Friday, 31 August 2018

Discover the myriad tastes of Macao: for free

Sydney and Melbourne residents will get the chance to enjoy the flavoursome tastes of Macao during the month of September. 

Macanese food is the world's first fusion cuisine, drawing on the flavours of Asia, Portugal and Africa, and 2018 is the Macao Year of Gastronomy.


The Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) has created a colourful food truck offering a pop-up taste of Macao that will be parked at a number of major locations in Sydney and Melburne dishing out free samples of African chicken, pork chop buns and ever-popular Macanese egg tarts in Sydney.

In Melbourne, diners will be treated to African chicken and pork chop buns and traditional serradura pudding.

For three hours each day from September 3 to September 8, the truck will be parked at key Sydney CBD locations as Circular Quay, Martin Place and Central Station as well as in suburban Parramatta and Chatswood.


The truck will then venture south to Melbourne to cater for hungry guests in Carlton, at Federation Square, St Kilda and South Bank (September 14-18).

A former Portuguese enclave of 650,000 residents, Macao was recently designated by UNESCO as a
Creative City for Gastronomy and is celebrating everything food throughout 2018.

SYDNEY LOCATIONS (noon-3pm)

Monday, Sept 3 – Circular Quay East 

Tuesday, Sept 4 – Martin Place 

Wednesday, Sept 5 – Henry Deane Plaza, Central Station

Thursday, Sept 6 – Centenary Square, Parramatta

Friday, Sept 7 – Spring St, Chatswood

Saturday, Sept 8 – Spring St, Chatswood

MELBOURNE LOCATIONS (noon-3pm)

Friday, Sept 14 – Carlton

Saturday, Sept 15 – Federation Square (noon-5pm)

Sunday, Sept 16 – Federation Square

Monday, Sept 17 – St Kilda

Tuesday, Sept 18 – South Bank Spillway 

For details on Macao and its food:  www.visitmacao.com.au


Australia's most collectable wines unveiled

Australia’s leading wine marketplace, Langton's, has named Penfolds Bin 95 Grange Shiraz the most collectible wine in the country in its new official rankings, which were unveiled today.

The new rankings, launched in Langton’s 30th anniversary year, include the first-ever Heritage Five category recognising the very best of the Exceptional classified wines.

Only released every four years, the classification is considered to be one of the highest accolades an Australian wine can achieve, and is unique as it is compiled based on consumer demand for these wines at auction, rather than a single opinion.

The 2018 Langton’s Classification VII showcases Australia’s 136 best performing and most treasured wines, with 13 new entrants making their way into the list, including Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay, Hoddles Creek 1er Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, Oakridge Estate 864 Chardonnay and Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay.

This edition covers 30 years of influence, charting the progress of Australian wine through three decades of auction market trading.

The Classification VII ranks wines in three categories, Exceptional, Outstanding and Excellent. The classification is compiled by analysing the track record of fine wine in Australia’s leading wine auction market, including prices and volume of demand over a long period of time.

Jeremy Parham, Langton’s general manager said: “With over 450,000 bottles of wine and 600,000 bids analysed, the wines in the Classification are a true reflection of the most collected and in demand wines produced in Australia.

"Penfolds Grange has again solidified its position as Australia’s most collectible wine [but] it has also been exciting to see new entrants such as Deep Woods and Oliver’s Taranga make the list.”

The Heritage Five category features icon wines in Penfolds Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace, Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Mount Mary Quintet Cabernet Blend and Wendouree Shiraz.

Red grape varietals dominate the Langton’s Classification VII, taking 85% (117) of the coveted positions.

South Australia leads Classification VII with 75 wines, largely thanks to the continued ascendancy of the Barossa Valley. Only one wine has been elevated from an Outstanding to Exceptional ranking – Best’s Great Western Thomson Family Shiraz.


# Langton’s will take the Classification around the country from Saturday, September 1, giving wine lovers the unique opportunity of tasting, comparing and contrasting over 130 of Australia’s finest wines in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. 

All participants will be given the highly collectible Classification VII book, published in hardback by Hardie Grant. For details see: www.langtons.com.au/events

James Boag releases first new brew for over a decade

Tasmanian brewery Jamed Boag has unveiled its first new beer for over a decade - a crisp, refreshing lager called Wild Rivers.



The Boags team describes the new brew as "a modern take on an Australian premium lager" and it was developed by the team at the James Boag Brewery in Launceston.

“We’re proud of what we feel is a beautifully balanced yet subtly complex lager,” said head brewer Nathan Groves (below). “We feel it reflects all that is unique about Tasmania, with its fresh aroma reminiscent of our crisp air and beautiful bushlands.



“As a brewer, this was an extraordinary challenge and fantastic one-time opportunity to come up with something new. . It was important for us to respect the brand’s rich history and keep its integrity intact, while creating something new that everyone could enjoy.”
Lion Beer managing director James Brindley said James Boag’s Wild Rivers was a significant new release and a tribute to the company’s belief in the Tasmanian brand. The lager will only be brewed in Launceston.

"We believe Wild Rivers it is going to strike a real chord with those who want something modern, refreshing and crisp to drink,” Brindley said.


To promote the beer, Tourism Tasmania has again partnered with James Boag on a campaign and launch of Wild Rivers.



“James Boag is a brand that tells a very Tasmanian story and aligns strongly with our tourism brand,” said John Fitzgerald, CEO of Tourism Tasmania.

“Discovering Tasmania’s curious character and the rugged beauty of the state’s landscape reflects the essence of James Boag as well as capturing elements of Tasmania’s appeal.”



James Boag’s Wild Rivers will be available at Dan Murphy’s and BWS, as well as a range of independent stores nationwide, from September 17.

It is bottled in 330ml bottles that comprise 1.1 standard drinks and has an alcohol level of 4.2%.
# The writer was a guest of James Boag at the official launch of Wild Rivers. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

New Zealand icons come together

Sailing across Hauraki Gulf with a glass of wine in hand sounds  a formidable experience. 

Brancott Estate, one of New Zealand's leading wine brands, has just announced that it will be the major wine sponsor for Emirates Team New Zealand for the 36th America's Cup yachting campaign.

Brancott Estate has signed a three-year deal with the the yachties. 

"As a brand that looks to do things differently and embraces forward-thinking, we see a strong link between ourselves and Emirates Team New Zealand," says Patrick Materman, Brancott Estate chief winemaker. 

"Brancott Estate cultivated a region considered too cold for grapes, planting sauvignon blanc and pinot noir grapes in Marlborough and establishing a wine region that is recognised across the globe.

"Our history of ingenuity, innovation and sustainability has seen us grow to be one of New Zealand's leading wine brands.

"In a similar vein, Emirates Team New Zealand had its beginnings in the New Zealand Challenge team which contested the 1987 America's Cup event in Fremantle, Western Australia. 

"In an event dominated by technology and money, New Zealand punches well above its weight. The team has achieved victory on the world stage no less than three times, and in 2021 will defend their status as America's Cup holders."

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The premium wine tasting that must remain a secret - for now

Earlier this week, myself and a few dozen other Australian wine and lifestyle writers were invited to Melbourne to taste the wines of the 2018 Penfolds Collection - including the 2014 Penfolds Grange. 

Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago was in attendance, as was white wine guru Kym Schroeder, and the formidable (and lovely) Penfolds PR team. 



There is only one problem about this tasting.

Wine lovers have  asked on-line for my verdict. Friends and neighbours want to know how the 2014 Grange stacks up. But I am sworn to secrecy. 

Over the next five weeks Gago will tour the globe hold similar tastings in major cities around the world. Experts in London, New York and China will be presented with the same wines for their consideration. 

On October 4, after a global embargo has been lifted, we will all be able to to reveal all; our scores and highlights, reviews and observations.

For now, however, I am sworn to silence (as are all the other tasters, even the venerable James Halliday who will doubtless have some high 90s up his sleeve).

I can tell you this: The 2018 Penfolds Collection comprises wines from five vintages, features seven different grape varieties and wines from 15 different regions across Australia. 

We tasted 19 new releases, priced from $40 to $900  - and sampled two Granges; the 1994 was opened to compare with the 2014. 



Then I went home to baked beans on toast.  

For full details of the 2018 Penfolds Collection seee www.penfolds.com.au from October 4. In the meantime, let the excitement build.  






Why European airlines are lying to their customers


Have you noticed how improved technology has done nothing to improve flight times?

Faster planes haven't resulted in fast flights - but that's because airlines are lying to their customers.

In Europe, airlines are being accused of tinkering with their flight schedules in order to improve their punctuality ratings and avoid paying out delay compensation.

An investigation by consumer rights organisation Which?, based on the timetables of aviation data company OAG, found scheduled flight times are up to 35 minutes slower this summer than a decade ago.

Which? said that, according to airlines' timetables, 76 out of the 125 flights it analysed now take longer than in 2008.

This included nine out of 11 Ryanair routes, nine of 12 Virgin Atlantic flights and 16 of 26 Easyjet flights examined.

It said timetables show British Airways flights from Heathrow to Bangkok, New York and Singapore were extended by 20 minutes, EasyJet's London Gatwick to Berlin Schonefeld service is scheduled to take 19 minutes longer and Virgin's London Heathrow to Newark Liberty International route has increased by 35 minutes.

Which? quoted Keith Mason, professor of air transport management at Britain's Cranfield University, as saying airlines regularly use "schedule padding" to give themselves some "wiggle room".

This would allow them to improve their punctuality and to avoid paying delay compensation. While Australians do not get compensated for late flights, they should ask whey a 55--minute flight from Melbourne to Hobart is listed as taking 75 minutes.

British Airways, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic all said they were flying aircraft at slower speeds to reduce fuel consumption and also pointed to air traffic congestion.

European Union rules stipulate that passengers can claim up to €600 ($955) if their flight is delayed by more than three hours. Airlines, however, do not have to compensate travellers for circumstances outside their control, such as bad weather.

 .

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Gourmet experiences unveiled in Devonport, Tasmania

Devonport, where the Spirit of Tasmania ferries dock after their voyage from Melbourne, is often overshadowed by Hobart and Launceston when it comes to gourmet experiences. 

All that is changing fast, however, with the opening of new bars and eateries at a fast pace. 

The newest project in TV chef Ben Milbourne's culinary journey is CharlotteJack, a modern Australian-style restaurant that brings ethically sourced local ingredients to the plate. Milbourne and wife Sally (below) will be serving dishes like poached crayfish tail with a mussel emulsion and lamb and potatoes (two of Tassie's fine ingredients). 



CharlotteJack is located at Providore Place, which also hosts Sunday Markets from 10am-2pm weekly as well as Friday Twilight Markets from 5-9pm. 

The precinct is home to Southern Wild Distillery as well as the Tasmanian Chip Company. The next phase of the project includes a 150-room hotel which is currently out to tender. 
www.providoreplace.com.au

Executive chef Fabien Lefrancois, meanwhile, is bringing his classical French training and Tasmanian produce together at Bistro Camille. He's serving up classic French fare - terrine, onion soup, boeuf bourguignon and steak frites (below) with all the French sauces, as well as delicious desserts like creme brulee and tarte tartinwww.bistrocamille.com.au

The team from Saint John Craft Beer Bar in Launceston has opened a new venue in Devonport, Empress Craft Beer. Named after the Empress of Australia, the ferry that ran between Devonport and Melbourne until 1984, the bar stocks beer from the North-West, Tasmania, interstate and overseas, as well as ciders and a vast selection of spirits. www.empresscraftbeer.com.au

Saturday, 25 August 2018

New travel gadget ideal for lovers of the great outdoors

I love a good gadget - and the Halo IP65 Solar Power Bank is a bloody good gadget.



It's one of those gadgets you need, rather than one you'll merely want - particularly if you love the great outdoors and go bushwalking and camping.

Not only is the Halo IP65 capable of charging an iPhone up to seven times, it also comes with a flashlight with three different flashing modes.

So you can use its 20,000mAh to power up to four devices at the same time (three via USB and one via solar charge) and it also serves as a powerful LED torch and emergency beacon.

Even better for those who live the outdoor life, it is both waterproof and dust-proof.

Slightly heavier than most other power banks at 19oz, Halo is compatible with top iOS and Android devices and can also work with other USB devices like GoPro and compact cameras.

The three flashing modes are useful for attracting attention an emergency.

The Halo IP65 is still on pre-order and will be live on Indiegogo. I was sent one to sample by crowdfunding agency MadSpace. Early-bird prices start from $69. Well worth buying.

www.indiegogo.com/projects/free-powerful-solar-wireless-charging-light/coming_soon/x/17529120

New hotel set to open at Adelaide Airport

Adelaide Airport will gain a stylish new hotel when the Atura Adelaide Airport opens next month. 
The seven-storey hotel is being developed by EVENT, a hotel group that includes the Atura, QT and Rydges brands. 

Atura Adelaide will service the eight million passengers flying into one of Australia's fastest-growing airports with rising international flight numbers. A walkway will link the hotel with the airport's domestic and international check-in areas.
The design-driven hotel will feature 165 guestrooms, Hangar Bar & Grill, a business centre, eight flexible function and meeting spaces, on-site gym, plus a port-cochere for guest drop off and collection.
Atura's signature, free-flowing communal spaces will be a key design feature of the hotel. 
Event Hospitality and Entertainment's director of hotels, Norman Arundel, said Adelaide is the first Australian airport to welcome the Atura Hotel brand with the project estimated to have created 350 construction jobs and 65 roles within the hotel.  
Other Atura hotels are trading in Albury, Blacktown and Dandenong with additional locations in the pipeline.
“Adelaide is a vibrant city, home to an incredible food and wine scene, fabulous beaches, and a wealth of cultural events. The airport has grown substantially in recent years and passengers demand the convenience of a close hotel,” he said. 
Atura Adelaide Airport will have 24-hour reception and offer free wifi. (08) 7099 3300. www.aturahotels.com. 

Friday, 24 August 2018

Dear restaurateurs. Please remember you are in the "hospitality" industry

Did you hear about the restaurant that charges guests for the use of knives and forks? 

And what about the cafĂ© that charges extra for salt and pepper? 

Trust me. Such charges are probably not far away as restaurants struggle to make margins and mark-up everything they can think of. 


In today's The Australian Weekend Magazine, John Lethlean reviews Labart, a delightful-sounding eatery on the Gold Coast. He writes about a crab veloutĂ© "that's the sort of dish that needs bread, which costs extra". 

Just the other day I was reading about Brisbane St Bistro in Launceston, where they charge you $3 if you order "a little extra bread". Which is just mean. 

As far as I am concerned, a restaurateur should provide guests with a table and chairs, cutlery and crockery, salt and pepper, bread and tap water. 

Anything else, fine, go ahead and charge like a wounded bull - just make sure the charges are clearly marked on the menu. Better still, just build the basic costs into your menu prices, as you do rent, staff payments, food costs, insurance and breakages. 

It's the "hospitality" industry people - and there is nothing that guests hate more than penny pinching with charges for the likes of bread. 

Maybe you'd like to charge me for the Riedel wine glass into which you are pouring my wine. Don't even think about it! 

      

Cairns ready to welcome five-star hotel

North Queensland is about to gain a new five-star resort hotel with the opening in November of Riley at Cairns. 

Why you would choose the name of a defunct car manufacturer for your hotel, and why you would choose a design that looks like a giant glass vase remain a mystery to me, but Australia's newest five-star hotel brand, Crystalbrook Collection, is now taking bookings for Riley. 

Other Cairns properties, Bailey and Flynn, will open in 2019. 
Located on Cairns' Esplanade, Riley has unveiled a collection of special opening offers including a $209 per night advance purchase with a complimentary upgrade and a pay two stay three deal. 
Riley will be Cairns' first new five-star hotel in over 20 years and boasts in-room Apple iPads complete with healthy living apps, Staycast by Google Chromecast for video streaming, access to hundreds of complimentary movies and box sets and Nespresso machines with recyclable pods. 
Crystalbrook Collection is a new Australian-based tourism and hospitality group. Its portfolio consists of Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, hotel and resort developments, a luxury lodge and a 90-foot motor yacht.


Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Record numbers for Tasmanian wine industry

The 2018 wine grape harvest in Tasmania has set new records in terms of both value and volume, according to Wine Tasmania’s 2018 wine grape vintage report, released today.

This year's vintage will be one to remember, as the earliest, quickest and largest to date, with a record 16,280 tonnes of high-quality grapes harvested.



Wine Tasmania’s vintage survey also reports on a record average price paid for Tasmanian wine grapes of $2,977 per tonne, with Tasmania producing just 0.91% of Australia’s total wine grapes but representing 4.37% of its value.

The 2018 harvest started with an early beginning for super premium sparkling grapes, picked in mid-February, and proceeded at a quick pace due to warm weather and larger yields.

Some wineries broke records for the largest crush in a single week, due to the speed of ripening and harvesting. Table wine grapes followed at the same speed, with producers able to harvest at optimal flavour ripeness. The majority of harvesting in Tasmania was finished by mid-April with a few later varieties, such as late-picked whites and cabernet sauvignon, hanging on a little longer.

The weather experienced across Tasmania during the 2018 season was generally very good. It was warmer than usual - 1.2°C above the long-term average - without being hot.

Rainfall for the past 12 months was variable ranging from “average” to “much below average”, making for a clean harvest with minimal pest and disease pressures.

The resultant quality in 2018 was excellent, providing great ripeness and flavour in wine grapes, which will be enjoyed in the 2018 vintage Tasmanian wines.

Wine Tasmania chief executive Sheralee Davies welcomed the 2018 wine grape vintage results.

“Growing grapes, particularly in a cool climate such as Tasmania, requires an enormous amount of hard work, dedication and expense each year leading up to harvest," she said. It’s great to see an outstanding Tasmanian vintage in 2018 in terms of wine quality, value and quantity.

“When combining the value of Tasmanian wine grapes with wine-making and wine tourism, the Tasmanian wine sector is estimated to conservatively contribute more than $115 million annually to the state’s economy.”


Meet Coonawarra's new $300 icon wine

One of the unsung heroes of Australian wine will be recognised in September when two of Coonawarra’s most famous families – the Balnaves and Redmans – release their new joint venture: the 2016 William Wilson Coonawarra Shiraz Cabernet.



The limited-edition $300-a-bottle “traditional claret” will be the most expensive wine ever released from Coonawarra.

The wine marks a coming together of two families linked by generations of history. Kirsty Balnaves of Balnaves and Dan Redman of Redmans share the same great-great-great grandfather in regional pioneer Wilson.



Kirsty Balnaves said the collaborative project is a tribute to the humble Scottish gardener who not only sired both families, but is also credited with the discovery of the region’s terra rossa soils.

“William Wilson was a Scottish gardener who settled in Petticoat Lane, Penola, in 1861,” she said. “He was an expert in vine and fruit tree horticulture and was the first person to recognize the free-draining properties of the red terra rossa soil.

“He advised fellow settler John Riddoch to establish his Penola Fruit Colony on what we now know as the terra rossa cigar, laying the foundation for Coonawarra’s reputation for world-class cabernet sauvignon and shiraz.

“Although he is not widely remembered, he really was the region’s founding father.”
Wilson was born in Scotland, served in the Scottish Highlanders in Ireland and Greece and emigrated to South Australia in 1849 at the age of 33.
It was during his posting on the Greek Islands of Zephalonia, Zante and Corfu that he learnt about viticulture and the role that soil type played in vine health and vigour.

Wilson’s daughter Margaret married William Neilson and of their six children, one married a Redman and the other a Balnaves, starting a 120-year-old wine-making dynasty.

“Coonawarra has a long history of sharing knowledge and collaborating, that started with William Wilson and John Riddoch,” great-great-great-grandson Dan Redman said.

“My great grandfather Bill Redman, sold his first grapes to the Riddoch winery and when it closed he kept the Coonawarra wine industry alive by selling bulk cabernet and shiraz to other Australian wineries.

“In fact it was Bill and his son Owen who helped Doug and Annette start Balnaves in 1974.

“This wine is a symbol of that sense of community that defines us.”

The two families conceived the tribute wine in 2016, the 200th anniversary of William Wilson’s birth.

The Redmans set aside a small parcel from their 85-year-old North End shiraz vineyard and the Balnaves reciprocated with a parcel of cabernet from their 43-year-old Paulownia vineyard.

“Fortunately 2016 was a great year in Coonawarra,” Dan said. “Veraison was very even contributing to small berry size, and the mild conditions and cool finish allowed slow, even ripening.

“The 2016 William Wilson Shiraz Cabernet is very much in the traditional 'claret style' with medium body, fine-grained tannins and a great balance of fruit and structure.”

Just 200 dozen of the limited-release 2016 William Wilson Coonawarra Shiraz Cabernet have been made.

The wine is also available by direct mail order or by visiting Redmans' and Balnaves’ cellar doors.

My sample is on its way and I'll update this story with tasting notes as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Australian wine grape prices soar for the 2018 vintage

Australia’s wine grape crush in 2018 was 1.79 million tonnes, above the long-term average of 1.76 million tonnes, and the average purchase price for wine grapes increased by 8% to $609 per tonne, the highest level since 2008.
Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark welcomed the increase in the average purchase price.
"The increase in grape prices applied to both red and white grapes, with red grape prices increasing by 11% to $768 a tonne while values for white varieties increased, on average, 5% to $444 a tonne’, Clark said in a media statement.

Winemakers’ Federation of Australia Chief Executive Officer Tony Battaglene said another good vintage was welcomed by winemakers and provided the raw materials for the quality wine required to supply Australia's growing export and domestic demand.
The divergence between red and white average prices has increased steadily since 2011, driven by strengthening relative demand for red wine.
Despite the higher prices, the total estimated value of the crush decreased by 3 per cent to $1.11 billion, reflecting the 10 per cent reduction in total crop size from the record 2017 vintage of 1.99 million tonnes.
The decline in tonnes compared with last year was greatest in percentage terms in the cool/temperate regions, which were down by 20% overall, while the warm irrigated regions (Riverina, Murray Darling–Swan Hill and Riverland) were less affected by the drier spring and summer, with yields down just 5%. 
Of the major varieties, shiraz tonnes decreased by 17%, cabernet sauvignon by 14% and merlot by 19%. 
Chardonnay was the only major variety to go against the trend, increasing by 9% and restoring its share of the white crush to 47% after falling to 42% last year.
The calculated average purchase price of $609 per tonne was up by 8% on the price of $565 a tonne calculated in 2017. This figure is the highest since 2008. 
The National Vintage Report is based on a survey of winemakers conducted in May–June 2018.

Explore Canada's picturesque Rideau Canal by boat

I have several family members living in the improbably picturesque Canadian city of Kingston, Ontario. Both Kingston and its surrounds are very pretty during the summer months, if a tad chilly in winter.

Le Boat, Europe’s largest operator of self-drive boating vacations, has just begun operations in Ontario, on the historic Rideau Canal.


With no boating experience required, Le Boat has opened up this UNESCO World Heritage-listed destination on a route that takes travellers down a chain of lakes, rivers and canals between Ottawa and Kingston.

There are plenty of land and water activities along the route from fishing, paddle boating, canoeing to hiking, biking and bird-watching.

Le Boat offers two bases for the 2019 cruising season, the main Smith Falls Base located midway between Ottawa and Kingston, and a new base in Seeleys Bay, a village closer to Kingston.

Suggested routes are offered and a full guide to the Rideau Canal is available, however, travellers have complete flexibility with their itinerary and the freedom to cruise as much or as little as they want, just as long as they ensue the boats are returned at the agreed date and time.



Le Boat is a leading self-drive boating rental company, and is celebrating its 50th birthday in 2019. All boats feature fully equipped kitchens, comfortable furnishings, showers and bathrooms.

Le Boat launched in Canada this year with a fleet of 16 state-of-the-art Horizon cruisers, with several more being added to the fleet for next season.

All Horizon Cruisers offer large staterooms and a roomy upper deck with sun-bathing area equipped with open-air dining amenities.

Each en-suite cabin comes with air-cooling and heating system as well as plenty of USB ports accessible for passengers to recharge their portable gadgets.

The 2019 cruising season runs from May 17 to October 14. Seven-night cruises start from $2,215 - which makes for an affordable break on the water. I think I'll add this to my "to do" list next time I'm visiting family.

For more information contact Le Boat on 1800 118 940 or see www.leboat.com.au.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Thai tourism body warns visitors not be imbeciles

It is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when enjoying the sunshine, beaches and cheap beers of Thailand. 

That's why so many visitors come a cropper when riding barely-roadworthy motorbikes without a crash helmet while pissed as a parrot. 

But after a series of recent incidents the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is encouraging travellers to remain extra vigilant by following all safety rules and guidelines during the country's current monsoon season. It rains a lot in Thailand during the "wet season". That's why hotel rooms are cheaper.


Visitors are also advised to keep up-to-date with daily Thai weather forecasts by the Thai Meteorological Department (TMD) on impending storms, heavy rains, rough weather, etc. 
The TMD also issues regular flood, flash flood, or mud slide alerts while regular surf forecasts help predict high waves and other coastal threats that are common to the Andaman Sea.
If it is a particularly torrential monsoon shower, many tourist activities are curtailed or delayed if tour operators are responsible and think that there are undue health and safety risks, or threats. Others may just go ahead anyway. 
Activities likely to be affected include: mountain trekking, white-water rafting, zip lining, bungy jumping, snorkelling, sailing, diving and ferry transfers. 
If your ferry looks like it doesn't have enough life jackets, or like it could catch fire at any moment, wait for a better option. And if swimming under a waterfall looks risky; think again. 
May to October sees the Thailand monsoon season sweep into the southwest, with September bearing the brunt of the rains. It gets pretty rainy around Phuket, thanks to the region's proximity to the Andaman Sea, and many of the smaller islands are shut down during the monsoon.
The TAT advises "island crossings by ferry are going to be choppier than usual in the monsoon and must be scrutinised on an hourly basis even if a ticket is already purchased". 
The monsoon rains tend to be short, intense bursts of rainfall. They could last for a few hours in the middle of the day and waiting until the sky clears, and travelling when the next boat is ready can be a wise investment in staying alive.
Unlike the rest of the country, the Thailand monsoon season does not hit Ko Samui until later in the year, with the rains coming in during October to December, peaking in November and tailing off in January.

"Exquisite" new Henschke Hill of Grace to be in short supply

The 2013 vintage of Australia's icon single-vineyard wine - Henschke Hill of Grace - is one of the smallest vintages in the wine's history after a difficult dry vintage. 

To be released on September 3, the new Hill of Grace marks 150 years of Henschke family winemaking in South Australia. 


Stephen Henschke describes the 2013 vintage as "extremely low yielding and exquisitely beautiful".

While every vintage of Hill of Grace is a limited-release, 2013 and the following 2014 vintage are among our smallest harvests," fifth-generation winemaker Henschke said. No Hill of Grace was made in 1960, 1974, 2000 and 2011. 

The Hill of Grace "ancestor" vines are 158-years-old and were planted pre-Phylloxera opposite the historic Gnadenberg Church in the Eden Valley. They have been tended by Prue Henschke for close to 40 years.

The first Hill of Grace single vineyard shiraz was made by fourth-generation vigneron Cyril Henschke in 1958 and the wine has since become a global icon, sought after by collectors around the world. 

"I can't think of any other single-vineyard wine that had its first vintage from centenarian vines and has continued to be made for another 55 years," said Henschke. 

Those of us lucky enough to attend the launch were treated to a range of vintages from 1962 (which sold for 5 shillings) to the current release.


A book, Hill of Grace: 150 Years of Henschke under Southern Skies, written by Fiona MacDonald and published by Hardie Grant Books will be released on September 3 along with the new vintage and will retail for $59.95.

The 2013 Henschke Hill of Grace Eden Valley Shiraz has an RRP of $825. My notes: An elegant wine of amazing intensity with beautifully integrated oak and impressive tannin structure. Tremendous length and depth; harmonious on every level. 97 points. 

   

Sunday, 19 August 2018

New wine tasting experience to make its debut in Hobart

Hobart appears to have lost its popular Red and White Wine Weekends but is instead saying hello to the Urban Wine Walk.


On Saturday, October 20, the streets, lanes and footpaths of the Hobart and North Hobart will come alive as a selection of the Tasmanian capital's best venues open their doors, transforming into the ultimate self-guided cellar door experience.



The Urban Wine Walk is an afternoon wine lovers will not want to miss with several of the state's best wineries (and a couple of interlopers) offering tastings at a hand-picked selection of local bars and restaurants.

The Hobart venues include Jack Greene, Post Street Social, Society Salamanca, Institut Polaire, The Westend Pumphouse, Ettie's, Willing Brothers, Suzie Luck's, The Lounge by Frogmore Creek, The Brunswick Hotel, Shambles Brewery, Johnston + Miller and Rude Boy.

Participating wineries include Two Tonne Tasmania, Small Island Wines, Domaine Simha, Chatto Wines, Frogmore Creek, Mewstone Wines, Shiny Wine, Meadowbank and Stargazer, along with Hither & Yon and Vinteloper from South Australia and Skigh Wines from Western Australia.

Tickets are avalable now at $60, which includes entry into all participating venues (subject to capacity), free tastings, event wristband, tasting glass and venue guide and a $5 wine voucher.

Similar events have been held previously and will be held in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland during spring, but this is the first in Hobart.

Coldstream Hills launches a Tasmanian range

Coldstream Hills is one of the shining lights in the Yarra Valley, with winemaker Andrew Fleming (below) producing wines of purity and personality.
The brand was established in 1985 by James and Suzanne Halliday and has since become one of Australia's leading and most awarded small wineries under the ownership of Treasury Wine Estates.



Surprisingly, Coldstream Hills has just launched a new range of very good two Tasmanian wines; a pinot gris and a pinot noir, with minimal fanfare.

Or perhaps not so surprisingly given a historical connection to Tasmania, with both James Halliday’s championing of the region and the decision to previously source from the region for the one-off and award-winning 2011 Roslyn Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Also, Coldstream Hills has access to some excellent Tasmanian fruit through its parent company, some of which might have been used in Heemskerk and Abel's Tempest wines.



Hence, we welcome the Coldstream Hills 2017 Tasmania Pinot Noir and Coldstream Hills 2017 Tasmania Pinot Gris, available through the winery website and at Dan Murphy's and BWS stores.

The pinot gris, fresh and texturally pleasing, was sourced from fruit grown on the White Hills Vineyard in northern Tasmania, part of this wine was fermented in tank and part in seasoned French barriques. The two components were then blended and bottled.

The pinot noir, driven by dark cherry characters, was made from fruit sourced from both the southern and northern regions of Tasmania. With some whole bunch use to lift structure, the wine was matured in seasoned and new French oak.

The inaugural releases are both impressive and available online for $129.50 for a six-pack. That's formidable value. https://shop.coldstreamhills.com.au

Friday, 17 August 2018

Auckland to gain another five-star luxury hotel

Auckland will welcome a flagship InterContinental hotel in 2022 with IHG  and Precinct Properties having this week signed an agreement to open InterContinental Auckland.

The new InterContinental Auckland will enjoy an unrivalled location on the city's waterfront, with an address at 1 Queen Street. 
It will complete the $1 billion Commercial Bay mixed-use development, which boasts the largest concentration of high-quality retail facilities in the city and a new 39-level office tower with 39,000 square metres of premium office space.
The waterfront development is also destined to become Auckland's newest, shopping, dining and social hub, offering a vast range of food and beverage outlets complemented by the hotel's luxury dining experience, which will include all-day dining and bars.
The plans show that 90% of the hotel's 244 guest rooms will offer water views; making the other 10% of guests very much second-rate citizens.
Abhijay Sandilya, IHG's senior director of development for Australasia, said: “It's high time Auckland got a taste of the InterContinental life, so we are very excited about this announcement.
"Being part of such an iconic mixed-use development ensures the hotel, dining, retail and commercial components form a symbiotic relationship. Together with Precinct Properties, we will deliver a distinctive product that inspires those travellers who are looking for the InterContinental understated luxury, both in the leisure and corporate space.”
InterContinental Auckland will benefit from convenient access to the New Zealand International Convention Centre, Viaduct Harbour, Britomart precinct, Wynyard Quarter, Vector Arena, the international cruise ship terminal, Sky City and the casino. 
InterContinental Auckland will be the second for the brand in New Zealand, after InterContinental Wellington, and complementis InterContinental Hotels in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Sanctuary Cove.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Tasmanian pro pan-handling debut for MasterChef finalist

I am not a MasterChef watcher, so I did not realise that the charming red-headed lady who attended one of my recent wine classes was a 2018 top 10 finalist Sarah Clare.
I did, however, notice that she appeared to know an awful lot about food, and wine.

Sarah will host her first pop-up, WILD, at the Red Velvet Lounge in Cygnet, Tasmania, on September 14-15.

The 34-year-old, who has recently moved back to her home state, says her first pop-up will give insight into the joyful memories she has of growing up as a child in the great outdoors on the Island, such as picking wild mushrooms and local seaweed and taking them home to cook in the kitchen with her dad.



Inspired by the unique varieties of high-quality produce available in Tasmania’s Huon Valley region, such as the nuts, seeds and herbs and the unpredictable nature of the Island’s changing climates, the pop up will take guest on a culinary journey into the WILD.

“I chose the name Wild for my pop up because I'm at the mercy of the elements and seasons using wild, local and seasonal produce," she said. "And while I have a set menu planned, what I will serve on the evenings will be dependent on what is available, which will make for a fun and creative challenge.”

Guests will enjoy a five-course degustation with matching wines, including native fish with burnt leek pure, local seaweed and black rice paper, wallaby soupy dumplings, and a three-milk dulce de leche for dessert.

Sarah will also offer a vegan menu (the RVL is usually a vegetarian venue), which includes skordalia with wood fired cauliflower and local wakame, seared and fresh local mushrooms with miso polenta, fried enoki and shaved black truffle, and, for dessert, a coconut, saffron and cocoa butter panna cotta with hazelnut tuille and burnt fig sorbet.

Celebrating and supporting local businesses, Sarah is working with local producers, including Campo de Flori, a sustainable multi-crop boutique farm in the Huon Valley who will be supplying saffron and olive oil, Julie Merlet from Natif, who is supplying all of the native herb ingredients used in the dishes, Cygnet Garden Larder providing many varieties of mushrooms, and her father, Ian Clare, a master potter who is providing custom, hand-made tableware crafted specially for the evening.

Guests will be seated at one long communal table (one of my pet hates) but billed as offering "energy and life".
WILD will be held on Friday and Saturday September 14-15 at 6:30pm at The Red Velvet Lounge, 24 Mary Street, Cygnet, TAS 7112. Tickets: $150 per person. To book visit www.trybooking.com/xakx

Accor unveils new curated luxury short-break and vacation packages

Too tired to even think about what you want from your next holiday? AccorHotels has just launched a new range of bespoke experiences designed for busy people. 

Hotel brands including Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery by Sofitel and Swissotel have launched luxury packages to be known as ‘Curated by AccorHotels’ in over 30 different Australian destinations. 

From a one-night getaway to leisurely escape of up to five nights, the luxury packages have been designed by the individual hotels.



Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort (above) offers a half-day Cote Piscine poolside cabana experience for two with personal butler service, a 40-minute aqua therapy soak and 60 minute massage for two, breakfast, valet parking and two nights’ accommodation priced from $858.

For a gourmets, Pullman Adelaide is highlighting a two-course dinner for two, a bottle of premium South Australian wine, late check-out, breakfast and two nights’ accommodation from $488.

Linger longer with a five-night indulgent stay at Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort and Spa with handpicked inclusions of a private degustation dinner with matching wines under the stars for two, a 30-minute massage and 30-minute facial for two at Vie Spa, a cocktail master class, bottle of Taittinger Champagne and breakfast priced from $1,595.

From Champagne breakfast in bed and cocktails at Sofitel Melbourne on Collins to a guided lighthouse tour and Margaret River fare with Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, there is a range of experiences on offer. 

To check out the different offers visit www.accorhotels.com/curated. Bookings are available now until October 31 for stays from now until March 31, 2019.


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Nepenthe Wines makes a major quality statement

Nepenthe Wines has always tended to whisper quietly about its achievements rather than bellowing from the rooftops. 

But the Adelaide Hills winery made a major statement this week when it launched two new flagship $80 wines at Sydney's iconic Quay restaurant. 

Guests flown in from around the country took in views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge while sampling the new wines and some spectacular new dishes from chef Peter Gilmore. 

The Apex range comprises a Chardonnay and Shiraz from the 2016 vintage both sourced from cool-climate sites and designed to showcase Nepenthe’s mission to capturing rationality and provenance in the glass.


The Apex Chardonnay is crafted from grapes grown at the Rathmine Vineyard site, which benefits from north-facing slopes that provide excellent growing conditions. It's a lovely, thoroughly modern style with stone fruit and brisk acid. 

The Apex Shiraz hails from the Charleston Vineyard and is a classic cool-climate shiraz with both concentration and elegance. 

As well as being sourced from single vineyard sites, both wines are made using single clones to give the purest possible varietal expression. I thoroughly enjoyed both. 


Nepenthe Wines’ senior winemaker James Evers (above) said: “Nepenthe is one of the jewels in the Adelaide Hills, having been founded in 1994. As one of the very first wineries in the region, we are proud of our heritage, producing premium wines from established and emerging varietals that thrive in Australia’s premier cool-climate area (ahem!). 

“The Apex portfolio is a modern interpretation of what the Hills can achieve, embracing the nuances of two premium vineyard sites and the unique characteristics offered by our single varietal clones.”

The Apex range is being rolled out across top-end on-premise accounts, leading independents and through the Nepenthe cellar door.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Canadians try to give their wine industry a helping hand. Australians object

The Canadian Government is trying to give its fledgling wine industry a boost with several  measures aimed at steering consumers towards home-grown wines. 

The Australian wine industry, and the Australian Government, are complaining and taking the Canadians to the World Trade Organisation stomping their feet and arguing "discrimination".

The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA) has welcomed an announcement from Steven Ciobo, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, that Australia is to continue its protests against “protectionist” measures that threaten the ­lucrative export market.

In view of the fact that hardly any Canadian wine is sold in Australia, but Australian wine sales to Canada are valued at almost $200 million, this would seem, to me anyway, an argument Australia cannot win.

Leading Canadian wine producer Norm Hardie
Ciobo said the Australian wine industry was a “big export earner” and “job creator” and added: “I want to make sure we stand up for our producers and not allow other countries to discriminate against us, costing us export income and ­potentially jobs. 

"Australia has requested formal WTO consultations on measures discriminating against Australian wine imports that we consider to be clearly inconsistent with Canada’s WTO commitments." 

Canada’s "inconsistent" measures include extra taxes, fees and mark-ups on imported wine, separate distribution channels reserved for Canadian wine and restricting sale of imported wine in grocery stores to a ‘store within a store’.”

Tony Battaglene, the WFA chief executive said in a statement: "Canada is an extremely important market for Australian wine, our fourth largest by volume and value ($187 million). We need to ensure a level trading environment to allow competition for all wine producers.

"The Australian wine industry does not oppose a helping hand for the Canadian wine producers.  We believe they add diversity and colour to the global wine sector. However, such help should not discriminate against sales of imported Australian wine. The Canadian consumer deserves a better deal than that.” 

The three largest wine-producing regions in Canada are the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, and Essex County, Ontario. 

Canadian wines currently have a less than 50% share of the Canadian wine market, making Canada one of the few wine-producing countries where domestically produced wines do not hold a dominant share.

So, I'm sorry, the WFA argument just doesn't wash with me. And I suspect it won't wash with a lot of Canadian consumers either. It could well spark a backlash against Australian wines instead.