Thursday, 9 July 2020

Crisis time for AirAsia

I am an unashamed fan of budget air carrier AirAsia, but its future is in severe doubt. 

The group reported a record US$188 million first-quarter loss as its external auditor cast doubt on its ability to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

AirAsia shares tumbled after Ernst & Young said its future may be in "significant doubt"'

In a statement to the stock exchange, Ernst & Young said AirAsia's liabilities exceeded its assets even before the pandemic began, Travel Mole reported. 

It "indicates existence of material uncertainties that may cast significant doubt on the group's and the company's ability to continue as a going concern." Ernst & Young said.

The airline is exploring various avenues to raise capital including investment and joint venture proposals.

After a promising first few weeks of 2020, "demand collapsed" in February and March. Leading to a 22% drop in passengers.

Most of AirAsia's regional affiliate businesses have resumed limited domestic services, in Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

"We are gradually adding frequencies and opening routes in the domestic sector, with the advice and regulations from government and health authorities," it said.

"AirAsia has ongoing deliberations with a number of parties for joint-ventures and collaborations that may result in additional third-party investments in specific segments of the group's business," the airline said.

AirAsia is part-owned by colourful chief executive Tony Fernandes and pioneered low-cost air travel across Asia in the early 2000s at a time of growing demand from a fast-emerging middle class. 

Fernandes also owns football team Queen's Park Rangers. 

A luxury train journey with a gourmet difference

Anantara Hoi An Resort and Anantara Quy Nhon Villas are two of the outstanding resorts in Vietnam and now guests can travel between the two on a unique gourmet train journey.

The Vietage, which departed for its inaugural journey on July 1, links Da Nang and Quy Nhon cities on journeys through the lush Vietnamese countryside.

The Vietage has been developed by Anantara to bring guests closer to the "real" Vietnam.

The custom-designed carriage, with just 12 reservation-only seats, immerses its guests into the culture, nature and history of the country through the stories of its daily return journey.

The Vietage carriage has modern interiors, big picture windows and large comfy seats, while a sit-up bar offers a change of scenery and the chance to enjoy local craft beers, wines and snacks over conversation with friends, before the main culinary experience.

During the six-hour journey, guests encounter local taste sensations as the countryside rolls by.

A curated menu evokes the essence of Vietnam with a French twist. Dishes such as Quy Nhon seafood salad, barley risotto and braised Wagyu neck feature.

A dedicated area with spa treatment chairs offers head and shoulder treatments on the go as the train passes through local villages, rural countryside and stops at a few stations on the way.

A one-way ticket aboard The Vietage costs US$185 per person, including a three-course, pre-ordered meal, free-flow wines, beers and soft drinks, bar snacks and a 30-minute head and shoulder treatment.

An à la carte menu also offers premium wines, Champagnes and treats such as caviar.

The Vietage departs from Da Nang every morning at 09:31, arriving at Dieu Tri station in Quy Nhon at 15:43. The return journey departs from Dieu Tri at 17:29 and arrives in Da Nang at 23:01.

The Vietage runs for eleven months each year, taking a break during the annual Vietnamese Tet holiday period.
Combination accommodation packages are available with Anantara Hoi An Resort and Anantara Quy Nhon Villas for guests to experience each destination and can be booked directly on the website at

Please visit for more information and to book.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Your eyes do not deceive you: a new Pepperjack release is from Argentina

Pepperjack Wines may have a Barossa heritage but one of the brand's new releases has a serious points of difference: it was made using fruit from Argentina. 

Winemaker Richard Mattner travelled to Mendoza to source the grapes for the 2018 Pepperjack Malbec. 

“Argentinian malbec is different to Australian malbec in that it has a depth of rich dark fruit, but still displays fresh aromatics of spice and violets and a bold tannin profile," Mattner said.

The Pepperjack philosophy is to create wines that are synonymous with the regions that they are from. Therefore, as we expand beyond shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, there was a need to expand our sourcing from beyond the Barossa.” 

The new releases also include a 2019 sangiovese using fruit from the Barossa and Padathaway and a 2019 chardonnay that is a blend of Adelaide Hills and Padthaway fruit. 

“With chardonnay seeing a real revival recently, we felt it was a good time to once again try our hand at making some white wines, beginning with a chardonnay," said Mattner. 

"This is a really exciting time for Pepperjack as we evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers and occasions – especially the demand for lighter-bodied, more refreshing varietals as we head into the warmer months.” 

Some good news after a challenging year for Tasmanian wine producers

The 2020 wine vintage in Tasmania presented a number of challenges with producers working hard to craft exceptional quality wines from a lower-than-average yield, peak body Wine Tasmania reports.

Wine Tasmania Technical Officer Paul Smart (right) said that quality from the 2020 Tasmanian wine grape vintage looked to be outstanding, with highlights including pinot noir and chardonnay for both still and sparkling wines, as well as aromatic white wines such as riesling, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.

Overall, yields were down approximately 28% on the 2019 vintage, roughly equating to 890,000 cases (dozens) of wine, with 12,308 tonnes produced in 2020.

“The island is one of the most challenging and the most rewarding places to grow grapes in Australia - there are no two seasons and no two vineyards the same," Smart said. "Our dedicated grape growers have to be highly skilled to deal with the variabilities and extremes, as they again demonstrated in 2019-20.

“Regardless of vineyard location, the 2019/20 season will be remembered as one of the most challenging in recent years, from the initial budburst in spring through to a delayed harvest throughout March, April and May.”

With viticulture and other agricultural activities being deemed essential services during Covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 vintage continued largely unimpeded in Tasmania but there are broader impacts on the livelihood of Tasmanian wine businesses, due to restrictions in cellar door visitation and licensed premises, such as restaurants and bars around the country.

“Tasmanian wine lovers will soon be able to taste the first wines from the 2020 vintage, and we are encouraging people to buy directly from their favourite wine producers wherever possible,” Smart said.

“This will help Tasmania’s small wine producers during these challenging times, as well as bring a little flavour of Tasmania to wine lovers as we start to welcome Tasmanians back to our cellar doors and look forward to welcoming interstate visitors over the coming months.”

The full 2020 Tasmanian wine grape vintage report and video interviews with wine producers can be accessed at

Pushing the boundaries of luxury in Bali

There are certain brands that are synonymous with luxury. Think Rolls-Royce, Chanel and Pol Roger.

To that list you can add Raffles, a name always linked to sumptuous high-end accommodation.

Raffles Hotels & Resorts has just opened the 15th Raffles Hotel in the world with the launch of Raffles Bali (above), which offers views over the Indian Ocean and Jimbaran Bay sunsets. 

With just 32 private pool villas, Raffles Bali is designed to appeal to well-travelled connoisseurs seeking elegant spaces, privacy and cultural discovery.

Once we can travel again, the journey will start with a private limousine transfer from Ngurah Rai International Airport. 

“Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or an intimate oasis of emotional wellbeing, Raffles Bali offers unparalleled panoramic ocean views and captivating sunsets from every villa,” says general manager Katya Herting. 

“Our beachfront resort is surrounded by lush tropical gardens, providing utmost relaxation due to its generosity of space.”

The pool villas are being promoted as the largest and most private in Jimbaran and there are wellbeing butlers on hand. All villas include indoor and outdoor showers, yoga mats and bespoke beach accessories, in addition to an indulgent soaking tub.

Located at the resort’s highest point is Rumari restaurant, while Loloan Beach Bar and Grill is on the resort’s secluded beach, overlooking a 25-metre infinity pool. 

Intimate dining experiences can also be arranged at The Secret Cave, illuminated with flickering torches and candlelight, or at the Purnama Honeymoon Bale, built on the rocks at the edge of the resort’s ocean frontage.

The Writers Bar and the adjoining Library offer Champagne, cocktails and after-dinner digestifs. Perhaps try a Raffles Bali Sling. 

“We are delighted to introduce our most iconic hotel brand to the beautiful island of Bali,” says Michael Issenberg, Chairman & CEO Accor Asia Pacific. 

“The highly-anticipated Raffles Bali will be the brand’s second hotel in Indonesia, joining the stunning Raffles Jakarta, and is set to become a special retreat for guests to feel pampered, through meaningful experiences and service that is both gracious and intuitive.”

The opening offer features of two nights’ stay in a private pool villa, inclusive of return limousine transfers, daily a la carte breakfast as well as selections of wellbeing and cultural experiences. Prices start from $US2,660++ for three days and two nights.

See for details. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

By the numbers: The Australian wine vintage of 2020

The Australian wine grape crush in 2020 was 1.52 million tonnes – the equivalent of over 1 billion litres of wine, the National Vintage Report 2020 released by Wine Australia shows.

The 2020 crush was 12% lower than the 2019 crush, and 13% below the 10-year average of 1.75 million tonnes.

It was the smallest crop since 2007 but was most similar in terms of yield to 2010 - a year of exceptional wine quality - when the crush was 1.61 million tonnes. 

The vineyard area then was about 4% higher than the current area.

Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark said while the crop was down, wine quality was expected to be high. 

Autumn temperatures were generally around average or slightly cooler, leading to ideal ripening and harvesting conditions, and the reduced yields have resulted in more concentrated colours and flavours in the berries.

"This vintage will enable us to continue to meet our targets of value growth in premium wine market segments, although the constrained supply will restrict overall volume growth in the next 12 to 24 months," Clark said.

Continuing strong demand for Australian wine is reflected in the 5% increase in the average value of grapes, which has increased by a compound average of 5% per year for the past six years.

The total value of the wine grape crush is estimated to be $1.07 billion, with an average value of $694 per tonne compared with $663 in 2019.

A smaller crop was widely anticipated given a number of seasonal factors, including bush fires. 

Clark said that the wine sector had made significant investments in research and development, leading to improved vineyard management techniques and water use efficiency since the last drought.

He said crop losses due to fire and/or smoke damage were reported in around one-quarter of Australia’s wine-growing regions; but the overall reduction due to direct damage or smoke effects was estimated to be less than 40,000 tonnes, or 3% of the total crush.

# The National Vintage Report is based on a survey of winemakers conducted in May-June each year. In 2020, responses were received from over 500 businesses, including all wineries known to crush over 10,000 tonnes, and in total are estimated to account for 90.5 per cent of all Australian wine grapes crushed in 2020.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Have a free beer on the folks from Coopers

Coopers Brewery is putting more than 15,000 beers on its tab to support Australian pubs on the road to recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown.

As restrictions are lifted across the country, the Australian family-owned brewery will be shouting rounds of Pale Ale at 335 metropolitan and country venues over the coming weeks.

“We want to encourage communities to get out and support their local pub,” Coopers managing director Dr Tim Cooper said.

“Pubs have been doing it extremely tough over these past months. These are often family-run small businesses employing dedicated and hardworking local people.

"As a family business ourselves, we understand the enormous pressure this places on everyone involved in a pub, from the owners to the staff and suppliers.

“In the face of such adversity and uncertainty, our pubs have held on admirably.

“Now, as the social restrictions are eased across the states and territories, we can all play a part in the recovery and enjoy a beer with friends in the process.

“We’re hoping that through our pub tabs we can encourage more people to drop into their local for a social drink.

“The whole industry has suffered from the impacts of Covid-19. We’ve gone through this together and we’re coming out of it together.

“As a community, we’ve all missed heading to the local pub. It’s one of our most popular past-times. Pubs are back open again, so let’s have a beer and celebrate.”

The Coopers national sales teams will work directly with selected venues in each state and territory to schedule the Coopers pub tabs.

The initiative coincides with an advertising and social media campaign to help raise awareness and encourage patronage of local pubs. The billboard and Facebook campaign will roll-out from today and run for seven weeks with the celebratory message Roll On In, Pub’s Open.

This is one of a number of initiatives and promotional activities Coopers Brewery is planning to assist local pubs on their road to recovery.