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Wednesday 30 September 2015

The sticky that changed the face of Australian wine turns 30

While the De Bortoli family initially built its reputation on cask wines and bottled wines that sold at bargain basement prices, there has been a rapid shift towards producing high-quality wines in recent years, both from the company's Riverina heartland and its cooler Yarra Valley outpost.

Darren de Bortoli, who now heads the company, created Australia's iconic dessert wine, Noble One, when he was still in his early 20s - and changed the family's direction forever.

“Noble One changed the public perception of the company and made people believe we produce quality wines," he says. 
Now De Bortoli Wines is celebrating the 30th vintage of its landmark dessert wine and has released a special anniversary gift box for the 2013 vintage wine to mark the milestone.

The first Noble One Botrytis Semillon vintage was made in 1982 (it was then called Sauternes) and since then the wine has gone to earn global acclaim, still often being compared with the great sweet white wines of Bordeaux. 

To date it has been awarded 136 trophies and 423 gold medals and today Noble One is the most commercially successful dessert wine made from botrytis-infected grapes in Australia. 

"As one of the most recognised dessert wines in the world, Noble One has really cemented its place as the De Bortoli family’s flagship wine, both at home, and internationally," says winemaker Julie Mortlock. "As Noble One’s winemaker, I’m just a custodian, I look after it, and I find it quite a privilege to be given the role."

Since 1982 Noble One has only missed two vintages, in 1989 and 2012, both as a result of too much rain. The 30th anniversary gift box has been designed to "reflect the wine’s golden hue and recognise its significant contribution to the Australian wine industry".

It remains the only dessert wine to be listed on Langton’s Classification of Wine, classified as ‘Outstanding’. Such is its fame, that former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd presented a case of it to then Pope Benedict during his visit to the Vatican in 2009.  

De Bortoli Noble One is a sweet dessert wine made from semillon grapes affected by the botrytis ‘noble’ rot. 

Darren de Bortoli
Unlike other vineyard rots, which decimate harvests, botrytis cinerea simply weakens the skins of grapes, allowing water to evaporate; berries shrivel, but remain whole. This creates a high concentration of sugar in the berries, which produces incredibly sweet wines when harvested.

The Riverina climate has the perfect weather conditions to allow for the spread of noble rot: moist, humid mornings encourage botrytis, and warm, sunny afternoons dry out the grapes. Grapes are handpicked so that the weakened skins of the grapes aren’t damaged any further – a very slow process because there is little juice.

Fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks, and is slow, taking up to three months. After fermentation, between 85-90% is barrel-matured for 12 months in French oak barriques, the same small tightly grained oak barrels as used by Chateau d’Yquem, the world's greatest sweet wine.

Finally, the portion remaining in the tank is blended back into the wine before bottling.

The 2013 anniversary Noble One Botrytis Semillon is now available nationally and comes in two sizes, 375ml, with a $33 RRP and 750ml, with a $64 RRP.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

St Agnes gives Australian brandy a quality boost

There is a lot of history to the Angove family's St Agnes brandy, but the product has not always received the respect it deserves. 

With the Australian spirits category enjoying boom times (think whiskies, vodkas and gins), Richard Angove says it was the right time to lift the profile - and quality - of the top-shelf St Agnes brandies. 

The Renmark distillery, producer of the original Australian brandy since 1925, has launched into the luxury market with new XO additions to its portfolio.

The brand's first foray into the world of luxury brandy (generally dominated by Cognac producers) has seen the launch of two ultra-premium XO brandies – the XO Imperial 20 Year Old and XO Grand Reserve 40 Year Old. 

The new XO brandies join the popular XO 15 Year Old ($99 a bottle), which has already won global recognition. 

Richard Angove says the  family company is aiming to re-position Australian brandy both domestically and internationally. 

"My family has been crafting brandy for over 90 years and we’re excited to now be moving into a new territory of rare, luxury and unique goods," he says. 

"We have a clear purpose, and that is to do one thing brilliantly, to show the world another face of Australian produce excellence by crafting an iconic Australian spirit of world-class standard. 

"The team at St Agnes Distillery is exceptionally proud of these new releases. They represent a uniquely Australian take on the timeless luxury and prestige of XO, and we can’t wait to show them off.”

Angove says St Agnes wants to lift recognition among Australian spirit drinkers. 

“It is a fantastic locally made spirit that mixes really well and through double pot still distillation is a true piece of Australian craft and wine industry history,” he says. “We will be working with key on premise accounts in developing St Agnes-based cocktails and are just in the process of putting a St Agnes cocktail guide together – bringing some of the old school back like the Sazerac, the Sidecar, and St Agnes and dry ginger. 

"These drinks are fresh and full of flavour and, when made with a good quality Australian brandy, they’re even better.” 

The prices rival those of premium Cognac (and the presentation is superb) with the St Agnes XO Imperial 20 Year Old having an RRP $200 while St Agnes XO Grand Reserve 40 Year Old has an RRP of $785 and is made in minute quantities. 

St Agnes is distributed by Vintage House Wine and Spirits. 

I sat back on Friday night and sampled the three premium brandies. Here are my thoughts: 

The XO Grand Reserve is formidably smooth and tastes luxurious with its rich, deep spiciness. I opens up in the glass, revealing more layers of complexity. World class and worth a splurge if you have the cash to spare.  

The XO Imperial is a more immediately aromatic wine with its floral aromas leading to rich toffee and oak notes, with everything in balance. This is the one I would be drinking right now - and it is good value for money and wonderful for sipping and savouring. 

The XO is lighter and slightly sweeter with candied peach and pear notes and hints of orange marmalade alongside restrained oak. Lovers of tokays will very much enjoy this.  

Monday 28 September 2015

Talented Connew sets her sights on Tasmania

One of Australia's most talented winemakers is aiming to make a permanent move to Tasmania before the start of the 2016 vintage.

Samantha Connew, former chief winemaker at Wirra Wirra in McLaren Vale and Tower Estate in the Hunter Valley, has her heart set on expanding her Stargazer wine label, for which she currently buys fruit from both the Tamar Valley and southern regions.

New Zealand-born Connew, who is also the chairman of judges at the Royal Sydney Wine Show, launched Stargazer two years ago and has already built a major following in Sydney and Melbourne.

I'm looking to move down to Tassie before vintage next year (fingers crossed) and am scouting around for vineyard land – serious stuff,” Connew says.

Hunter Valley-based Connew, who is also a qualified lawyer, has long had a fascination with Tasmania and now has the chance to move here full-time after ending a stint with the Australian Wine Research Institute.

The first case of wine that I ever bought was from Tasmania; a dozen bottles of Tamar Ridge Riesling,” Connew recalls. “And my first vintage was in Oregon, where I, like so many other winemakers, became captivated by pinot noir. 

"So it seems only fitting that after an intervening period of over 15 years I end up in Tasmania making pinot noir, riesling and chardonnay.”
The new Stargazer releases see the range increased from two to four with the outstanding new white blend Tupelo ($30), added to the 2015 Riesling ($30), the 2013 Pinot Noir ($50) and the 2014 Chardonnay ($40); all beautifully crafted wines. 

Sunday 27 September 2015

So you want to explore Bordeaux on a budget. Meet Mama Shelter.

So you want to explore Bordeaux on a budget. You are over hostels and don't want to splash out on five-star accommodation but want somewhere clean, central and with a funky attitude. 

Let me introduce you to Mama Shelter Bordeaux, one of a small niche chain of hotels that comes with plenty of attitude. Hipsters will feel very much at home. 

Don't expect huge rooms and 24-hour room service, but do expect the unexpected as the decor, as with all Mama Shelter properties, is done by renowned French designer Philippe Starck.

Right in centre of Bordeaux's pedestrian zone, and just a few steps from the Gambetta tram stop, this hip hotel (guests with tattoos and facial piercings will feel just as at home as family groups) is within walking distance of most of Bordeaux's attractions. 

The modern rooms feature desks, minibars and free wifi, as well as complimentary iMacs offering TV, radio, Skype and free movies on demand. There are sitting areas in larger rooms (pictured above) but you won't get these for the entry price of 69 Euros (around $110), although prices fluctuate according to demand. The chain is now part-owned by the Accor group.   

There’s a lively restaurant with good buffet breakfasts, a pizzeria and a seasonal rooftop bar with city views. There are free computers in the lobby and a huge game of table football for use by guests (one of the teams is painted in the colours of the local Girondins de Bordeaux team). 

One of the strengths of Mama Shelter, which started with one hotel in a disused parking garage in Paris but now extends to Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux as well as Istanbul and Los Angeles, is the beds. They are extremely comfortable. 

I also particularly like the lobby shops, which sells everything from the essential (like toothbrushes and toothpaste) to the quirkily ephemeral (think toys no one would ever need) and the range of packages, which include deals offering everything from a bag of popcorn to a bottle of Champagne.

The restaurant menu features share plates and the likes of black sesame crust tuna with roasted hazelnuts  or veal al limone, and most mains weigh in at under 20 Euros. Pizzas start from 9 Euros.

Near the lobby is a Digital Concierge - touch the screen and start browsing. Service, meanwhile, can be described as "cool" or "icy" depending on your take. Whatever you do don't try to check in early. 

Mama Shelter Bordeaux, 19 Rue Poquelin Molière, 33000 Bordeaux. 

# The writer was a guest of Mama Shelter 


Friday 25 September 2015

From zero to 122 aircraft in 12 years: Etihad is flying high

Just 12 years ago no one had heard of Etihad Airways. There was no Etihad Stadium in Melbourne; Manchester City was just another struggling football team and no one in their right mind thought of heading to Europe via Abu Dhabi. 

Fast forward to 2015 and I am asleep; very comfortably asleep, in my lie-flat bed en route to Europe. Flying with Etihad is now routine for many of us, the brand a globally respected one. 

The airline operates more than 1,000 flights per week to over 120 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas, with a fleet of over 120 Airbus and Boeing aircraft. 

The flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, it is based at Abu Dhabi International Airport, now one of the most modern in the world. 

So how did Etihad become so successful so quickly? 

On a recent trip to Europe (on a paid-for ticket), I was fortunate enough to be able to sample business class, as well as economy. Etihad has three classes; Diamond First Class, Pearl Business Class and Coral Economy Class.

There is no doubt that Etihad treats its high-end customers immensely well; the lounges that I sampled in Sydney, Paris and Abu Dhabi were all outstanding with excellent food, helpful staff and pleasing ambiance. 

The business class seats are extremely comfortable and private, even on the older Boeing planes. The Airbus is a leap ahead again. 

The business class meals are outstanding; my meal of an Arabic mezze plate, Vietnamese-style barramundi with wrapped in a banana leaf and served with coconut rice and stir-fried vegetables was as good as in most restaurants, better than some. A good selection of desserts, too. 

The choice of wines is excellent, with the Louis Jadot Bourgogne Blanc, Champagne Jacquart bubbly and Le Fleur Laroze Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (a merlot), all doing their duty.

I liked the possibility of dining at any time, too. Who doesn't like the option of a pulled beef sandwich when they are feeling peckish? 

Even in economy where I got a seat right near the toilets (the luck of the draw and maybe a payback for the earlier upgrade), the food was good and authentic (lamb mansaf with basmati rice and green bean saloona) and the service attentive. The wine choice, however, is "red" or "white". 

You can pay for wifi anywhere on the plane and there is a very good selection of in-seat entertainment. Seat pitch is only so-so in economy, however, and uncomfortable for anyone above average size, although I did like the comfy pillows. 

The opposite is true in The Residence on Airbus A380s, a private first-class area that can accommodate one or two people. It is the only three-room suite on a commercial jet, and features a living room, bedroom and bathroom. Anyone fancy treating me so I can test it out?

For full details and fares contact a travel agent or visit

# 9431954ffe3c304d53ce56117c5c6511281008b8cf381fe0a4

Thursday 24 September 2015

How to have some gourmet fun in Tasmania. Now you'll have to book.

Down the far end of White Kangaroo Road all you can hear is the frogs and the occasional bird. The rivulet is too far below us to be heard and the resident platypuses are hiding away, as is their wont. 

This weekend, however, the Wobbly Boot Vineyard outside Campania, in the far flung reaches of Tasmania's Coal River Valley, will come alive with the sound of people having fun. 

Purchased over a year ago by the Williams family, Wobbly Boot will this weekend celebrate its resurrection - and the first wine to be released under the new ownership, a very crisp and clean 2015 Sauvignon Blanc.

New owners Paul and Lynda Williams, and their son Isaac, have disparate backgrounds but share a love of food and wine. 

Paul, a former teacher and social worker, is doing much of the vineyard work himself, using sustainable practices where possible and with support from his neighbours at Frogmore Creek's Roslyn Vineyard. The fruit is vinified at Frogmore Creek by Alain Rousseau. 

At the moment, Wobbly Boot - named because of the irregular shape of the property - is home to just one hectare of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir (the 2015 pinot is scheduled to be released early in the new year). A second vineyard will soon be planted with the same two varieties and some riesling.

This weekend's open weekend (September 26-27), from 11am-5pm each day, is a rare occasion as Wobbly Boot is usually open by appointment only. 

"As our philosophy is to personalise and develop ongoing relationships with our customers we only directly sell via our website or to visitors to our vineyard and do not operate a traditional cellar door," says Paul, although one or two retail outlets may soon be added.

The Open Weekend and Sauvignon Blanc Celebration is free. Visitors to 487 White Kangaroo Road, Campania, are invited to meet the family, try the wine and have some fun.

Complimentary canapes will be on offer, as well as wine for sale by the glass or bottle. 

Guests are invited to explore the Vista Room, enjoy a picnic by the river or next to the vines. There will be a mystery wine competition and guests should bring their own picnic food and a rug. 

# The open weekend has come and gone. Reservations are now needed for visits. 

For full details see Richmond head toward Campania, turn right on Fingerpost Road, cross the Coal River, turn left and proceed up White Kangaroo Road for 5km

Tuesday 22 September 2015

The Langham: a very special place to stay in Melbourne

I love a five-star hotel that looks and feels like a five-star hotel. A doorman to greet you as you arrive in a cab; someone who offers to carry your bags; no line at check-in and a large, comfortable room. The Langham, Melbourne, ticks all these boxes and more. 

I only spent one night at The Langham but it was a rare treat. The bed was ultra-comfortable, the wifi free and fast, and room service quick to deliver one of the finest club sandwiches on the planet, along with chips that were crisp and hot. 

The entrance and lobby here are grand. There is a pink London taxi in the driveway and the views of the Yarra River and Melbourne skyline are spectacular. 

And you can't beat the setting. The Langham is on the Southbank, right next to Melbourne's arts and leisure district. There are dozens of restaurants and cafes within strolling distance, along with the casino, should you feel so inclined. 

The hotel was awarded four accolades at the 2015 Tourism Accommodation Australia Awards for Excellence, including for its Melba restaurant and the Aria Bar & Lounge, which is known for its afternoon teas.

The 25-floor hotel has 388 rooms including 126 river view rooms, 57 executive club rooms,  six balcony rooms with private balconies, seven terrace rooms with giant private balconies, 11 suites and one Presidential Suite. 

Despite this, it somehow manages to have a boutique feel and the hotel has been regularly rated No. 1 in Melbourne by TripAdvisor

There is an award-winning spa, swimming pool, business centre, fitness studio and all the other luxuries you'd expect of a hotel of the Langham's standing. 

Try to book into a room with access to the Langham Club Lounge on the 24th floor. It serves a deluxe continental breakfast, all-day tea, coffee and pastries as well as traditional afternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks with hors d’oeuvres. 

To be fair, The Langham is not bargain basement cheap, although you can get advance purchase room deals for around $250 a night, which is more than fair. 

But a glass of (very good Chablis) in Aria Bar set me back $19, albeit accompanied by some fresh and tasty nibbles, while the aforementioned club sandwich was $27 plus delivery charge.

Complaints are hard to think of other than that many of the power points are so close to the floor as to be completely useless and you need a science degree to work out how to switch the lights on and off in the room. Oh, and my promised morning paper never arrived.

Everything else was pretty much hunky dory, however, and I slept brilliantly. It takes a lot to impress me, but consider me impressed.  

The Langham, Melbourne,  1 Southgate Ave, Southbank, Melbourne 3006
03 8696 8888.

# The writer was a guest of the Langham, Melbourne 

Sunday 20 September 2015

Effervescence: A sparkling Tasmanian affair returns in 2015

The inaugural Effervescence sparkling wine festival was such a success last year that it will return bigger and better than ever in November.

Effervescence Tasmania 2015 will again celebrate Tasmania’s emergence as a producer of some of the world’s best sparkling wine – and this time around one of the world's leading chefs will be part of the celebrations.

Tetsuya Wakuda, of Sydney and Singapore fame and a great promoter of Tasmanian produce, will be guest chef for the official welcome dinner on Friday, November 13.

He will also join some of the country's best sparkling winemakers over the weekend and work with some of Tasmania’s best seafood and cheese producers.

As was the case last year (when over 700 people attended), the sparkling producers featured at Effervescence Tasmania are by invitation only. 

Josef Chromy Wines at Relbia will once again be the venue and star winemakers including Dr Andrew Pirie (Apogee), Ed Carr (House Of Arras), Louisa Rose (Jansz) and Loic Le Calvez (Clover Hill) will be in attendance along with Bruny Island Cheese and Huon Aquaculture, which will showcase its salmon caviar and salmon sashimi.

DJ Damien Goundrie will return for the Bubbles and Beats party.

New to Effervescence in 2015 is the “Go South” event scheduled for Sunday, November 15. For those heading to Hobart and wanting to continue the celebrations, Frogmore Creek, Moorilla and Stefano Lubiana Wines will offer in-depth tasting experiences.

Guests will visit each winery, enjoy a tasting hosted by the winemakers followed by a sparkling lunch. 

‘We saw the opportunity for the South to host an event that showcases our brands in a unique way," says Amber Kemp of Stefano Lubiana. 

"This is certainly the first time a sparkling tour has been designed where all the winemakers are on hand to showcase their wine and host an in-depth tasting experience."

The first stop is Frogmore Creek in the Coal River Valley where guests will meet senior winemaker Alain Rousseau; followed by a tasting and visit to Moorilla at Mona with winermaker Conor van der Reest and then off to Stefano Lubiana in the Derwent Valley to meet with owner and producer Steve Lubiana. 

Daniel McMahon of Moorilla, who will co-host the tour, says ‘This is the first time an event of this nature has been presented. It was an easy decision to do it as with Frogmore Creek and Stefano Lubiana as we all represent the highest quality in southern Tasmanian sparkling and have a long history in making effervescent wines’.

For information on dinners, breakfasts, public tastings and master classes, see:

Saturday 19 September 2015

Harvest time in Sauternes and the weather is glorious

There can be no better time to visit a wine region than in the early days of harvest.

We are blessed to find ourselves at Chateau Guiraud, a 1er Grand Cru Classe Sauternes property in the 1855 classification, in the early days of harvest.

Guiraud, which dates back to the 15th century, is one of the largest estates in Sauternes, with over 100 hectares under vine to semillon, sauvignon blanc and a tiny amount of sauvignon gris.

The car park is full of rough and ready vehicles owned by the itinerant workers starting to pick the grapes; fruit for the estate's dry table wine now and for the luscious dessert wines for which Guiraud is famous later.

Guiraud is rare in being one of only a handful of Bordeaux chateaux to be certified organic (since 2011) and it is one of a growing number to welcome visitors.

Bordeaux may have been late to embrace wine tourism but Guiraud makes tourists welcome in English, including a group from our river cruise on the Scenic Diamond.

Even though fruit is being processed in the winery we are able to look around, visit the cellars, stroll through the vines and enjoy a tasting of both the second wine, the lighter-style 2012 Petit Guiraud and the 2008 estate wine.

Wines from Guiraud, owned by a high-flying consortium, generally need several years to reach their peak and generally see 50% new oak. The 08, at €60 a bottle, is luscious but finely boned and drinking magnificently.

Chateau Guiraud, 33210, Sauternes, France. +33 5 56 76 61 01. Visits with tastings €10 from 9am-noon and 2pm-5pm.

Friday 18 September 2015

How a family winery has thrived over four decades in the Clare Valley

When Andrew and Jane Mitchell started making wine in the Clare Valley, South Australia, 40 years ago there were only a handful of vignerons in the region.

The Clare was remote and largely unloved by wine consumers.

When I caught up with them last month, they looked back on just how much has changed over four decades in the business.

Today they have 75 hectares under vine, make around 30,000 cases a year and export globally.

Two of the nicest people in the wine business, the Mitchells have four vineyard sites ranging in altitude from 300-450 metres above sea level.

They are a real family business with all three of their now adult children having returned home from various adventures to join the growing family concern.

Their vines range from five to 55 years of age and there is a focus on riesling, semillon, shiraz, grenache and cabernet sauvignon.

All the Mitchell wines, which are very reasonably priced, are “dry-grown, hand-picked, hand-made and estate-bottled”.

The estate range is complemented by the premium McNicol range of wines that are released as mature bottles but will improve with further cellaring.

After four decades, the Mitchells retain an admirable enthusiasm for wine, and a passion for quality.

And while they do not advertise it, or seek accreditation, the Mitchells follow organic principles in both their vineyards and winery.

“Basically we are farming the way my father used to farm, long before anyone made a fuss about organics,” Andrew Mitchell said.

It is a Mitchell philosophy to only release wines when they are ready.

Thus the current release Watervale Riesling, an elegant, textural wine, is from 2014, the slurpable Grenache Mataro from 2011, the perennially popular Peppertree Shiraz from 2012 and the Sevenhill Cabernet Sauvignon from 2008.

All retail for under $30, which makes them outstanding value.

For details see

If it is Sunday it must be market day

As is the case in most French cities, downtown Bordeaux can be a very sleepy place on a Sunday. Many of the shops are shuttered and several of the leading cafes and restaurants are closed, even in peak tourist season.

Fortunately there is no shortage of things to do, with two very different markets among the major attractions.  

The Marche de Quais, a gourmet producers' market, is held along the riverside Quai de Chartrons, just down the road from the central Place de Quinconces. 

It offers a feast for the senses; with various aromas attracting patrons to stalls selling everything from artisan breads, pastries and cakes to cooked chickens, paella and other hot delights. 

Farmers from around rhe region sell their cheeses, fruits and vegetables and locals flock to buy fresh seafood (half the price of that in Australia), along with their red meat for the week and local beers, wines and ciders. 

It is held every Sunday and there are generally over 60 stall holders.

The whole scene is a hive of activity with many patrons sampling fresh oysters from nearby waters along with a glass of Bordeaux Blanc, or maybe a plump fresh fig. 

A very different, but even more bustling market, is held on Sunday's in the square in the shadows of the St Michel basilica in the old city.

The Marche de Puces, or flea market, sees dealers and enthusiasts selling all manner of bric a brac, ranging from jewellery and used clothing to artworks, second-hand bicycles, cutlery, crockery and immense amounts of rubbish that no one in their right minds would want.

Sit down at a sidewalk cafe and watch the French in their natural environment.

# The writer is a guest of Scenic Tours on board the river cruising ship Scenic Diamond. 

Etihad Airways and partner airline Virgin Australia offer daily one-stop flights from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to 20 destinations in Europe, via Abu Dhabi. For bookings visit or call 1300 532 215.

So much for all the confected outrage over Bali

Remember all the talk about how Australians (and holidaymakers from other nations) would boycott visiting Bali?
The confected outrage, particularly strong on social media and in the tabloids earlier this year, followed the death penalty being imposed on two convicted Australian drug smugglers, who were shot by a firing squad. 
Villa Sungai in Bali is popular with Aussies
Australians would be disgusted, we were told, never to return to the holiday island. Travel editors declined to run stories on Bali. 

But the indignation was, predictably, short-lived. 
This week we were told that Qantas will resume flying to Bali later this year to tap into the premium travel market for holidaymakers.
Qantas Boeing 737s will run between Sydney and Denpasar four times a week from December 4 to January 29, 2016, supplementing Jetstar's already strong schedule. 
Qantas is selling the flights as a "full service, premium travel option direct to Bali" with inclusions of checked baggage, in-flight entertainment and food and drinks as key differentiators against the cheaper Jetstar fares - and there will also be business class seats. 
Tickets are now on sale, with business class return fares from $1,933 and economy from $733.
"We know how attractive Bali is as a holiday destination, so through efficient use of our aircraft, we’ve unlocked more domestic Boeing 737 flying time," said Qantas International CEO Gareth Evans.
"It means we can give customers more choice and cater for the spikes in demand we see over the summer peak." 
Luna2 is a popular Bali destination
Jetstar, meanwhile, is offering $89 one-way tickets between Darwin and Denpasar as a special this week. No doubt those tickets will be snapped up in no time. 

So it appears not that many Australians care (if they ever did) that Indonesian president Joko Widodo has said there will be no clemency for more than 60 people convicted of drug offences still on death row in Indonesia. 
The fact is that Australians like holidaying in Bali - it is warm, cheap and welcoming. And you should never back against self interest no matter how much the media tries to stir up a storm.

Sunday 13 September 2015

Exploring the intricacies of Cognac

There can be few towns anywhere in the world with a population of under 20,000 people that have such recognition as Cognac.

This pretty little town on the Charente River in south-west France is synonymous with the grape brandy that bears its name. 

Made from ugni blanc (trebbiano), folle blanche and colombard, Cognac can only be made in the region.

The big guns; Hennessy, Martell, Remy Martin, Otard and others, are all based in the town, with Courvoisier 15 kilometres away in Jarnac. 

Production is divided into six zones with Grand Champage and Petite Champage (nothing to do with the sparkling wine) producing the finest fruit.

As part of our tour on the Scenic Diamond we visited Remy Martin, the third-largest producer, for a tour and tasting that includes fascinating talks on the grape growing, distilling, blending, maturation and storage; along with the surprisingly numerous styles. 

The tour is conducted on a "petit train" - such is the size of the Remy Martin facility, which contains no fewer than 29 massive storage facilities, each holding 6000 barrels. 

Founded 291 years ago, Remy Martin is one of the industry stalwarts and hosts fascinating food-matched tours for visitors. It is noteworthy for aging its products for between 10 and 30+ years; far longer than the industry average. 

The company's flagship Louis XIII is one of the world's most expensive cognacs, but the company sells around two million cases a year across all its brands. 

# The writer is a guest on board the Scenic Diamond's 11-day Bordeaux river cruise. See 

Etihad Airways and partner airline Virgin Australia offer daily one-stop flights from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to 20 destinations in Europe, via Abu Dhabi. For bookings visit or call 1300 532 215.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Spectacular chateaux of Bordeaux

The many chateaux of Bordeaux are both spectacular and diverse - in addition to producing some of the finest wines in the world. 

Here are just some of the beauties we enjoyed today: thanks to Scenic Tours and My Webspot. 

    Chateau Cos d'Estournel

   Chateau Lafite Rothschild 

   Chateau Gruaud-Larose 

   Chateau Pichon Longueville