Book, stay, enjoy. That's

Saturday 28 May 2016

Cork producers finally admit they had a problem

There is nothing more disappointing than opening a treasured bottle of wine that has been maturing in your cellar and finding it has been destroyed by a dodgy cork.

Corks are, quite simply, a horrible closure for wine. In addition to TCA, which makes a wine taste mouldy and undrinkable, corks can cause oxidation and myriad other problems.

Cork producers, usually Portuguese, have long denied any problems with corks - which is pretty laughable. Now, amazing, a leading cork producer has admitted to problems and claimed it has discovered a solution.

Amorim announced that it has "achieved a major technological breakthrough to become the world’s first cork producer to deliver natural cork stoppers to winemakers with a non-detectable TCA guarantee".

Known as NDtech, the "cutting-edge technology" is spruiked as "greatly enhancing" Amorim’s quality control measures by screening individual cork stoppers on the production line to eliminate the risk of corks contaminated with 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) reaching winemakers.

“Until now, no cork producer has been able to guarantee a quality control system for natural cork stoppers that screens corks individually,” said Amorim’s research and development director Dr Miguel Cabral.

“We have been working to achieve this goal for several years. Now we can examine an individual cork using sophisticated gas chromatography in just seconds, making the technology practical on a major industrial scale.”

So, if the claims are true, corks will finally do the job for which they are designed.

I can hardly restrain my excitement.

The development of the "super-fast" NDtech follows a five-year €10 million research and development investment by Amorim and a partnership with a British company specialising in gas chromatography.

That's a lot of money to spend on a problem that Amorim and other cork producers had long said did not exist.

Here is the altogether more technically knowledgeable and erudite Huon Hooke on the same topic:

Friday 27 May 2016

Why South Africa is a great destination for wine lovers

There are few wine producing countries that offer as much diversity as South Africa; where the Cape is home to no fewer than 18 official wine routes, and two brandy routes, which are regarded as being among the most scenic in the world.

From the suburbs of Cape Town to rural regions, the Cape is home to many historic wine estates that have histories over a hundred years or more.

Groot Constantia wine estate (above), just a short drive from downtown Cape Town, dates back to 1865 and is South Africa's oldest wine estate.

South Africa's winelands stretch from Cape Overberg in the south-western Cape, through the Little Karoo and the West Coast into the adjacent province of the Northern Cape.

There are also smaller wine farms in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and even Gauteng. The Route 62 wine route in the Cape is said to be the world's longest wine route.

Many Cape wine estates are characterised by classic Cape Dutch-style buildings with picturesque mountains as a backdrop. South Africa is seen as a world leader in wine tourism with many of the cellars offering additional attractions, including world-class restaurants, museums and art galleries.

There is also a distinct European influence in a number of regions, due to the arrival of French Huguenot, Dutch and German settlers during the 18th century.

Spier Wine Estate (below) has one of the Cape's the oldest wine cellars, built in 1767. The estate continues to produce world-class wines to this day – and offers the chance of tours on Segway machines.

The Stellenbosch Wine Route is South Africa's oldest and was founded in 1971. 

Nearby Paarl, the third-oldest town in South Africa, is home to Nederburg Wine Estate, as well as numerous other premier brands, while The Franschhoek Wine Valley is also famous for its food and is acknowledged as the ‘gourmet capital of South Africa'.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Whisky Live hits Hobart hotspot for the first time

Tasmania has become something of a whisky hotspot in recent years; with distillers and whisky bars popping up all over the state. 

No wonder, then, that Whisky Live is set to visit the Apple Isle for the first time in July. 

Whisky aficionados, and even fans who have yet to discover all the nuances surrounding whisky and whiskey, can look forward to an interesting experience at Whisky Live in Hobart on July 30.

Whisky Live will be held at the Grand Chancellor Hotel with two different sessions available: 1-4.30pm and 6-9.30pm.

Whisky Live events have been held throughout the world, but this is the first time the event has been in Hobart, organiser Ken Bromfield said. 

“The purpose of Whisky Live is to invite those new and old to the golden spirit to taste the range of whiskies and hopefully discover something they love,” he said. 

“We’ve set up Whisky Live so whisky lovers can move around the event to speak with the brand representatives and learn all about the whisky’s origin and production, while tasting and getting to know whisky first hand.” 

The event showcases high-quality Tasmanian, Australian and international whiskies and brands already committed to Whisky Live Hobart include Scottish producers Glenfiddich; Aberlour; Glenrothes, Glenlivet and peated whiskies including Bowmore, Laphroaig, Ardmore, Talisker and Finlaggan.

Others will include Tipperary Single Malt and Coole Swan, a Whiskey Chocolate Cream from Ireland, Paul John Whisky from India and Tasmanian distilleries Sullivans Cove, Lark, Overeem and Hellyers Road.

“Food is served during the event, so Whisky Live is the perfect place to spend a chilly winter’s afternoon or evening in Hobart,” Bromfield said. “Those who already know they have a taste for fine whiskies will love the Rare & Old Whisky Bar."

Tickets for Whisky Live are $99, which includes the whiskies for sampling, an assortment of food to graze on while tasting, a whisky glass to keep and a whisky tasting guide with notes, photos and flavour profiles. The Rare & Old Bar is an optional extra.

Tickets are available online at:

Somewhere stylish and new to stay in Sydney

Looks nice doesn't it? This is where I am laying my head tonight; the new Primus Hotel Sydney. 

It is billed as "one of Australia’s most exquisite examples of Art Deco architecture and interior design". 

There are 172 guest rooms and suites, a rooftop pool and bar, adjoining restaurant and a very impressive presidential suite (I'm told). 

Primus Hotel Sydney opened quietly late in 2015 but is now in full swing. 

The downtown property is at 339 Pitt Street; formerly The Sydney Water Board headquarters.  

Daniel Muhor, the hotel general manager, says: “For two years, hand-picked master craftsmen from around the world meticulously restored the former Sydney Water Board office’s elaborate and intricate finishes to their original glory. With a balanced blend of tradition and contemporary touches; Primus Hotel Sydney is now a timeless haven of international five-star standards and seamless personal service." 

Yada, yada, yada. Hotelspeak at its finest. 

What is good news for would-be guests is the hotel's central location; moments away from Town Hall, Hyde Park, Pitt Street Mall and fast-emerging gourmet destination Koreatown.

The lobby is impressive with towering ceilings and white marble floor and the lobby is part of a central sanctum with reception and concierge, cocktail bar and a seating area with plush velvet sofas and leather armchairs. 

It is, in many ways, reminiscent of the grand hotels of Central Europe (except for the accents). 

Each of the rooms and suites across six levels offers stylish furnishings with complimentary wifi, 24-hour in-room dining, a Nespresso coffee machine, flat-screen televisions and amenities by organic Australian skin care brand, Appelles.

The Primus Hotel Sydney's dining options include ‘The Wilmot’, a 120-seater restaurant with chef Chef Ryan Hong manning the pans. Think dishes likes Wilmot’s seasonal menu, with stand out delicacies including Moreton Bay bug served with crushed peanut, edamame, caramelised watermelon and lime, or lamb loin with shoulder croquet, sweetbread and pearl barley.

The 20-metre rooftop lap pool is a boon for fitness fanatics and the opening rate of $290 per night until June 30 seems more than reasonable. 

Primus Hotel Sydney, 339 Pitt Street, Sydney, 2000.
(02) 8027 8000.

Monday 23 May 2016

The best of Tasmania heads for Sydney and Melbourne

Tasmania's cool-climate wines just keep growing in popularity - and visibility - and while many of the smaller producers sell all they make on the island there is still lots to discover. 

If you don't have the time to fly down and explore the Apple Isle, many of the best winemakers in the state will be heading to Sydney and Melbourne later this year; bringing a little taste of Tasmania to you. 

Presented by Wine Tasmania, with support from Bottle Shop Concepts, VIN Diemen will return to Melbourne and Sydney (but not Brisbane) in August. 

Around 1,000 food and wine lovers visited the events in 2015, tasting tipples from Josef Chromy, Stefano Lubiana, Holm Oak, Jansz, Willie Smith Cider and Lark Distillery. 

The organisers are promising this year will be even bigger with a hit parade of Tasmania’s celebrated wines, including sparkling, riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and more, all on taste alongside Tassie gourmet goodies. 

Like last year, the event will include more than just the strong wine line-up. VIN Diemen will also be bringing a taste of the island’s other beverages such as cider, and its luxury produce for festival-goers to feast upon, and outstanding tourism offerings.

The full line-up of producers will be announced in the coming weeks, and tickets will go on sale in June.

The dates are: 

Melbourne: Sunday, August 21, 11am-5pm: Meat Market, 5 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne. $40 (early bird)/$50 (general sale), includes take-home premium wine glass. 
Sydney: Saturday, August 27, 11am-5pm: Cell Block Theatre at the National Art School, Forbes Street, Darlinghurst. $40 (early bird)/$50 (general sale). 

Saturday 21 May 2016

Brimoncourt; a sparkling new name in Champagne

Less than 12 months ago a human whirlwind by the name of Hugues Villemain, a charming, urbane Frenchman, landed in Australia and started to contact wine industry and media folk.

Villemain said he was representing a new Champagne house, Brimoncourt, that was set to take the wine world by storm.

What chutzpah! In a country where big brands like Moet et Chandon, Bollinger and Veuve Clicquot dominate, what chance was there for a new Champagne house, a negociant no less, with zero pedigree? 

Well in the ensuing months Villemain has established himself as something of marketing wizard; Brimoncourt has established a firm footprint in the Australian market and can be found on lists from Catalina Rose Bay in Sydney, Punch Lane in Melbourne, The Lake House at Daylesford, Print Hall and Rockpool Bat & Grill in Perth and Willing Brothers in Hobart.

Brimoncourt has also carved out a distribution deal with Steve Naughton of Pinot Now and has gained an immense number of column inches due to Villemain's charm and tenacity.

The secret? Well, the wines are good; very good. The branding is excellent and it seems the market was ready for a Champagne that proclaimed itself "an everyday luxury".

So what, exactly, is Champagne Brimoncourt?

A noted label until the 1950s, it was re-born in Aÿ, in the Marne, next door to Bollinger, in 2008 by the colourful Alexandre Cornot, a former lawyer, naval officer, entrepreneur and New York art dealer, who is himself a Champenoise.

While plans to buy vineyards are in train, Brimoncourt currently sources all its fruit from growers.

It is based in 18th- and 19th-century buildings and gardens (some a former print works), that were partially constructed by the Eiffel Company and are classified as part of the industrial heritage of the region.

The first Brimoncourt Champagne was only launched in late 2013 (and in 2015 in Australia) - and already Cornot's audacious plan to upset the Champagne status quo appears to be working.

There are currently four non-vintage cuvées in the Brimoncourt range; table. The Brut Régence NV (fresh and vibrant) was the forerunner, followed by the NV Rosé and the Blanc de Blanc (the star of the show with its vivacious high-energy minerality). An NV Extra Brut is the most recent arrival on the scene.

The labels are artistic and different and each wine comes in its own cardboard box. The Brut Regence sports a giraffe in a military uniform; because the giraffe is the only animal that never drinks alone.

Breaking into the insular world of Champagne? So far, so good.

Friday 20 May 2016

US hotels find yet another way to scam customers

I was idly browsing through the website of a hotel in the United States that I was vaguely considering as a possible "treat" destination. 

Then I came across a couple of lines that made me vow to look elsewhere for a place to lay my head.

This is a city hotel, a few blocks back from the beach, but it wants to nickel and dime its customers by imposing a "resort fee" - a growing trend. 

The hotel says it is "proud to announce the inclusion of the following amenities for all our guests at a nominal charge of $21 per night: a welcome glass of prosecco upon arrival, daily bike rentals, morning selection of coffee and tea, seasonal wellness programs, seasonal entertainment and seasonal pool offerings".

So these inhospitable folk in the hospitality industry want you to pay a non-negotiable fee for a "welcome" drink you may, or may not, want. And you pay $21 a night even though you only get the drink once. And they charge you for a cup of tea. Whether you want it, or not.

If, however, you are a member of the "loyalty" scheme to which this august hotel belongs "you will receive 50% off the daily guest amenity fee, an exclusive offer for members only".

As this hotel already charges in excess of $540 (that's US, by the way) a night for a "city view" room, you'd think it could afford to build "resort charges" into its already hefty rack rates (to which you can add taxes and endless tips). 

Anyway Viceroy Santa Monica, you and all others with similar rip-off policies can go rot. I'd rather stay in a Super 8 Motel than pay your "fees". 

Thursday 19 May 2016

The remarkable story of Best's Great Western and 150 years of winemaking

While other wineries are making a fuss about their 20th and 30th birthdays, Best's Great Western is celebrating a real milestone: 150 years of wine production. 

Over those 150 years, Best's has been owned by just two families, including the Thomsons for the last 96 years.

Best's held a tasting of some older vintages at Jimmy Watson's in Melbourne to celebrate on Wednesday - and also launch a book on the winery's history.

The Best's story goes back to April 18, 1866, when local butcher Henry Best was given permission to clear the land near Concongella Creek in western Victoria.
The site boasts some of the oldest vines in Australia because Best planted just about very variety he was able to lay his hands on at the time.
There are still 38 grape varieties in the what's known as the Nursery Block - including what are believed to be the oldest pinot noir vines in the world and a few that are unknown anywhere else.

The Thomsons family has run Best's since 1920, when Best sold up, and now produces around 20,000 cases a year. 
Best's Great Western has had many obstacles over the years - water is always an issue, as is the tyranny of distance. 
"You've got to remember these vines were planted pre-phylloxera [a pest that wiped out many vines in Europe in the 1800s] and it's likely we have vines here that don't exist anywhere in the world," says Viv Thomson. 
Being in remote western Victoria presents challenges. 
“We just don't have the population mass around us to sell our wines too, which means we just have to work that much harder,” says Viv. 

“We are trying to entice more visitors to the Grampians and Great Western - and the word is slowly getting out about the quality that people can find here; but we have to spend more time taking our wines out of the region and getting them tasted in the major capital cities.”

Viv, who has worked 55 vintages, and his wife Chris, still live in an old homestead adjacent to the winery, cellar door, and vines - and many of older buildings on site also date back 150 years.

“We like to think that the region is a well-kept secret,” Viv Thomson says. “We'd love that to change but it is one of the realities of farming in a country area.”

Several former Best's winemakers, including Adam Wadewitz of Shaw+Smith and Hamish Seabrook from Kirrihill, attended Wednesday's tasting and all told stories of the Thomson family with great affection. 

Viv Thomson says he regards his winemakers as "extended family". 

Among the star wines of the day were a pair of rieslings; the new 2015 Foudre Ferment Riesling, floral and delightfully citrusy, and the 1974 Great Western Rhine Riesling, made by Viv Thomson that still has life 40 years on.

Thomson related that Best's rieslings always retain some residual sugar "to add interest and texture".

Star reds included the 1967 Bin 0 Claret, almost 50 years old but still with depth and length; the 1981 Bin 0 Hermitage, made by the late Trevor Mast and a wine of impeccable pedigree and quality, and the spectacularly intense 2001 Bin 0 Shiraz.

Current winemaker Justin Purser, vastly experienced in France, also unveiled three new wines made in tiny quantities to mark the 150th birthday: the 2014 PSV Pinot Noir, 2013 Concongella 1868 Vines, a blend of pinot meunier, shiraz and dolcetto, and the 2014 Sparky's Block Shiraz.

All are sealed under cork and wax, will cost $150 a bottle and are probably sold out by the time you read this. They are available only at the Best's cellar door or online. 


Tuesday 17 May 2016

Virgin introduces new comforts for economy passengers

Like most people, I don't have the cash to fly business class on a regular basis. Occasionally I might use points to upgrade, or, even more occasionally, get moved forward because of my frequent flyer status. 

Most of the time, however, it is the back of the bus and that's why I was delighted by the news that Virgin Australia has announced a new product, Economy Space +, which is designed to make economy travel from Australia to the United States and Middle East more comfortable and seamless.
On sale from today, Economy Space + will be available for flights commencing August 30 and will cost from between $135 and $165 one way when selecting your seat online or through a travel agent.

Located in a dedicated cabin of five rows directly behind premium economy and the exit rows of the main cabin on Virgin Australia's Boeing 777-300ER fleet, Economy Space + will feature extra leg room, check-in at a premium counter (no long queues) and pre-boarding, a dedicated overhead locker and crew members throughout the flight; guaranteed first meal choice and premium noise-cancelling headsets.

It's the extra leg room that seals the deal for me. Anyone familiar with long-haul travel will be aware of how precious a couple of extra inches can be. 

Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell said: “We are excited to be providing more choice and comfort for passengers travelling in the main cabin.
“Coupled with Virgin Australia's award-winning service, we believe Economy Space + will be very popular with a range of travellers.
“Economy Space + enables you to speed through the airport and enjoy service from dedicated crew members throughout the flight, providing great value for guests travelling to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi.” 

The announcements coincided with the unveiling of a raft of other improvements to business and premium cabins on the same routes.

Virgin Australia flies daily from Sydney and Brisbane to Los Angeles, and three times per week from Sydney to Abu Dhabi. 

Monday 16 May 2016

Sad news as Marque prepares to close its doors

When we returned to Sydney from Europe in 2001, Marque had already been open for a couple of years and built a formidable reputation.

Chef Mark Best's food was always innovative, creative and challenging in an essentially unprepossessing space in Surry Hills. Marque 
Uberchef Mark Best
became a fixture in the top 50 restaurants in the world list.  

Our first experience was not a totally happy one; as I told the chef in an email. We were invited back and were instant converts the second time around. 

Marque became our special occasion favourite in Sydney; a place to celebrate a birthday or a special anniversary. 

We were never regulars (the prices made that an impossibility), but it was somewhere we always recommended to visiting friends with confidence. We never got a negative report.

Years later, I interviewed Mark Best for the Sun-Herald; he was charming and irreverent and as intriguing as his food.

I was a little stunned this morning when an email arrived announcing the Marque was closing after 17 years. I now live in Tasmania and haven't visited in a while, but somehow always imagined there would be other opportunities, Now, of course, there won't be. 

Here is an edited version of Mark Best's explanation (and, of course, he is enjoying great success with Pei Modern in both Sydney and Melbourne). 

"Why close Marque now? Seventeen years is enough, I think. I like the craft of restaurants and I like the art of it, and I like the customers. (Generally). 

"But when you’ve spent most of that time pushing against current trends, it’s tiring. I’ve come to the point where I’m happy to move on. I’m 50 years old and I’ve got a lot left to achieve and I don’t want to repeat myself. I can honestly say that looking back over 17 years at Marque, I’ve stuck to my guns.

"My approach at Marque has never been a good business model, certainly. I’ve said that 50 per cent of the diners think I’m a genius and 50 per cent think I’m an idiot, and I think that’s a good place to be, but it’s a bit of a reductive position. 

"But, then again, I enjoy that space. I enjoy my version of what Australian food is, and I don’t like to be defined by anyone or pushed into corners. I like to do my own thing. It’s a hard thing to measure until you can look back on your body of work, but when I look back now on a body of unique dishes, I’m proud of them. They’re mine. They hold up.

"I’m proud of our accomplishments, of being Restaurant of the Year, of being part of the World’s 50 Best restaurants – meeting so many like-minded, idealistic people from around the world was very comforting. Being able to travel the world cooking has been enormously gratifying, too." 

Best says Marque was meant to be a much simpler place than it was. 

"I got ahead of myself with the design of the place," he said. "I had a bit too much money and the architect was a little bit too clever and then suddenly I had to retrofit a menu to fit the design of the restaurant.

"I’m proud of our accomplishments, of being Restaurant of the Year, of being part of the World’s 50 Best restaurants – meeting so many like-minded, idealistic people from around the world was very comforting. Being able to travel the world cooking has been enormously gratifying, too."

Marque was also an enormously gratifying place at which to eat and drink. Thanks for the memories. 

Marque’s last service will be an alumni dinner on Thursday 30 June. Marque, 4/5 355 Crown St, Surry Hills, NSW.  (02) 9332 2225.

Saturday 14 May 2016

What do you get when cider and beer producers combine?

What do you get when a cider producer gets together with a boutique brewer? You get Tasmania's answer to the many and varied styles of fruit beers famous in Belgium. 

Innovative cider producer Willie Smith’s has joined forces with Moo Brew to create a unique, limited-release Apple Saison beer to celebrate the 2016 apple harvest in Tasmania, the apple isle.

The new brew is the latest in a list of trail-blazing beverages being produced by Willie Smith's, following a collaboration with Lark Whisky and its first drop of calvados.

Co-owner Sam Reid said the team at Willie Smith's was keen to collaborate with other successful Tasmanian brands to create new and exciting products.

"This time, we are collaborating with our friends at Moo Brew on a beer using our apple juice from new season featuring Royal Gala apples grown on the Smith family farm in the Huon Valley," Reid said.

Willie Smith's head cider maker, Dr Tim Jones, said the end result was cloudy, full bodied, dry and funky with balanced apple notes coming through on the nose and palate.

``We decided to choose a Belgian saison as they are generally regarded as `Farmhouse Style' beers, which is in line with the style of our ciders which are all produced on the farm at Grove in the Huon Valley.

‘This is the first time that we have seen a brewer and a cider maker collaborate on a product in Tasmania."

Head brewer from Moo Brew, Dave Macgill, said he was excited to work with the team at Willie Smith’s to develop the beer, 

"[MONA and Moo Brew owner] David Walsh doesn’t usually drink cider but he loves his Belgian beers and so we’re hoping he likes this combo!" said Macgill. 

Just 40 kegs of the Apple Saison have been produced and will be available at MONA Museum, the home of Moo Brew, and The Apple Shed, the home of Willie Smith’s. And, soon, nationally. A first. 

Friday 13 May 2016

How hard can it be to be hospitable?

I checked into a motel in Hobart earlier this week - just for one night as I was attending a concert.

I'd never stayed before so had no expectations, positive or other, except for the fact that the hotel seemed to have trouble processing my credit card when I booked. Which was tiresome.

The location was good, the room was comfortable, the TV and the free wifi worked and I was happy with what I paid, but I probably won't be going back to that motel - and I certainly won't be recommending it on my blog. The reason? The attitude of the woman on reception. 

She was vacuuming the lobby when I checked in at 5pm - and seemed a little miffed to be interrupted. 

She gabbled through some complicated instructions about where I should park my car, but otherwise showed zero interest in her "guest". As I was a little wind-blown I felt that she was looking down on me, not considering me worthy of staying in her establishment. As for a smile; forget it.

How hard is it for people in the hospitality industry to be a little hospitable? A welcoming smile, a friendly word can make a lot of difference to a guest's experience.

I have no idea whether this woman was an owner or an employee. If it is the former I guess she is bored with being an hotelier. If it is the latter then she should probably look for a career in another field.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Tasmanians set to show off some of their star red wines

Tasmanian wineries are coming together later this month to show off their red wines and to celebrate the end of a bumper 2016 vintage. 

The Red Wine Weekend in Hobart on May 21-22 will showcase 55 red wines from over 25 vineyards from around the state - including some star pinot noirs.

The Red Wine Weekend uses a different format to most consumer tastings with the wines arranged by vintage, variety and style rather than by label or brand. 

The organisers, Wine South, believe this facilitates a seamless exploration of the wine varieties and styles, and enables a complete appreciation of the range of wines available within each particular category.
"It is our common focus on quality which enables such a wide range of individuals to come together and make an event like this to really work," the Wine South Committee said in a statement. 

"It is also what sets Tasmanian wine apart from the plethora of commercial wines so widely available. Some of our members are from some of Tasmania’s smallest vineyards and many of the wines we will be showing will never even be seen on a bottle shop shelf; this really is a unique opportunity taste some beautiful Tasmanian wines and speak to their makers." 

The Red Wine Weekend will be held at Princes Wharf No.1 from noon on both days. 

Tickets are $25 online or $30 at the door and the entry fee includes a crystal Plumm glass valued at $24.95, comprehensive tasting notes and entry into the lucky door prize of a dozen Tasmanian wines.

Tickets are available at 

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Buderim Ginger moves into the mixed drinks arena

Over seven decades, Buderim Ginger has grown from a small farming community and ginger growers' co-operative in Queensland to one of the world’s largest suppliers of ginger. 
Now Buderim Ginger has launched its own range of pre-mixed alcoholic ginger beer drinks, featuring Ginger Beer & Vodka and Ginger Beer & Spiced Rum.

Served in slimline 250ml cans, the two newly-launched beverages are designed to be chilled, opened and drunk, either straight from the can, or poured over ice with a twist of lemon. 
The Ginger Beer & Vodka drink is known as a 'Moscow Mule', while the Ginger Beer & Spiced Rum combination is also called a ‘Dark and Stormy’. I much preferred the tangy vodka blend, finding the rum blend too sweet. But it will doubtless have its fans. 

The new pre-mixed drinks can be found in First Choice Liquor and Vintage Cellar stores and follow the successful launch of Buderim Ginger’s non-alcoholic range last summer, including Original Ginger Beer, Ginger Beer & Guarana, Reduced-Sugar Ginger Beer and Ginger Beer & Pear. 
The new alcoholic ginger beer range (both 4.5% alcohol by volume) can be consumed straight from the can, or poured over ice with a twist of lemon.
The new pre-mixed drinks retail for $20.00 per pack of four.
For more information visit:

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Is this Australia's ultimate foodie experience?

If you are a gourmet with money to burn and you don't mind attending an event that uses the wanky word "curated" in its title, MasterCard has this week announced what might be Australia's ultimate foodie experience.

An Appetite for Paradise Curated by Neil Perry launches this July on the private island sanctuary of One&Only Hayman Island - and will be followed later in the year by a similar event at One&Only Emirates Wolgan Valley.

The two culinary escapes will see Neil Perry, Australia’s most-awarded chef, and his team of chefs and sommeliers host exclusive five-course degustation dinners at the luxury locations.

“I’m looking forward to creating some spectacular dishes and I’ll be working with my team to design a special degustation experience with food lovers in mind," Perry says in the publicity blurb.

"Naturally, given the locations, there will be an abundance of fresh seafood on the menu in Hayman Island whilst the native ingredients of the Blue Mountains will inspire the dinner in Wolgan Valley.”

The all-inclusive travel packages will also see guests sipping cocktails and sampling canapés prepared by Perry, as well as treats like a sunset sail around Hayman Island, or a Wolgan Valley safari.

The Hayman Island package from July 15-18 features three nights' twin-share accommodation, dinner hosted by Neil Perry, daily breakfasts, return luxury yacht transfers from the Great Barrier Reef for two, return porterage, three lunches, two dinners, a snorkelling excursion and use of the One&Only Fitness Centre, non-motorised watersports and selected resort activities. Prices start from $4,710 per couple.

The Wolgan Valley deal (November 11-13) features two-night twin-share villa accommodation with private pool, dinner hosted by Neil Perry, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily with a range of drinks, two on-site nature activities per day, a Wildlife and Sundowners Tour, use of the resort’s health and fitness facilities, complimentary in-villa mini bar and porterage service. Prices start from $5,454 for two guests.

The announcement of the gourmet getaways marks the launch of the MasterCard Priceless Cities program in Australia.

In addition to the Perry gourmet weekends, other offers include a complimentary wine cellar tour and priority seating for up to four people at the Perry's Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney.

For more information or to book An Appetite for Paradise curated by Neil Perry visit:

Huge boost for wine tourism as Seppelt reverses controversial closure

When I visited the Grampians region a week or so ago there was much anger in the region that Treasury Wines Estates was going ahead with the closure of the historic Seppelt Great Western cellar door. 

With its historic underground cellars, accommodation and function facilities, the Seppelt facility is one of the major wine tourism drawcards in Western Victoria.

It had been scheduled to close at the end of June - until an out-of-the-blue announcement this morning that Seppelt would remain open. 

Seppelt said in a press release that it "has identified new opportunities to grow its cellar door through local partnerships, and is in discussions with local family business Great Western Enterprises (GWE) to work together on the marketing, management and presentation of the site".

The statement said current employees will be given the opportunity to remain employed at the cellar door, and under the new partnership approach, there are plans for funds raised from tours of Seppelt’s "drives" to contribute to the development and growth of the Great Western township via the Great Western Future Plan.

Adam Carnaby, Seppelt senior winemaker, said the announcement was great news for the Grampians region, and Seppelt. 

“This is something we have been working on for months, so I’m delighted to be able to confirm the news today that the Seppelt Great Western cellar door will remain open,” he said.

Seppelt’s "drives" are a heritage-listed three-kilometre labyrinth of excavated wine-maturation cellars hidden beneath the site. From 1868, out-of-work gold miners began digging the tunnels and continued for over sixty years. 

A key tourist attraction for the region, they are the longest underground cellars in the southern hemisphere and provide a fascinating glimpse into Victorian history. 

Located in Great Western since 1865, Seppelt is one of Australia’s most historic winemakers, producing wines from an exceptional collection of vineyards throughout Victoria. The on-site winery will be mothballed for the immediate future.