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

New culinary direction for luxury getaway Bells at Killcare

It was a long-lived and hugely successful collaboration that lasted nine years; an eternity in the hospitality industry. 

But now the owners of Bells at Killcare Boutique Hotel, Restaurant and Spa, Brian and Karina Barry, and restaurateurs Stefano Manfredi and Julie Manfredi-Hughes, have mutually agreed to part ways. 

The Manfredis' restaurant at Bells of Killcare was one of the best in regional Australia but now the partners feel it is time to move on and pursue new challenges.
Executive chef Dean Jones, who has worked alongside Manfredi for several years, will continue with the core Manfredi values of simplicity, elegance and sustainability in the Bells kitchen, but has vowed to elevate the Italian dining experience. 

Jones gained Michelin experience at London's River Café and aims to introduce a fresh perspective to the menu. 

"Passion and commitment took River Cafe to great heights, and I know it can here, too," he says.
While assuming the mantle of executive chef, Jones will also share the title of head chef with Jose Saulog (ex-Glass Brasserie and Tetsuya's). 

"River Cafe had five head chefs," says Jones, "and the extra respect and responsibility in the kitchen pays real dividends."

Re-energising the restaurant is the first of a number of upgrades and expansions planned by owners Karina and Brian Barry who bought Bells at Killcare from John Singleton's Coast and Country Properties in June, 2016. 

The Barry's have operated and hosted at the upmarket retreat since 2007. 

They, too, have an enormous affection for River Cafe which made founders Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray legends of the British culinary scene and which produced a host of talent including Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Jones (below) says the ethos of River Cafe should translate well to Bells at Killcare Restaurant & Bar with its coastal setting and extensive on-site produce gardens and orchards.

He says the menu will reflect the flavour and the spirit of the setting. Expect a comprehensive 'tidal pool' of seafood and a dish of sea urchin, butter, spaghetti and bottarga is already creating excitement among guests. 

Brian Barry says there will be no mistaking the Italian focus. Ssommelier Alessio Rubini and his team is doing a cellar stocktake of Italian wines.

Bells at Killcare, 107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights, NSW. (02) 4349 7000. www.bellsatkillcare.com.au. 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

New Australian wine brand honours a great name

Coonawarra kingpins the Brand family, who sold the Brands Laira label in 1995, are back in the wine industry with their own label for the first time in over two decades.

The Brand family have maintained their position as key vignerons in Coonawarra and are among the largest private landholders in the region. While various family members have worked as consultants in the area and have produced wines under a variety of labels, it is not until now that they have released a wine under their own name.

The new Jim Brand Wines releases honour the late Jim Brand (below), who passed away in 2005, at the age of 52, after a long battle with cancer.


A third-generation vigneron, he was born into a winemaking dynasty and proudly continued the family tradition.

Sam Brand (below), director of the Brand Group, says the range is a fitting tribute to a man who was dedicated to growing and producing exceptional wines from the famous Coonawarra region.


Dad was absolutely committed to his role at Brands Laira and was highly regarded within the industry not only for his success on the show circuit but for his generous and friendly nature,” he says.

He was very proud of his family and our heritage and it means a lot to be able to fulfil his dream and pay tribute to his legacy by releasing these wines under his name. They are small batches of premium wines from the heart of Coonawarra, the way he intended.”

The five wines include a chardonnay, two shirazes, a cabernet sauvignon and a cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc blend, and range from $26-$70 in price. 

All four reds were, as you'd expect, of outstanding quality. My two favourites were the limited-release Jim's Vineyard 2013 Shiraz (bold but impressively integrated) for $36 and 2013 limited-release Domain Cabernets, a classic Coonawarra red made from prime fruit ($70). This has intense currant flavours dancing cheek to cheek with French oak characters and impressive structure. One for the cellar. 

Only 400 cases of the shiraz were made and 203 cases of the blend.   

Friday, 13 January 2017

A dream sailing vacation in Cuba

If I win Lotto, no, make that when I win Lotto, I'm going to get together with a group of friends and go sailing, very gently, around the coast of Cuba.

I only made that decision this week when a press release dropped into my email inbox.

I visited Cuba a few years ago and loved it, but my sailing skills are non-existent and I get seasick on the Manly ferry.

With Cuba on the verge of an American invasion and being named on many lists as one of the hottest destinations for 2017, I'd like to get there sooner rather than later for my second, and possibly final, visit.

The Moorings offers charters of luxury yachts with a crew: a gourmet chef, captain and a dedicated local tour guide.

Apparently, you can explore undiscovered bays or stop off at Hemingway’s two favourite Havana watering hotels, La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio.

The Cuba all-inclusive holiday aboard a Moorings 5800 yacht is said to pair the best of Cuban sailing with a focus on the people and culture that make the destination so captivating.

Most days, you'll disembark the yacht to soak up the local entertainment and attractions with your personal guide, but you'll also enjoy some smooth day and sunset sailing in Cuba's warm climate and pristine cruising grounds.

Music, food, dance, exploring. The lot.

An all-inclusive Cuba Crewed Yacht vacation includes all onshore activities and meals, as well as spacious accommodations aboard a premium air-conditioned 58-foot sail catamaran, professional captain and chef, gourmet meals, drinks and a full selection of water toys. Prices start at from $40,110 for up to 10 people for seven nights (that's around $4000 per person).

The press release sold me. Now all I need is 40 grand and nine volunteers.

For more information visit http://www.moorings.com.au/cuba-yacht-charters

or contact 1800 553 720 or sales@moorings.com.au

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Watch New Zealand and South Africa behave like idiots

Vs. 


New Zealand and South Africa are countries with close sporting and cultural links; but their Governments are behaving like spoilt brats and making it very hard for citizens of one country to visit the other. 

The Travel Agents Association says New Zealand started the debacle by slapping visa requirements on South African travellers in November following what it said was a rise in the number of people trying to get into New Zealand on fraudulent passports.

The South Africans retaliated by forcing Kiwis wanting to visit South Africa to travel in person to Wellington or Canberra to get a visa from the South African embassy starting from Monday.

The moves pile on cost and inconvenience at both ends. You have to wonder whether the New Zealand diplomats involved have any idea what a big country South Africa is; or if the South Africans realise how long it can take to get from say, Invercargill to Wellington.

There will also be those extra costs involved and Immigration NZ r
ecommends that South African applicants apply for a visitor visa about six weeks in advance of their intended travel dates. Hardly convenient or efficient. 

The tit-for-tat moves will almost certainly reduce tourism numbers to both countries and are plainly idiotic.

If someone tries to enter either country on a suspected false passport, detain them until it can be checked (surely less than 24 hours) and send them straight home if it is false. The message would soon get home. 
Problem solved. Consultancy fee awaited.

On the other hand, not too many Kiwis would be trying to enter South Africa on a false passport. The South African reaction is churlish and stupid.


Time for airlines to crack down on unruly passengers



There seem to be more and more instances of airline passengers behaving obnoxiously.

Overnight a "family" was kicked off a Jetstar flight for reportedly refusing to take their allocated seats - and occupying those of other passengers.

Two of the fathers were reportedly angry because they had not been allocated seats with the rest of the group. This happens. Not everyone can get the seat they want every time they fly.

If it is important they can try to book the seats they want in advance (perhaps paying a premium), or plead their case at check-in. If the crew say it can't be done, tough luck. Couples are often separated, even on long-haul flights - and it is more likely to happen on low-cost carriers.

Jetstar stated the family had taken other passengers' seats in an attempt to stay together and refused to move when confronted. If that is so, they did absolutely the right thing in removing them from the flight.

It is lucky that one of the passengers whose seat was being occupied by these miscreants did not elect to take the law into their own hands.

And if the airlines to do not crack down hard, as Jetstar did, then we will see more and more of these entitled fools inconveniencing other passengers, delaying flights or causing anguished fellow flyers to lash out at them.

Any time someone doesn't like the seat they are allocated and sits, instead, in the seat of a fellow passenger, they should be removed from the seat, thrown off the plane and told to buy another ticket. No ifs, no buts. There should also be a register of repeat offenders. 


There was also a recent mid-air incident, also on Jetstar, where punches were allegedly thrown and fellow passengers were forced to intervene. The people involved should have been charged when the flight landed. You cannot behave differently in the sky to the way that you would on the ground.  

If a passenger is being drunk and obnoxious then they should be thrown off the flight if it is still on the ground, or restrained if in the air. Why should other passengers have their enjoyment destroyed, or feel threatened?

The recent case of a young woman who had a drunk making obscene suggestions and groping her was a case in point. And if the crew are not capable of restraining an unruly passenger, how would they be capable of dealing with a terrorist? And we are told that they are.

So well done Jetstar and let's see more prompt action as a deterrent to airborne bogans who think they are above the law.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Is there any way to ensure your luggage is fast-tracked?

There was an interesting short piece by Michael Gebicki on Traveller.com.au the other day, canvassing what flyers can do to help ensure their baggage comes off the carousel first.

His suggestion was that travelling in a class or with status credits that entitle you to a priority baggage tag might help.

In my experience, that only works a very small percentage of times. On a recent Hobart-Sydney flight with Virgin Australia, my clearly marked "Priority" bag was one of the last three off the plane.


And as baggage coming off international flights in Sydney and Melbourne generally takes at least half an hour to reach the conveyer belt, the advantage of being priority tagged is limited at best.

My tip is to go with hand luggage only whenever possible. Get off the plane, clear customers and immigration (if appropriate) and you are free and clear well before those passengers who checked their luggage.

I do this now on all trips of 3-4 days, although obviously it is not practical if you are returning from a fortnight in Nicaragua. When you check in, early or late, makes no difference.

Gebicki's piece pointed out that "exactly when your bag will come off the carousel is a roll of the dice. On a wide-bodied aircraft, checked baggage is loaded into cargo containers or "cans", big metal boxes that are transported as a single unit.
"Since weight distribution is a crucial factor in aircraft performance, the loadmaster will take account of the weight of each can and determine where it is placed within the aircraft's cargo bays."

No say. Random chance.

Gebicki says: "Some flyers suggest that identifying your bag as "fragile" at the check-in desk means it's more likely to be placed on top of other non-fragile items, and therefore ahead of the pack at the carousel."

That, however, is a little dishonest and having seen the way the Jetstar baggage crew dealt with all bags on a recent flight, also far from foolproof. Sometimes you'd almost think crew were targeting bags marked "fragile".


Cellar door experience helps boost sales for small wineries

Small winemaking businesses generated $1 billion in wine sales revenue in 2015-16, an average increase of 12%, Wine Australia figures show.

While retailers and wholesalers generated 47% of income, cellar doors have become increasingly important sales channels, accounting for 27% of revenue.

With food and wine tourism on the rise, many small wineries are now also attracting consumers to their region via on-site restaurants, cafes, tours and boutique accommodation, in addition to the traditional cellar door.

Garry Sweeney, owner of Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills (pictured), said his business has benefited from a strong cellar door focus.

"I’ve definitely seen a rise and increased diversity in visitors from interstate and overseas in the past year," he said.

"I believe it’s important to offer visitors more than just pouring wine, so you give them a ‘sense of place’ to associate with the wine," he said.

The survey also showed that on average, production was up 7%, with the highest average growth in wineries that produce 8000–20,000 cases (up 11%). 


Wineries that produce approximately 4000–8000 cases saw the highest average revenue growth (up 16%).

Australia’s small winemakers rely heavily on the domestic market, with 88% of wine sold locally. For wineries producing more than 20,000–40,000 cases, exports accounted for 27% of sales.

Monday, 9 January 2017

If you are carrying a vine disease please make sure you have a mobile phone on you


Several leading wineries in South Australia are trialling a "virtual" fence aimed at keeping pests and diseases out of vineyards.

The software was initially developed to safeguard the Canadian poultry industry and now the vineyard cyber monitoring system known as Project Boundary Rider is in action here.

It is designed by Canadian company Be Seen Be Safe to keep South Australia’s $1.78 billion wine industry free of diseases such as phylloxera and Pierce’s disease.

Vinehealth Australia, based in South Australia’s capital of Adelaide, is overseeing the project and has begun a six-month trial at 30 vineyards in the renowned Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale wine regions.

It will include the busy vintage period, which runs from February to April, when vineyards and wineries are susceptible to pests and disease partly due to high traffic volumes in and out of properties.

The Boundary Rider app places a virtual fence around vineyards, tracking the movements of people across boundaries via GPS on a smartphone.

Movements are recorded in real-time, with vignerons benefiting from an up-to-date electronic visitor record of anyone with a smartphone who has moved across their geofences.

In the event of a pest or disease outbreak, the technology provides instant data to enable a rapid response to contain the spread and minimise loss.

Of course, if anyone without a smart phone accesses the vineyard then nothing is recorded. And the intruder has to have voluntarily have downloaded the relevant app, as well, which makes the system rather less than foolproof, as I know people in the wine industry who find it hard to remember to get up in the morning let alone take their phone from their car. 

Also, some vineyards are in remote areas with phone range; and animals and birds do not usually carry iPhones.

Vinehealth Australia technical manager Suzanne McLoughlin said while it was still early days for the project, initial feedback from users had been positive.

“Having it run over vintage and in the lead up is good because it is one of the times of the year when vineyards are experiencing high numbers of visitors and contractors coming onto properties,” she said.

“The program also helps us to raise awareness of biosecurity in general for a wide range of people from fruit pickers to wine tasters.”

Australia was the world’s fifth largest wine-producing nation in 2016 - behind Italy, France, Spain and the United States.

South Australian growers taking part include Chapel Hill Winery, Charles Melton Wines, D’Arenberg, Gemtree Wines, Henschke Cellars, St Hallett Wines, Torbreck Vintners and Wirra Vineyards.


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Elephant polo: sounds like a joke but is deadly serious

It is one of the more curious events on the international sporting calendar, but one that is deadly serious about raising funds for animal welfare. 

The 15th King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament will be held by the banks of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River from March 9-12. 

Sponsored by Anantara Hotels and Resorts, the tournament has become one of the biggest charitable events in South-East Asia with over US $1.3 million raised and donated to projects that better the lives of Thailand’s wild and domesticated elephant population. 

These include the world’s first Thai Elephant-Assisted Autistic Therapy Project; positive reinforcement elephant training workshops; mahout community development initiatives, and wild elephant conservation.

A total of 30 unemployed former street elephants will take part in this year’s festival during which they will be given full veterinary checks and care, food and drink and essential vitamin supplements. 

The welfare of the elephants that participate in the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament is of paramount importance, organisers say, with strict rules ensuring that the pachyderms are well cared for at all times. 

By imposing a “no micro-chip, no game” rule, Anantara guarantees that all participating elephants have been domestically bred and not captured from the wild or smuggled in from neighbouring countries.

The 2017 event will have 10 teams encompassing over 40 players, including Thai celebrities, supermodels, professional horse polo players and New Zealand rugby players. The four-day festival will also feature an opening parade, Children’s Educational Day, Ladies' Day known as The ‘Bangkok Ascot’ and fun elephant-related activities.

Anantara has long been associated with elephant conservation efforts with the formation of The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which has performed over 40 rescues of elephants off the streets of Thailand.

For details see: www.anantaraelephantpolo.com/ 






Friday, 6 January 2017

A Spanish accent for the greatest wine show on earth


It is the trade fair to end all trade fairs and the party to end all parties is you are a member of the wine business. 

Founded in 1981, Vinexpo is the world’s leading show for wine and spirits professionals and is held in Bordeaux in odd-numbered years. 

Vinexpo leads to sold-out hotels and restaurants and some of the flashiest cocktail parties around, as well as some serious business transactions.


For first-timers (I have only been once), its scale is overwhelming, but it does provide a chance to rub shoulders with wine's most powerful movers and shakers and taste wines you may never have seen before.

Initial figures suggest 2350 wineries from 42 countries and a staggering 48,500 trade visitors from over 150 nations. 

Oh look, there is Domenico Zonin, managing director, Casa Vinicola Zonin, and yes, that is Peter Gago, chief winemaker from Penfolds. And are you going to the party hosted by Martin Krajewski from Chateau Cantenac? 

And in recent years Vinexpo has expanded. Since 1998, Vinexpo Hong Kong (formerly known as Vinexpo Asia-Pacific) has taken place in even-numbered years, and in 2014, Vinexpo expanded to the Japanese market with the debut of Vinexpo Tokyo, also held in even-numbered years. 


Vinexpo is back in Bordeaux this year; from June 18-21 and this year will see a special Spanish focus on June 19, with an exclusive tasting party pairing fine Spanish wines with foods by some of Spain’s top chefs. 

Everyone will be looking for tickets to this soiree at the Palais de la Bourse in Bordeaux’s historic city centre. 

“A Taste of Spain is shaping up to be one of the most provocative and essential events of Vinexpo Bordeaux 2017,” said Vinexpo CEO Guillaume Deglise. 

“We’re proud to work with Wine Spectator to attract such a prestigious line-up of bodegas to the exhibition. Their presence will add a new dimension to Vinexpo parties and will offer great opportunities to international buyers throughout the show. The tasting itself will be a must for any Vinexpo attendee.”

A Taste of Spain will shine a spotlight on the great wines of Spain with more than 100 Spanish bodegas invited to present their wines alongside food from the likes of chefs Ferran Adrià and José Andrés.