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Tuesday 30 June 2015

Tasmania's brewers have their moment in the sun

Tasmania's world-class cool-climate wines, artisan whiskies and craft ciders have all enjoyed time in the spotlight. Now the state's brewers, large and small, are staking their claim. 

Australia's island state is home to two of Australia's iconic breweries; Cascade in Hobart and James Boag in Launceston, as well as Bushy Park Estate, which is one of the longest-operating hop farms in the world. 

Now Cascade and Boags have linked with the state's growing number of craft and small-batch brewers for the launch of the Tasmanian Beer Trail. 

The Tasmanian Government is investing $250,000 - along with a $100,000 contribution from the Brewers Association - on a two-year campaign to showcase Tasmanian beers and ales to a wider audience.

The Tasmanian Beer Trail website at is the focus of the campaign and will be a hub for all beer events, as well as offering a guide to local breweries and the experiences they offer. 

The new initiative will also promote beer events and festivals, including: The Micro Brew Fest (Hobart),  Beer Lovers' Week (Hobart),  The Tasmanian International Beerfest (Hobart) and The Esk Beerfest (Launceston). 

The Tasmanian Beer Trail website provides information on local breweries, tours, tastings, festivals and other events, including smaller operators like Seven Sheds at Railton, T-Bone Brewing at Kempton and 2-Metre Tall in the Derwent Valley. 

Two more local producers: Last Rites and Double Head, are soon to launch. 

"The Tasmanian Beer Trail complements the existing whisky and cider trails that have underpinned their rapidly growing appeal as tourist destinations, offering estate tours, history and heritage presentations and of course tastings and food,” Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said. 

David McGill from microbrewer Moo Brew in Hobart told local media the co-operative approach to marketing should benefit the entire sector. "We always work closely with wine, the cider and the whisky so it can only benefit each individual sector if we all work together," he said. 

Sunday 28 June 2015

How to get an upgrade on your next international flight

You are at the check-in desk for your international flight and have your passport, economy class ticket and your fingers crossed behind your back. 

Just how do some people get upgrades while others seem to always get a middle seat in the back row of the plane? 

The truth of the matter is that it has never been harder to get an upgrade - no matter which airline you are flying with. 

There are, however. some tactics that you can use to boost your chances of being one of the lucky few; just don't expect them to work on a regular basis. 

# To lift your prospects try to fly as much as possible with an airline that you are a frequent flyer with. If you have gold or platinum status then your chances of an upgrade are increased. If economy is full and they need to move someone up to business, they'll almost certainly choose a loyal customer over some random. 

# Dress nicely and look the part. You might feel more comfortable in shorts and sandals, but you are not going to spring to mind as an upgrade candidate unless you look like you belong at the pointy end of the plane. 

# Be as polite as possible, no matter how hard this might be for you. And if you have a special reason for wanting/needing an upgrade then make that clear at check-in and ask politely. If you have a sore back or your dog just died, you might, just might, strike a chord. If you have 10 million followers on Instagram that might also count in your favour. 

# Always check yourself in personally rather than doing so online. A real person might be willing to help you; a computer certainly will not.  

# Travel solo and travel at the right time. If you check-in with your wife and two kids there is absolutely no chance one of you will be upgraded and the others left back in row 58. Upgrades are limited, so it pays be on your own. Also, if you are travelling at peak periods, Mondays, Fridays for business people or during school holidays, then there will be more competition for that treasured upgrade. 

The reality is, however, that your chances of getting a lie-flat bed when you have paid for a budget economy ticket are close to zero, There is only one thing to do: pray. It certainly can't do any harm. 

Friday 26 June 2015

No white cliffs but this Dover does have a very nice little café

Dover is one of Tasmania's hidden gems. Named after the much larger town of the same name in Kent, England, this hamlet of around 1000 people makes a delightful day trip or weekend destination for anyone staying in Hobart. 

Dover is the southernmost town of any size in Australia, around 85 kilometres (or a one-hour drive) south of Hobart and located on the shores of Port Esperance. It is one of over 40 places with the same name dotted around the globe.

A pretty, sleepy fishing village with several beaches and a country ambiance, it is great strolling town on the road to the Hastings Caves and Ida Bay Railway and a good side trip from a visit to Hartz Mountains National Park. 

It overlooks the small islands of Faith, Hope and Charity and is surrounded by apple and cherry orchards and bucolic cow meadows on land, and salmon fishing farms on the water.

With such great local produce available, it should come as no surprise that Dover is home to one of the best country eateries is Tasmania. 

It may be unprepossessing from the outside but Post Office 6985 in, you guessed it, a former post office, is a lovely spot for a relaxed lunch or dinner. 

There's a warming log fire for winter days, and a comfortable lounge area with magazines for those who really want to kick back. 

Lunch choices include the likes of seriously good spicy chicken wings with cheese sauce; black turtle bean nachos; salt and pepper squid; a couple of variations on the lasagne theme; a local seafood selection along with steaks, burgers and a formidable array of sweet treats. The rhubarb crumble is outstanding. 

Both the wings and the vegetarian lasagne, served with a crisp salad, were tasty and filling - and we thoroughly enjoyed a glass each of the Wombat Springs 2012 Pinot Noir from just up the road in Franklin. 

At night, pizzas cooked in a splendid-looking French wood-fired oven are the drawcard, often featuring local seafood, while the wine selection features Tasmanian standouts like Jansz, Bay of Fires, Pirie and Coal Valley Vineyard, along with Elsewhere, another local label. Ciders are provided by Willie Smith's, Pagan and Franks, all from the local area.

Dover is a lovely spot made all the more attractive by having such a pleasant place to eat. 

Post Office 6985, 6985 Huon Highway, DoverTasmania. (03) 6298 1905. 

Wednesday 24 June 2015

The inside info on New Zealand's biggest food and wine festival

It used to be known simply as “wet, windy Wellington” but in recent years the New Zealand capital has become something of a gourmet and nightlife magnet.

Local folklore has it that Wellington has more bars, restaurants and cafés per capita than New York.

And with more than 300 bars, restaurants and cafés in the downtown area alone, Wellington is certainly not short of places to have a good time – particularly after dark.

And Wellington goes into overdrive once a year when the hospitality industry puts its collective creative juices into delivering Visa Wellington On a Plate, now regarded as New Zealand's major food festival. 

The shining star of Wellington’s culinary scene, held every year in August for the past seven years, the two-week festival has become by far New Zealand’s largest culinary event - and has something for everyone; whether they are into burgers, beer or fine dining. 


It involves more than 300 restaurants, producers and suppliers over 17 days of restaurant offers, cocktail creations, the annual battle for the city’s best burger and a celebration of the region’s artisan producers.

There more than 100 festival events overall, stretching from the Wairarapa wine region, to the scenic Kapiti Coast and into Wellington city. 

Featuring everything from pop-up restaurants to classes that aim to have you mastering the art of perfect patisserie, celebrations of food and film and lessons in foraging for wild produce, the events cover a broad spectrum. 

Beervana, a two-day celebration of craft beer, is the festival's biggest drawcard, attracting over 10,000 visitors and featuring 200 different craft beers from across New Zealand, Australia and the world. 

And, for wine lovers, there are a whole raft of vinous events that have been unveiled, including a Sensory Evaluation Laboratory where guests’ ability to detect the five primary tastes - sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami - will be tested and common wine faults will be sampled, including ‘cork taint’, brettanomyces, oxidation, reductive characteristics and volatile acidity. 

Red, White and Bleu will feature Martinborough wines paired with food from Le Cordon Bleu culinary students, and chardonnay lovers can attend a dinner hosted by John Kavanagh (Te Kairanga) and Pip Goodwin (Palliser Estate). 

Martinborough winemakers Roger Parkinson (Nga Waka) and Lisa Coney (Coney Wines) look at will different varieties paired with food, while Larry McKenna and Helen Masters (Ata Rangi) will examine the wonderful world of pinot noir. 

The Match Wine Bar will offer a collection of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton wines for tasting, which can be matched with small plates from star caterer Ruth Pretty, while there will be an Ata Rangi dinner at Hippopotamus Restaurant and Lance Redgwell of Cambridge
Road Vineyard will host a dinner at Pinocchio. 

Winemaker for a Day will teach guests about wine and the winemaking process at Matahiwi Estate, while La Boca Loca has teamed up with Martinborough wineries and Woody's Free Range Farm to create an afternoon of carnitas and pinot noir. 

Among my favourite Wellington restaurants that are involved this year are: bustling perennial favourite Floriditas, and the funky Duke Carvell’s, with its late-night tapas and renowned cocktail list.

Don't miss the sophisticated food at Logan Brown, or the buzzy Ortega Fish Shack & Bar, 
thoroughly modern seafood restaurant with European influences and a very friendly vibe,
along with a terrific wine list. 

Great places for a drink include festival participants Matterhorn, Hawthorne Lounge and the Library Bar. 

I'm told there is also a major wine component to Welly on a Plate, about which the organizers are promising to send me details. Stay tuned. 

Visa Wellington On a Plate, various venues, August 14-30. Beervana, August 14-15.

Monday 22 June 2015

Wine lovers: look out, the English are coming

Remember when English sparkling wine was seen as a joke? No more. The rapidly growing English industry looms as a potential future rival to many established cool-climate producers in global markets, having moved from novelty to serious player in just a few years.
Nyetimber Vineyard in Sussex
Burgeoning demand for brands such as Nyetimber and Ridgeview has seen a doubling of the amount of land in England devoted to vineyards in the last seven years - and 43% last year in wine production. That is 6.3 million bottles of English wine made in 2014, around two-thirds of it bubbly. 

And even Wimbledon is getting in on the act, the All England Lawn Tennis Club having selected Bolney Wine Estate Pinot Gris 2014 to be served in its corporate areas this year, purchasing 400 bottles from the West Sussex winemaker. 

The same wine has also been selected to be served in British Airways first class cabins. 

The UK Vineyards Association says there are now 470 vineyards in England and Wales, and 135 wineries, with up-market store Harvey Nichols launching its own brand.

The Waitrose supermarket chain, which stocks more than 100 English and Welsh wines, has reported a 177% increase in sales of domestic brands over the past year.

Waitrose’s English wine buyer, Rebecca Hull, said there was “real momentum” in the English wine industry.

“The success of English wine is a culmination of dedication and effort from some talented winemakers across the country who have gradually built the reputation of our wines from the ground up,” she says.

And more weight was added to the English argument last week when former winner of the Best Sommelier of the World award, Gerard Basset, spoke up for English wine at a masterclass of the first day of Vinexpo 2015 in Bordeaux. 

Basset, a Frenchman no less, albeit one based in England, told a gathering of influencers from around the globe that “English wine is like New Zealand in the 1980s. At that time, New Zealand was not very well known, but now it is considered a very serious wine producer.”

He added that English wine is now in a “very exciting place” notwithstanding the fact that most of the UK is cold and wet, although it is thought that global warming may encourage major growth in the future. Chardonnay, pinot noir and the hybrid grape bacchus are most planted grape varieties. 

The southern counties of Sussex, Kent and Surrey are among the focus points right now with vineyards as far east as Norfolk and as far north as Yorkshire. For more details visit:

Sunday 21 June 2015

Levantine Hill - a massive Yarra Valley wine project comes to life

I sat down for lunch last week with Elias and Colleen Jreissati, the Melbourne couple behind Levantine Hill, which is one of the most ambitious and expansive wine/tourism projects Australia has seen. 

The Jreissatis were not at all what I had expected. I'd thought maybe brash and loud, what I found was charming, laid-back and reflective with an unrelenting focus on quality; both when it comes to their wines, and to their lavish new cellar door/restaurant complex at Coldstream in the Yarra Valley. 

It's a family business, with Elias's daughter Samantha as joint managing director, and blocks in the vineyard named after all three of his adult daughters. 

If you haven't heard of Levantine Hill, which should be fully up and running in a month or so, you have been living a sheltered lifestyle.
It is an operation set up to make benchmark wines - and a big noise. 

Elias Jreissati arrived in Australia aged 18 from Lebanon, speaking no English. He started out with a sandwich shop, amassed a property fortune by age 25, only to lose it all. He then built it again through his Bensons Property Group. 
He now speaks four languages and wields a lot of clout. Quietly. A Christian, and a supporter of many charities and the arts, Jreissati, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday, enjoys wine but rarely drinks more than a glass or two.
But he thinks big and with former Yarra Yering winemaker Paul Bridgeman at the helm and the almost-completed high-tech cellar door at Coldstream (celebrity chef Teage Ezard is also on board with an on-site restaurant) everything about Levantine Hill screams quality.
The Jreissatis visited more than 50 cellar doors in South Africa, an acknowledged leader in wine tourism, looking at ideas for their new facility.
"We stunned our driver in South Africa, who could not believe we would visit cellar door after cellar door and not stop for a tasting," Elias recalls. "But we did find lots of ideas we could adapt and improve. We were very impressed.

"It was an eye-opener because until a year ago we hadn't done any wine tourism at all." 
Ezard @ Levantine Hill, from the chef who created Ezard and Gingerboy, will feature the best seasonal produce, using small local producers. “We are extending our culinary boundaries by creating dishes inspired by classic food styles of Europe and enhancing them with new flavours and combinations,” Ezard says.

"I'm awake at night right now, worried about the cellar door and restaurant," Elias admits. "There are incredibly high expectations - and we are all too aware of that, but we have employed people who believe in what they are doing."
Levantine Hill takes its name from the Levant, the blessed, ancient biblical lands known as 'the lands in the east where the sun rises' – and Elias Jreissati was born in the Beka'a Valley, Lebanon's prime wine growing region.

The estate comprises two vineyards, one planted in the 1990s; the other with family blocks created alongside a truffiére. The first vintage was in 2012 - fortunately a cracking year in the Yarra. 

"We are aiming to make wines in the style we like to drink," says Elias, whose wine epiphany came on a visit to France in 1992, although he remembers playing as a child in wine caves in the Beka'a, near his home town of Zahlé.  

"The aim is to produce great wines and price them accordingly. There will be no compromise," he says.

In addition to the spectacular architect-designed cellar door and restaurant, situated on top of the hill is the Levantine Hill Homestead – the most luxurious accommodation in the region.

The opulent $30 million Homestead is available only to selected guests as the Yarra Valley's most exclusive B&B and venue for prestige events.
Each suite features uninterrupted views of the valley and city skyline and comes complete with a butler and an estate Mercedes M-class for personal use. The tariff (if you need to ask you probably can't afford it) includes helicopter transfers from the Melbourne CBD, full use of the Homestead's facilities and access to the private 3,500 bottle cellar.
Levantine Hill is at 882-886 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream. (03) 8602 0874. 

Friday 19 June 2015

Tasmania gets a fabulous new food and wine destination

One of the most significant new wine tourism experiences in Tasmania will make its official debut next weekend.

The Arnold family, quiet achievers with their excellent Ghost Rock wines, recently unveiled their Hundred Acres wine and food interpretation centre at Northdown, just outside Port Sorell. 

It is adjacent to their brand-new winery, the first commercial facility on the north-west coast of the island state.

The $1 million venture centre is designed to host cooking workshops that will be matched with the vineyard's wines, as well as wine masterclasses.

Guests from Josef Chromy, where the Ghost Rock wines have previously been vinified, Barringwood, Blue Penguin and Seven Sheds Brewery were among those in attendance at the opening ceremony a couple of weeks ago.
Ghost Rock owners Cate and Colin Arnold have been joined by their son Justin Arnold, who will be making the wines from now on, while his partner Alicia Peardon (who used to work with Jamie Oliver) will oversee the running of the new centre, along with Ghost Rock head chef Phil Piper.

The first session will be held next Saturday June 27, pairing pinot noir with appropriate dishes. 

The Arnold family planted the first vines at Ghost Rock in 1985 and they now have 15 hectares with another five soon to come on line. The first wines were made on site this year with input from consultant Natalie Fryar, previously of Jansz.

I'm a printer who had a dream that came true,” said Colin Arnold at the glitzy launch. “There used to be just a rickety house on a hill here with a few horses running around. This is real thrill.”

All the work was done in 12 months. “At this time last year this was a paddock,” said Cate Arnold.

The Arnolds are calling their new offering a "soil-to-bottle and paddock-to-plate" experience. While a proposed partnership with chef Ben Milbourne fell through, there will be guest chefs hosting classes during the year, including Ian Curley from The European in Melbourne.

The new facilities complement the already very popular Ghost Rock cellar door, which is open all year Wednesday-Sunday and public holidays and daily in January and February. 

Hundred Acres at Ghost Rock, 1055 Port Sorell Road, Northdown. (03) 6428 4005.  

Thursday 18 June 2015

Wrestling with the complexities of mineral water

Water is good for you right? And minerals can help boost your health and immune systems right? So it follows that mineral water must be really good for you. 

Hold on a minute. It's not that simple say the people from Karma. That's correct. Karma - the Buddhist belief that whatever you do will come back to you in the future.

Karma is promoted as a "wellness water" - and it has a point of difference. I wasn't too thrilled as the same PR agency recently sent me some strawberry beer that was well beyond disgusting (although, to be fair, I am probably not in the strawberry beer demographic). 

So consider scepticism my middle name, particularly when it comes to "functional beverages". 

Karma Wellness Water has been launched because of increase in demand for healthy beverages and brings a  new  kind  of  vitamin  water  to  the market  with  its  unique cap technology, so the spiel goes. 

Press a button on the cap and "KarmaCap releases formulated powdered vitamins and nutrients for consumers to enjoy fresh upon consumption". 

Statistics quoted by the Karma Water people state that  only  40%  of  vitamins  are absorbed  from  a  multi-vitamin  pill,whereas 90-95% of vitamins are consumed when dissolved in liquid. 

Another common issue found in pre-mixed vitamin drinks is the deterioration of vitamins over time as they are water-soluble and vitamins can degrade when exposed to UV rays, oxygen and/or heat (presumably a major issue in Australia). 

So the KarmaCap stores the powdered vitamin and nutrient mix and only releases it to be mixed with the water when you are ready. 

That's it for the science. I have no idea whether it is BS or not. I did, however, expect my drink to taste, well, powdery. 

Shake well and it actually tastes pretty good for something that is allegedly so healthy. 

There are three launch brands: Orange Mango for “sharper thinking”; Acai Pomberry (there is really no such thing as a pomberry) as an “immunity booster” and Passionfruit Green Tea for “mood elevation”. 

The blurb says Karma Wellness Water "fulfils its promise of truly being good for you, providing up to 100% or  more  of  the recommended daily  intake  of  many  essential  daily nutrients, minerals and vitamins; including B3, B6, B12, Niacin, C, E, A and D. 

And it contains "90% less sugar (2 to 4 grams) compared to other functional beverages. And it contains only 22 calories. 

All of which is cool. But the main thing for me is that the Orange Mango and Pomberry tasted pretty good and were refreshing. End of story - unless someone can disprove the science. 

Karma Wellness Water is available at cafes, convenience stores, pharmacies etc with an RRP of $4.45 for 600mL bottle. 

# Disclosure: I was sent three sample bottles of water 

Wednesday 17 June 2015

A most unlikely wine museum delivers the goods

There are several good reasons for visiting Macau. Its many luxury casinos and resorts are a major drawcard and the food, calling on mainly Portuguese and Chinese influences, is outstanding. 

Macau lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong Kong, which is about 64 kilometers to the east - and the two will soon be joined by a bridge, which is currently under construction.

Macau is one of the most densely populated places on earth and its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city state hosts the Macau Formula Three Grand Prix street race each November. 

It is, at first glance, an unlikely place to stumbled upon a fascinating wine museum, but its presence is explained by Macau's history as a Portuguese colony. Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 1550s and it was administered by Portugal from the mid-16th century until late 1999, when it was the last remaining European colony in Asia. 

It is now a special administrative region of China, although you don't need a visa.

Most of the wines you see in Macau are still Portuguese and anyone wanting to know about wine from the Iberian Peninsula has come to the right place.

The museum includes information on how wine is made, with displays of wine-making implements and barrels. 

There are different sections for each region of Portugal, featuring not only fascinating background info but quaint traditional costumes. 

The 1400 square-metre space is divided into a number of areas (historical information/wine cellar/museum and exhibitions), using maps, texts, photos, tiles and videos to relate the story of wine. 

Information is provided in Chinese, Portuguese and English.

The aim of each section is not only to provide information regarding wine and grapevines, but also to recreate the atmosphere of the production of wine, showing the visitor the modern and traditional tools connected to wine production.

There is also a tasting station, where visitors can sample both table wines and fortifieds like port and Madeira - although you won't be able to try the 1815 port that is on display. The young guy conducting the tastings was multilingual and very knowledgeable.

There is, of course, also a shop where you can buy a bottle or two, but there is no hard sell and this is a fun place to spend an hour or two of discovery. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find that even Tasmania gets a mention in the section devoted to the rest of the world, with special reference to the quality of its sparkling wines. Impressive. 

The Macau Wine Museum is located at the Tourism Activities Centre, No.431, Rua Luís Gonzaga Gomes, Macau. It is open from 10am-8pm daily except on Tuesdays, when it is closed. 

For details on visiting Macau:

Cathay Pacific has over 70 flights a week to Hong Kong from six major Australian cities, with direct high-speed ferry links to Macau taking less than an hour. For details see and for fares visit 

# The writer was a guest of Macau Tourism 

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Sailor Seeks Horse - an instant Tasmanian wine success story

Sailor Seeks Horse is a new name on the Tasmanian wine scene but the young couple behind the label has already enjoyed considerable success.

Paul and Gilli Lipscombe (he's English, she's a Queenslander) have worked at wineries in the Languedoc, Margaret River, Oregon and New Zealand and have day jobs at Home Hill, where they work both in the vineyards and as winemakers. 

They settled in the Huon Valley after a nationwide search for the region they felt would make the best pinot noir and bought a derelict vineyard at Cradoc, which had been planted in 2005 and then abandoned.

We looked all over Tasmania for the place to produce the best pinot noir and chardonnay; and we decided on the Huon,” they said. “Neither too dry nor too wet, too warm nor too cold and with two of the most-awarded vineyards in Tasmania (Elsewhere and Home Hill) nearby.

Within a few weeks of arriving, we stumbled upon a dilapidated north-east facing 6.5 hectare vineyard. Opportunity beckoned. Half the vines were dead, there were blackberry bushes above our heads and trees growing all the way through; not-so-perfect.

But it wouldn’t be satisfying if it wasn’t challenging. That was one of the reasons we decided to change our lives.”

The first release of Sailor Seeks Horse has attracted a lot of attention. It is being poured at high-end restaurants including Vue de Monde in Melbourne and the Bentley Bar in Sydney and is on sale at the highly respected Prince Wine Stores in both Sydney and Melbourne. 

An leading British wine writer Matthew Jukes has heard of the buzz surrounding the wine and asked for a sample; so international recognition could be on the way. 

The reaction to the release of the 2013 Sailor Seeks Horse Pinot Noir has been both a relief and a vindication of the Lipscombes' hopes and dreams - which include planting more vines, and eventually a winery and house on their property.

When you make a wine you hope that people will enjoy it, so having it on so many top lists straight away has been extremely rewarding,” says Paul. 

The vineyard has beautiful views stretching to Huon River, and a good selection of clones, with young vines providing more options down the track. 

And what of the name? “There was a handwritten sign on the wall at the Red Velvet Lounge in Cygnet, our local cafe. It said: 'Sailor Seeks Horse' and went on to explain that the author had sailed solo around the world and ridden across the US from coast to coast and back again…on a mule. He’d then decided he wanted to travel around Tasmania by horse but didn’t have one. So, was there anyone who would lend him one?”

Sailor Seeks Horse 2013 Pinot Noir can be sampled at the Dark Mofo festival, where Paul and Gilli will have a stand. Alternatively, go to But be quick. Only 400 cases were made although volumes will increase (and a chardonnay is on the way). 

Saturday 13 June 2015

What happens when you believe you have been robbed on an aircraft?

There was a very interesting letter in the recent Australian Frequent Flyer newsletter.
A member was shocked to discover their carry-on luggage had been stolen between them boarding the plane and take-off. 
This person had placed their carry-on items, including a computer and credit cards, in the seat pocket after boarding. They then got up to use the bathroom before take-off, returning only to discover that the items had disappeared.
In this case of the vanishing carry-on, it seems a fellow-passenger thought the items had been left on board by a passenger from the previous flight.
This passenger handed the items to a flight attendant, who offloaded them without checking who they belonged to. All of this occurred before our member even had a chance to return to their seat. 
Who is to blame? All of them in my opinion. 
Anyone leaving credit cards and valuables where they can be easily accessed is a fool. 
The passenger who looked into adjoining flyer's seat pocket is either a good samaritan trying to help, or a nasty snoop. Take your pick. 
And the air crew who offloaded the computer and other goods without checking thoroughly were just plain stupid. It would not have been difficult for airline staff to check if the owner of the contents matched the name of the person in the seat they were found in. That's why they have those old-fashioned reams of paper on every flight listing passengers and their seat allocations. 
The message, however, is clear. Be extremely careful and regard everyone around you on a plane as a travelling idiot (they often are). 
And certainly do not to leave any belongings unattended, especially if the aircraft doors are open.

Friday 12 June 2015

Eating your food from a toilet bowl and savouring chicken testicle soup

Sometimes quirky is a good thing. And on other occasions it can be a very, very bad thing. 

What, then, to make of an app that extols eating dried tiger penis soup, or a restaurant where you sit on a toilet while eating your food out of mini toilet bowls? 
Eating out in style the Taiwanese way 

The Crooked Compass Travel App says it is "full of rare experiences travellers have not heard of before" and it covers 134 countries covering categories ranging from unique accommodation, adrenaline-fuelled adventures, animal encounters, eating like a local, festivals and many more.

A lot of the ideas are very good ones; like eating in the Hobbit House in the Philippines, or sleeping in a silver mine in Sweden. 

Quirky? Certainly. 

But is recommending eating chicken testicular soup a step too far? Well, for a start chickens don't have testicles. Roosters do. But we'll put that little factoid to one side. I think I'd much rather sample chicken tikka masala, which is also listed but is not even the slightest bit quirky.

Giving the app the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that quirky is in the eye of the beholder, I bring to you a "holistic travel platform" which includes information on over 1,000 unique travel experiences along with interactive maps and insider information.

Creator Lisa Pagotto says: “The Crooked Compass Travel App is a great tool for travellers who have 'been there, done that' and want something exciting and unique to add to their travels. 
"It’s also for those who are not interested in seeing the stock-standard tourist sights and want to discover the soul of a destination or experience the culture like a local.”

Fair enough, so if you like the idea of swimming in hidden caves, bungee jumping over an active volcano, or sleeping in a vintage Boeing 727 aircraft then you've come to the right place. 

“With all this information in one platform and insider tips personalising each experience, travellers can spend their time discovering these unique experiences rather than being stuck in an internet café researching what to see and do," Lisa says. 

So that's great for adventure seekers, or those who want to visit a toilet museum (India) and well worth a look, although I must say I frown on anything that could promote the of eating of bits of an endangered species like the tiger (China), while the toilet-themed restaurant (Taiwan) sounds disgusting. 

It is a "well-kept secret" that should remain a secret. 

On the other hand I quite like the idea of a camel caravan, and getting up close and cuddly with a baby panda. To each their own - just leave those endangered species alone! 
Download the Crooked Compass Travel App from the App store or Google Play and #FollowADifferentPath on social media

Thursday 11 June 2015

The rise and rise of Prosecco in Australia

In the beautiful Prosecco region, in the hills of the Veneto overlooking Venice, they make sparkling wines that are even more popular than those of Champagne. 

Prosecco is all the rage right now because its wines are all about freshness and immediate drinkability. 

Prosecco is often enjoyed as a spritz (mixed with aperol or campari) or with peach juice, as part of the classic Bellini cocktail. It is usually made from the indigenous glera grape (itself sometimes known as prosecco), although other varieties are allowed. 

Prosecco is largely produced using the charmat method, in which secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. This makes the wine cheaper to produce, and has resulted in a global explosion of interest.

There is a long history of winemaking in the Veneto, dating back to Roman times, while prosecco in Australia is a relative newcomer, albeit a very successful one - and a cause of much angst to Italian producers, 

Tucked away in a quiet corner in the high country of north-east Victoria, the King Valley is a little slice of Italy Down Under (you might have spotted it featured on Masterchef). 

The Dal Zotto family's prosecco vines
This region was once tobacco country, but over the past 40 years it has become renowned for producing wines made from alternative grape varieties, many of them crafted by Italian families who have lived in the region for generations and who welcome visitors to their rustic cellar doors.

The Dal Zotto family has a rich Italian heritage and pioneered prosecco in Australia.

Family patriarch Otto Dal Zotto was born in Valdobbiadene in the Veneto, home of Italy’s favourite sparkling wine. He migrated to Australia in 1967 and the Dal Zottos produced Australia’s first commercial prosecco. 

“Across our vineyards, the result for us is that it is the perfect place to grow and make not 
only the varieties that wine lovers are very familiar with (such as riesling, chardonnay, 
cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz) but also indulge our passion for exploring 
innovation with Italian varieties,” he says.

A second generation of Dal Zottos has joined Otto and wife Elena with sons Michael as 
winemaker and Christian as marketing manager.

Otto Dal Zotto walks in his vineyard
Since the first plantings in 2000, other King Valley winemakers have followed suit - Brown Brothers, Chrismont, Pizzini (below), Ciccone and Sam Miranda.

In 2011, all six joined forces to create an exciting new food and wine trail especially for lovers of the sparkling Italian white. 

Intimate tastings with the makers, savouring rustic Italian cuisine and conversations over a game of bocce, are all part of a trip along the King Valley Prosecco Road. 

And there is not likely to be any change to the name any time soon. 

"Prosecco is a grape variety and Australian producers can use that name for wines sold in Australia and other non-EU markets, as long as the wine is made from those grapes,” says Steve Guy from the Australian Wine and Grape Authority.

"But any Australian producer looking to export prosecco to the EU must label their wine as glera."

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Jacob's Creek, Yellowglen and other leading producers are also now making prosecco - bringing the total to 30 or more Australian producers.