Tuesday, 23 October 2018

World's longest bridge now in operation

The world’s longest bridge and tunnel sea-crossing, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, will officially open to the public on tomorrow.

At 55 kilometres long, the bridge is 20 times longer than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and is the first major combined road and tunnel sea crossing in the Greater Bay Area.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will act as a hub for multi-destination travel within the Greater Bay Area, which includes nine cities in the Guangdong Province and two Special Administrative Regions.

The bridge will also shorten the journey time from Hong Kong International Airport to Zhuhai from four hours to 45 minutes.

Spanning the sea from an artificial island near Hong Kong International Airport to Macao and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai, the bridge contains enough steel to build 60 Eiffel Towers and is designed to last 120 years, two decades longer than the lifespan of most major sea-crossing bridges.

HKTB Regional Director - Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, Andrew Clark said the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will reinforce Hong Kong’s position as Asia's gateway and foster further economic and tourism development.

"The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will be a fantastic tool to further enhance the destination's tourism offering by putting a wealth of diverse cultural attractions, including the stunning ruins of St. Paul’s in Macao; the Statue of Fisher Girl in Zhuhai; the Kaiping Diaolou; and the Seven Star Crags in Zhaoqing," he said.

When entering Hong Kong, the first port of call is Lantau Island, home of the city’s international airport; Disneyland; and an enthralling and beautiful destination in itself.

Visitors can ride the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to the Big Buddha statue and Po Lin Monastery, before taking a walk along Wisdom Path, a peaceful and spiritual trail featuring carved wooden pillars. For an authentic cultural experience, visitors can also explore nearby Tai O Fishing Village, with its distinctive stilt houses.

The mega-project is set to become an instant landmark for Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area and has already been named by The Guardian as an architectural Seven Wonder of the Modern World.

For more information visit www.hzmb.hk/eng/index.html.

A cross-border bus service is available to take travellers across the iconic new bridge between Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai, for more information speak to a local travel agent. For more information on Hong Kong visit www.discoverhongkong.com/au or www.discoverhongkong.com/nz.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Australia's Red Centre gets a nod from Lonely Planet

Global travel authority Lonely Planet has chosen The Red Centre, Australia, as one of the world’s Top 10 Regions for next year in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2019, released this morning.

Best in Travel 2019 is Lonely Planet’s 14th annual agenda-setting collection of the world’s hottest destinations, experiences and trends for the year ahead. 

The travel yearbook highlights the top 10 regions, cities and countries that Lonely Planet’s experts recommend that travellers experience in 2019.

The Red Centre, Australia, is ranked fourth on the book’s list of Top 10 Regions 2019.

“At the spiritual heart of Australia’s Red Centre is the country’s most recognised natural wonder, Uluru,” Lonely Planet says.

“In 2019, this sacred site is finally closing to climbers, almost 150 years after explorers decided to ‘conquer the rock’. 

"Instead, visitors will find that this World Heritage site – recognised for its outstanding natural and cultural values – conquers them.”

“Learn about the unique world view of the traditional custodians of this place,” the book encourages, “and see the stars and the desert with new eyes. Explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock and the Olgas), Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) and Alice Springs nearby.”

There are the usual weird and wonderful Lonely Planet choices on the lists; including the industrial Chinese city of Shēnzhèn and Zimbabwe in the top 10 nations list.   

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions for 2019 are:
1. Piedmont, Italy
2. The Catskills, USA
3. Northern Peru
4. The Red Centre, Australia
5. Scotland’s Highlands and Islands
6. Russian Far East
7. Gujarat, India
8. Manitoba, Canada
9. Normandy, France
10. Elqui Valley, Chile

Top 10 Countries 2019
  1. Sri Lanka
  2. Germany
  3. Zimbabwe
  4. Panama
  5. Kyrgyzstan
  6. Jordan
  7. Indonesia
  8. Belarus
  9. São Tomé and Príncipe
  10. Belize

Top 10 Cities 2019
  1. Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. Shēnzhèn, China
  3. Novi Sad, Serbia
  4. Miami, Florida, USA
  5. Kathmandu, Nepal
  6. Mexico City, Mexico
  7. Dakar, Senegal
  8. Seattle, USA
  9. Zadar, Croatia
  10. Meknès, Morocco

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Enjoy Little Havana in Sydney

Cuba is one of the most fascinating travel destinations on earth - although it is about to be over-run by thousands of US cruise ship passengers. 

Travel junkies looking for a Cuba light experience can head to Bungalow 8 in Sydney to enjoy some tastes of Cuba without leaving home. 

Bungalow 8 is being transformed in to a tropical Cuban paradise until December 29 with bookable cabanas, Bacardi mojitos on tap, bottomless packages and a line-up of Cuban entertainment including La Fiesta Thursdays.

Little Havana's official opening party is later this week, so pop along for plantain chips, grilled chorizo, fried garbanzo beans or empanadas (not all strictly Cuban, it must be said). 

Book a cabana and enjoy bottomless mojitos and a Cuban feast menu for $69 per person for two hours. 

You can sample the menu for free during La Fiesta Thursdays while enjoying live music. 

Bungalow 8 is the social hub of King St Wharf with absolute water views. 

Peanut butter with a difference

I love peanut butter. On toast, in a sandwich or as the major component of a satay sauce.

So when Bega announced a new style of peanut butter my ears pricked up.

Apparently, the new Bega Dark Roast Peanut Butter is different because the nuts are roasted at a higher temperature, giving a darker, richer flavour.

Available in both crunchy and smooth varieties, the new product is making its way into major supermarkets right now.

The blurb says Bega Dark Roast Peanut Butter "uses Hi Oleic Peanuts as they have a higher monounsaturated fat content than ‘regular’ peanuts". That means good fats allow the peanuts to stay fresher for longer and gives them extra crunch.

The bad news, for me anyway, is that each serve offers over half of the healthy daily nut target (30 grams). I'm over target already after three slices of toast for breakfast.

"We are thrilled to launch Bega Dark Roast Peanut Butter and we’re confident that it will satisfy consumers’ palates," says Barry Irvin in the press release. Although it is not explained who Barry is some Googling discovered he is the Bega executive chairman. I'm sure he's a good bloke, too.

"Although we’re offering a delicious and robust new variant, Australians can still enjoy the original, never-oily, never-dry Bega Peanut Butter they have been for decades,” he adds.

I actually preferred the high-intensity new version, which retails for $5.70.

Friday, 19 October 2018

New luxury ocean-view eatery to open in Phuket

The Nai Harn is one of the chicest beachfront addresses in Phuket, tucked away in the south of the Thai island, away from the maddening crowds.

Now the Nai Harn is set to open a new luxury rooftop dining experience overlooking the ocean.

The new eatery, to open next month, will be known as Prime @ Rock Salt and will serve only 20 diners per sitting. It is designed a venue for guests and visitors to celebrate special occasions.

The Nai Harn, Phuket’s only member of Leading Hotels of the World, is a gastronomic destination in its own right and Prime will be located on the roof of the already popular Rock Salt eatery.

Highlights will include sunset dinners and private events for small groups, utilising a wood-fired oven and high-end barbecue grill.

“Prime @ Rock Salt is a new dining destination for Phuket and you could not ask for a better setting," says hotel GM Frank Grassmann.

“Combining the stunning setting with an exceptional menu, Prime is set to become the ultimate setting for unforgettable evenings, including romantic dinners and exclusive events."

Highlights will include the Nai Harn's home-made smoked chorizo sausage fired in a furnace, succulent KlongPhai/chicken,and yoghurt-marinated Bultarra lamb.

For an intimate feast, couples can share a 270-day Black Onyx Angus côte de boeuf, cooked over flames and oak chips, or indulge in barbecued-glazed short ribs, slow-cooked for 48 hours then finished in the wood-fired oven.

An extensive selection of fine wines – hand-picked by wine critic James Suckling – is available.

Prime joins beachfront Rock Salt restaurant; Cosmo Restaurant and Bar and Hansha sushi and sahsimi bar as Nai Harn dining options.

I stayed here last year - and it is an outstanding resort in all aspects.

For details see www.thenaiharn.com


Matching your own wine against the best in the world

You take a whole lot of risk when you match your wine against some of the finest in the world in a blind tasting in front of wine lovers, winemakers and the media.

There is always the chance that your wine could be completely overshadowed; with your guests much preferring its rivals.

It is a risk that the team from Stoniers Wines on the Mornington Peninsula have been taking for several years with their annual SIPNOT tasting (not be confused with greasy shock-rock band Slipknot).

SIPNOT, the Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting has been held in Sydney, London and Hong Kong over the past two decades and was this week back in its spiritual home of Melbourne.

A large audience tasted 12 pinot noirs blind and a panel of experts, including Stonier chief winemaker Mike Symons and James Halliday, led the discussion along with Burgundy aficionado Philip Rich who potificated with erudition before asking for comments from the assembled tasters.

We sniffed and swirled and sipped wines from France, the US, New Zealand and Australia (the Mornington Peninsula, Gippsland and the Macedon Ranges but none, surprisingly, from the Yarra or Tasmania) and tried to make sense of what we enjoyed and what was what.

The northern hemisphere bottles were from 2015, the southern hemisphere wines from 2016.

What we found was a considerable blurring - ever more evident - of the lines; the bigger wines at these tastings used to be from Central Otago, the more ethereal offerings from Burgundy. Winemaking, it seemed, on this night anyway, is trumping terroir.

The wines ranged in price from $700 for an Olivier Bernstein Clos de la Roche Morey-Saint -Denis Grand Cru, and $450 for an on-trend and ripe Sylvain Cathiard Aux Thorey Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru, to $55 for the Stonier 2016 Merron's Vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula and just $40 for the Charteris Pinot Noir from Central Otago.

Seldom has the value offered by Australia and New Zealand producers been so starkly illustrated.

My favourite trio (my taste generally being towards paler pinots) were the elegant J. Christoper Sandra Adele Pinot Noir ($100) from Oregon; the outstandingly aromatic and soft Stonier wine and the balanced but juicy Bergstrom Silice Pinot Noir ($125) from Oregon.

Never before in my life have I favoured US wines in a blind tasting; and my choices were far from representing the mainstream. I found the Garagiste 2016 Terre de Feu (another Mornington offering), the second-best-value behind the Stonier.

Symons said the wines were chosen to provide "an interesting mix of pinot styles from around the globe". They did their job admirably, sparking interest and conversation in equal measure.

Bravo Stonier Wines; it's well worth checking out a bottle of their Merron's Vineyard, which looker even better the following day when tasted a couple of degrees cooler.

# The writer was a guest of Stonier Wines

Thursday, 18 October 2018

A little taste of Tasmania - in Melbourne

There’s a little taste of Tasmania to be found in a small side street in the Melbourne suburb of Hampton.

Homesick Tasmanians, or Melbourne gourmets, can stock up their pantry with eatherwood honey and scallop pies at the Tasmanian Grocer in the Bayside suburb.


Customers come in search of Tasmanian staples: cheeses, chutneys, raspberry jam, and cool-climate wines. They also demand quail eggs, salmon sausages, and abalone.

“I like to think of it as a sort of embassy for Tasmania,” owner Samuel Caccavo explains.

“Everything here is beautifully sourced from Tasmania. All the amazing spirits, all the amazing honey. It’s the taste of Tasmania, absolutely beautiful, and quintessentially Tasmanian.”

Now in its fifth year, the Tasmanian Grocer is also a family business.

It’s part of the extensive business dealings of an entrepreneurial Tasmanian clan, whose interests include construction, seafood, and artisan spirits.

With the Tasmanian Grocer, the Caccavo family has come full circle – back to where it all began.

Samuel’s grandfather, Ralph, at the tender age of 21, opened a small deli in Liverpool street, Hobart, before expanding his business to a fleet of trucks ferrying dried foods to restaurants across the city.

By the early 80s, Ralph had added supermarkets – his two well-known ‘Ralph's Super 7’ stores – to the business. Then, 20 years ago the family took a leap into the seafood industry, focusing on abalone exports to China.

While the Tasmanian Grocer is just a small part of the family’s business dealings, it provides a valuable outlet for their own products, which are sold alongside those of other boutique producers.

Brand Tasmania reports the shelves are stocked with hand-crafted spirits from the family’s Devil's Distillery, which was set up in 2015.

There is also the family’s olive oil on the shelves - sourced from an olive grove at Campania.

The Tasmanian Grocer is at 2 Willis Lane, Hampton VIC 3188. (03) 9521 8435.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Feel free to spray paint this hotel room

Spray painting on a hotel room wall would normally get you locked up.

Now, in an Australian first, Art Series Hotels is challenging its guests to grab a spray can, mask up and leave their mark on the walls of three of its properties.

From October 15 to December 30, a white-washed room at The Blackman and The Olsen hotels in Melbourne and The Johnson in Brisbane will be transformed into a collective canvas as part of a participatory art project.

The Colour Your Stay project will rely on guests to help create an ever-changing mural and become part of a shared experience.


The collaborative art project follows the award-winning No Robe campaign, which asked Art Series guests to strip nude and strike a pose, and the mischievous Steal Banksy that encouraged art theft.

A pioneer of the Australian street art and stencil movement, Luke Cornish (aka ELK) will lead the project for Art Series. In a nod to each of the hotels namesake artist, he will create a different artwork at each hotel; portraits of John Olsen, Charles Blackman and Michael Johnson, that guests are called on to complete.

On check-in hotel staff will share instructions and guests can register to participate. A mixture of spray cans and paint brushes, a gown, mask and gloves will be available for guests to use in the room, with each person given two minutes to unleash the artist within.

Challenging the "look but don’t touch" restriction of conventional gallery culture, the stark white interior will be transformed as hundreds of collaborators leave their mark.

Cornish says of his involvement in the campaign: "I’m thrilled to be working with Art Series Hotels on Colour Your Stay. Their dedication to supporting urban art and all of its wonderful satellite genres is a passion I share and I’m really excited to see what we create together with guests."

Director of Marketing Ryan Tuckerman says: “Supporting the arts and delivering unique art inspired experiences for our guests that are personal and bold sits at the core of the Art Series Hotels brand.

Luke Cornish was the first ever stencil artist to be named a finalist in both the Archibald Portrait Prize and Sulman Prize. He uses up to 85 layers of carefully hand-cut acetate in each work. He then sprays layer upon layer of aerosol paint until his images bear a striking photographic resemblance in a new form of hyper-realism.

Cornish uses the tools of a street artist to create his works.

Guests who share a photo on Instagram with the tag #colouryourstay will go in the draw to win a night on Art Series plus a signed ELK drawing.

To find out more visit www.artserieshotels.com.au/colouryourstay/ or call 1800 278 468. Colour Your Stay packages start from $189 per night.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

One-stop tasting spot in Margaret River

Craft Beers? Tick. Wines? Tick. Spirits? Tick.

The home of Black Brewing in Wilyabrup, Margaret River, has a new name in Caves Road Collective and is a one-stop tasting shop.

The facility is home to Black Brewing Co, Dune Distilling and Ground to Cloud Wines and aims to quench thirst, hunger and the search for an authentic Margaret River experience.

While Black Brewing Co beer will continue to be brewed on site by the same team under the same brand name, the change of the overall site name to Caves Road Collective represents the broader appeal of the destination. 

West Australian owners Stewart Sampson, Kristin Kestell, Rob Johnston and James Paterson took over what was Duckstein Brewery in late 2015 and have steadily grown the product offering. 

“We're a passionate bunch of locals, driven to deliver uncompromising quality, and believe the new venue brand better reflects this,” said managing director Sampson. 

“Since taking over the amazing location on Caves Road we've steadily improved the venue and product offering with the intention of creating incredible memories.”

Visitors can drop in for a beer or wine tasting, a lunch by the fire or on the deck in summer, enjoy late-afternoon bar snacks, a sampling of gin from Dune Distilling, a few Black Brewing Co beers with mates in the beer garden, a game of pool, or a four-pack takeaway!

The Caves Road Collective experience now includes:

Caves Road Collective restaurant: the restaurant is headed by Chef Hayden Vink and features local seasonal ingredients. 

Black Brewing Co.: Brewers Shannon Grigg and Adam Brookes have a range that includes lager, IPA, Bao Bao Milk Stout and Fresh Ale. 

Dune Distilling: The first offering is a gin. More to follow with 
two new stills on the way from the Netherlands. 

Ground to Cloud Wines: A range of wines including chardonnay, a semillon sauvignon blanc blend, cabernet sauvignon/merlot, syrah, and rosé. They have not got their act together and their website is not operational. 

Star Japanese chef signed for new culinary festival

The Curated Plate, a new four-day food festival is set to make its debut on the Sunshine Coast on August 8-11, 2019.

Aimed to be a celebration of the relationship between the chef and producer, the festival will bring together the region's finest produce with leading Australian and international chefs.

Local experiences - from food trails to farm tours - will feature in the program.

Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa

Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa (above) from the two Michelin-star restaurant, Den, in Tokyo, will join the festival in a collaboration with Sunshine Coast chef, Daniel Jarrett of The Tamarind.

Den was this year named the Best Restaurant in Japan and 17th in the world. 

Rising star Hasegawa is known for "Japanese cuisine with quality and creativity" (below).

The full festival program of events and talent line-up will be revealed in March, 2019.

"The Sunshine Coast has long been a home to some of Australia's greatest produce and some amazing restaurants," Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said.

"This new event will be a fantastic way to showcase our region and profile our local award-winning food producers and restaurateurs.

"We look forward to welcoming guests to our beautiful part of the world and invite them to discover what makes us such a great destination for fantastic food.”

Simon Latchford, CEO of Visit Sunshine Coast, said: “The Sunshine Coast is one of Australia's premier regions for quality produce - it has more than 740 restaurants, 400 food tourism experiences, six dining precincts, 13 craft breweries, some of the best farmers markets in the country and provides much of Queensland's fish, seafood, fruit, vegetables and poultry exports.

“While our beaches and year-round attractive climate might be the primary reasons for visitors choosing the Sunshine Coast for their holiday, the fact that we can deliver such high-quality food from paddock to plate is becoming an increasingly significant attraction for discerning travellers.”

“We invest in local events because they deliver a strong economic return for the tourism industry”.

For Curated Plate event details and travel packages, visit www.thecuratedplate.com.au/

Monday, 15 October 2018

"Big" new beer project for boutique booze producers

Tasmania’s Moo Brew and Sydney’s Archie Rose Distilling Co. have joined forces to produce a Barrel-Aged Stout. 

The Moo Brew Imperial Stout has been aged in Archie Rose Single Malt Whisky and ex-Bourbon oak barrels, weighing in at an imposing 10.8% alcohol/vol.

“It’s big,” Moo Brew head brewer Dave Macgill said.

Thirty whisky barrels were sent straight from the distillery in Sydney to the brewery in Hobart. This quick turnaround, from draining to refill, ensured a sturdy dose of spirit was bestowed upon the brew.

Made in time for Sydney Beer Week, the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout is expected to improve with age.

“We encourage people to enjoy this beer now, but those partial to cellaring will be rewarded” Macgill said.

“This stout has a rich, dense palate thanks to the ex-bourbon barrels and Archie Rose whisky, high residual sugar and specialty roasted malts.”  

“We love the opportunity to collaborate with brands that think like Moo Brew,” said Archie Rose Master Distiller Dave Withers.

“Innovation and experimentation is a huge part of what we do at Archie Rose, which is why we were thrilled to work on this project.” 

The Moo Brew x Archie Rose Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout will be launched at the Archie Rose Distillery on Wednesday, October 31, during Sydney Beer Week.

is will be available for public purchase from the Moo Brew/Moorilla cellar door from November 1. 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Paws for thought: Australian state wants you to take your furry friends on holiday

The Australian state of Victoria is launching a campaign to encourage visitors to bring their furry friends with them when they travel. 

Visit Victoria is putting short breaks in the paws of travellers' dogs with what it says is the world’s first tourism campaign optimised for dogs.

The campaign, developed by Clemenger BBDO, highlights how dogs love the quality experiences of regional Victoria as much as much as their pet owners and non-pet owners alike.

It is the first digital tourism campaign designed to stimulate dogs’ sight and sound, featuring content curated by local pet-fluencers. 

An extension of the recently launched Your Happy Space regional Victoria marketing campaign for humans, Your Dog’s Happy Space aims to get tails wagging with a short-break away.

Leading dog behaviourist and pet psychologist Dr Kate Mornement said that trip away together not only saves money on the costs of a kennel but can have positive wellbeing benefits for both human and pet.

“A short break away can have many of the same physical and mental health benefits for a dog as it would their owner,” Dr Mornement said.

“A new environment is not only stimulating and enriching for a dog but quality time together with a weekend away provides an opportunity for physical exercise, further develop social interaction, strengthen the bond and relieve stress.

“Just like humans, a holiday can be a really enjoyable experience for dogs.”

Dogs are widely considered as a barrier to experiencing a weekend away for the 65%t of Victorians who own a pet so the campaign will highlight the diverse range of quality pet-friendly experiences.

Regional Victoria’s natural beauty provides the backdrop to a host of accommodation, cafes, restaurants, pubs, wineries, breweries and activities that welcome fur babies and their owners.

Visit Victoria Chief Executive Officer Peter Bingeman said that Your Dog’s Happy Space will encourage even more locals to explore regional Victoria.

“Instead of putting their pets in an expensive pet hotel or arranging care, we know that the 65% of Victorians that do own a pet would love to travel in Victoria with their extended family," he said.

“Not only does pet friendly travel and accommodation make intrastate experiences more accessible, it’s also a great way to build awareness of the incredibly diverse offerings across the state.”
Visit http://yourhappyspace.com.au/dogs to research your next "pawfect" short break to regional Victoria.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Katnook Estate 2013 Odyssey: a special wine that deserved to be cellared

There are couple of reasons that make the new-release Katnook Estate 2013 Odyssey special. 

The first is that this is the 20th vintage release of the Coonawarra flagship, the second that it was the last Odyssey made to completion by founding winemaker Wayne Stehbens, who sadly died last year. 

The multiple-award-winning cabernet sauvignon is made only in outstanding vintages from specific rows of terra rossa soil. 

The 1991 Odyssey was the inaugural vintage, released in 1996 to commemorate the centenary of the first vintage made at Katnook’s woolshed in 1896. 

The name Odyssey reflected the ongoing journey of Katnook with its roots in the past and sights on the future. The aim was to make a timeless Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, one that would stand alongside the world’s best.

The 2013, from a warm vintage, is a wine that offers intense fruit married to powerful French and American oak. It is all about richness and concentration and, ideally, it needs several years in the cellar. 

Stehbens made Katnook's first vintage and headed the winemaking team until his sudden death, making him one of Australia’s longest-serving winemakers. He was just 63 but had been Katnook winemaker for 37 years.
The $110 price tag underlines that this wine is something special; one 1 of just 53 wines listed in the 'Outstanding' category of the Langton's Classification of Australian Wine. 

For details visit www.katnookestate.com.au

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Flight delayed by "emotional support squirrel"

A few months ago an airline flight in the United States was delayed when a woman tried to board with her pet peacock.

This week, passengers were held up for over two hours while a woman demanding to fly with an "emotional support squirrel" was removed from a plane at Orlando International Airport in Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The woman had noted on her reservation with Frontier Airlines that she was flying with an emotional support animal but did not say it was a squirrel, local media reported.

“Rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on Frontier flights,” the airline said in a statement.

The flight to Cleveland was delayed when the woman, who had boarded, refused to leave the plane with her animal, which airline workers told her was not allowed.

Other passengers then were asked to get off the plane and police were called. Officers then escorted the woman and her squirrel off the airline.

Officers had all passengers get off the plane so they could "deal with the passenger," the airline said.

A spokesperson for Orlando Police Department said the woman, identified as wheelchair-user Cindy Torok, co-operated when police arrived and no arrest was made.

The emotional support squirrel is apparently called Daisy. Torok caught a later flight without her rodential companion. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Viognier making its mark in Heathcote

Tellurian Wines was founded on a love of Rhone reds and a desire to create outstanding Heathcote shiraz.

Within a year of the first release from the 2008 vintage, however, the Central Victorian winery released its first white wine - the 2009 Tellurian Viognier.

Fast forward a decade or so and the 2017 Tellurian Viognier won the trophy for the best white at the 2018 Heathcote Wine Show.

Championed in Australia by Yalumba in the Eden Valley, who make a range of styles, viognier originates from the Rhone Valley and is well suited to the growing conditions in Heathcote.

Medium in style with floral and stone fruit aromatics and soft, round texture, the 2017 Tellurian ($28) is a standout with a fresh, crisp acid finish.

Tellurian winemaker Tobias Ansted spent a vintage in the Northern Rhone working at Domaine Yves Cuilleron at Chavanay, and fell in love with viognier, which is grown largely in the tiny Condrieu appellation.

While Ansted and Tellurian principals Ian and Daniel Hopkins acknowledge that viognier isn’t likely to shift from obscure to mainstream in the near future, they firmly believe this "expressive and textural variety" deserves a place on wine lists.

I tried the wine over two nights, with roast chicken and an Asian stir-fry, and it shone with both.

“It is critical to pick viognier ripe," says Ansted. "You want those rich apricot and orange blossom characters that only develop in later in the season with full ripeness; picking early defeats the purpose.

"Our 2017 Tellurian viognier offers these typical stone fruit, orange blossom notes enlivened by acid freshness and enriched by creamy, yeasty complexity from aging on lees and barrel fermentation in seasoned oak."

That said, this has no "canned apricot" characters. Ansted has used a deft touch. 

Tellurian's white plantings included viognier, marsanne and riesling. In 2014, roussanne and fiano were planted and most recently grenache gris vines. Tellurian hopes to be certified organic in November.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Tokyo the favourite overseas city for American tourists

Tokyo has been chosen as the world’s best big city outside the United States for the third year in a row, leading US travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler reports.

Readers of the magazine cast more than 420,000 votes for their favorite cities in the 2018 poll, the magazine said, with the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto climbing the rankings to second from third the previous year.

“Topping our list of world cities yet again, Tokyo continues to thrill with its contradictions: ultramodern, neon-lit skyscrapers and tranquil temples, unmatchable street style and centuries-old etiquette,” the magazine said, adding that the Japanese capital is also “one of the world’s best food destinations”.

The magazine said Kyoto is “still one of the most well-preserved cities in Japan”. A third Japanese city, Osaka, finished 12th.

Melbourne in Australia, was third, followed by Vienna, Austria, and Hamburg in Germany. Then came Sydney, Singapore, Paris, Barcelona and Vancouver.

That Sydney should finish sixth is amazing given the city core is a complete building site and its public transport is an absolute shambles.

Massive man-made reef aims to revive wild oyster populaton

Parts of the artificial reef
The final construction stage of the largest man-made oyster reef system outside the United States has been completed in South Australia.

The 20-hectare reef in the waters of Gulf St Vincent in South Australia is the first of what is hoped to be five major reef projects in the state to revive wild populations of the almost extinct Ostrea angasi native mud oyster.

The four-hectare stage one of the Windara Reef project was completed in June 2017 and 30,000 adult native oysters were embedded across the 15 limestone structures in January this year.

Work on stage two began in late August and was completed last week. It involved placing almost 10,000 tonnes of limestone boulders, each about the size of a soccer ball, to form 144 reefs across the remaining 16-hectare area.

The final part of the project will include seeding the stage two section with seven million one-month-old native oyster spat in December.

The project, about a kilometre off the coast of Ardrossan on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, aims to increase fish stocks for recreational anglers, improve water quality and biodiversity and revive the oyster in the Gulf.

Oyster reefs are considered the temperate water equivalent to coral reefs in tropical waters. Australia’s southern coastline was home to thousands of kilometres of oyster reefs before European settlement but dredging to remove substrate for lime production and the harvesting of oysters for food wiped out all the reefs except for one off the coast of Tasmania.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been involved in dozens of shellfish reef restoration projects, chiefly in the United States and is considered a global expert on their establishment.

TNC project manager Anita Nedosyko said the first dives to measure the environmental benefits on water quality, fish production and biodiversity of stage one were conducted in May and June as part of a six-year study into the success of the project.

She said while the reef system was dominated by turfing algae, the adult oysters placed on the reef were surviving and a number of wild oyster spat had also found its way to the reef, which was an unexpected bonus.

The seven million one-month-old native oyster larvae will be attached at a hatchery near Port Lincoln to 12 tonnes of oyster shells that will be used to host the spat so it can be easily seeded onto the reef, which is in 8-10 metres of water.

The 144 limestone boulder reefs in stage two are roughly four metres wide and 700mm high with lengths varying from 10 metres to 35 metres and are distributed evenly across the area to form one large reef system.

Nedosyko said the individual reef clumps were designed to be close enough together so that native oyster larvae could move across the reef system through tidal flow.

“A successful reef for us will be one where oysters are surviving, spawning and producing new recruits and we’re also starting to see some additional biodiversity,” she said.

Adult native oysters can filter more than 100 litres of water a day and excrete a mucus-like substance that is rich in nutrients and provides food for small shellfish that in turn provide food for larger fish.

Nedosyko said the ability to provide to clean water and provide a food source for small organisms gave native oyster reefs the ability to drive greater fish production than artificial reefs alone.

She said it was hoped the Windara Reef would eventually lead to increased fish production of 5000 tonnes per hectare a year including recreational fishing favourites such as snapper and King George whiting.

“It’s like a well-stocked fridge – it’s really attractive to fish coming in because they can stop, get fed and move on or decide to be residents.”

The Nature Conservancy is working with the South Australian Government to raise additional funds to be able to undertake restoration projects in other South Australian locations including Kangaroo Island, the metropolitan Adelaide coast, Spencer Gulf and the far West Coast.

“This is definitely an important site for us to be able to test the success of the ecological progression of the reef and also to test and trial the construction and deployment methods,” Nedosyko said.

“We’re confident that by building native oyster reefs we’re going to achieve oyster survival but also greater biodiversity and therefore higher fish numbers at these sites.”

Monday, 8 October 2018

Come and visit us, say the good people of Christmas Island

Most of us associate Christmas Island with an immigration detention centre of immense cruelty that cost $400 million of Australian taxpayers' money to build. 
But now, after decade of being associated with Australian Government behaviour that shocked the international community, Christmas Island's tourism industry finally has the opportunity to shine.

This week, the island's Immigration Detention Centre (IDC), which opened its doors in 2008, will scale back to 'hot contingency' status, which means it will be closed to detainees, and only become operational should the need arise.
Tourism operators on the tropical island, located 2600 kilometres north-west of Perth off the coast of Indonesia, hope this change in status of the centre means the spotlight can once again be shone on the island's natural wonders.
“Our industry has had to endure many challenges during the past 10 years,” says Lisa Preston, chair of the Christmas Island Tourism Association, adding “it's great to be able to finally start getting our positive messages out into our markets”.
Earlier this week, the tropical island celebrated its 60th anniversary as an Australian territory.

“The closure of the IDC is the ultimate birthday present”, says Preston. "We are now poised to start developing our island's long-term vision for the future, which means embracing tourism and the new opportunities that it will bring for all."
The closure of the IDC is especially welcomes by several recent tourism developments on the island, including Swell Lodge, a luxury cabin perched atop a sea cliff that is attracting visitors from as far as Europe, and Extra Divers, a global diving conglomerate which recently opened its first Australian dive centre on the island.
Christmas Island hopes to soon become better known for its marine life (you can swim, snorkel and scuba dive with whale sharks), deserted beaches and wildlife than its detainees. 
For more information please visit www.christmas.net.au

Saturday, 6 October 2018

How the hell do you pronounce Ptuj? Have a go.

Readers of the British newspaper The Daily Mail are notoriously Anglo-centric, finding difficulty with foreign languages, accents and foods.

In September, the newpaper compiled a list of the world’s least pronounceable tourist destinations for British holidaymakers.

Among those listed: Ptuj in Slovenia (below).

The pronunciation is “so phonetically baffling for Brits that 92% of those polled in a survey said it incorrectly”.

This inspired the Ptuj Local Tourism Board to create a new promotional video, which teaches visitors to pronounce the name correctly and at the same time showcases the beauty of the city.

Ptuj, in the north-east of Slovenia, is the oldest city in the country; and to my mind easier to pronounce than Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland or ordering a bottle of wine from South African producer Boukenhoutskloof.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Rapid changes on the Australian hotel landscape

A new research report highlights the dramatic expansion and transformation of Australia’s hotel industry, with a new generation of hotels being developed to cater for a new generation of traveller.

The report – The Innovation Revolution Transforming Australia’s Hotel Industry – was undertaken by Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) and documents how new global and local hotel brands, new designs, new technologies and new guest services are changing the face of Australia’s accommodation sector.

The changes include trends such as localism, individualism, art and sustainability, and come at a time when the Australia hotel sector is undergoing its largest-ever expansion. 

Cities such as Perth, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne have already witnessed a significant rejuvenation of their hotel stock, while the Sydney hotel sector is at the start of its most dramatic expansionary phase since the 2000 Olympics and change if afoot in Hobart.

Over 200 new or upgraded hotels will be added to Australia’s hotel inventory in the decade to 2025 in city, airport, suburban, regional and resort destinations. 

The addition of 30,000 rooms across all price points will make a vital contribution to maintaining the record growth in tourism, which in 2017 delivered $41.3 billion in foreign revenue to the economy and supported over 180,000 Australian jobs.

Major innovations identified in the TAA research report include:

New lifestyle brands introducing new hospitality concepts: Boutique international brands like Aloft & the Autograph Collection (Marriott), Curio (Hilton), MGallery (Accor), Indigo (IHG), TRYP (Wyndham) and Ovolo Hotels have joined Australian designer brands like QT, Art Series and Veriu.

The technology revolution – from VR design to keyless entry: New technology, from virtual reality to artificial intelligence, is increasingly intertwined in the future of hotel development and design. In many hotels the reception desk has been replaced by multi-purpose welcome areas with iPad check-in – or no check in at all. Personal mobile technology is also allowing guests the capability to pre-select rooms and services.

The Lobby/Living Space Revolution: Functional lobby and reception areas are being transformed into vibrant, communal ‘living’ spaces. Hotel designers have introduced the ‘home-away-from-home’ concept by re-designing their lobbies and other public areas from business-like, pragmatic spaces to living-room style spaces that are warm and inviting. Interactive cafes and delis are now common, flowing across the lobby, along with plentiful lounges, re-charging ports, TV screens and private areas for friends/colleagues to catch up over a coffee or glass of wine.

Design emphasis moves from global to local, uniformity to individuality: The new generation of hotels has attracted a new generation of designers, with the licence to make a statement with their designs. From prime city locations to pristine resort locations, hotel design is now aimed at complementing the landscape, becoming an integral component of the local area.

Small equals big in the design revolution: Through innovation in design, many of the new hotels being launched feature smaller, more functional bedrooms, with wall-mounted TVs doing away with the need for large cabinetry. Power and USB points are now bed-side to support guests using technology from their beds, while mobile desks are replacing traditional work desks.

In launching the report, Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Carol Giuseppi said that the massive expansion of Australia’s hotel industry and the commitment to design excellence would play a crucial role in sustaining Australia’s record-breaking tourism performance.

“The biggest trends influencing the new hotel design include an emphasis on localism, community, individualism, art and sustainability," she said. "Hotels are being designed to complement the local landscape, with street art, edgy design and a focus on local produce on restaurant, bar and function menus.

“The changes are being driven by changes in traveller’s demands, particularly the millennial generation. Technology has been a key focus for hotels. Not only are most Australian hotels offering at least some level of free wifi, but connection speeds are faster and the new breed of hotels are offering casting capability to their in-room screens. Keyless entry to rooms has been introduced and increasingly guests will be able to select their specific room type in advance."

The full report is available via https://goo.gl/L3SGjM 

New logo aims to guide cider drinkers

Is that cider you are sipping crafted from organic Australian apples from the Huon Valley in Tasmania, or made from Chinese apple concentrate? 

The Australian craft cider industry today launched its 100% Australian-grown trust mark and logo as part of a $500,000 investment to market craft cider.

Supported by the Australian Government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package,  the $500,000 investment has seen Wine Australia partner with Cider Australia and consultant Guy Taylor to develop a marketing strategy that is unique to Australia and meaningful in chosen export markets.
Cider Australia president and craft cider producer Sam Reid said: ‘I’m incredibly proud that we are the first country to develop a cider trust mark. 
"Authenticity is very important to our industry. The trust mark will help consumers to recognise what makes Australian craft ciders unique – a premium beverage made with 100% Australian-grown apples or pears.
‘This initiative also aims to drive significant growth for the Australian craft cider community, raising its profile both domestically and internationally’, he said.
The trust mark and brand proposition are part of a broader strategy to market the Australian craft cider category overseas and establish export markets for local brands. Consumers will start to see the trust mark on eligible craft ciders in retail outlets from November this year and it will be rolled out more widely over summer. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The new-release 2014 Penfolds Bin 95 Grange is....

Until a few hours a ago I was sworn to silence about the new-release Penfolds 2014 Grange, and the other fine wines in the 2018 Penfolds Collection (above). 

While I attended a tasting in Melbourne a couple of months ago, my notes were hit with an embargo, just like those of wine writers around the globe who attended tastings from New York to London and and other distant points of the globe. 

In the world of wine, the release of a new Grange is a biggie - and everyone gets a chance to reflect before posting their notes. 

Unfortunately, I was unwell at the Melbourne tasting (now happily recovered) but I managed to work my way through all the new releases (although without scoring) and can report that quality remains exactly where you would expect it be. 

The new Grange now costs a whopping $900 a bottle, and is, on release, immediately impressive. My notes feature words like texture, length, balance, structure and cohesion. It is, even it its youth, a complete package with traditional ripe fruit and intensity. 

For the first time, fruit from Wrattonbully is included in the regional blend; alongside the Barossa, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Clare Valley and Magill Estate (in the suburbs of Adelaide). The figures are 98% shiraz, 2% cabernet. 

The wine spent 20 months in new American oak hogsheads, but the fruit has soaked up the oak, reflecting crisp acid more than smoky wood. 

Aromas of charcuterie, Asian spice and herbs lead the way to run to some beautifully layered fruits, described by chief winemaker Peter Gago as "a tapestry" - and every mouthful is long and expressive.  No disappointments. 

For wine buyers looking for Penfolds quality without the Grange price tag, I would point to the quite wonderful 2015 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz. 

This is the serious-but fun wine in the new line-up, a lovely fruit-driven style utilising fruit  from Mclaren Vale, Robe, Barossa, Wrattonbully, Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas, Adelaide Hills and Mount Benson. It is a blend of 93% shiraz, 7% cabernet sauvignon that spends 12 months in older oak vats, many over 50 years of age. 

The end result is super smooth and complex with sous bois characters in harmony with that rich berry fruit salad. At $135 a bottle you can have six of these to one Grange. Very tempting. 

My other favourites among the tasting were the slick "Baby Grange" 2016 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz ($100), the lusciously layered Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2016 ($100) and the taut, tight and beautiful Bin 311 2017 Chardonnay, a very classy cool-climate fusion of fruit from the Adelaide Hills, Tasmania and Tumbarumba ($50). 

The 2014 Grange and the rest of the Penfolds Collection will be officially released on October 17.