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Thursday, 27 January 2022

Meet the country where international tourism is booming again

International tourism is starting to boom again in the small European nation of Slovenia - one of my favourite places to visit.

New figures show four million tourist arrivals in 2021 and more than 11 million tourist overnight stays - which is 31% more arrivals and 22% more overnight stays than in the same period in 2020.

Of foreign tourists, in 2021 most overnight stays in Slovenia were made by tourists from Germany (22.3 %), followed by tourists from Austria (9.0 %), Italy (7.4 %), the Czech Republic (6.9 %) and the Netherlands (6.6 %).

Most overnight stays were made in mountain municipalities.

In mountain resorts the numbers increased by 17.9 %, in seaside resorts by 20.3 %, in health resorts by 13.5 %, in the capital of Ljubljana by 60.3 % - but all figures were down on 2019 pre-Covid numbers.

A total of 20 destinations in Europe have been shortlisted for European Best Destination 2022 award with lovely Ljubljana (top) among them.

Zdravko Počivalšek, Minister of Economic Development and Technology, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic showed the importance of the tourism sector for many economic activities, as well as the economy in general.

"Due to the decline in international travel during the pandemic, global and domestic tourism industry suffered greatly in 2021, though slightly better results on tourist visits compared 2020 were recorded. This, however, is still far from the figures we recorded in the record year of Slovenian tourism in 2019."

"It is important that we highlight that tourism providers in Slovenia provide safe and quality services and that all guests are warmly welcome. Successful tourism will also have a multiplier effect on higher economic growth this year and in the future." 

Slovenia is one of the smallest countries in Europe, with a population of just two million people.  

Image: Alexis Borderon, Scop.io

Meet the Jacob's Creek wine range with a difference


Jacob's Creek is one of the best-known wine brands in the world, but its latest range barely features the name at all. 

Jacob’s Creek has released a quartet of premium wines in tribute to Ann Jacob, a South Australian wine pioneer from the 1840s, which are labelled A.J., with Jacob’s Creek a tiny afterthought on the label. 

The initial releases are a 2020 Chardonnay and and 2019 Grenache, to be joined by a shiraz and a cabernet sauvignon. 

All are made by winemaker Trina Smith, who says: The wines are made in a modern Australian style, with all fruit sourced from vineyards across the Barossa Valley. 

"The wines are fruit-forward, with a silky-smooth texture and bright delicate aromatics and are for drinking now or within two to three years."

I was particularly enamoured by the very juicy, lightly spicy and very appealing grenache. 

Eric Thomson, Global Marketing Director at Pernod Ricard Winemakers, said: “Ann Jacob was a pioneering young woman with an interest in viticulture, and an early female landowner in South Australia, planting vines on her Barossa property in the early 1840s. The vineyard still thrives as part of Jacob’s Creek vineyards today.” 

The 2019 Jacob’s Creek A.J. Grenache and 2020 Jacob’s Creek A.J, Chardonnay are now available for  $30 RRP at Coles Liquor Group stores across Australia.


Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Soccer player became "the airline passenger from hell"

We all hope and pray each time we board a flight that we do not get seated anywhere near the passenger from hell. 

Every now and then there is a media report about someone behaving bizarrely on a plane - fortunately it does not happen too often. 

Earlier this month, however, an Irishman allegedly went beserk on a flight between Dublin and New York, pulling down his pants and baring his buttocks at crew and passengers, hurling a drink can at a fellow traveller and putting his own cap on the captain’s head.

Shane McInerney was in court this week charged with refusing to wear a mask on a Delta flight and several other offences, Global Travel Media reported. 

He allegedly put his cap on the captain’s head, held a fist to his face and told him, “Don’t touch me.” The captain was on a rest break at the time and was in the cabin.

The criminal complaint said “at least one passenger” had found the Irishman “scary” and flight crew considered diverting the plane to a nearby airport to hand McInerney over to airport security.

McInerney’s flight from Ireland to New York was the first leg of a trip to Florida to begin a job at a soccer academy in the state, British media reported.

He was admitted to hospital for medical and psychological evaluation after the flight landed, prosecutors said. 

He could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $US250,000.

McInerney played for several lower league teams during his career, including a stint with Magpies Crusaders in Mackay, Australia. He also signed for Dandenong Thunder in Victoria.  

Hiking into happiness for gourmets and wine lovers

I no longer run unless someone is chasing me (which, to be fair, is very rarely).

I do still walk, usually if there is a wine or food reward to be enjoyed at the end of the journey.

Hedonistic hiking, however, sounds right up my alley, or hill climb.

Hedonistic Hiking's European tours re-start in May with new tours to central Italy, Sardinia and Corsica, and a selection of new foodie-related experiences.

The Hedonistic Hiking team say their tours are as much about gastronomic and cultural experiences that provide real insight into the region you're walking through as the actual exercise you are getting.

And demand for the tours is apparently high, with many tours selling out up to two years in advance, but there is still availability on tours to Central Italy, centred on the town of Orvieto; a Parmesan production and pilgrim trail; a classic Tuscan Harvest tour including a pasta-making class, and a walk encompassing truffle hunting and a cooking class in Piedmont.

All tours are fully-inclusive, including guided walking, gourmet picnic lunches, gastronomic dinners with wine, museum visits and food/wine tastings or cookery classes, and airport transfers.

Accommodation is in locally-owned hotels and alberghi diffusi, an initiative that has brought old homes back to life.

Hedonistic Hiking tours run in Australia and Europe (mainly Italy) and the company was established in 2007 by Anglo/Australian couple, Jackie and Mick Parsons, one of whom leads each tour.

Discover full details at www.hedonistichiking.com and remember flights are not included in the published prices.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Randall pounces to buy McLaren Vale estate

Wine entrepreneur Warren Randall has added McLaren Vale producer Penny's Hill to a portfolio headed by Seppeltsfield Estate in the Barossa.

The Randall Wine Group (RWG) was established in 1978 and is Australia’s largest private luxury vineyard holder.

The move sees the group bounce back after being hit by Chinese tariff increases in its largest export market.

“Australian winemakers, invested heavily in the Chinese wine market for 10 years, supported by a free trade agreement with that country," Randall said.

"The Australian wine industry was an innocent bystander, a casualty in the crossfire of political coercion between China and Australia.

"Following a very high quality vintage in 2021 it was time to reset the company’s strategy and pivot away from the Chinese market, which is a shame because the Chinese wine consumer loves the fruit and taste profile omnipresent in Australian wines."

The Penny’s Hill and Black Chook brands are sourced from a premier location between McLaren Vale and Willunga, suiting a wine tourism village, and were founded by Tony Parkinson in 1988. He masterminded exports to 15 different countries.

Penny's Hill has 44 hectares of estate vineyards and produces around 60,000 cases a year. 

“In the face of advancing years and with no clear family succession plan, it was time to find a new custodian for the 1855 estate," Parkinson said. "Warren has a proven track record of acquiring, respecting and injecting enthusiasm and energy into historic 19th-century Australian wine estates with provenance.

“I trust that he will carry on my legacy and springboard the brands to greater international success under his leadership.”

RWG owns close to 3500 hectares of vineyards in regions across South Australia,  including the Barossa, Riverland, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Currency Creek, Coonawarra, Clare Valley and Eden Valley

Fruit that tastes like fruit used to taste

Supermarket chains can be ultra-demanding when it comes to the fresh fruits that will grace their shelves.

Supermarket buyers want fruits that are pristine, uniformly and specifically sized, identically coloured, blemish free and under-ripe, so that they have a shelf life of eight days or more. 

They also want to buy in large volume from big farms, so they can have a supply chain that links several outlets, and often suffocate the fruit in plastic wrapping. 

That's bad news for small growers who need to hand-sort their produce to meet supermarket criteria.

Unfortunately, when it comes to fruit, good-looking does not always mean good tasting. 

Enter Andrew Driscall, a former private chef and food entrepreneur who is well known to Tasmanians for his food truck businesses Cafe de Paris and Proper Pasties. 

Cornish-born Driscall realised that fruit does not have to be perfect looking to taste good, particularly if it is being used in a fruit salad, in an ice cream sundae or to make a jam or preserves. 

A lot of perfectly good fruit, which could have gone to waste, or be sold as animal feed, can now be found in old-fashioned punnets, ripe, unwrapped and ready to eat, either from his mobile food truck or to take home. 

Driscall is selling a range of seasonal fruit (currently cherries, strawberries and apricots) from his truck, which can be found at Huonville Esplanade, south of Hobart, or at various local markets in Tasmania. 

Pop by to pick up fruit, or enjoy an ice cream or ice-cream fruit sundae.

"A lot of supermarkets will not take ripe fruit, because they want everything to have a long shelf life, which can leave fruit growers in a bind," Driscall says. "I can access fruit direct from the growers and sell it the same day it is picked.

"I've found a lot of customers have been surprised at how good fruit that may be mis-shaped or slightly marked can taste if enjoyed straight away."

Driscall's days can vary, so call him on 0437 951 751 if you are in Tasmania and have a need for fresh fruit.