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Sunday 31 December 2017

Pocket-sized travel guides hit the target

I always feel sorry for a tourist when I see them wrestling haplessly with 1000-plus pages of a Frommer guide to the United States, or a maybe an all-encompassing guide to Asia.

These big, heavy books are best left in your hotel room (if carried at all). They immediately mark the reader out as being a naive tourist - and make them a likely robbery target. 

Far more handy, and a whole lot lighter, is the series of Pocket Guides from Lonely Planet; about the same size as a mobile telephone and similarly unobtrusive. 

Lonely Planet has just published its first pocket guide to Hobart - and as a Tasmanian resident, I can confirm it contains a lot of useful info (and a good map) in a small package. 

Also newly published are Lonely Planet’s inaugural edition of Pocket Brisbane & the Gold Coast (timely ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games) and the fourth edition of Pocket Melbourne

With features including ‘Top Sights’, ‘Day Planner’, ‘Need To Know’ and ‘The Best Of’, these guidebooks are a very handy travel companion and retail for just $19.99. 

# Travel media company Lonely Planet is the world’s leading guidebook publisher having started in 1973. Visit 

Saturday 30 December 2017

Is this the worst airline performance of the year?

There have been several major airline fails during 2017 - but it is hard to think of one worse than that of Med-View, a Nigerian airline that has left hundreds of passengers stranded in both Lagos and at London Gatwick. 

Passengers were not only left stranded due to "ongoing technical problems" - but have been told the airline is unlikely to resume its service before the new year. 
Hundreds of passengers were stranded in London on December 22 when a Med-View flight was forced to return to Gatwick due to a technical fault.
Hundreds more waiting for the return flight to London on December 24 were stranded in the Nigerian city of Lagos.

Gatwick Airport has since told passengers that Med-View is unlikely to resume flights from London "for the foreseeable future", Travel Mole reports.

Med-View organised two relief flights from Gatwick to Lagos on December 27 but its UK manager Michael Ajigbotosho claimed that a third relief flight was unable to operate due to the unruly behaviour of some passengers, which meant security forces had to intervene.

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said no passenger behaviour prevented Med-View flights from operating from the London airport, but passengers in Lagos are reported to have caused disruption at check-in desks at Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

News reports claimed some passengers marched to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Consumer Protection Directorate yesterday morning to complain about the failure of the airline to airlift them to their destinations as scheduled.

Med-View was previously blacklisted by the European Union. 
Gatwick officials suggested passengers leave the airport and make alternative travel plans or attempt to rebook flights with Med-View. It said only about 10 passengers remained at Gatwick. 
Hilariously, Med-View promotes itself as "Nigeria's most reliable scheduled passenger airline."

Now you can visit China without needing a visa

One of the biggest hassles for Australians, and many other nationalities visiting China, is the need for a visa for even a brief trip.

Good news, then, that the Beijing Municipal Government has announced that, with immediate effect, six points of arrival in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, including the Beijing Capital International Airport (above), will permit foreigners from 53 countries to enjoy visa-free transit for a period of 144 hours (effectively six days) when they have a valid connecting flight ticket for a third country (or region).

This policy will be a strong driver for the tourism and aviation industry throughout the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and Air China will actively facilitate the new visa-free transit policy.

Currently, Air China has over 420 routes of which 101 are international, with 16 regional routes, and connections to 185 cities in 40 countries and regions, covering six continents. The 144-hour visa-free policy through the Beijing, Tianjin, and Shijiazhuang airports will meet the needs of third-country tourism.

Air China will also improve its transit hub capacity at Beijing and optimise a seamless transition for visa-tree passengers. The airport is the busiest in Asia, handling around 95 million passengers each year.

Introducing a 144-hour visa-free transit policy will also increase the number of inbound passengers in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

Air China will also launch special tourism products to meet the needs of incoming passengers.

The list of countries eligible for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region 144-hour transit visa-free policy is: Austria, Belgium, the Czech republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Monaco, Belarus, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Air China is China's only national flag carrier and is a member of the Star Alliance. Its offshoots include Shenzhen Airlines, Macau Airlines, Dalian Airlines, Inner Mongolia Airlines, Beijing Airlines and Air China Cargo).

To learn more, visit Air China at

Friday 29 December 2017

Taste of Tasmania gets it right this time

For several years now, Hobart's once-groundbreaking Taste of Tasmania wine and food festival has been limping along on the waterfront as the Sydney-Hobart fleet glides into town. 

Aldermen Sue Hickey and Ron Christie, particularly, kept telling everyone how good the week-long festival was - and stallholders and visitors generally disagreed. 

Among the recent debacles have been 2015 when organisers Hobart City Council opted for a cashless card system of payments that failed miserably. 

The new payment system came under heavy fire with stallholders claiming major discrepancies with transaction records and visitors of long waits to pay. 

The reaction was so bad a group of stallholders came together to write a scathing open letter expressing their anger.

In 2016, poor weather saw crowds dramatically reduced and complaints that alcohol stalls far outnumbered those of food vendors. 

There was also the long-standing issue of the main Princes Wharf One building being overcrowded and stuffy - and complaints of nowhere to sit. After seven years of regular patronage, I skipped last year but returned on day two this year. 

A gamble by HCC in bringing in new festival director Brooke Webb has paid off big time - with a better ambience, more interesting choices and far more room to move. 

The main hall is lighter and brighter with more fresh air and far less crush - and I also like to colourful parasols decorating the ceilings.

More chairs and seats have been added, the lawns have been opened up to live entertainment (Launceston singer-songwriter Eve Gowen was most impressive today) and the popular smaller-sized tasting plates are back.

The Fromagerie and Providore stalls featuring small producers are also welcome additions.

Now in its 29th year, the Taste is still free - and better than ever, although the new set-up still has to be tested under full weekend conditions. 

Among my favourites on my first visit this time around: the multiple-award-winning nfBream Creek 2016 Riesling, the 2017 Spring Vale Shiraz Rosé and the Goaty Hill 2017 Pinot Gris. 

Dishes worth trying: the sublime smoked mussel pate from Charlotte Brown and Vineyard Seafood Café, lip-smacking mushroom martabak from Festival Martabak and delightfully light crepes from Miam. 

Thumbs down, however, to Flamecake for only serving whole wheels of deliciousness, rather than by the slice and to the lack of buskers. Both issues can be rectified.

# The Taste of Tasmania continues through January 3 and entry is free except for on New Year's Eve.   

Thursday 28 December 2017

TOO LATE: $109 one-way fares Sydney to Manila

UPDATE: Too late. This offer has closed. 

Looking for a budget trip to the Philippines? Get onto the Cebu Pacific website today or tomorrow for some special offers. 

The largest carrier in the Philippines is offering a 48-hour seat sale with one-way flights between Sydney and Manila from just $109. Return trips, from what I can see on the website, start from $357.50. Travel dates must fall from July 1, 2018, to Dec 15, 2018.

The Philippine islands are on my 2018 bucket list - I've never been. 

Savvy travellers can get the lowest possible fares to fly to Manila, just eight hours away from Sydney. And the money saved flying low-cost long haul will leave a little more left to splurge on an island paradise or two in the Philippines. 

From Manila, it’s easy to connect to 36 other Cebu Pacific destinations within the Philippines—the most extensive of all local carriers. 

After landing in Manila, transfers to some of the world’s best islands such as Boracay (below), Cebu and Palawan are easy with connecting flights from the same airport terminal.

Cebu Pacific serves a total of 37 domestic and 25 international destinations, operating an extensive network across Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and the US. 

Its 62-strong fleet is comprised of two Airbus A319, 36 Airbus A320, eight Airbus A330, eight ATR 72-500 and eight ATR 72-600. 

From now to January 31, 2018, Cebu Pacific is operating daily services on its nonstop Sydney-Manila route. See or call (02) 9119 2956. 

New Spanish-accented eatery opens at MONA with added FARTs

Hobart's world-class MONA Museum now has a new tapas bar to join The Source and its wine bar as serious dining options. 

Faro Tapas is named for faro, the Spanish word for a lighthouse, which is the English word for pharos, which is the Greek name of the new wing of the eclectic museum. 

The MONA folk say that Faro "has all the usual stuff you’d expect from a Spanish bar in a museum wing named after a Greek lighthouse: tapas and share plates galore, whipped up by executive chef Vince Trim and his compadres". 

Dishes on offer include squid ink croquettes; fried oyster, chorizo and basil mayo bocadillo; raw shaved vegetables, olive oil, fino, mint ice, manchego, citrus powder and air-dried Wagyu, peas, broad beans, peppers, mint, olive oil toast. 

Another drawcard is the signature pink sangria by the half or full litre, along with black margaritas with bull eyes encased in ice balls, a pig-slicing machine, and 13-metre thirteen-metre-high ceilings.

"It’s barely controlled chaos," says David Walsh, MONA's out-there owner.

Faro features four new works by James Turrell and for a full experience diners can book a FART: MONA's food + art dinner experience, "and another excuse for a confusing/juvenile acronym".

This includes exclusive entry to Turrell’s Unseen Seen and Weight of Darkness throughout the evening. 

The bar is open to museum visitors from 11am–6pm and then for diners from 6pm. FARTs must be booked online with a $25 deposit. 

For details phone (03) 6277 9904. 

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Tasmania turns it on for two months of summer fun

Tasmania's summer season of festivals kicks off today with the start of the Taste of Tasmania wine and food festival on the waterfront - and the simultaneous arrival of the slower Sydney-Hobart yachts.

The Taste of Tasmania
December 28-January 3, 2018

A celebration of the finest Tasmanian food and drink as well as live entertainment and a twilight cinema for kids. The Taste of Tasmania features 70 stallholders from around the state from local restaurateurs to regional and boutique producers. The ticketed Midsummer Night’s Eve party on New Year’s Eve features The Whitlams and Monique Brumby.
More information and tickets available at

Rolex Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race
Until December 31

Constitution Dock welcomes sailors crossing the finish line after 628 gruelling nautical miles from Sydney. One of the world’s toughest ocean races pits sailors against the might of the great Southern Ocean and the wild winds of the Roaring Forties.
More information at

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG)
The Remarkable Tasmanian Devil
Until May 6, 2018

Discover all you need to know about the endangered Tasmanian Devil at TMAG’s summer exhibition. Explore the biology, ecology and behaviour of these fascinating creatures as well as learn more about why the devil has endured while the thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) did not.
More information at

The Falls Music and Arts Festival
December 29-31 

Tasmania's biggest open-air music festival features acts ranging from old favourite Daryl  Braithwaite to newer attractions including Flume, Fleet Foxes, Peking Duk, Liam Gallagher, Run the Jewels and Grinspoon. Tickets cover three nights of free camping on site at Marion Bay.
Tickets on sale now at

Royal Eve Launceston
December 31

Launceston’s lively New Year’s Eve party is on again this year with festivities kicking off at 4pm at Royal Park. There are twilight and midnight fireworks displays, quality Tasmanian food, wine, beer and cider, jumping castles and slides, as well as music from The Wolfe Brothers, Tommy Franklin, The Bad Dad Orchestra, Pete Cornelius Band and Sumner.
Tickets and VIP packages at

Hobart International Tennis
January 7-13, 2018

This is Tasmania’s premier international women’s sporting event and a lead-in tournament for players to fine-tune their preparations ahead of the Australian Open. Star names include defending champion Elise Mertens and former title winners Alize Cornet and Mona Barthel, alongside Canadian Eugenie Bouchard and rising Australian star Jamie Fourlis.
More information at

Cygnet Folk Festival
January 12-14, 2018

The vibrant little town of Cygnet in the pretty Huon Valley loves a party - each year they play host to the Cygnet Folk Festival, Tasmania’s leading celebration of folk and world music, dance, poetry, performance art, food and cultural pursuits. Now in its 36th year, the festival is highly regarded by musicians and festival goers around the world.
Tickets available at

January 12-21, 2018

Tasmania's most eccentric arts and music festival will run for 11 days in Launceston (January 12-14) and Hobart (January 15-22). Expect art installations, world premieres and Australian exclusives, the Mofo lineup also features Canadian post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who will also perform alongside fellow Canadians and contemporary dancers The Holy Body Tattoo while the Violent Femmes will perform alongside the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
One- or three-day passes at

Barnbougle Polo
January 20, 2018

Attracting some of Australia’s best polo players, Barnbougle Polo gets visitors up close to all the excitement and drama. Fashion, entertainment and Tasmanian produce also have their moment in the sun,
Tickets at

Gin-uary Hobart Festival
January 27, 2018 
Gin lovers and learners will enjoy tastings from local distilleries such as McHenry, Southern Wild, Sud Polaire, Forty Spotted, Redlands and The Able Gin Co, alongside complimentary tacos from Taco Taco and Lady Hester gin and plum doughnuts. There’s also a cocktail bar and a keepsake glass to take home.
Tickets are $60 via

Burnie Platypus Festival

January 28, 2018 

This event celebrates the local platypus population and Fernglade Reserve. Highlights include platypus and bird tours, face painting and other children's activities, live music, food and market stalls and wildlife exhibits.
Details at 

February 2-4, 2018

From the best Tasmanian food and wine, beer, cider and spirits, to the quality arts and entertainment program, this three-day outdoor festival is a firm local favourite. Congregating in Launceston’s historic City Park. thousands of visitors enjoy more than 75 stalls, sideline events, cooking demonstrations, the Kids Kingdom and music.
Tickets on sale now at

Koonya Garlic Festival
February 24, 2018
A uniquely Tasmanian food festival that celebrates everything to do with garlic. The heart of the festival is the annual garlic growers competition which is open to professional and amateur growers.There are also free talks by respected horticultural experts, cooking masterclasses, a music program, kids program and artisan garlic products.
More information at

Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships
February 24, 2018

The historic village of Evandale celebrates the Penny Farthing bicycle with a big village fair and racing program. Now in its 34th year, the event attracts competitors and enthusiasts from across Australia and around the world. There’s also a grand parade, vintage car display, kids activities, colonial costumes and lots of delicious food.
More information at 

MOMA Market

Mona’s weekend market returns in 2018 with an eclectic and fascinating selection of food, art, science and crafts, as well as a program of music and entertainment.
More information at

For a full and up-to-date listing of Tasmanian events, and information on travelling to Tasmania, visit the Discover Tasmania website

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Prosecco sparkles on the big screen

I was lucky enough to spend some time in Prosecco a couple of years ago. Once dismissed as cheap fizz, Prosecco has risen in prestige over the past decade to be regarded as an important piece of national Italian heritage.

Prosecco DOC can be spumante ("sparkling wine"), frizzante ("semi-sparkling wine"), or tranquillo ("still wine") and is made largely from glera grapes, which used, confusingly, to be called prosecco. 

The region is a strikingly beautiful one with a very warm welcome for wine tourists.  

Now the sparkling wine region is gracing the silver screen as the focus of a new independent thriller set deep in the hills of the Veneto region.

The film, titled "As Long as There is Prosecco, There is Hope" (Finché c’è Prosecco c’è speranza) follows Inspector Stucky (played by Giuseppe Battiston), who is called upon to investigate an unusual suicide case: that of a prominent winemaker.

Inexperienced and in new territory, Stucky trudges through the villages’ unresolved issues, before realising the key to solving the mystery lies in understanding the culture of the Prosecco hills themselves.

The film, released in Italy at the end of October, recently starred at the Rome Film Festival, Drinks Business reported.

As Long as There is Prosecco offers a comprehensive look at Northern Italy’s winemaking regions, being shot in a number of key wine-producing towns and villages including Treviso, Venice, Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. It might well spark a few visitations in 2018.

Monday 25 December 2017

Rising star Polperro lifts its culinary offering

Over the past few years, Polperro has become one of the most popular gourmet destinations on the Mornington Peninsula.

There are some cracking wines, delightful vineyard accommodation, gorgeous gardens, and now two high-calibre chefs have been added to lift the culinary offering.

Polperro owners Sam Coverdale and Emma Phillips have announced the arrival of executive chef Michael Demagistris (who has staged at Alinea, Chicago, and Noma, Copenhagen) and head chef Shane Burke (Barn & Co., Stokehouse, Circa).

The new menu will still feature fresh and seasonal flavours that complement the Polperro and Even Keel wines, while "fostering the ethos of sharing and kinship" says the press release. Sorry, that's horribly pretentious. 

The recruitment search for chefs took the Polperro team worldwide but there was a strong desire to uncover talent on their home turf of the Mornington Peninsula.
Initially when we put the feelers out to recruit new leaders for our kitchen team, we didn’t realise they would be practically on our doorstep”, said Polperro owner and winegrower/winemaker Sam Coverdale.
We are really passionate about the quality and depth of experience on the Mornington Peninsula. There is some unbelievable local talent here which we want to foster and highlight. 

"There’s also the added benefit of understanding the local produce and our seasons which is vital for Polperro’s future direction. We’re excited to provide Michael and Shane with the platform that will allow them to showcase their talent in the region.”
The duo will collaborate with winemaker Sam with synergy between the vineyard and kitchen at the forefront of the Polperro ethos.

The recruitment of the new chefs follows the departure of head chef Daniel Kerekes, who moved overseas. 

Sunday 24 December 2017

Where in the world would you find the thirstiest wine lovers?

Where would you expect to find the world's thirstiest wine lovers?

When it comes to global wine consumption, you’d expect France, Italy, or Spain to come out on top as the world’s biggest quaffers of alcoholic grape juice.

But it turns out the heaviest drinkers can be found on a tiny, remote island just off the coast of Australia. The people of Norfolk Island love a glass of wine or two, new data released by expat website Movehub reveals.

Norfolk Island is an Australian isle more than 1400km from the mainland and just 8km long. The locals spend more on wine per capita than anywhere else in the world, with the 1,500-strong population spending nearly $850 per year on vino. 

The findings came from Movehub’s annual Wine Consumption Study, which looked at the spending habits of people all over the world in both on and off-trade.

Each islander spends on average over £486 each year on wine, the equivalent of almost 78 bottles, or a magnum per week - also a global high.

Switzerland, where locals spent £462 per capita, was second, ahead of Bermuda, Sint Marteen and the Cayman Islands.

Norfolk Island was first settled by Polynesians, but was eventually settled by British migrants as part of its settlement of Australia from 1788.

Norfolk Island has just one winery; Two Chimneys, which was established by Rod and Noelene McAlpine in 2006. 

You'll find the full study results here:

Saturday 23 December 2017

Four fascinating day trip destinations from London

Travelling by train is one of the most scenic and relaxing ways to discover the real Britain. A fast, frequent rail network means you can escape London and be as far away as Scotland in as little as four hours.

Here are four quick and easy journeys that can easily be done in one day:


This delightful city in south-west England was settled by the Romans because of the hot thermal waters, and the Roman Baths are still a centrepiece of the city.

The Victorians came here to take the healing waters and to shop: as a result, Bath today is a mix of ancient culture and upmarket boutiques, historic Georgian architecture and classic cafes.

Check out the city's famous Georgian terraced houses, the restored Roman facilities and bring your togs for a dip in the mineral-rich waters of Thermae Bath Spa. Around 1½ hours from Paddington Station.


This lovely city in East Anglia is one of Britain's best-kept secrets.

A cathedral city on the River Wensum, it is well worth a journey off the beaten track and is largely undisturbed with old buildings and quaint shopping arcades, as well an excellent outdoor market.

The city boasts a very impressive Norman cathedral, a well-preserved castle keep and many old lanes along which you can wander and find wonderful bookshops and quirky little places selling antiques and trinkets.

Less than two hours from Liverpool Street station.


Brighton, on the South Coast, is one of Britain’s buzziest beach towns, even if the beaches themselves are disappointing.

Check out the Indian-styled Royal Pavilion, enjoy the views from the top of the futuristic BA i36, the world’s tallest moving observation tower or go shopping in the town's famous lanes.

Browse the bookshops and antique stores in the North Laine district. The city is surrounded by magnificent countryside. Brighton is just an hour from London by train.

Trains run regularly from Victoria, London Bridge and St Pancras International and take around an hour.


The home county of William Shakespeare, Warwickshire is full of historic sites, castles and the beautiful green rolling fields of the English countryside.

In the town of Warwick itself, you can explore some inspiring historic sites ranging from the medieval Collegiate Church of St Mary to the magnificent Warwick Castle.

Or take a trip down the River Avon in an electric motor boat, canoe, kayak or pedalo.

It takes around 1/12 hours by rail from Marylebone Station to Warwick.

Friday 22 December 2017

McLaren Vale's new wine wonderland throws down the gauntlet to MONA

It's been McLaren Vale's most talked-about project for a couple of years - and now d'Arenberg's Cube is finally open in time for the holiday season. 
The ambitious project, part-restaurant, past-tasting room, part-museum, is envisioned as bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the wine region 40km south of the South Australian capital of Adelaide.

d'Arenberg owner Chester Osborn says the opening is "the realisation of a 14-year dream" and the five-storey $15 million glass-encased steel and concrete structure - inspired by Rubik’s Cube – has a unique architectural twist. 
The two top floors are askew, rotated on their axis, just as if you’d twisted your Rubik’s Cube – which both architects and builders agree have made it the most difficult project on which they’ve ever worked.
As visitors approach the entrance there’s a haunting background sound, created by a local DJ but the instrument making it is a weather station. As the weather changes each of eight parameters (temperature, humidity and so on) talk to a unique musical playback system along a range of keys, tones and volume.
But it’s inside the Cube where Chester’s imagination has run riot, stretching the limits of technology and challenging visitors from the moment they enter through mirrored stainless steel doors that fold back, origami-style.
Guests are confronted by an upended black and white bull cradling a polygraph (lie detector) control panel, the first exhibit in what Chester describes as an Alternate Realities Museum in which everything has more than one meaning, and everything is wine focused.
“I never wanted it to be compared to MONA (Hobart’s famous Museum of Old and New Art),” Chester says. “This is, after all, a cellar door – but it’s also an art gallery. Like MONA there’s a bit of sex and death in here, but it’s really all about wine and alternate realities. Everything has a double or triple meaning.”
The bull and the lie detector, for example. Many winemakers talk about organics and biodynamics without any real commitment … to which Chester’s art installation screams “BS”.
Chester backs his less than subtle art choice with 200ha of certified biodynamic vineyards, making d’Arenberg the largest biodynamic winemaker in Australia.
Next, two peep shows – one housed in a rusty old oven, the other in an ancient refrigerator – show six hours of six people (including Chester) partying while drinking Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. 
There’s also the Sensory Room, for example, with 44 wine flagons mounted on bicycle handlebars, each connected to a bike horn with rubber puffer. Beep the horn and inhale – what a hoot.
“We’re trying to get the senses really alive and excited by now,” Chester explains.
Given that d’Arenberg produces 72 different wines under 60 labels there are plenty of aromas to choose from.
Just around the corner is the 360 Experience with a circular video depicting various artists’ impressions of each group of d’Arenberg wines, or what Chester describes as “an interdimensional voyage through the alternate realities inspired by the visual art of our labels.”
There's history here, too, with the company founded by Chester's great- grandfather Joseph Osborn founded 105 years ago. 
There’s a lift to the upper floors but mirrored stairwell features caricatures of d’Arenberg’s range of wines by Australian cartoonists. 
The second floor is a multi-function space for tastings and blending classes, while the third floor houses the d’Arenberg Cube restaurant.
South African husband and wife team Brendan Wessels and Lindsay Dürr are in charge here, with menu options including a “long” degustation lunch, the Sisypheanic Euphoria (allow up to three hours) and an “extra long” lunch, the Pickwickian Brobdingnagian (allow at least four hours). 
The top floor is an all-glass tasting room – four glass bars made up of 115 televisions featuring opaque projections of a naked female underwater swimmer, floor to ceiling windows on all sides – even a glass ceiling, with 16 two-tonne glass panels topped with 16 massive umbrellas that automatically retract and fold in a gale.
The d’Arenberg Cube opened to the public on December 14 (although the winery put some noses out of joint by trying to embargo the news until two days later). Not even Chester, much as he'd like to, can control the news. The new facility is open daily 10am-5pm.

Thursday 21 December 2017

Tasmania gets a new boutique cellar door

The Huon Valley, Australia's southernmost wine region, got a boost this week with the opening of a new boutique cellar door.

Kate Hill Wines, based in a lovely converted country cottage and surrounded by newly-planted vines, was officially opened in Huonville in front of a crowd that included family friend Andrew Wilkie MP.

The tasting room will be open from Friday to Monday and offer samplings of wines that range from Kate's 2011 vintage sparkling to her Huon Valley pinot noir.

The facility is just across the valley from Tasmania's most successful pinot noir producer; former Jimmy Watson Trophy winner Home Hill.

Kate Hill and her husband Charles moved to Tasmania in 2006 after she spent several years making wine across several Australian regions for Orlando, as well as working in France, California and Chile. 

Kate Hill has her own winery in a converted timber shed just down the road in Huonville and will continue to source fruit from growers until her own vines reach maturity. 

With a young family, they are making a leap of faith in selling directly to the public. "We've really moved out of our comfort zone, but these are exciting times," she said.

"We are excited to be offering another experience for locals and visitors to the Huon Valley and hope we can contribute to the community." 

Kate Hill Wines, 21 Dowlings Road, Huonville, Tasmania. Friday to Monday,


Wednesday 20 December 2017

A dozen wines for the 12 days of Christmas

I am fortunate enough to taste thousands of wines over the course of a year. 

Some I am able to review in newspapers or magazines, others on my various blogs, or perhaps just recommend on social media. 

There are always some terrific wines that slip through the cracks, however; perhaps after I've reviewed too many wines made from one grape variety or too many from the same producer. 

Here are a dozen wines for summer enjoyment, something for every budget, almost all of which can stand being chilled as the mercury rockets over the holidays. 

I hope you are able to track down and enjoy at least one or two of them.

ANGOVE LONG ROW Chardonnay Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine $10. 
A cracking choice when cheap and cheerful fizz is required; crisp, clean and refreshing. Enjoy well chilled with Christmas and New Year toasts.

If you are looking for an affordable thirst-quencher with plenty of fresh lemon and pear flavours then you've come to the right place. A perfect party wine. 

RUTHERGLEN ESTATES NV Classic Muscat. $22.
Looking for something to pair with the Christmas cake or pudding? This classic style of rich and luscious fortified from north-east Victoria will do nicely. 

ALTERNATUS 2017 Fiano. $23.
Looking for a chilled glass or two to pair with freshly shucked oysters? This wine made from a fast-emerging Italian grape steps up with its lively fresh palate. 

RUN FREE 2017 Riesling $25. 
A crisp and delicious dry young riesling from the Singlefile winery in the Great Southern of Western Australia.The citrus notes here are a perfect match for seafood.

REDMAN 2015 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. $30.
The wines from the Redman family in Coonawarra are on a brisk upward trajectory. This is a regional classic, floral and dark with Christmas cake flavours and lots of length.

LONGVIEW 2017 Fresco Nebbiolo. $36.
Made in a "Vino Novello" style by the talented team at Longview in the Adelaide Hills, this is excellent in its youth and with its cherry and spice notes would be great with turkey. 

TERRE A TERRE 2015 Cabernet Franc $40.
Look for lighter-style cabernet franc to become all the rage in 2018. This is a very good example, full of vibrant fruit and well-integrated French oak. 

TAPANAPPA 2016 Piccadilly Chardonnay. $40. 
From the Croser family vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, this is an exceptionally good-value chardonnay.Classy with structure, stone-fruit flavours and brisk acid

MARCHAND & BURCH 2016 Mount Barrow Pinot Noir $60. 
A collaboration between the Burch family of Howard Park fame and Burgundian producer Pascal Marchand; this is a bright, savoury and silky pinot. 

CHAMPAGNE JEEPER Brut Grand Assemblage. $95.
From one of the smaller, private Champagne Houses, this is a standout blend of largely chardonnay with smaller amounts of pinot noir and pinot meunier. Fine and long. 

HENSCHKE 2014 Mount Edelstone $225.
The perfect choice if you want to push the boat out with the Christmas turkey; a beautifully balanced single-vineyard shiraz from the cool Eden Valley. All class.      

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Leading female winemaker ousted in Coonawarra

At a time when gender politics are under the microscope like never before, it would take a brave wine company to replace one of Australia's leading female winemakers with a young male just a week before Christmas. 

Particularly if that winery owner is a Chinese company that has only recently taken control of a long-established family winery for which said winemaker has worked for 12 years. 

Sandrine Gimon, the French-born senior winemaker at Rymill Estate (below), has been told that her services are no longer required. The news apparently came as a surprise and she was offered a redundancy with short notice. 

Other staff, including an assistant winemaker and a vineyard manager, have also departed recently, although apparently for completely unrelated reasons.

"Redundancy" in Gimon's case is an interesting term as you generally need a winemaker to produce wine. 

Gimon travelled extensively between 2000 and 2004 including in Romania, the Swan Valley, Languedoc Roussillon and Pomerol. She joined Rymill Coonawarra in July 2005 and was appointed senior winemaker in November 2008.

She is married with two young children and lives locally. She was a recent Len Evans scholar.

I contacted Rymill's long-standing Sydney-based PR Alex Burgener to ask about Gimon's retrenchment and was told: "It is true that Rymill Coonawarra has undergone some restructuring and Shannon Sutherland has just been appointed the new role of general manager (not starting until mid-January 2018).

"With this in mind, Sandrine was offered and accepted a redundancy package."

Sutherland started at neighbouring Jack Estate for the 2012 vintage and has worked vintages in Great Western, Marlborough, Hastings River, Napa Valley, Okanagan Valley, Beajoulais and Geelong. 

Andrew Cheesman from Rymill got back to me at 9pm on Tuesday, pointing out that an independent consultant had advised that the Rymill business needed to go in a new direction and the decision had little to do with the owners.

"We needed someone with business skills and other strengths to take control of the business," Cheesman said. "We have given Sandrine what we consider to be a very fair financial deal and we love her and respect her dearly. 

"We believe the way we acted has been sensitive and appropriate."

Gimon said she was "saddened and surprised" but recognised Rymill's prerogative to make changes. 

She will join the Coldstream Hills lab for the 2018 vintage in the Yarra Valley before seeking a full-time job in Victoria, her husband's home state. 
Some advice to any winery planning to remove a long-standing and successful female employee (I was told not to use the "sacked" word) with a younger male. Put out a press release stating your reasons. 

And preferably don't make a decision a few days out from Christmas, without an announcement, in the hope it might get overlooked. 

# Chinese businessman Gang Ye purchased Rymill from the Rymill family 13 months ago - his first wine investment. The Rymills no longer have any equity in the business.   

Matching artisan gin with Thai food flavours

The Hippocampus distillery, bar and cellar door has moved across the country to Melbourne’s south-east to become part of Boatrocker Brewers & Distillers.

To mark the move Hippocampus has launched Hippocampus Bangkok Gin - a collaboration between Boatrocker Brewers & Distillers and renowned Thai chef David Thompson’s Long Chim team.

The new drink, aimed to match with spicy Thai cuisine, is a joint effort between Long Chim’s jungle juice juggler James Connolly, and one of Australia’s finest distillers, Lex Poulsen of Hippocampus.

Connolly has a fondness for the bold flavours of south-east Asia and in particular the Kaffir Lime Leaf. He has long held a desire for a spirit with such tastes, along with rich Thai aromatics. The opportunity to work with the Hippocampus team has given birth to the new gin.

"To go alongside our rigid backbone of classic gin botanicals, we selected a trio of botanicals widely recognised as being very Thai; Kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and ginger," says Poulsen."The juniper berries are macerated in spirit overnight to extract plenty of goodness. In the morning, all of the remaining botanicals are added to the pit and heat is introduced to begin distillation."

The end result is an aromatic, punchy and vibrant gin with pronounced Thai flavours.

Hippocampus x Long Chim Bangkok Gin, 700ml. ABV 45%. $95.