Sunday, 17 November 2019

Engine problems to cause Air New Zealand cancellations

Air New Zealand has flagged cancellations and schedule changes over the peak summer period - pointing the finger at engine supplier Rolls-Royce.

"Like many other airlines around the world, for the past couple of years we’ve been managing challenges with the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines fitted to our Boeing 787-9 aircraft," Air New Zealand said in a email to customers. 

"We thought these issues were almost behind us, however Rolls-Royce has informed us that our newer Trent 1000 TEN engines also require maintenance earlier than expected. 

"Alongside this, Rolls-Royce has told us it doesn’t have the capacity to do this maintenance work quickly, as we are just one of many airlines affected globally.

"Some of our flights will be impacted this summer.

"Getting customers to their destinations is our top priority. We’re doing all we can to minimise disruption, but unfortunately we need to make a limited number of cancellations and changes to some flights over summer.

Most of these changes are contained to our Perth flights and we estimate around 14,000 customers will be impacted by cancellations. Flights within New Zealand will not be affected.

We are deeply disappointed to be in this position again, but safety is paramount and non-negotiable."

Passengers whose flights are affected will be contacted by Air New Zealand, said acting CEO Jeff McDowall.

Artisan tastes of the Apple Isle: Tasmania

A lot of ciders in Australia are made from apples that were designed for eating, not drinking. 

Willie Smith's in Tasmania has a focus on heritage apple varieties that have been used for traditional ciders in England and France. 

The latest such release is the Kingston Black 2019, a follow-up to the 2018 release of the cider made from the same apple, which rapidly sold out.

The Huon Valley business started planting heirloom apple varieties over six years ago to ensure greater complexity in its traditional style ciders, with the trees now starting to become more established.

The 2019 Kingston Black is a single varietal cider that showcases the world-renowned English heirloom apple of the same name, known for its aromas and complex flavour profile.

Willie Smith’s co-founder Sam Reid said he hoped there would be enough of the new drop to keep customers satisfied longer - last season’s release sold out months ago.

“We were really excited to get a bumper crop of Kingston Black this harvest, as this cider grows in popularity year on year," he said. "It’s been great to see Australia’s craft drinkers embracing this more complex style cider that really shows just how good cider can be.” 

Reid said he expects the variety to do for the Tasmanian cider industry what pinot noir has done for Tasmania’s wine reputation.

“We think Kingston Black is the pinot Noir of the cider apple world," he said."It’s tricky to grow and tricky to work with. But with love, patience and a lot of attention to detail, this variety can produce exceptional ciders with outstanding aroma and structure.”

Head cider maker Tim Jones said “This year’s release showcases the stunning aromatics of this awesome variety – it’s intriguing, with standout fresh green apple and sherbet aromatics.

“With crisp acidity it’s a great lower alcohol alternative to wine - perfect for summer lunchtime drinking.” 

The Willie Smith’s team will be serving the latest release at events over the summer including the Big Design Market (Melbourne, December 6-7), the Taste of Tasmania (Hobart) and Festivale (Launceston).

The 2019 Kingston Black is sold in 750ml bottles with an RRP of $30. Also new from the same team the Charles Oates Apple Brandy, inspired by the tradition of Calvados in North-West France. 

This handsome tribute can be enjoyed as a digestif or with mature cheeses or rich desserts. It weighs in at 42% alc/vol and retails for $130. Briliant!

Celebrate Anzac Day with a special cruise

A special Murray River cruise will mark the Anzac Day holiday, with guests able to choose between a three-day or seven-day adventure on the PS Murray Princess. 

Departing Monday, April 20, or Friday, April 24, 2020, on board the paddlewheeler Murray Princess, the Anzac Day cruise promises to be something special. 

A special dawn service on April 25 will be followed by a traditional Gun Fire Breakfast and game of Two-Up. There will also be an Anzac trivia quiz and buffet lunch. 

In addition to celebrating Anzac Day, the cruise will explore the Murray River and uncover its history. 

Food and wine lovers can sample some of the Murray and Riverland regions produce and wines with a structured tasting event held on board in the Sturt Dining Room as part of the three-day cruise.

The seven-night cruise will visit historic Swan Reach and feature a cellar door tasting and tour of the vineyard at Burk Salter Boutique Winery.

There is also the chance to learn about Aboriginal history at the Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Reserve - and take part in a guided boardwalk tour of ancient rock carvings.

The three-night cruise departs Mannum at 4.30pm on Friday, April 24, 2020 and early booking saver fares start from $941 per person twin share.

The seven-night cruise departs Mannum at 4.30pm on Monday, April 20, and Friday, April 24 with early booked fares starting from $2053 per person twin share.

Cruise fares include accommodation, all meals, guided nature walks, eco-excursions, Anzac Day activities, on-board presentations, wifi, the Captain's Dinner and use of ship's facilities including a sun deck, bar, two lounges, restaurant and a mini gymnasium.

Complimentary coach transfers from Adelaide, or secure car-parking in Mannum, are also included.

For further information visit

Friday, 15 November 2019

Four fun wine labels to look out for

Wine lovers enjoy nothing more than being the first in their group of friends to discover an
exciting new wine producer.

Here is the lowdown on four of the hottest Australian wine labels that will delight you –
and put you ahead of the crowd.

Atze’s Corner
The first Kalleske family members arrived in the Barossa Valley in 1847 and various branches of the family have been involved in grape growing and the wine industry ever since. 

The newest Kalleske venture is Atze’s Corner, which produces wines made from shiraz,
mataro, graciano, petite syrah/durif, montepulciano, grenache, cabernet sauvignon and

The family recently opened a cellar door which offers views over the valley along with
tastings and produce platters.

Atze’s is run by sixth-generation Barossa vigneron Andrew Kalleske and the fruit used
includes grapes from vines dating back to 1912.

Minimal intervention practices in the winery include using open, small-batch fermentation,
hand plunging and pumping, gentle oak maturation and minimal filtration. The wines have a
delicious savoury element.
Mewstone Wines/Hughes & Hughes
Well-travelled winemaker Jonny Hughes and his brother Matthew are based in the hamlet
of Flowerpot in the Channel region south of Hobart, but source fruit from all over Tasmania.

The small-batch wines tend be made with minimal intervention.

Last year the brothers were named Best New Act in the national Young Guns of Wine
awards and best newcomers in the James Halliday Wine annual.

While the Mewstone wines are strictly produced from the Flowerpot vineyard, the
Hughes & Hughes range of wines brings together fruit sourced from around Tasmania,
with the aim of producing wines that are high on both natural acidity and drinkability.

In addition, individual small batches are released that capture the results of
investigations into the use of skins, stalks, solids and other fermentation variables. All
Hughes & Hughes wines are bottled unfined and with low sulphur.
Liz Heidenreich Wines
For the past 13 years Liz Heidenreich has been the winemaker at Sevenhill Cellars, the
Jesuit-owned winery in the Clare Valley. Before that she did four vintages as winemaker for
British pop star Sir Cliff Richard’s Vida Nova brand.

Now Heidenreich, whose family have grown wine grapes since 1936, has struck out on her
own with three releases under her own label, a bold Barossa shiraz, a Barossa grenache and a Clare Valley riesling. 

“My philosophy is to source small parcels of fruit from the regions in which they excel and
handcraft individual batches that capture the fruit’s formidable character.

”I’m really pleased that this new venture recognises my family’s long association with the
Barossa Valley and their involvement in grape-growing and winemaking.”

Heidenreich is also moonlighting as consultant winemaker for Peter Teakle Wines at Port
No website.
Lost Farm Wines
Richard Angove caught the Tasmanian wine bug when doing a vintage stint at Tamar Ridge
back in 2008. 

Angove, a fifth-generation member of one of Australia's most famous wine and brandy-making families, loves drinking fresh, vibrant fruit-driven wines, so decided to make some small batches of his own on the Apple Isle.

The Lost Farm, Angove's personal range of two sparkling wines, along with a chardonnay
and a pinot noir, has recently launched. 

Angove had stints working at Tahbilk, Domaine Carneros in California and Brokenwood
before re-joining the family firm, which has been in the wine business since 1886.

The name has a double-barrelled impact. It refers first to a Tea Tree Gully vineyard the
family was forced to surrender to urban creep in McLaren Vale back in 1974, but also shares its name with one of Tasmania's finest golf courses, which will be selling the wines. 

Angove is making the wines at the Josef Chromy facility, working with Jeremy Dineen,
before finishing them off at the high-tech Angove facility in Renmark.

"Clean and fresh wines is what I am looking for, because that is the style I love to drink," 
Angove said. "I have relished the chance to work with high-quality, cool-climate fruit."

This is an edited extract of a story that first appeared on

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Discover your inner dope fiend on a new tour

Visitors to Los Angeles keen to get up close and personal with the city's legal week trade are being invited to discover their inner dope fiend.
Starline Tours has announced a new tour rolling (see what they did there) around Los Angeles in partnership with HERBARIUM, the only marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles with a grow room on display and a glass-blowing demonstration for smoking accessories and collectibles. 
The new Hollywood 420 Celebrity Tour will include a compact tour of Hollywood celebrity homes along with celebrity-spotting locations and then a full experience at HERBARIUM.

The HERBARIUM experience will feature a 20-minute demonstration in the ancient art of glass blowing, a special viewing window into the world of marijuana growing in HERBARIUM's curated indoor cultivation facility, an introduction to cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and marijuana products for both recreational and medicinal use, along with a goodie bag. 
Beginning December 1, the two-hour tour will operate daily with the first tour departing Orange Court at Hollywood & Highland at 9:30am and continuing throughout the day with the last tour departing at 4pm.
The introductory price for the new tour is $79 and available online at
The dispensary, well-known among many entertainment industry figures, is a common location to spot A-list celebrities visiting the store. 
Many Hollywood stars embrace the benefits of CBD and marijuana use. 
The location's exterior wall is quickly becoming one of the latest Los Angeles Instagram backgrounds—a lush, green mural of healthy marijuana plants in a natural setting custom painted on site by artist David Sanner (the tour includes time for selfies).
Tour participants must show a valid ID to prove legal age to enter the HERBARIUM portion of the tour. Ingesting edible products is allowed on the tour. Smoking and vaping are prohibited.

A Bangkok hotel with a very different focus

Bangkok is a party town. And many of the people visiting the Sukhumvit district have some serious liquid socialising in mind. 

One hotel, however, wants visitors to focus on their well being rather than visiting pubs and clubs. 

The 235-room and suites Well Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20 is offering guests a $378 three-day, two-night Being Well holiday season package for two.

Focused on well-being, the offer includes a 60-minute wellness activity with a choice of aromatherapy massage, ancient Thai massage, Muay Thai class or a personal fitness training session. 

Also included in the package are a daily buffet breakfast, complimentary in-room minibar, 15% discount on the standard menu at Well Spa, 35% discount on food on a la carte menu at Eat Well Café, complimentary access to Well Fitness, outdoor salted water swimming and group exercise classes, and a special rate on extended nights. 

The deal is available from now until March 31, 2020, with a supplement of $24 net per night applied for stays between December 25, 2019, and January 10, 2020.

More than half a million Australians visit Bangkok each year for holidays and business - and many have their personal favourite hotels. 

The Well Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20 aims to attract visitors looking to maintain healthy lifestyles in a city that never sleeps. 

All executive suites and rooms are equipped with an exercise bike, yoga and pilates equipment. Guests can also join the free group exercise classes daily. 

The hotel is located in central Sukhumvit with all its restaurants and bars, clubs, retail malls, food markets, tailors and shops. 

It is within  easy walking distance from the BTS Skytrain (Asok), MRT Subway (Sukhumvit), Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre and several luxury malls. 

Nearby Benjakiti Park is one of Bangkok’s most popular parks offering space for joggers, walkers and cyclists.  

Well has apparently been open for three years - I'll be checking it out on my next visit. 

For details see

Discover a permanent new food festival in Melbourne

Melbourne is set to welcome a permanent festival of food - with the desperately dull name of Grazeland.

To be located next to Scienceworks in Spotswood, west of the CBD, Grazeland aims to pay homage to the city's diverse food scene. 

The precinct, at present a barren industrial site, will offer a casual dining experience by bringing together a diversity of local producers, live entertainers, and consumers.

Spanning across 10,000sqm, Grazeland will host over 50 sweet and savoury food vendors, three fully licensed bars, artisan stalls selling locally designed products, roving entertainers and live performances, creating a food festival experience.

“Given Melbourne’s amazing culinary scene, there is no better city to introduce a permanent festival of food," says says John Forman, the Grzeland managing director. "Grazeland will bring together the multicultural tastes that Melbourne is known for in one location, giving everyone the chance to discover a world of new flavours.” 

The new destination will be open every Friday-Saturday-Sunday of the year with outdoor seating to make the most of the warm summer days and cover for the rainier ones. I hope they've got a few braziers on order as we all know how cold Melbourne can be in winter. 

Designed by Push Projects with Phil Bucknell of Milieu Projects, the festival park will incorporate a series of themed spaces as varied as the food offerings themselves.

March is proposed opening date.   

For more information visit

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Perth puts on the Ritz with new hotel opening

One of Australia's most anticipated new hotels, the Ritz-Carlton, will open its doors at Perth's Elizabeth Quay on Friday. 

The new luxury hotel will offer 205 rooms, including 18 suites and the 277 sq m Ritz-Carlton Suite, featuring an outdoor balcony. 

The signature restaurant Hearth, led by well-known West Australian chef Jed Gerrard, will showcase produce from the state's farmers, fishermen, artisans and winemakers; embracing the traditional skill of cooking over fire to deliver a seasonal menu. 

Songbird, the rooftop bar, will serve up cocktails and small dishes and feature views of the city and Swan River. 

Wellness is a focus of the Ritz-Carlton Spa (well it would be a big surprise if it wasn't, you may say), which features four treatment rooms, saunas, fitness centre, a private yoga studio, his and hers outdoor heated vitality pools and a heated outdoor infinity pool overlooking the CDB and river. 

The hotel will also offer meeting and events spaces – including the Elizabeth Quay Ballroom.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Glamour hotel for suburban Melbourne

When I think of Avani properties, I tend to consider chic, designer resorts like the one overlooking the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.

When I think of Box Hill, my mind guides to me a Melbourne suburb with a lot of high-rise buildings 14km from the the CBD. A lot of trams seem to go there. 

Avani and Box Hill would seem an unlikely combination but Avani Hotels and Resorts is now welcoming guests to a newly developed hotel property located in what it describes as "the bustling, up-and-coming suburb of Box Hill". 

Avani Melbourne Box Hill Residences launched is located close to Box Hill's shopping and food precinct, Station Street, known for its wide range of Asian eateries.

With 75 one- and two-bedroom suites featuring chef-style kitchens, the hotel facilities include a heated roof-top infinity pool, spa and an on-site gym and sauna. 

A rooftop entertaining space is available for private guest bookings, including an outdoor barbecue and fire-pit, and a full open-plan kitchen with views of the Melbourne city skyline, Dandenong Ranges and Box Hill Gardens.

It is being spruiked as "the ideal base for both business and leisure travellers" - which may be just a little optimistic. 

Avani currently operates 27 hotels and resorts in 19 countries. It is part of the Thailand-based hospitality chain Minor Hotels. 

The brand recently debuted in Cambodia, South Korea, and Bali. It also has 15 new hotels in the pipeline, including upcoming properties in Malaysia, the UAE, and Myanmar.

Rates at Avani Box Hill Residences start from $150, so what you might lose in convenience you can save in cold, hard cash. 

Guests can contact Avani Melbourne Box Hill Residences on 1300 176 911 or email

Monday, 11 November 2019

New look and new name for longtime Queensland favourite

Farewell Novotel Twin Waters, hello Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort.

One of Queensland's longtime favourite holiday destinations has launched a new era with a new-look lobby, bar and a new name.

“Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort better reflects the property's evolution, and aligns the resort with the Sunshine Coast Convention Centre, which opened earlier this year,” said Accor's Vice President Operations QLD/NT, Matt Young.

“We believe that it's a more progressive and appropriate name given that we are located in a destination being profiled on the international stage now more than ever before.”

A $2 million refurbishment has breathed new life into the complex.

Since opening in 1990, the resort has been well known for its grand entrance with high atrium ceilings and the transformation has paid homage to the history of the building while introducing its new look.

Accor is a world-leading hospitality group with over 4,800 hotels, resorts, and residences across 100 countries.

The one book every wine lover needs in their library

Combine the expertise of veteran wine writing duo Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson with that of experts from around the world, add fascinating maps and facts and you have the reference book that every wine lover needs to own.

The first edition of the World Atlas of Wine was published in 1971 and has since sold over 4.7 million copies in 14 languages.

This is the completely revised eighth edition that is bang up to date with a record 416 pages and 230 maps. It is a reference masterpiece.

There us a new design, including easily-digestible summaries and leader lines to points of interest on the maps. 

There are new sections on climate change, and financial aspects of wine and pages devoted to St Helena, British Columbia, Uruguay, Brazil, Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus. 

I know that I will be consulting this book more than any other in my wine library. 

The World Atlas of Wine, 8th edition, is published by Hachette Australia. $85 Hardback.  

Global recognition for family-owned McLaren Vale winery

McLaren Vale's Gemtree Wines has been named 2019 Global Winner for Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices at the international awards - part of the Great Wine Capitals annual general meeting - in Bordeaux, France

The boutique winery was recognised for implementing environmental practices and sustainable innovations and developments enhancing the visitor experience.

Gemtree co-owner and viticulturist Melissa Brown is thrilled the winery's new sustainability-themed tours and organic and biodynamic practices have been recognised on a global stage.

"Mike and I are thrilled to accept this award which shines a spotlight on a global stage not only on Gemtree but also on the outstanding McLaren Vale wine region," she said. "It is wonderful to receive recognition for our biodynamic and sustainable practices and the tours that we offer."

Certified organic and biodynamic, Gemtree Wine’s cellar door is sustainably built with recycled materials and sits next to a 10-hectare nature reserve, which the family planted with over 50,000 natives.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said it was fitting to see a South Australian winery recognised on the world stage for its sustainable approach.

“I commend Gemtree Wines on a remarkable award and it is a true testament to the quality of South Australian wines and the associated tourism experience that this winery is recognised on the world stage,” he said.

“This award is more than just recognition for wine tourism, it demonstrates the state’s ability to provide a unique experience and tell the story of grape to glass.

“Gemtree has one of the largest certified biodynamic vineyards in Australia and they are proud custodians of the land, so this award is truly fitting.”

Friday, 8 November 2019

Meet a new Tasmanian wine range worth seeking out

If you enjoy quirky, individual cool-climate wines from Tasmania please allow me to introduce you to Rivulet Wines. 

This is the impressive personal project of Keira O'Brien, who makes wines for Bream Creek and Elsewhere Vineyard, among others, in her full-time job at Tasmanian Vintners (formerly Winemaking Tasmania). 

O'Brien has used her impressive contacts list to source fruit from several of the best vineyards in the state; but she's not playing it safe with all three wines in the range offering a point of difference. 

The trio comprises the 2018 Rivulet Senko ($38) an intriguing blend of pinot meunier and pinot noir from the Huon Valley), the 2018 Rivulet Riesling ($38) and the multi-regional and aromatic 2018 Le Tang white blend ($31) and a melange of chardonnay, riesling and skin-fermented siegerrebe (a rare German grape) made in collaboration with sommelier Wiremu Andrews. 
Hi  The siegerrebe is grown at Priory Ridge on the East Coast and has characters similar to gewurztraminer. The funky blend has a definite tang on the palate, hence the name. 

The riesling, a certain cellaring prospect,  is from vines planted in 1974 at Bream Creek - the oldest riesling vines in the state. O'Brien says: "Sugar, acid and phenolics are balanced to create tension, purity and energy."

The Senko, meanwhile, (a Japanese word meaning bright flash or firecracker) is absolutely fascinating with its textural elements. 

Wild fermented with hand plunging, basket pressed and matured in old French oak puncheons for eight months; unfined and only gently filtered, this is a light red that could easily stand a chill in summer. 

I expect city somms to snatch this one up.

"Rivulet Wines an opportunity to work with fruit I see as a bit special and tilt the winemaking a little more playfully," O'Brien says. 

"It's all small scale stuff, and the name is a bit of a riff on that - tiny trickles of wine, rivulets of sweat on the brow." Note: In Tasmania small streams are called rivulets and the beautifully crafted labels by David Campbell reflect that. 

For details and orders see or try Cool Wine in Hobart. 



Thursday, 7 November 2019

Your chance to take a walk on the wild side in Tasmania

The Freycinet Peninsula is one of my favourite parts of Tasmania. It is spectacularly wild, but home to some delightful luxury resorts. 

Visitors to the Freycinet Peninsula have the chance to experience the national park at its finest with a new five-and-a-half-hour guided walk starting and finishing at Freycinet Lodge, a fabulous spot to kick back and escape from life for a while.

The Freycinet Walking Tour, for a maximum of eight guests, starts with a gentle 45-minute climb to the Wineglass Bay viewing platform.

From there, walkers descend to Wineglass Bay beach for a up of tea before heading west to the peninsula along the Isthmus Track to Hazard's Beach, an impressive stretch of largely empty beach. 

Guests will learn about the unique animals that live there and the peninsula's history, including the pink granite peaks of the Hazards Mountains.

After a gourmet picnic lunch at the southernmost point of Hazards Beach, the Freycinet Aqua Taxi will pick guests up off the sand for the 30-minute journey back to the Freycinet Lodge jetty.

The walk is offered by Experiential Tasmania, which is owned and operated by highly experienced walking couple Sara and James Barnes, who formerly managed the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk for the Tasmanian Walking Company.

The Freycinet Walking Tour provides a qualified and experienced walking guide, day packs, rain jackets, a water bottle, thermos, lunch, morning tea, sunscreen and water.

Guests need a reasonable level of fitness (oops, that rule me out then) and must be comfortable walking between eight and nine kilometres carrying a lightweight day pack along beaches, rocky headlands and steps.

PS: Take a tip from me: the new Coastal Pavilions at Freycinet Lodge are just a little bit fabulous.

For more information visit

# The writer has been hosted by Freycinet Lodge in the past. 

Awards for Glasgow - a city transformed

A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to spend several days in Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city - and one-time bleak industrial wasteland. 

I discovered Glasgow is a city transformed; alive with boutique distilleries, funky bars, street art, and hip museums and galleries. 

I have print stories coming up on the city's renaissance, but it came as no surprise to discover this week that Glasgow has been named the UK's leading cultural and creative city by the European Commission. 

The report also ranked Glasgow as Europe’s leader for "openness, tolerance and trust". 

Glasgow was named ahead of London, Bristol, Brighton and Manchester which make up the rest of the top five cities for culture vultures in the UK. Edinburgh was ranked sixth in the list.

The Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor 2019 report looked at 190 cities from across 30 European countries and ranks 29 different aspects of a city’s cultural health, including its cultural vibrancy, creative economy and ability to attract creative talent and stimulate cultural engagement.

The report said: “Glasgow was one of the first European Capitals of Culture, in 1990. Known as an industrial city, it has now gained recognition as a creative and cultural centre of European importance.” 

Dr Bridget McConnell CBE, the chair of Glasgow Life, said: “We always knew Glasgow was a global cultural leader and we’re delighted that the European Commission has confirmed our position of the UK’s leading cultural and creative city.

“Glasgow is a city bursting with energy, passion and creativity and filled with artists, designers, creators and innovators. We have world-class museums and galleries, incredible architecture and history and as a UNESCO City of Music, there’s nowhere better to enjoy a gig.

"A focus for the performing arts and a hub for the creative industries, it’s no wonder that we’ve come out top of the ranking.

“What’s more, our openness, tolerance and trust has been rated as the best in Europe, confirming what we already know, that our people make Glasgow the best city in the world.”

Glasgow is home to more than 100 cultural organisations and five of Scotland’s six internationally renowned national performing arts companies. It is also home to music venues including the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, City Halls and Old Fruitmarket.

More people visit Glasgow’s museums each year than in any other UK city outside of London, with both Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the Riverside Museum attracting more than 1.3 million visits each in the last year.

Glasgow’s nine city museums are home to Europe’s largest civic arts collection, with masterpieces by Dali, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Whistler and Monet all on show for free in the city’s museums.

The city is also the place to come to admire the genius of architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, or a gig at the SSE Hydro, which in 2018 was named the world’s best performing music venue by size. 

The city is also home to the Glasgow Jazz Festival, Glasgow International Comedy Festival and the Glasgow Film Festival. 

# The writer was guest of Glasgow Life 
and the Moxy Hotel Merchant City

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Thailand issues warning to idiot tourists

No matter where you go in the world you'll find moronic tourists.

And some of most moronic can be found on jet skis in Thailand.

Now Thailand's natural resources and environment minister Varawut Silpaarcha has a message for these intellectually challenged tourists: don't go chasing whales on jet skis.

Sightings of Bryde's whales off the coast of Petchaburi province went viral, prompting a flood of tourists to the area.

That led to a group of about 20 tourists hopping on jet skis and chasing the whales in the water.

Varawut has ordered local authorities to safeguard the area from such activity and to try to educate tourists, Travel Mole reports.

"Bryde's whales which appear seasonally in Petchaburi are precious gifts from nature - tourists are urged not to disturb the whales because with such disturbances, the mammals may not return to the site" he said.

They are also putting themselves in danger, he said.

Thailand has stringent rules on whale watching as part of a revamp of its marine tourism strategy and Varawut wants authorities to make sure they are being upheld.

The Bryde's whale is one of 19 protected mammal species in Thailand.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Meet the New Zealander making wine in Johannesburg

Meet the New Zealander making wine in the only urban winery in Johannesburg - thousands of kilometres from where wine grapes are grown. 

Kathy Gerakaris is the winemaker at Gerakaris Family Wines in the Johannesburg suburb of Craighill Park. 

A globetrotter who has lived in Canada and the UK, Gerakaris is also a ski instructor and dive master. 

She completed a post-graduate diploma in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University in New Zealand and has worked in several top South African cellars including Thelema and Flagstone. 

In 2008, she moved to Johannesburg and launched Gerakaris Family Wines with her husband. It is a marketing company focused on bringing boutique Cape wineries to the Johannesburg market.

More recently she has added garagiste winemaking to her accomplishments. 

The fruit is sourced from the Swartland region in the Cape and trucked overnight in chilled trucks to Johannesburg - a distance of 1400km. The grapes arrive as full bunches and the crushing is done at the winery. 

“When you consider how the grapes have travelled, it is remarkable," Gerakaris told local media. 

It took Gerakaris and her husband a couple of years to find the right location, and it took another two years to get a licence.

The first vintage in 2010 produced a cabernet sauvignon, but today the winery produces henin blancs and shirazes. By 2018 she had moved the vats and the wine-making equipment to a converted farm shed. 

“Having a winery up here in Joburg is what gives me the greatest pleasure," Gerakaris said. "People come here and are able to see it. It is an amazingly relaxed urban farm, kind of vibe.”

Gerakaris Family Wines also provides wine education to professionals who may wish to know more about wine, supplies private markets and has clients to which it provides a variety of wine consulting services.

“One of our big benefits is that we don’t own a farm," she says. "We buy in grapes. Investing in a farm is a massive undertaking: the cost of land, the cost of planting, the cost of working it, the time involved before you get a good crop."

For details see Information and image supplied by

New festival for the Yarra Valley

CherryHill Orchards will host a Lunar New Year Festival at Wandin East in the Yarra Valley in January.

The new festival will run from January 16-19 and will feature a variety of events and entertainment.

Visitors are invited to celebrate the beginning of the New Year on the traditional Chinese calendar in a picturesque setting, surrounded by the stunning orchards.

Expect traditional Chinese lion dancing, ceremonial drumming, martial arts and calligraphy demonstrations.

There will also be a number of workshops on offer for those who want to get involved first-hand by learning some Kung Fu moves or how to play Chinese drums.

There will also be a number of Asian-inspired food trucks on site, while for those who missed out on cherry picking season over the course of the summer - or for those who just want to keep their supplies stocked up - there will also be boxed CherryHill cherries available for purchase.

Guests are encouraged grab a picnic blanket, enjoy the sunshine (although this is Victoria so any style of weather is possible) and soak up the traditional festivities.

CherryHill Orchards began in 1940 when George Riseborough planted the first cherry trees in Victoria. Today the family still carries on the cherry growing tradition.


From steel city to seaside resort. All change in Newcastle.

Once a rough-and-ready blue-collar steel town, the Australian city of Newcastle has reinvented itself as a seaside destination - and more attractions are on their way. 
Visitor numbers to Newcastle, just over two hours north of Sydney, have increased by 60% over the past five years as the city positions itself as a premier coastal destination.

With boutique, luxury hotels set to open and a thriving food and drink scene, Newcastle is being pitched as one of the hottest destinations of the year in 2020.
The boutique QT Hotel brand will be making its debut in Newcastle in 2020. The design-led hotel will feature 106-rooms, a rooftop bar and an eatery. 
Set to take over the former 111-year-old David Jones Building, QT Newcastle will be conveniently located on Hunter Street Mall.
The Little National Hotel will open in Newcastle in 2021, with 150 rooms and 60 luxury serviced apartments. 
Located on Honeysuckle Drive, the hotel will offer views of the Hunter River from wall-to-wall windows, king size beds, rain showers, mood lighting and smart televisions, with a pool, gym and library. 
Opening late 2020, Kingsley will be located in the heart of Newcastle and will be the city's first five-star offering. It will have 130 rooms, a lobby bar, café with outdoor terrace, swimming pool and gym, and a rooftop restaurant. 
The Newcastle city centre is undergoing a major revitalisation. The Station and Market Street lawn opened earlier this year, and Museum Park was unveiled this month, with a historic footbridge, green garden and interactive light display. 
The Signal Box, a 1936 building that was once used to direct trains, will be home to a restaurant opening in November. The owners of popular Nelson Bay restaurant The Little Nel are behind the venue, which will be open all day and serve modern Australian cuisine.
Popular restaurant Meet has a new location in a converted warehouse downtown, with indoor plants, industrial materials and an open kitchen. 
Flotilla opened earlier this year in the suburb of Wickham. It is a restaurant with a relaxed vibe by the owners of The Edwards. The menu showcases Australian produce, with natural or minimal intervention wines making up half the mostly Australian list (as only one or two percent of drinkers favour that style it is a brave decision). 
Skeeta's on Darby is a family affair, with personal photos decorating the teal green walls and eclectic decor in the small bar. With over 20 wines, four beers on tap and premium spirits, there's plenty of choice, plus cheese boards, snacks and live music on Sundays.
Earp Distillery will open in 2020 near the cruise terminal in Newcastle, and will offer tours of the distillery, lab and bond store for those curious about how spirits are made. 

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Wine production dips; will prices rise?

The total volume of wine made around the world dipped by around 10% in 2019 compared to the bumper 2018 harvest. 

That could mean prices rise for wines from France and Italy, particularly.  

Analysts blamed the decline largely on unfavourable weather conditions, the Drinks Business reported. 
The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said global wine production fell from 294 million hectolitres in 2018 to 263 million this year.

Production was down across the major wine regions of France, Italy and Spain, with France and Italy experiencing a slump of 15% and Spain a more dramatic 24% drop.

“This can be explained mainly by random weather conditions, notably a very cold and rainy spring followed by an extremely hot and dry summer,” the OIV said.

North America fared better, with the number of grapes going into the crusher only dipping by 1% on last year. 

The Australian wine grape crush for 2019 was a decrease of 3 per cent from the 2018 but just 1% below the 10-year average, Wine Australia figures showed. 

Production fell in Argentina by 10% and in Chile by 7%. Bucking the trend was South Africa, where volumes were up by 3% on last year after a run of smaller-than-average vintages due to drought. 

The OIV’s figures are based on data from 28 countries, representing 85% of world wine production.