Thursday, 22 April 2021

We should be so lucky: Kylie's wine empire expands

Keen-eyed visitors to the cellar doors at Howard Park in Margaret River and De Bortoli Yarra Valley might have noticed a familiar face among recent fellow visitors.

Pop princess Kylie Minoqgue is expanding her wine range with a little help from her friends Janice McDonald at Howard Park and Steve Webber at De Bortoli.

The current Kylie Minogue Wines range includes a Signature Rosé and a Collection Côtes de Provence Rosé  - but now the singer has crafted two wines from her Australian homeland. 

Kylie this week toured the Allingham Vineyard with Horward Park owners Jeff and Richard Burch, where the grapes for her 2019 Kylie Minogue Collection Margaret River Chardonnay are grown, and then crafted by Howard Park. ⁠

⁠"It was love at first sip when I first tried Howard Park chardonnay, so it was a real thrill to work with the extraordinary Burch family, Janice McDonald (director of winemaking) and the team on this wine,”⁠ Kylie said. ⁠
The 2019 Kylie Minogue Collection Margaret River Chardonnay and also a 2020 Kylie Minogue Collection Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, made in collaboration with Webber, will both be launched to consumers across Australia in June this year.⁠

For more information about the range head

Fake Covid test certificates fool border officials

British immigration officers are discovering thousands of fake Covid-19 test certificates. 

MPs have been told the documents are relatively low-tech and are quite easy to forge, and there is no way to know how many bogus certificates are getting through undetected.

Around 20,000 people enter Britain each day, of whom most are truck drivers, Travel Mole reports. 

Proof of a negative test taken in the past three days is required for entry into Britain - which can be a printed document or email confirmation.

Immigration Services Union professional officer Lucy Moreton said border staff have no way to categorically guarantee a document is genuine.

"It's predominately taken on trust,' she told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Covid-19.

"'We trust people when they say they have not been in a red-list country in the last 10 days, we trust people when they say that they are going to quarantine. The whole thing is based on an assumption that people will do the right thing."

A member of the Independent SAGE group of scientists, Professor Deenan Pillay, has said the system for checking arrivals is "very leaky".

It suggests border staff are successfully spotting fake documents which obviously look bogus, but an unknown number of good quality forgeries could be getting through.

"The stark evidence we heard today exposed how current border checks are totally inadequate to stop Covid cases entering the UK, including dangerous variants," said the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, Layla Moran.

Moran says the Government should be doing more to actively discourage people from travelling.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Australians turn to drink - and wine in particular

Maybe it is a result of coronavirus, but the number of Australians drinking alcohol has increased for first time in four years - powered by wine, spirits and RTDs.

New data from Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Report shows the proportion of Australians who drink alcohol increased by 0.8% to 67% in 2020 – the first year-over-year increase since 2016 when 69.6% of Australians drank alcohol. 

In 2020, a total of 13,337,000 Australians (67.0%) aged 18+ consumed alcohol in an average four-week period, up from 13,021,000 (66.2%) a year earlier.

Driving this increase were significant increases for wine and spirits during the Covid-19 pandemic that impacted 2020 figures . 

The number of Australians drinking wine increased from 8,065,000 (41.0%) to 8,814,000 (44.3%) – an increase of 3.3%  over the year.

In addition, there were 6,277,000 Australians (31.5%) drinking spirits in 2020, up from 5,465,000 (27.8%) a year earlier – an increase of 3.7% points. 

Also increasing was consumption of Ready-to-drinks (RTDs) which increased from 2,101,000 Australians (10.7%) up to 2,392,000 Australians (12.0%).

Outside these three categories the long-term trends continued with fewer Australians drinking beer, cider, liqueurs and fortified wines in 2020.

Beer led the decline and was down from 7,353,000 (37.4%) in 2019 to 6,878,000 (34.6%) in 2020. 

The findings are from the Roy Morgan Single Source survey, derived from in-depth interviews with 50,000 Australians each year.

Make a winter wine date on the Mornington Peninsula

Calling all lovers of cool-climate wines: the Mornington Peninsula Winter Wine Weekend will return from June 12-14. 

The annual three-day celebration of wine and food has been held over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June since the 1980s, with the extensive program opening with a showcase exhibition and tasting. 

The Winter Wine Festival will be held on Saturday, June 12, from 10:30am–4pm in the Pavilions at Red Hill Showgrounds. This offers a rare opportunity to experience drops from 50 Mornington Peninsula wineries exhibiting over 200 premium wines. 

Keeping crowd density in mind, three sheds will be transformed into sub-regional experiences, where groups will circulate from one shed to the next after a 90-minute stay. 

Each shed will feature two restaurants creating menus of entree-sized dishes using regionally sourced produce. Tickets will be hot with only 900 available.

The Sunday sees the launch of the Long Lunch at the Pavillion, which will bring together a collection of wineries who don’t have cellar doors, pouring wines you normally need an appointment to enjoy. 

These wines will be matched to a three-course menu and with roaming musicians. Guests will sit side-by-side with the winemakers at an event to be hosted by Richard Cornish.

Throughout the weekend the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons will, as usual, welcome visitors to their cellar doors to taste new-release wines, revisit old favourites and to experience the seasonal offerings of the region.

Pre-booked tickets only at $120 for Saturday and $170 for Sunday.

Saturday tickets include a complimentary Riedel tasting glass, all wine tastings, a tasting book and three entree-sized dishes (more food vouchers also available for purchase).Sunday’s tickets include a pre-lunch tasting, and hosted sit-down three-course winemaker’s lunch with wines to match.

Online Tickets are available at

Monday, 19 April 2021

The luxury hotel that became a burger joint

The Waldorf Astoria is a luxury hotel and spa in Amsterdam where rooms start from $700 a night.

It has a two-star Michelin restaurant, a prestige canal-side location and is set in six 17th- and 18th-century palaces.

To keep some staff busy during Covid-19, the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam hit on the idea of offering deluxe burgers for delivery, Reuters reported.

The chefs had to come up with something unique, said the hotel's manager Roberto Payer.

"The way we do it, the way we prepare it, the way we serve it, the way it comes home is very different to any other burger," he said.

For 19.50 euros ($23) plus an Uber Eats delivery fee, the Waldorf Signature burger comes with a 240-gram Holstein-Fresian meat patty and is served with English Duke of Berkshire bacon on a French brioche bun with aged Dutch cheese and homemade relish.

Uber Eats reviewers have awarded it 4.8 stars out of 5.

Crafting the perfect burger took serious research, said executive chef Sidney Schutte, who during normal times runs the two-Michelin-star Spectrum restaurant, which does not serve burgers.

"It had to be 'the best burger that you can buy here in Amsterdam'.... it needs to be perfect," he said.

Dutch plans to ease some Covid-19 measures have been pushed back until April 28 at the earliest, so the burger remains on sale for now.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

A taste of Mexico in Sydney

Sydney is a global city, which is why its residents have a huge choice of venues to enjoy Cinco de Mayo celebrations on May 5. 

Cinco de Mayo, or “Fifth of May”, is an annual fiesta celebrating Mexican culture. 

Here are some recommendations from Destination NSW for enjoying a taste of the exotic. Hopefully they know their stuff.

  1.  Spice up your morning with a Mexican-inspired brunch at Maiz Street Food, NewtownMaiz (meaning corn in Spanish) is the main ingredient featured on the menu at this Newtown institution which specialises in authentic Mexican street food.

      2. Sip on Sydney's best margaritaa at Cantina OK!, CBDRanked number 28 on the World's 50 Best Bars list, Cantina OK! is a micro mezcal mecca, stocked with a range of hand-sourced, hand-imported, handmade agave spirits.

       3. Knock back cocktails and authentic Mexican dishes at Alma, Avalon (above)Hailing from Mexico, Alma's head chef, Ricardo Lemus, will be serving up cocktail and taco specials inspired by Mexico's coast all week long for Cinco de Mayo.

       4. Savour Australia's largest collection of premium tequila and mezcal at Esteban, CBDFrom the Tequila Mockingbird team, Esteban features an upstairs restaurant, a downstairs mezcal bar and a laneway dining space. It is one of the hottest places to celebrate.

  1. Settle in for a bottomless brunch at Sonora, Potts PointWith a vibe matching the thriving restaurant scene in Mexico City and a menu inspired by the cuisine of Sonora, a coastal state in Mexico's north-west, this local haunt is all about the tacos chingones – literally “bad-ass tacos.”

      6. Get the party started at Tio's Cerveceria, Surry Hills: With $5 happy hour drinks every day and complimentary signature spiced popcorn, what better excuse to clock off early to start your Cinco de Mayo celebration. Don't pass up a tequila con verdita shots with 'Green Thing' chaser – a ritual since 2011. 

  1. Sit down for a traditional Mexican family dinner at Taco Burrito Mexican Cantina, Penrith: Boasting the tastiest Mexican food in Western Sydney, the team have perfected an authentic menu. Whether you are vegan, vego or hungry for meat, there's something for everyone.
  2.  Indulge in some of the finest market-to-table Mexican cuisine in Sydney at Mejico, CBD: Mejico (above) will be serving $45 Margarita Jugs and non-stop food specials including their DIY Taco Board for just $29 all Cinco de Mayo long.

      9. For a vegan menu full of meat-free Mexican delights say Hola to Bad Hombres, Surry Hills + BondiThis institution has re-imagined traditional Mexican cuisine with an all-vegan menu and eclectic setting. The rotating taco of the week is determined by seasonal produce. 

  1. Build your own tacos at Carbon Mexican Woodfire, Bondi: Carbón, which means 'charcoal' in Spanish, focuses on wood fired dishes inspired by Mexico's Caribbean coast, made using traditional South American parrilla (charcoal grilling) techniques. 

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Celebrating malbec - a grape variety that almost died

For the past decade, Wines of Argentina has celebrated World Malbec Day on April 17 each year.

One of the six original grape varieties of Bordeaux, malbec is now synonymous with Argentina, which leads the world in plantings and production. 

On April 17, 1853, the first agricultural school in Argentina was founded with the hopes of adapting French grapes to the soils of Mendoza. Malbec was introduced to Argentina by French agronomist Michel A. Pouget in 1868 - and is still thriving. 

In its original home in the south-west of France, malbec in known as cot, or sometimes auxerrois. 

It was largely wiped out by frost in Bordeaux in 1956 and while it is still grown widely in and around the small town of Cahors, where is known for producing dark, intense reds, it is now very much a minor grape in France. 

It is, however, grown in Australia, where it is often used in red blends, in the US, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Brazil, Canada and Mexico, among others. 

Producers in Australia include Mitolo of McLaren Vale and Bleasdale of Langhorne Creek along with niche operators like Zonte's Footstep, Merité and Alkoomi. Wendouree, in the Clare Valley, makes legendary long-lived blends using malbec. 

That said, over 75% of all malbec grapes in the world are now grown in Argentina - understandable because the malbec is a thin-skinned grape and needs plenty of sun and heat to achieve ripeness. 

Nowadays, more than 60 cities around the world host World Malbec Day events centred on malbec tastings, Argentine food and lifestyle. I was lucky enough to be invited to Argentina for the event in 2015 by Wines of Argentina - a memorable trip.  

Benchmark Argentine malbec wines from the likes of Bodega Trivento (above), Catena, Zuccardi and Finca el Origen are available in Australia, while Artisan Malbec in Sydney imports a number of wines from smaller producers. Jed malbec is made by Australians in Argentina.