Monday, 18 June 2018

Masters of Wine to meet in Australia


The Masters of Wine symposium is held, like the Olympic Games, once every four years.

The 2018 edition ended in Logroño, Spain, yesterday and it was announced the 2022 edition will be held in Adelaide, South Australia.




Brian Croser, representing Australia in Rioja, said: “We are highly honoured and very surprised,” at the decision by the Institute of Masters of Wine to head to Australia for the organisation’s next major event, which will take place from June 21-24, 2022.

The veteran winemaker said that Adelaide was the ideal place in Australia for the symposium, both because of its proximity to many famous wineries and wine regions, but also because the city is home to both The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and Wine Australia, The Drinks Business reported.

Croser said that by the time the IMW comes to Adelaide “the Australian wine community will have changed an enormous amount.”

The IMW International Symposium is the institute’s biggest and most important event, and Adelaide follows this year’s symposium in Logroño; the 2014s event in Florence, and 2010 in Bordeaux.

The Australian-based symposium will follow a similar format, taking place over four days in mid-June.

The event in Australia will be co-hosted by Wine Australia, and will be the institute’s 10th symposium. Andreas Clark, CEO of Wine Australia, said: "We’re thrilled to be hosting the world of wine in Adelaide in 2022 and look forward to showcasing Australia’s diverse and thriving wine scene, and our enviable epicurean culture."

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McLaren Vale winemaker takes out top Young Gun award


Talented young McLaren Vale winemaker Rob Mack from Aphelion Wines (above) was today named Young Gun Winemaker of the Year for 2018 at a function at MONA in Hobart.

Mack is founder and director of the business, which makes "micro batch, hand crafted, minimal intervention, delicious wines".

Prior to striking out on his own, he worked at Kilikanoon in the Clare Valley, Laithwaites Wine People in Sydney and McLaren Vale Winemakers in McLaren Vale.

In 2016 he graduated with a Bachelor of Wine Science from Charles Sturt University after six years of study.

He won the Riedel-sponsored award over 12 finalists from around the country.


Other award winners were: Danger Zone winemaker: Chris Carpenter, Lark Hill, Canberra region; Winemaker's Choice: Paul and Gilli Lipscombe (below), Sailor Seeks Horse, Tasmania; People's Choice: Melanie Chester, Sutton Grange, Bendigo; and Best New Act: Jonny Hughes, Mewstone Wines, Tasmania.


The Wineslinger Awards for outstanding wine lists and service went to Harvest Newrybar in Northern New South Wales for the people's choice and the City Wine Shop in Melbourne for the overall award.

See www.younggunofwine.com.au.



Sunday, 17 June 2018

Sydney Airport offers a healthy new pre-flight treat

Passengers will be able to board their flights far more relaxed than in the past following the opening at Sydney Airport of a new flexology centre at the T1 International terminal in partnership with Stretch Studio.

 Designed to enhance mobility and well-being through assisted stretching, Stretch Studio provides passengers with a unique opportunity to undertake a personalised session with a flexologist before boarding their flight.


Flexologists employ a range of techniques to prevent stiffness and soreness from extended flight times. 

Making use of gentle pressure on limbs and holding stretches, they work to lengthen muscle fibres, increasing blood circulation, decreasing the risk of cramps and deep vein thrombosis, and combating pre-flight anxiety by releasing endorphins into the body.

Glyn Williams, general manager retail for Sydney Airport, said the new Stretch Studio was the perfect concept for passengers travelling long distances, with many international flights in the air for more than 10 hours. 

 “We’re very pleased to welcome Stretch Studio to T1, which offers a unique and convenient way for customers to feel physically and mentally more relaxed before they board,” Williams said. 

Stretch Studio director Yaron Remen said: “I’m thrilled to bring Stretch Studio into Sydney Airport’s T1 International terminal. Everyone who travels long distances on an aircraft knows that whether you’re in first class or economy, stretching before a flight is very beneficial,” 

Sydney Airport is Australia’s major gateway airport, serving more than 43.3 million passengers a year and connecting Sydney to a network of over 100 international, domestic and regional destinations. 

Head to Australia's pearling capital for a gourmet festival with a difference

TV cooks Adam Liaw and Marion Grasby will headline this year's Shinju Matsuri (festival of the pearl) to be held August 25-September 2 in Broome - the pearling capital of Australia in West Australia's remote north-west.
 
Celebrating four diverse cultures that have come together in Broome for pearls - Japanese, Malaysian, Chinese and Indigenous Australian - Shinju Matsuri features a unique dining program in extraordinary locations.
Liaw and Grasby will join forces at the popular Sunset Long Table Dinner (above), held on Broome's Cable Beach on September 1. 
The Willie Creek Pearl Meat Cook-Off is also returning and will see Broome's best chefs compete to create the best dish featuring pearl meat, a rare delicacy from the famous pearl-producing oysters native to the region. 
The event will feature beer, wine and pearl meat tastings, with Liaw as guest judge.
Liaw also headlines a new event, the Pearl Harvest Yum Cha – an open-air dining experience along Dampier Terrace in Broome's historic Chinatown on August 30. 
Tickets include all you can eat Chinese Yum Cha. Other event highlights include a Float Parade through the streets of Broome, Art AwardsFloating Lantern Matsuri and a Festival Finale concert.
Tickets for the events are now on sale, with travel packages featuring accommodation and tickets to selected events. For full details see www.shinjumatsuri.com.au

Friday, 15 June 2018

All change. New operator for one of Sydney's star tourism attractions

Sydney, the most visited city in Australia, is revamping one of its premier attractions after announcing a change in operator for the BridgeClimb on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 


The New South Wales Government's Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) announced that BridgeClimb Sydney had been unsuccessful in its bid to win a new 20-year contract to operate on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

The NSW Government body said that Hammons Holdings Pty Ltd, the operator of Scenic World in the Blue Mountains, had won the contract over current operator BridgeClimb Sydney.

Hammons Holdings director David Hammon said his company would expand opportunities for international, interstate and local visitors.
"We're really looking at ways to make new climbs on the bridge," he said. 
The world famous experience was a world first, pioneered by BridgeClimb chairman and founder Paul Cave.
BridgeClimb has hosted four million climbers from over 140 countries since opening on October 1, 1998. BridgeClimb turned the Sydney Harbour Bridge from a postcard to a global bucket list experience.  

The climb is renowned as a world-class experience and operation, and has an unblemished safety record, without one serious injury in 20 years. The decision to change operators is likely to come under serious scrutiny should that change. 

Cave thanked all climbers and praised his team. 

"It has been a privilege for us to make a hero of the bridge, and of every climber on every climb," he said. 

BridgeClimb also thanked the Sydney Harbour Bridge Workers past and present who maintain the mighty Sydney Harbour Bridge.

For all customers booked up until September 30, the attraction will operate as usual. The new operators take over on October 1. 

  

Thursday, 14 June 2018

How does Adelaide's newest five-star hotel stack up?


When I last stayed at the Pullman Adelaide it was still known as the Crowne Plaza Adelaide, a decent enough 4 1/2 star hotel very well situated in the centre of the South Australian capital.

Late last year the hotel was upgraded from 4 1/2 to five stars and given the Pullman makeover.





It is a very good hotel with excellent staff, but it lacks a little pizzaz.

It's fresh and bright but a little generic. It could use some artwork, or brighter colours, perhaps.

Situated on Hindmarsh Square, the Pullman features 308 guestrooms, the buzzy Salt restaurant and bar space, gym and lap pool and top-floor meeting room facilities.




There is a business centre on the ground floor, but it only features Apple machines. There is free, but clunky wifi, that can be upgraded for a payment (boo!).

Room service was excellent with my meal arriving promptly. The main course was warm and tasty, the dessert (below) delicious. Full marks.




Pullman, part of the AccorHotels group, has become the No.1 five-star brand in Australia by providing exactly what this hotel delivers; comfortable, well-equipped rooms with good lighting, modern bathrooms and all the facilities you need.

James Hines, managing director of developer Hines Property, said: “Partnering with AccorHotels and the Pullman brand will enable the hotel to move from a 4.5-star offering to five stars and it will be great for guests to have another five star option to choose from when visiting Adelaide,” he said.

I've seen the Pullman online for as low as $136 - which makes it stupendous value. For details and bookings www.pullmanadelaide.com.au/

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Tasmanian winemakers to head for Sydney and Melbourne


Vin Diemen (I can't tell you how much I dislike that name) is set to bring leading Tasmanian winemakers to show off their wares in Sydney and Melbourne in August.




Tasmania will come to Sydney for one day only on Saturday, August 11, from noon-5pm (from 11am for VIPs) to showcase the best of its food and wine. And to Melbourne the following day at Pure South Dining over the same time frame.

The venue is the Cell Block Theatre, National Arts School, Darlinghurst, to taste a range of wine styles from sparkling and riesling to chardonnay and pinot noir. But there is, as yet, no list of exhibitors.




There will also be dishes prepared from beautiful Tasmanian produce (although, again, no names are available just two months out).

Ticket prices includes all wine tastings and a Plumm wine glass to taste from and take home. Prices start from $65 ($55 for Early Bird purchasers). Melbourne has a different price structure that includes food.

I find it hard to understand why, at a time when Tasmanian wine is booming, this event has reduced from visiting Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to just Sydney and Melbourne. But who am I to wonder why?

Perhaps, instead of pie in the sky trade missions to remote regions of China, the Tasmanian Government could help extend Van Diemen to Brisbane and Adelaide, maybe even Perth.

Sydney event tickets are available here:

www.vindiemen.com.au/portfolio/sydney-2018/

and Melbourne tickets here:

www.vindiemen.com.au/portfolio/melbourne-2018/

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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Sydney gets the chance to sample warming Swiss-style winter fondues


Fondue is a uniquely Swiss culinary experience and the perfect winter warmer.

Swissotel Sydney will be serving fondues to guests, locals and visitors in Sydney CBD over winter - with both cheese and chocolate fondues on offer.



The team at Swissotel Sydney has recreated a traditional fondue recipe - a combination of Swiss cheeses, Emmental (a yellow, medium-hard, savoury and mild tasting cheese) and Gruyere (a traditional, creamy, unpasteurised, semi-soft cheese), Kirsch (a clear, colourless cherry brandy), white wine and garlic, all blended together and served in one pot.

The chefs at Swissotel Sydney can also adapt the flavour of the fondue dip to suit guests' preferences by adding Fourme d'Ambert blue cheese, Gorgonzola Dolce blue cheese or truffle on request…or all three!

The fondue is served with traditional crusty baguette bread, pickled onions and a farmer's garden salad. Other optional dip additions Include: spiced meatballs, 'mac and cheese' croquettes, potato rostis, beer battered chips, seasonal vegetables, mushrooms, cured speck, pork salami, and even nashi pear.

To complement the experience, Swissotel Sydney has also curated a unique beverage menu which pairs perfectly with the fondue. Their selection includes: Kirsch, mulled wine, peach schnapps, calvados and apple schnapps. Guests are warned that fondue tradition dictates that if a person loses their bread in the fondue pot they owe the group a round of drinks!

For dessert lovers, there is a sweet option. Diners can dip their way into a special house-made milk chocolate fondue with favourites such as marshmallows, strawberries and more.

“We have been working on this concept for months now and we are absolutely thrilled to finally launch it in time for winter," says hotel GM Ross Buchanan.

"Fondue is an authentic Swiss culinary tradition which is perfect to enjoy with friends when the weather turns cold. The team and I are excited to share this unique experience which ties into the history of the Swissotel brand, with Sydneysiders and guests to the city.”

The Swiss fondue is available at Swissotel Sydney every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5.30pm to 10pm. The cheese experience is priced from $29 per person while the chocolate alternative at $22 per person with a minimum of two people per booking.

To book and for more information about Swissotel Sydney visit: www.swissotel.com/sydney

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Monday, 11 June 2018

You don't need to store wine bottles on their sides, expert says


We've all been doing it wrong for decades. Storing wine on its side won’t prevent corks drying out, and may even accelerate their degeneration, cork producer Amorim’s director of research and development says. 

The Drinks Business reports that Dr. Miguel Cabral has said that the head space of a sealed bottle of wine was so moist that there was no need to place bottles on their side to keep the cork damp.

“The cork will never dry out with almost 100% humidity in the head space, so it is a myth that you need to store a bottle on its side,” he said.

He said that such humidity would ensure that the cork “won’t dry out if you store the bottle upright”.

He also said that creating moist ambient conditions during wine storage was unnecessary for bottled wine (although for barrel cellars it is important to reduce evaporation).

“The humidity of the environment around the bottle won’t have any influence, because the cork is influenced by the humidity inside the bottle,” he said. “So the idea that you need to store wine in a damp cellar is another myth.”

He then stated: “The myths are falling down one by one now the cork industry has started doing studies.”

Now if only the cork industry could resolve the unreliability of its product. 

Which international airline has the most cachet? You might be surprised

A new international survey has asked travellers which international airlines they would most like to fly with, based purely on image. 

Based on perceptions, Etihad emerged as the most desired carrier with 98% of respondents wanting to fly thanks to the power of the brand. Qatar Airways and Lufthansa followed with 96% and 95% respectively, while Kazakhstan's Air Astana came in as the least desired mode of transport.


Lufthansa and British Airways were the most recognized worldwide but Australia's Qantas could only manage 16th spot overall. 

The aided online poll was conducted among 24,000 participants from 68 countries aged between 17 and 78 who claimed to have traveled by plane at least one time during the past 24 months.

The rankings were produced by the German design and branding team GraphicSprings.com,

The goal of the questions was to understand the effect marketing, reputation and the country of origin may have on the desirability people may have to fly in it.

The study is part of a larger study on corporate logos and branding penetration. Among the findings it was found that the Gulf airlines have an edge when it comes to branding, credibility, and desirability. 

The top five were: Etihad (98%), Qatar Airways (96%), Lufthansa (95%), Emirates (95%) and All Nippon Airways (88%). 

The least respected included Malaysia Airlines and Air Astana (both 5%). 

Sunday, 10 June 2018

When only the best will do: Thai luxury at Rayavadee

Quite a few people come to the renowned Rayavadee resort in Krabi for the rock climbing and jungle trekking; most, however, are here to chill in Thai style. With three beaches to choose from, many pavilions with their own pools and plenty of gourmet options, relaxing here is easy.



Rayavadee, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group, is a resort for those looking for an authentic experience; a slice of nature along with a big dollop of indulgence. There is a sense here of being somewhere really special.

Set on 26 acres with beaches on three sides (and overlooked by dramatic limestone cliff formations that challenge climbers from around the globe), Rayavadee is accessed only by boat; the resort offers luxury speedboat transfers that get you in the mood for tropical opulence before you have even arrived.

Krabi Province, less well-known than Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya as a beach destination for Australians, is on the Andaman Coast, 800 kilometres south of Bangkok, and is dotted with picturesque fishing villages, one of which, Nam Mao Beach, also known as Railay East, is just a short stroll from Rayavadee.

The Krabi Marine National Park region is characterised by sandy beaches, clear waters and warm temperatures and you’ll find grottos, caves and countless tiny, uninhabited islands.



The pavilions at Rayavadee are set well apart amid lush jungle greenery and trees, which are home to wildlife ranging from langur and macaque monkeys to squirrels and lizards. There are 120 different palms and trees, including coconuts, mangoes, tamarinds and gooseberries.

The gardens are, not surprisingly, popular with wedding parties. Thai Buddhist ceremonies, renewals of vows and same sex union celebrations can all be arranged.

There are just 102 rooms across the leafy resort, so the vibe is very much boutique with all the accommodation in private pavilions ranging from two-storey deluxe pavilions (90sq.m.) with garden views, to the sea-view Phranang Villa with three bedrooms, its own pool and butler.

All accommodation has polished wood furnishings and richly coloured fabrics with mini bars, quality amenities, and lots of space. If your budget stretches to a pool pavilion it is well rewarded.



Activities on offer include speedboat charters to surrounding islands, diving, all non-motorised water sports, rock climbing, elephant riding, Thai cooking classes, tennis and squash courts, yoga, Thai boxing, well-equipped gym and a luxurious spa offering a range of treatments including massages and facials.

Choose from options like a Thai herbal scrub, a facial using Thai herbs or perhaps a hot stone massage.

For active types, daily options range from fit ball, Thai boxing, and tennis to cave hiking and walks to the hills above Nam Mao Beach.

All check-ins are conducted individually, there are golf buggies to zip you from one side of the resort to another, while the library has wide range of books, videos and computer terminals.

There are several dining options including The Grotto, built into an ancient cave, making it an ideal vantage point for guests who linger over cocktails while admiring the spectacular sunsets.



Kura Phranang, directly overlooking the beach, is an authentic Thai eatery where the chef has been installed since the resort opened 25 years ago. With views of limestone cliffs and tiny outlying islands, it features traditional Thai dishes like whole sea bass with ginger and red duck curry.

Raitaly Terrace serves a la carte breakfasts and lighter dishes overlooking the swimming pool, while Raya Dining is the main restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with Thai, western, Indian and Japanese options. I very much enjoyed the copious buffet breakfast.

Complimentary afternoon teas are also available on certain days of the week – but make sure not to schedule one after you’ve done a cooking class. Private dining is also available in the pavilions from the 24-hour room service crew and there is a very good international wine list.

Rayavadee is privately owned; a rarity for luxury properties nowadays and has won a swag of awards. The staff, several of whom date back to the opening, are a delight, always smiling and willing to assist. It is just 35 minutes by boat from the popular day trip destination of Koh Phi Phi and just a short longboat ride from Ao Nang and Krabi Town. The resort’s tour desk can arrange any number of options dependant only on your budget.

For Thai food, bars, massages and shopping (without any of the craziness of Patong or Chaweng), there are plenty of options on Nam Mao Beach, which overlooks mangroves.

For the best sunbathing, Railway West on the other side of the resort, is a beautiful, peaceful and pristine beach.

Getting there: Transfers to Rayavadee can be arranged from Krabi and Phuket Airports.

Rayavadee, 214 Moo 2, Tumbon Ao Nang, Amphoe Muang, Krabi 81000. +6675 620 740. www.rayavadee.com.

# This is an edited version of a story that first appeared in Ciao Magazine.

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Saturday, 9 June 2018

Explore Sri Lanka in a tuktuk and do some good at the same time


Discover a unique way to explore the island paradise of Sri Lanka: in your own rented tuktuk.

Tuktuk Rental, a socially aware company, has been renting out the three-wheeled tuktuks to adventurous travellers since 2016.

Sri Lanka is one of the world's fastest emerging tourist destinations following the end of a 30-year civil war and is an island with island sandy beaches, national parks and tropical rainforests, along with tea plantations.




There are over 1.2 million tuktuks in Sri Lanka, making the three-wheeler the motor vehicle of choice for many locals. Many of the motorised rickshaws are hand-painted with bold designs and slogans.

Due to high government import taxes, however, tuktuks are quite expensive and out of reach financially for many average Sri Lankans. Many owners struggle to pay them off over several years.

Tuktuk Rental is the only three wheel rental agency in Sri Lanka that also operates as a social business and does not own any tuktuks.

Instead, Tuktuk Rental rents from local tuktuk owners who are not using their vehicles, helping them to boost their income while covering all of the transportation logistics for tourists to enjoy their trip hassle-free.



Full insurance coverage, an arrangement of the special local tuktuk driving permit, comprehensive driving lessons and access to an "adventure platform" for itinerary planning are all included.

Head over to www.tuktukrental.com and book or email hello@tuktukrental.com

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Empire State Building gets into the World Cup spirit


It is arguably the most famous building on the planet and now New York's Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan is getting into the World Cup in a big way.

On June 13, the Empire State Building will shine its world-famous LED lights in a new dynamic light show to celebrate the world's most popular sporting event.

Starting from sunset, flags from each of the participating 32 countries will light up the city skyline in a rotation of colours.



"The Empire State Building is excited to share the gift of this new light show on the eve of one of the biggest sporting events in the world," said Anthony E. Malkin, chairman and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust.

"We wish every participating team the best of luck, and look forward to lighting up the New York City skyline with the colours of the world."

Fans are encouraged to share photos and videos of the lighting and post them to their social media channels, using the hashtag #ESBWorldCup to show the massive fan support from across the globe as the tournament kicks off.

The building will also light up for the two finalists on July 14, as well as the champion on July 15.

Ironically, of course, the US failed to qualify for this year's World Cup.

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Friday, 8 June 2018

Major savings on luxury trips exploring Chile


A while back I spent a couple of weeks in Peru with Contours Travel and was impressed by the whole operation; from hotels to tours.

Now Contours, experts in South American destinations, are offering Taste of Chile all-inclusive packages with savings of up to $7200 per couple.




The new packages enable Australians to see some of Chile’s most iconic landscapes, including the snow-capped peaks and lakes of Patagonia, the forests and coastlines of Chiloe Island and the driest spot in the world, the Atacama Desert – all from the comfortable base of three luxurious Tierra Hotel properties.

Situated in northern and southern Chile, and inspired by nature, the three Tierra Hotels are boutique lodges which have won architecture awards for the way in which they integrate hand-made furnishings and textiles created by Chilean craftspeople, using natural materials from the surrounding environment.

Included at each of the three Tierra properties are excursions, all meals and an open bar.

Contours Travel’s new 13-day Taste of Chile In Style package combines all-inclusive stays at all three hotels, which showcase three distinct Chilean landscapes and offer an array of activities including 4WD touring, birdwatching, kayaking, sightseeing, bike riding, horse riding, bathing in hot springs and even hiking a volcano.

Tierra Atacama (three-night stay, top) is the first of the lodges included in the package and is situated among the moon-like landscape of the world’s driest desert.



The second lodge, Tierra Patagonia Hotel and Spa (four-night stay, above), overlooks Torres del Paine National Park in the far south of Chile with its craggy mountains, lakes and abundant wildlife. The hotel offers a cosy hideaway after a day spent exploring regional waterfalls, mountains and glaciers.

The final hotel – Tierra Chiloe (three-night stay, below) is located on the island of Chiloe in southern Chile and boasts eco-friendly architecture and panoramic windows.



Including all-inclusive stays at the three Tierra Properties, transfers between them all, all excursions and activities, a free night at the Ritz-Carlton Santiago and another at Clos Apalta Residence, the exclusive Relais & Chateaux property in Santa Cruz, and a US$100 spa voucher to use at one of the Tierra properties, the package is available from $9489 per person, twin-share - a saving of $3600 per person.

The offer is available for travel until May 31, 2019, excluding Christmas/New Year. Conditions apply and flights from Australia to Chile for both packages are extra. Call Contours Travel on 1300 135 391 or visit www.contourstravel.com.au

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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Swincer named chief winemaker at Jacob's Creek

Dan Swincer
Jacob’s Creek has announced the appointment of Dan Swincer as its new chief winemaker, taking over from Canada-bound Ben Bryant.

Swincer now takes responsibility for wines that are sold in 77 countries across the world. It has been estimated that global wine drinkers enjoying approximately 1.7 million glasses of Jacob’s Creek wine daily.

Swincer is familiar with the Jacob’s Creek range having joined the company in 2006, and held the position of group red winemaker since 2015.

Since August 2015, he has also been chief winemaker of the fine wine brand St Hugo.

In 2011, The Wine Society voted him Young Winemaker of the Year, and in 2015 he was a Len Evans Tutorial scholar.

Pernod Ricard Global Operations Director Brett McKinnon said the appointment was a testament to Swincer's skills and vision.

“Since joining us, Dan has held a series of winemaking roles and has confirmed his place as a leading Australian winemaker, working with his team to create award-winning wines that are the best possible expression of the fruit from each vintage,” McKinnon said.

“Dan is a truly progressive and talented winemaker who is very well positioned to take our Australian wines to markets around the globe.”

Commenting on his new appointment, Swincer said it was an exciting development in his career.

“Jacob’s Creek is such an influential winery here in Australia and throughout the world, where it plays an important role in showcasing Australian wines to the world," he said. "It will be an honour to continue to grow this legacy.

“The role as chief winemaker is a tremendous opportunity and exciting challenge, and I look forward to continuing to work with the incredible team at Jacob’s Creek.”

He will continue in his role as chief winemaker at St Hugo, with an announcement to be made in due course about a replacement.

Jacob's Creek is one of Australia’s leading global wine brands, first launched in 1976 and named after the spot where Johann Gramp planted his first vines on the banks of Jacob’s Creek in 1847.

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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

New wine research centre launched in Adelaide

A new wine research centre aimed at combatting the effects of climate change, defeating disease, defining Australian wine flavours and increasing grape quality is to be established in Adelaide.

Supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and based at the University of Adelaide Waite campus, the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production will undertake research aiming to build the sustainability and competitive edge of Australia’s $5 billion wine industry.

In establishing the centre, researchers consulted widely with producers, suppliers, industry bodies and other researcher agencies to identify research priorities.

Centre Director Professor Vladimir Jiranek, who is also Professor of Oenology at the University of Adelaide, said the research projects would help industry respond to the challenges of climate extremes, diseases, spoilage, water limitations and quality losses.

“We will also be helping industry increase profitability through the production of sought-after, distinct wines that fetch higher prices, and more efficient wine-making processes,” Professor Jiranek said.


Professor Vladimir Jiranek
“For example, one project will aim to characterise the distinctive flavours of Australia’s cabernet sauvignon wines, focusing initially on the Coonawarra region.

“We want to determine how pragmatic and cost-effective vineyard practices can change grape composition to meet consumer preferences, whether in traditional Western or booming Asian markets.”

Other projects aim to develop strategies for meeting quality and yield targets despite environmental challenges; better understanding, detecting and controlling disease, spoilage and wine taint; and developing and adapting new technologies to reduce waste and cost, and drive profitability.

The University of Adelaide’s Waite campus is part of Australia’s largest wine research hub in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, which also includes the Australian Wine Research Institute, CSIRO and the university’s teaching winery.

A secondary ARC Training Centre node will be established at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre at Charles Sturt University in New South Wales.

University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen said the centre built on a long history of wine research and multi-agency collaboration at the Waite campus.

“This is a perfect example of how our university can leverage research strengths and intellectual capability to meet industry needs, which will brings economic benefits for the state and the nation,” he said.

The centre is being backed by an $4.46 million Government grant.

Partner organisations include: NSW Department of Primary Industries, VA Filtration, CSIRO, Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Coonawarra Grape and Wine Inc, Australian Genome Research Facility, Australian Wine Research Institute, Gallo, Chalmers Wines, Charles Sturt University, Wine Australia, Availer and Lallemand Australia.

New boat launched for Tasmanian wilderness experience

Tasmania has a new tourism attraction: The RACT's new Gordon River Cruises vessel – Spirit of the Wild – has been officially welcomed into her home port of Strahan and will commence cruising on the Gordon River on June 16.


Built in Hobart by Richardson Devine Marine, the vessel was designed with the Gordon River specifically in mind. Spirit of the Wild is the first commercial passenger vessel of its type in the southern hemisphere to be fitted with a hybrid drive system, featuring both diesel engines and electric motors. 

When the vessel enters the Gordon River the diesel engines will be switched off, leaving only the electric drive to propel the vessel forward. 

This means passengers will enjoy a cruising experience like nothing that has ever been available in Tasmania's World Heritage Area before, the RACT boasts. 

Spirit of the Wild will also virtually disappear while on the Gordon River thanks to exterior finishes that blend into the surroundings. 

In addition to the new vessel, the Gordon River Cruise experience has been enhanced with new interpretation model, telling the stories of the history and early inhabitants of the area; and a new food and wine offering featuring Tasmanian produce. 

 For more information visit www.gordonrivercruises.com.au

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Dallas fans can now have the ultimate Southfork Ranch experience


It may have ended its TV run over 25 years ago, but Dallas remains a style icon for the ages.




Now, for the first time, and long after J.R. Ewing bit the dust, Southfork Ranch invites visitors to experience the residence made famous on the TV series.

The new Live Like a Ewing package starts from $US275 per person for one to six people and includes a trail ride on the 357-acre grounds, Champagne and hors d’oeuvres, a private tour of the mansion, and the Ewing cars, and a steak dinner featuring prime aged Texas beef and all the accompaniments, along with wine pairings, in the mansion dining room.



Upgrades include a private helicopter ride or limousine transport from Dallas directly to the ranch.

Guests who opt for the helicopter upgrade will see the same sweeping aerial vantage point made famous in the series' opening credits.



“We created this experience to give Dallas fans—or any fan of American pop culture and Texas hospitality—an unforgettable excursion to the ranch,” said Janna Timm, acting general manager of Southfork Ranch.

“They’ll really be able to put themselves in J.R.’s boots from the moment they board the private helicopter in Dallas, until the very last bite of steak and sip of wine served to them in the mansion’s dining room.”

For more information about the Live Like a Ewing package email info@sourthforkranch.com or call +972 442 7800.

www.southforkranch.com

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A facelift for one of South Africa's most gracious safari lodges


Few travel experiences can compare with the thrill of game safaris in Africa and one of the most exclusive safari lodges in South Africa has just been upgraded.


Royal Malewane, the exclusive safari lodge that is part of The Royal Portfolio (a collection of iconic hotels and private residences in South Africa owned and managed by the Biden family), has just completed an extensive refurbishment with some new additions for its well-heeled guests.


The extravagant lodge, which has played host to Hollywood actors, pop stars, royals and presidents since it first opened in 1999, is located in the Greater Kruger National Park and accommodates a maximum of 20 guests in only eight one- to six-bedroom villas. 

The refurbishment covered major structural work including new floors, doorways, walls, decking and thatching, as well as resurfacing of the swimming pools.



Liz Biden, co-owner of The Royal Portfolio, has added "exquisite" pieces of furniture and exotic new fabrics including a few vibrant flashes of colour to the lodge. The two Royal Suites were enhanced with new gazebo entrances and the kosher kitchen was redone.

A highlight of the refurbishment is the opening of the Masiya Bar on the site of the old boma. 

This contemporary gin and whisky bush-bar is a tribute to the Master Trackers of Royal Malewane. Wilson Masiya was the first of three Master Trackers at Royal Malewane. He sadly passed away in 2015 but his legacy lives on at the lodge through his contemporaries Jonas Mhula and Juan Pinto.


The Masiya Bar is a space for guests to relax around the fire and share the stories of the day. It also provides a new private dining option for guests.

Liz Biden said: “The refurbishment has given the entire lodge a lovely lift while retaining the classic safari style and relaxed atmosphere that our guests have enjoyed for nearly 20 years.”

Royal Malewane provides safari experiences with what it claims are South Africa’s most qualified guiding team, as well as the award-winning Waters of Royal Malewane Bush Spa. 

In the evenings guests enjoy nightly feasts under the African stars and a regular bush dinner under a marquee in the heart of the African wilderness. 


Royal Malewane is accessible by road from Johannesburg in under six hours. For those wishing to fly, South African Airways operates daily flights from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Hoedspruit Airport, an easy 45-minute road transfer away. 

Be aware, however, that storms can close Hoedspruit Airport leaving you trapped - it has happened to me in the past.

The lodge also has a private airstrip for those wishing to charter flights.

Royal Malewane was recently included in Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the Best Resorts in the World and is on my bucket list. 

If you need to ask how much it costs, then it is probably out of your range. Room rates are seasonal but start from R24,500 (around $2500) per person in a luxury suite, inclusive of meals and two game drives daily.

For further information and special offers visit www.theroyalportfolio.com.

Raise a glass to one of the great Hunter Valley vintages

The annual Hunter Valley Wine Festival - to be held on June 30 - will be a celebration of one of the region's finest vintages.
Hunter Valley vigneron Bruce Tyrrell described the 2018 vintage as being “in the top 5% of the past 50 years of vintages” - and the 2018 harvest follows three outstanding years in a row.

Stuart Hordern from Brokenwood said: "Crop levels for most varieties have been down slightly on normal but the quality has been very, high producing whites that are fuller and softer that will be great on release." 

Wines from over 40 of the Hunter Valley's wineries - both large and boutique - will be available for tasting at the festival, which is being held at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley (below).


In addition to wine tastings, there will be beer and cider tastings throughout the day, as well as local cuisine and entertainment.
A feature of this year's festival will be a wine-and-cheese tasting session hosted by Bruce Tyrrell from Tyrrell's Wines presenting cheeses from the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory. 

There will also be a blind tasting sparkling wine competition at 2.30pm, hosted by Peterson House. 

The Hunter Valley is Australia's oldest wine region renowned for its semillon and shiraz along with emerging wine varieties. 

Uniquely, the Hunter Valley Wine Festival is a family-friendly event, with children receiving complimentary entry to the festival, where they will enjoy a variety of activities including a jumping castle, train rides, carousel, mini car rides and face painting.
Pre-sale tickets for the festival are available for just $20. Tickets include festival entry, five tasting tickets and a tasting glass. Accommodation packages are available through the hotel. 
Bookings and information: www.huntervalleywinefestival.com/

Monday, 4 June 2018

Meet the new wine release that is also a work of art


Following the successful opening of the d’Arenberg Cube in McLaren Vale, the winery continues to challenge convention with the re-design and launch of a new product that is available exclusively for purchase at cellar door. 

The Daddy Long Legs Extra Rare is a fortified wine, described as "wonderfully rich and concentrated, hand bottled, and released only in tiny quantities". 

Fourth-generation family member, Chester Osborn, who assumed the position of chief winemaker at d’Arenberg in 1984, set aside 15 barrels of very old, high-quality fortified wine at that time. 

These barrels were left to slowly mature, topped up when necessary, using only the same carefully aged wine. 

With an average wine age of over 50 years, only two barrels remain, with 50 bottles available in the first release of this wine. 

The solera of old wines that contribute to The Daddy Long Legs has been going since 1928. 

A blend of grenache, shiraz and mataro, the wine is presented in an octagonal box, the bottle resting upon eight legs, The Daddy Long Legs is available exclusively at d’Arenberg’s cellar door. It retails at $500 for a 100ml bottle.

Given the price, probably more a collectors' item than a quick Friday night drink. 

New luxury hotel opens its doors in Tasmania

Visitors to Tasmania have a new luxury accommodation option with the opening of the new Peppers Silo Hotel in Launceston. 

Originally erected in 1960, the Kings Wharf grain silos were left unused for decades until two years ago when construction began to breathe new life into the structures, transforming the silo barrels into a state-of-the-art new hotel.


The redeveloped site is now a 10-level hotel featuring 108 guest rooms, including 52 inside the barrels of the former silos, a restaurant and bar called Grain of the Silos, undercover car parking, conference facilities and an integrated lobby and reception space.

Located on the edge of the River Tamar and close to dramatic Cataract Gorge, the once unused silo barrels have transformed into a $25-million property, which features one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Amenities on-site include a gym, day spa, child-minding facilities, hairdressing salon, function centre, private dining rooms, restaurant and cocktail bar.


For all day dining options, Grain of the Silos, is the property’s on-site restaurant and bar, which is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner and features a range meal options, focused on local Tasmanian produce and supporting local farmers and producers.

There are two driving forces heading up the kitchen, with head chef Peter Twitchett and food director and TV personality Massimo Mele, who is overseeing the menu in an advisory role. 

Both chefs recently completed a food tour, meeting all of the producers they will be working with to source local ingredients, while wine educator Curly Haslam-Coates has curated the wine list. 

Peppers Silo has also worked closely with Guide Dogs Tasmania to employ a canine ambassador called Archie, a black Labrador who resides at the hotel and helps the concierge with daily tasks such as greeting guests and delivering the morning newspapers.


Owner and developer Errol Stewart said Launceston was in need of new tourism projects and has a shortage of hotel rooms in summer.

“I am proud of what we have delivered and I believe this building will continue to be iconic for Launceston for years to come,” he said. 

To celebrate the official opening, Peppers Silo has launched a special opening rate from $199 per night including breakfasts and wifi. 

Peppers Silo is located at 89-91 Lindsay Street, Launceston. 
www.peppers.com.au/silo

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Yes, you can still find a very decent hotel for $25 a night




Many visitors to south-east Asia, particularly Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, opt for the safety of a chain hotel when they travel.

This might mean splashing out $150 for a spic-and-span medium-brand option, or up to a couple of thousand a night for an absolute beachfront ultra-luxury property with hot and cold running butlers.

If, however, you are planning to spend most of your holiday on the beach or exploring islands and temples then you may be using your hotel room mainly for sleeping.

My recent stint in Thailand demonstrated how comfortable double rooms with air-conditioning can still be procured for 300 baht a night (around $12.50, but down a dingy alley) and seriously good western style hotels can cost as little as $25 per night.

In fact, I've been paying $25 a night for the past week and what is my discovery of the year so far: the Crystal Beach Hotel in Patong, Phuket.

Located on a laneway just 100 metres from the beach, the Crystal Beach met all my search conditions: air-con, double bed (not two singles pushed together), free wifi, swimming pool and central location. Even a balcony.



I paid $33 for two nights via an on line booking service then negotiated the hotel down to $25 a night so long as I paid cash.

The Crystal Beach might not be for everyone. It is on a busy soi with massage shops and restaurants, so can have some evening noise if you are on lower floors (I had no problem on the fourth).

It also does not have its own restaurant but with dozens on your doorstep that is not an issue.



Your a probably thinking what is the hitch? A shared bathroom perhaps? Nope. My room had its own shower, toilet and basin, hairdryer, soaps, shampoos and body washes.

The bedroom also boasted a small fridge, a phone, in-room safe and kettle, as well as several well-located power points and good lighting. There is a TV with several overseas channels (I watched the end of Richmond-Essendon last night).

And the room was serviced every day with fresh sheets and towels. The rooftop pool (free towels at reception) was a refreshing delight with excellent views. The hotel has 24-hour reception and security, a tour desk and laundry service. The elevator is modern and efficient.



Jungceylon shoppping centre is about an eight-minute walk away and the madness of the bars and discos of Bangla Road a similar distance.

All the photos used here are mine, taken this week.

What more could you ask for $25 a night?

The Crystal Beach, 212/4-7 Soi Keb Sub, Rat-U-Tid 200 Pee Rd, Patong, Phuket, 83150. +66 76 340 342. www.thecrystalbeachhotel.com.


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Friday, 1 June 2018

A special winter treat for cheese lovers unveiled in Melbourne


Calling all cheese lovers.

As a cheesy take on its popular high teas, The Westin Melbourne is working with Prahran's Maker & Monger to deliver High Cheese.

Launching on Monday, June 11, and running throughout winter, High Cheese will offer cheeses featured in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Westin executive chef Michael Greenlaw has worked closely with Anthony Femia from Maker & Monger to source what he describes as a 'best in show' of cheeses from across the world to be part of the High Cheese line-up.



High Cheese swaps out traditional scones and cream for scones served with creamed Giorgio Cravero Reggiano, a leading Reggiano affineur. Other classics include tiramisu with a cheesy twist and cannoli with a ricotta filling.

For extreme cheese lovers High Cheese will be serving up whole-baked Normandy Camembert with mini baguettes you can rip apart and dip into the cheesy goodness, or basil crème fraiche-layered Brie with crackers.

Other dishes include Carles Roquefort & Cognac served with pain d'epices, Holy Goat Organic Skyla strawberry and thyme mille-feuille drizzled with honey, and fresh figs stuffed with sweet Gorgonzola served with natural honeycomb.



High Cheese is $70 per person and available seven days a week from 4pm. Those wanting to match wine with their cheese, there will be varieties available per glass from Ten Minutes by Tractor, Shaw+Smith or port from Penfolds.

“We're excited to be collaborating with Maker & Monger on High Cheese, bringing cheese to the forefront, and offering guests something different and warming this winter," said Greenlaw.

High Cheese will be served daily from June 11 until August 31. Bookings can be made by contacting the hotel on (03) 9635 2222 or online at www.westinmelbourne.com/highcheese.

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