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Monday 31 July 2017

The ritziest address in Paris glitters once more

It is one of the ritziest addresses in Paris; a luxury hotel and chic brasserie right on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées that is a magnet for those who want to see and to be seen. 

It's luxurious, even a little ostentatious, but never gauche. 

The newly renovated Hotel Barrière Le Fouquet's Paris and its brasserie are back on centre stage after six months of renovations under the care of interior designer Jacques Garcia. 

The 81 rooms and suites, opened just a decade ago, have all been given a chic makeover, there is a new eatery and a spa and rooms start from €730 to €7900 (yes, that is per night).  

The venerable brasserie, where you might be tempted to take out a mortgage to enjoy lunch, is now run in partnership with one of France's most talented pan-handlers, the former three-star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnaire. 

He'll be serving up bistro classics like steak tartare or foie gras, as well as a lobster salad with fresh herbs, king crab claw with steamed bok choy and wasabi mayonnaise, and pan-fried squid with aubergine and chorizo. 

The sole meuniere will set you back €80, that's $118 Australian, making grilled lamb chops with eggplant a bargain at €52. 

Thank heavens for the six snails for €16, which you can pair with a glass of Veuve Cliquot for €26, or perhaps 10 grams of Dordogne caviar for 32 with a Bellini for 21. 

There are two terraces, right on the Champs-Elysées and George V avenues, with the best seats much-sought after. 

The famous red awnings will once again ripple as a welcome to those who want to enjoy a cocktail or two in the L'Escadrille bar, where a DJ will spin discs for the city's BCBG (fashionable set) and well-heeled tourists. 

Fouquet's Brasserie was founded in 1899 by Louis Fouquet. Since 1990, the main room has been listed as a historical French monument. It is patronised by everyone who is anyone, from movie stars to politicians.

Check out the previous guests in an array of black and white photos that decorate the eatery.

A long, long time ago we used to have the occasional drink here. Maybe one glass of rosé on the terrace for old time's sake the next time we are in Paris.  

Hotel Barrière Le Fouquet's, 99 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, Paris 75008. 

Friday 28 July 2017

Mud glorious mud. Introducing a new festival of filth

Rotorua is one of New Zealand's favourite vacation destinations - and it is also the venue for the first Mudtopia festival to be held this December. 

Rotorua is a delightful lakeside city that's known for its Māori culture and a memorable smell that's reminiscent of farts. It is also home to many steamy activities. 

Fuelled by fiery volcanic forces beneath the Earth’s crust, Rotorua’s natural heat made it a hot spot from the get-go. Māori appreciated the geothermal waters for cooking and bathing, and for the medicinal powers of minerals such as calcium and silicon, and the sulphur that gives the area its eggy smell. 

But after an Irish priest discovered the healing powers of its waters and mud in 1878, Rotorua soon became hot stuff - New Zealand’s first spa town.

The city’s first Tudor-style Bath House opened in 1908 to satisfy the masses wishing to "take the waters". A curative for aches, pains and skin complaints, arthritis and even "brain fog" - something from which I have long suffered. 

Today, therapeutic soaks can be enjoyed at the Polynesian Spa, where outdoor pools range in temperature from tepid to a serious simmer. 

There are plenty of other mineral spas around town as well as natural springs such as forest-fringed Kerosene Creek.

Mud-based fun can be found at the retro QE Health centre, where the mud baths in antioxidant-rich clay apparently leave skin "as soft as a baby’s bottom". 

Described as "mindlessly entertaining", the bubbling mud pools dotted around town include one at Te Puia that is up to 10 metres deep. 

Brown slime will take centre stage at Mudtopia, which will be held over three days from December 1-3 as a sister event to South Korea's Boreyong Mud Festival. 

Visitors are promised everything from wellness and beauty treatments to a mud run, a mud bungy jump and mud tug-of-war. Five tonnes of South Korean mud powder will be imported especially for the event.

If you want to get down and dirty, check out

Thursday 27 July 2017

Qantas expands its Japanese horizons

Good news for ski lovers with an announcement today that Qantas will launch new direct, seasonal flights between Sydney and Osaka's Kansai International Airport over the winter months. 

The Australian national carrier says its decision is in response to the growth in travel between Australia and Japan.

From December 14, 2017, until March 24, 2018, Qantas will offer flights three times per week and will operate upgraded two-class A330 aircraft. 

Qantas will be the only airline to offer a direct flight from Australia to Osaka, the route adding to Sydney-Tokyo (Haneda), Brisbane-Tokyo (Narita) and Melbourne-Tokyo (Narita) services.

Osaka and the broader Kansai region is a significant tourist attraction and home to world-class ski resorts.

To celebrate the launch, Qantas is offering special fares with return economy tickets starting from $699 and return business class tickets starting from $3,499. The sale ends on August 4. 

For schedule information and to book, visit

Wednesday 26 July 2017

The rosé revolution rolls on

I was hugely surprised when visiting California last year to see more rosé wines available by the glass than whites and reds. 

It seems the global thirst for drinking pink is showing no sign of slowing, with exports of Provence rosé to the US nearly doubling last year to 11.4 million litres.

The trend for drinking pink in the UK is also gathering momentum, leading to a 29% rise in exports of Provence rosé last year, recent data from BMI Research reported by the Drinks Business shows.

Encouragingly, high-end rosés are driving the growth of the category, leading to a record year of exports for Provence - the world’s largest rosé-producing region.

The rate of growth for Provence rosé abroad has been rapid. A decade ago just 0.4 million litres of the wine was exported to the US. 

The wines carry an average retail price in the US of $12 a bottle, and are proving popular with millennials.

Clocking its popularity, producers around the world, from Susana Balbo in Argentina to Chivite in Navarra in northern Spain are responding to the demand with Provençal-style pinks of their own that are dry in style and pale in colour.

Look in any Australian wine store and it is clear that demand for rosé is up and up. The 2017 vintage wines are already being released and three savoury stars to look out for are: Turkey Flat Rosé, Jim Barry Annabelle's Rosé and De Bortoli Villages Rosé. 

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Scoot marks merger with $99 fares from Perth to Singapore

So farewell to Tigerair Singapore and hello to a new combined budget airline that will operate under the Scoot brand.

From today, all previous Tigerair flights will be operated under the Scoot brand and Scoot flights will operate under the TR flight designator code.

This marks the completion of the Scoot-Tigerair integration process that began last May when the airlines were brought under a common holding company, Budget Aviation Holdings.

Scoot is the low-cost, medium-to-long haul arm of the Singapore Airlines.

Scoot CEO Lee Lik Hsin said: “As we come to the end of Tigerair’s journey, we open up a brand new chapter for Scoot building on what Tigerair and the old Scoot had achieved since their respective inceptions.

"We are stronger than we have ever been before, and consequently in an even better position to offer our guests more choice, connectivity and value. The enhanced Scoot that we are introducing today is spunky and sassy, and promises to create more travel opportunities for our guests.”

In conjunction with the single brand celebration, Lee also disclosed five new destinations that Scoot will fly to by June 2018.

Among them are Honolulu, Scoot’s maiden United States destination, and Harbin in north-east China. The remaining three are short-haul destinations: Kuching and Kuantan in Malaysia, and Palembang in Indonesia.

Coupled with the addition of the previous Tigerair network, the five new services will bring Scoot’s total destination count to 65 across 18 countries.

Beyond new destinations, Scoot’s crew members, affectionately named Scootees, will be outfitted with new uniform designs.

There is a celebratory sale on right now at with fares from $99 to Singapore from Perth.

A gourmet guide to where to eat in Launceston, Tasmania

Wine lovers will be descending on Launceston, Tasmania, this weekend for the annual Pinot Noir Showcase, a major drawcard organised by one of Australia's boutique wine stores, The Pinot Shop. 

Vinophiles from around the country get the chance to try pinot noirs from over 30 of the island state's finest pinot producers over a five-hour period on Saturday, accompanied by cheeses and canapes. It is a most convivial affair with several associated events held over the weekend. 

Launceston is a small town, however, with limited dining options for gourmets. Three times over the past couple of weeks I've been asked for Launceston recommendations by those visiting either the town or the Tamar Valley. 

Michelle Round, the owner of the Pinot Shop, put together several suggestions for her weekend guests and I've combined her suggestions with my own input to create this mini guide to where to eat in Launceston. 

Stillwater (above) 03 6331 4153. Overlooking the Tamar River, this long-time favourite is a fine diner with a modern twist. Chef Craig Will focuses on local produce, there is an excellent wine cellar and service is top notch. A Launceston icon. 

Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant 03 6331 5632. A chic modern eatery with interesting and flavoursome food that has proven very popular with locals. A fun place to eat but with serious wines and food. 

Black Cow Bistro (above) 03 6331 9333. Always busy, this is Launceston's best address for meat lovers with a range of excellent steaks and all the trimmings, along with an excellent wine list and savvy service. 

Mud Bar & Restaurant 03 6334 5066. Chef Don Cameron is a local star and is now based at the Seaport precinct where he serves up Asian influenced snacks and main meals. 

Me Wah Chinese Restaurant 03 6331 1308. In suburban Invermay, this is the original Me Wah, open well before its Hobart counterpart. Think serious Cantonese dishes and an expansive wine list. 

Henry's 03 6334 7757 is a newcomer in the old Northern Club that I have not tried but locals praise its hearty dishes and clubby ambiance. 

Novaro's, Pierre's, Pickled Evenings Indian, Elaia Cafe and Smokey Joe's Creole Cafe are all very popular with locals - and Brisbane Street Bistro has a strong following - while the burgers are excellent at Burger Got Soul. For pre-dinner drinks try either Saint John, a buzzy bar specialising in craft beers, or a cider or two at Red Brick Road

Out of town, the best winery restaurants are Timbre Kitchen at Velo Wines and the restaurant at Josef Chromy Wines (above).  

Monday 24 July 2017

$51,000 for a bottle of Australian wine that may never be opened

Imagine paying over $51,000 for an old bottle of wine that may never be uncorked. 

A private collector has paid $51,750 for a bottle of 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage, the first vintage made of the benchmark Australian red; and a wine that was never on sale to the public. 

The wine was sold through Melbourne-based independent wine auction house MW Wines.

Nick Stamford, managing director of MW Wines, said fewer than 20 bottles are thought to remain in existence; with even fewer likely to be of this quality, which has been tasted and re-corked by Penfolds winemakers.

“The bottle of 1951 Grange has been verified at the Penfolds re-corking clinic, tasted, and signed by legendary Penfolds winemakers Max Schubert and Peter Gago, who have declared it to be of ‘excellent’ condition',” Stamford said.
Penfolds Grange is one of the jewels of Australian wine and the 1951 vintage represents a significant part of Australia’s wine history. Just 150 cases were produced, and it was not sold commercially. Winemaker Schubert gave most away to family, friends and colleagues.

Wines of this vintage are seen primarily as investments and the bottle may never be opened. 

Sunday 23 July 2017

Enjoy the comforts of a five-star hotel afloat

The Rees Hotel in Queenstown is one of the finest in New Zealand, with an attention to detail second to none.

Now the Rees has announced a new Auckland-based 84-foot motor yacht, MV Templar, is now available for chartered and private cruises.

Based in Viaduct Harbour in Auckland, the MV Templar by The Rees is a fully-furnished luxurious four-cabin yacht, with en suite bathrooms, accommodating up to 44 people during the day and up to nine overnight.

Mark Rose, the urbane and wine loving general manager of The Rees explains: “We are always looking at innovative ways to offer our valued guests new experiences in line with the high standard and quality of accommodation and service we strive to maintain at The Rees Hotel Queenstown.

"This has included our culinary series dinners, our unique heli-wine tours and heli-weddings experiences and now we are extremely excited to announce this new expansion into Auckland, with the acquisition of our motor yacht MV Templar, offering a range of exceptional experiences on Auckland harbour for corporate events and private charters.”

The MV Templar is available to be chartered for any occasion including day charters or extended cruising, sunset cruises, Champagne breakfasts, fine dining, golf or island transfers, celebrations, weddings, honeymoons, corporate functions, product launches, unique business meetings, team building and staff incentives.

Members of the experienced Rees team will be on deck to ensure everything goes smoothly. Rates can be quoted hourly (three-hour minimum), daily and extended cruise periods and special events on request.

For full specifications and booking enquiries see or contact Nathan Brown:

Saturday 22 July 2017

Savour South-East Asian holidays tailored with gourmets in mind

Gourmet travel is constantly growing in popularity and Sens Asia Travel recently announced a new range of journeys that are tailor-made for travellers and food lovers looking to experience an authentic taste of South-East Asia.

These holidays are designed for small groups of adventurous travellers who want to catch iconic sights while at the same time tasting intriguing dishes that are only found off the mainstream routes.

Inspired by the mantra “You must taste a culture to understand a culture”, Sens Asia encourages travellers to explore Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos and uncover the flavours, smells, and dishes that are unique to each destination. 

In Vietnam, travellers can expect a 12-day journey from Northern Hanoi all the way to Vinh Long in the deep south. They can join a journey through the old and the new, visiting ancient towns, unspoilt cruising routes through Ha Long Bay and taste local delicacies including Pho Bo, Bun Tom Nuong Xa and Café Trung. 

The culinary and cultural experience in Northern Thailand lets travellers explore the bustling cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Chill out by the canals of Bangkok savouring the spicy flavours of a steaming bowl of boat noodles, enjoy a fresh seafood dinner whilst cruising the Chao Phaya River and discover Issan cuisine at waterfall restaurants in Chiang Mai. 

Those looking to take some time for themselves can join a relaxing trip to Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can treat their eyes to the intricate details decorating the town's ancient temples then treat their taste buds to an array of traditional Laotian dishes such as herb crusted fish steamed in banana leaf or purple sticky rice in coconut milk with tamarind sauce. 

In Cambodia, travellers can experience one of South-East Asia’s most remarkable wonders, Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Guests can explore majestic, ancient temples and rural floating villages whilst enjoying the delicious cuisine heavily influenced by Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese flavours. 

For details and booking information, please visit

Friday 21 July 2017

World continues its love affair with Australian wine

Drinkers around the world continue to seek out premium Australian wine, the new The Wine Australia Export Report June 2017 reveals.

The report shows Australian wine export value increased by $201 million (10%) in 2016–17 to $2.31 billion, underpinned by strong export growth to China and the United States.

Australia is the world’s fifth-biggest exporter of wine – behind France, Italy, Spain and Chile. In 2016–17, Australia outperformed each of the four larger exporters in its rate of export growth.

Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark said: "Pleasingly, nearly all price points experienced growth and there were benefits for exporters in all segments of the market.
"The strongest growth was in more premium wines, with all price segments of $10 per litre and above experiencing growth, and the strongest rate of growth for wines $30–49.99 per litre.

"There were a record 1997 exporters last financial year and 69% contributed to the total increase in value shown.

"An interesting development from last year was the growth in the carbonated wine category, which includes varieties (is Moscato a variety or a style?) such as Moscato. Exports more than doubled to $30 million. The United States was the destination for 35% of the carbonated wine exports, with mainland China (15%) and Japan (14%) the other major destinations," he said.

Thursday 20 July 2017

Lisbon: a city in which to expect the unexpected

Portugal’s national capital, Lisbon, is one of the most under-rated destinations in Europe. 

Not only are prices lower than in most other western European destinations, but Lisbon is a vibrant, safe city with its own unique character.

The locals boast that Lisbon boasts one of the longest histories, warmest climates and most enticing nightlife of any major European city, alongside its dramatic location sprawled along seven hills overlooking the river Tagus and the country’s west coast.

Famed for its year-round sunshine and beauty and characterful trams, Lisbon’s grand architecture dazzles and its old-world charm shines. The fresh seafood and local wines are outstanding and affordable.

With some guidance from local experts, visitors can decide whether they want to discover the secrets of Portuguese gastronomy, learn to horse ride or take to the waves in one of the world’s top surfing destinations. This is a city in which to expect the unexpected.

Here are some of the experiences being promoted:

Traditional Portuguese Cooking
Visitors can explore Lisbon’s rich gastronomic history with Portugal on a Plate's food and wine tours and culinary walks. Local cooking experts share their knowledge and passion for Portuguese ingredients and regional flavours, as well as revealing what shaped Portugal’s food culture, and how Portuguese gastronomy has influenced the world. Guests will learn how to order in a traditional Lisbon restaurant and how shop to locally, including the chance to pick up some great ingredients to take home.

Fado Performance Workshop
Haunting and poetic, fado is considered as one of the purest expressions of Lisbon’s ‘soul’, and is believed to have originated from the sorrow felt by the sailors and their families who were separated by Portugal’s explorations around the globe in the 19th century. The narrow streets of Alfama, the city’s oldest district and most associated with this iconic song, is home to numerous “fado houses” as well as the Fado Museum, which is the best place to discover everything about this unique art form. Here, visitors can take part in a one-hour group workshop, which concludes with participants singing their own fados – no embarrassment allowed. If they are confident enough, then visitors can then head to the Mouraria neighbourhood, next to Alfama, and try one of the houses offering “fado vadio” or ‘amateur’, where anybody can stand up and start singing!

Horse Riding
Set in a vast pinewood forest in Sintra, and certified by the Portuguese Equestrian Federation, “O Paddock” trains riders of all ages and skill levels, from international athletes to amateur riders. With a capacity for more than 100 students, the club also offers the opportunity to explore the region from a different point of view. Its location makes every ride calm and picturesque, as well as giving visitors the opportunity to visit some of Lisbon’s most historical monuments, country estates, golden sandy beaches and rugged cliffs, whilst on horseback.

The Lisbon region offers some of the best surfing in the world, and visitors do not have to be experienced to enjoy the best that the destination has to offer. From Ericeira (my favourite resort in Portugal), Europe’s first World Surfing Reserve, to the Costa da Caparica and the Estoril/Cascais coast, there are locations that are perfect for beginners, intermediates and advanced surfers. Lisbon Surf Tours, Carcavelos Surf School and Guincho Adventours all offer multi-lingual tuition for all ages and skill levels., and

Discover the Local Wines
Visitors to the region can learn all about the history of Portuguese wine and its grape varietals, on a wine journey that begins at the converted wine cellar, Rota de Vinhos. From a lesson with a local wine taster in how to choose and taste regional wines, to a wine cruise along the Sado Estuary, everyone from the wine beginner to the wine connoisseur will enjoy a visit. For those looking to get their hands dirty, there is even the chance to take part in traditional wine treading.

For more information, ideas and inspiration on visiting Lisbon, please go to

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Affordable luxury: an impressive new hotel opens at Sydney Airport

It is rare to stay at a hotel with rooms that have been designed with typical guests in mind.

We are all familiar with having to search around the floor and behind the bed for power points, being baffled by multiple light switches and being scalded by badly-designed showers.

The rooms at the brand-new Mantra at Sydney Airport, which was officially unveiled today, are smartly designed for today's airport visitor.

There's fast, free wifi, several well-positioned power points and USB chargers, light switches that are easily reached from the bed, and a shower that is simplicity itself.

I'm already won over before you throw in the fact that the bed is comfortable, the towels a good size and the toiletries of excellent quality.

Add in the fact that the Mantra is the closest hotel to Sydney's domestic terminal, that many of the rooms have runway views and the lobby and eatery (think dishes like salt and pepper squid, or 250-gram fillet steak with mash and veggies) are bright and attractive. Ladies and gentlemen we have a winner.

Prices start at $159 for an aviation-themed double room - a bargain given Sydney hotel tariffs.

The new Mantra was officially opened by New South Wales Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Adam Marshall MP and Mantra Group Chief Executive Officer Bob East said the new 136-room property provides much-needed hotel capacity to support the growth of aviation and tourism in the Sydney basin.

“Mantra Hotel at Sydney Airport addresses the demand for contemporary airport accommodation with vibrant, dynamic facilities and a slick service culture,” East said. "The key factors for a new hotel are location, product and service and even just a week after the soft opening, this property already feels right.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Sydney Airport on this project, which is a win for the economic growth of Sydney.”

The eight-storey landmark building is the newest hotel at Sydney Airport and Sydney’s third on-airport hotel.

Sydney Airport Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kerrie Mather said the opening of the new hotel so close to terminals would further improve the customer experience for airport visitors. It takes just nine minutes to walk to terminals 2 and three - I tried it.

Mantra Hotel has an integrated reception and lobby with a 24/7 atmosphere and service, express check-out, internet kiosk, airport screen updates and relaxed dining with local beers (including Young Henry's), wines (the selection by the glass is too small and needs attention), as well as cocktails.

Other teething problems included a slow check-in and the non-appearance of the morning newspaper I ordered. All easily solvable.

There is an opening special of $159 per night in a Studio King room including 1GB of internet access daily, a welcome drink voucher on arrival and room upgrade (subject to availability).

For bookings or further information, visit or call 1300 987 603.

# The author was a guest of Mantra Hotels 

Monday 17 July 2017

Margaret River underlines its environmental credentials

Margaret River not only produces some of Australia's finest wines: Vasse Felix, Cullen and Leeuwin Estate among them, it is home to some of Australia's best surf beaches. It also takes its environmental duties seriously. 

A Memorandum of Understanding has been established between The Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association (MRBTA) and Nature Conservation Margaret River Region (Nature Conservation) with the aim of further protecting the natural environment of the Margaret River region.

The partnership between the two independent not-for-profit bodies took effect on July 1 and establishes a framework for working together to strengthen the relationship between the environment and tourism, on which the long-term sustainability of the region's tourism industry depends.

Key areas of focus at the heart of the agreement include the environmental management of MRBTA-managed cave and lighthouse precincts; raising community awareness and appreciation of the natural environment; strategies to raise support and funding for key environmental programs; eco tourism accreditation and encouraging responsible behaviours towards the natural environment.

Outcomes of the partnership will be achieved by working together with Wadandi Aboriginal elders and are expected to impact the region on a number of levels. New projects and initiatives include encouraging visitors to make a voluntary contribution to regional conservation, and investigating the potential for obtaining Geopark status for the Margaret River region.

MRBTA CEO Pip Close said the partnership marks a further commitment to the vision outlined in the region's Nature-Based Tourism Strategy, unveiled in March of this year.

“When we laid out our intentions to establish the Margaret River region as the leading sustainable nature and adventure tourism destination in Australia, the emphasis was on achieving this through a collaborative, cross-region approach. We are therefore thrilled to be working in partnership with one of the region's leading environmental groups.

The team at Nature Conservation possess a wealth of expertise in environmental management, and together we will be able to place the region’s natural environment needs front and centre in all of our actions and plans.”

Meet the stunning new colour-coded Riedel wine glasses

Riedel is one of the finest stemware producers in the world. 

Established in Bohemia in 1756 and now based in Kufstein, Austria, family-owned Riedel is best known for its massive range of glassware designed to enhance the enjoyment of different styles of wines. 

New in the range for 2017 is the colour-coded Fatto a Mano (handmade) range; varietal specific, thin blown, unadorned, and standing tall on slender stems.

This range, however, has been assembled in a completely different way to any previous Riedel series. Fatto a Mano combines the most modern glassmaking technology – its machine-made bowl – with the sophistication of handmade glass – its elegant colour-coded stem and base. 

Family patriarch Georg Riedel said: “Our technicians convinced me that their automatically blown bowls are as high in quality as the finest mouth-blown glasses, when taking into consideration the even distribution of glass, thickness and lightness of weight."

The team began working on how to merge these two techniques and the result is a unique creation with hand-crafted stems and bases fused to machine-produced bowls.

The series includes six grape-varietal-specific shapes: Cabernet, Old World Pinot Noir, New
World Shiraz, Oaked Chardonnay, Riesling, and Champagne. Each glass sits at 250mm tall. 

The glasses stand apart thanks to their multi-coloured stems, which were inspired by ancient Venetian glassmaking traditions. The glasses are available in white, black, yellow, red, green or blue stems.

Each glass is packaged individually for $129.95, or can be purchased in a box of six, including all six colours, for $599.95. Fatto a Mano will be available to purchase from and all good homewares retailers from later this month. 

Friday 14 July 2017

Riesling lovers set for a week of wine excellence

Riesling lovers will be descending on Melbourne and Sydney in February, 2018, for the second Riesling Downunder festival. 

Established in 2001 as the biennial 'Frankland Estate International Riesling Tasting' – Riesling Downunder maintains an international focus and celebratory spirit.  

The event is the most comprehensive international Riesling experience staged in the Southern Hemisphere - consisting of tasting events and master classes for wine drinkers, industry and trade.

Riesling Downunder 2018, co-hosted by Frankland Estate, Jim Barry Wines and Pikes, brings together a group of passionate drinkers and winemakers who are committed to this noble grape and will run from February 2-7. 

Riesling Downunder will feature the largest and most diverse collection of rieslings to be seen in Australia under one roof," said Hunter Smith of Frankland Estate. "They will include some of the world’s most highly acclaimed rieslings. 

Key events will include a pop-up riesling bar on the banks of the Yarra River from Feb 2-6 along with more intimate tastings from over 70 producers. 

Sydney Town Hall will host a major tasting, under the rather silly name of Riesling Riot, on Feb 7. 

For details see:  

Tuesday 11 July 2017

From aquavit to tequila: A fun guide to creating the best cocktails

With mixed drinks enjoying a global surge in popularity, the timing is perfect for the release of the new guide Around The World in 80 Cocktails.
Australian mixologist and author Chad Parkhill has taken a light-hearted approach to this history of cocktails, from the early 19th century through to present day, taking in English, US and global influences. 

Cocktail barmen around the world now craft drinks made with ingredients as diverse as Mexican tequila and mezcal, Norwegian aquavit, Peruvian or Chilean pisco, Japanese sake and Brazilian cachaça. 

This is a guide to the classics - and to some more obscure drinks, enabling readers to drink their way around the world without having to leave their home bar.

The story of each cocktail comes with an easy-to-follow recipe from the surprising military history behind the Venetian Spritz; how the G&T moved from India to England (and why some of the best in the world are now made in Spain). 

Also, learn how France’s Burgundy region turned tragedy into triumph with the Kir.

The book is illustrated by vintage-styled artworks by Alice Oehr and also includes tips on bartending techniques and equipment, as well as advice on creating a well-stocked home bar. 

Around the World in 80 Cocktails is published by Hardie Grant Books in August, retails for $29.99 and is an appealing ode to the joys of travel, history, and drinking. 

Be the first kid on your block to have a copy:

Monday 10 July 2017

Three days of fun and cider at the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival

What started off as a light-hearted idea four years ago has morphed into one of the biggest festivals in Tasmania. 

An action-packed weekend is planned for the three-day Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival at Willie Smith's Cider from Friday to Sunday. 

The largest wassail in the Southern Hemisphere and the inaugural First Nations storytelling event are just two key elements expected to attract over 15,000 people to the festival. 

The wassail, to be held on Saturday night, is a tradition from the West Country in England and is said to wake up the dormant apple trees and ward-off evil spirits to encourage a bumper harvest.

"We have less than 30 weekend passes left for sale and we’re expecting over 15,000 people will enjoy our unique three-day festival.” festival director Sam Reid said.

"Our event is quirky and colourful and we are so thrilled that people are embracing what we put together to come out in the cold and dark and help make this event such a success when just a few years ago there was nothing like this available.

"I’m stoked to see the weekend passes selling so well and it tells me that people really appreciate the quality and diversity of programming we have over the three days."

Reid said it was estimated the influx of tourists and visitors to the event would inject around $1 million into the local economy.

"To ensure on-going success, each year we have invested more into improving the event in terms of entertainment, logistics and facilities such as staging and audio to give everyone the best opportunity to hear and see the awesome array of performers we have brought together."

Festival highlights include:  

Friday, July 14: Welcome and Burning Mid-Winter Man ceremony, with stilt-walking storytellers, a fire-dancing troupe and the inaugural Tasmanian Aboriginal storytelling and First Nations artists featuring singer-songwriter Frank Yamma, along with Melbourne-based Celt folk-punk band The Ramshackle Army.

Saturday, July 15: The largest Wassail procession in the Southern Hemisphere led by the Jolley Hatters Morris dancers, a huge bonfire, a share of $1800 in prize money on offer for the best-dressed pagan and the second annual Storytellers Cup with $400 in prize money on offer.

Sunday. July 16: Family fun with children’s storytelling, kids art and craft activities, costume prizes and more live, local music.

There will be a range of local ciders, foods, wines and beers on sale on all three days, including Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans' Fat Pig Farm food truck, Home Hill Wines, Lady Hester Donuts, Mountain Pepper Pizza, the Cake Combi, Coal River Farm and Tasmanian Quartermasters.  

For details see:

Sunday 9 July 2017

Cowboy hats, country music and sweet, sweet wines

Take one patriotic American country music star, cowboy hat and all.

Add his love and dedication to "the Military, Veterans and our Flag!"

Throw in his live pledge of allegiance on Facebook every day. 

Add songs that have featured US Army General Tommy Franks and topics like love, war and shotguns as well as the hit "Billy's Got His Beer Googles On".

The obvious next step for Neal McCoy was to pop the cork on a new line of varietal wines.

Not just any wines, either. These are wines bottled in that hotbed of vinous excellence, Texarkana, Texas.

McCoy says the wines, with labels decked with the US flag and his own face "reflect the passion and loyalty that has fueled [his] life".

The McCoy vision, his press release says, was to source some of the finest tasting wines, representing the best of the vineyards from the finest regions around the nation.

“I am privileged the Neal McCoy /Nealbilly Wine brand is being launched for a new and old generation of wine drinkers," McCoy says in his press release. "Our wines today have just as much passion behind them as some of the finest wineries in Europe, while speaking to a new economy.

"Our Patriotic Set is a sweet series, and we also have additional varietals of four red and four white available.

"Neal McCoy wines are food-friendly and offer incomparable quality and value. Y’all check us out...."

So if you are looking for a trio of "Red Moscato, Moscato and the White Muscadine" for $US55, you know just where to go. 

Do let me know how they taste, y'all.  

Saturday 1 July 2017

Up-to-date information a key to enjoyable travel

How many times have you looked in a guide book for up-to-date information only to find out later that a recommended restaurant serving that guinea pig you've always want to try has long since closed, or that highly-rated folk dancing theatre is now a porno cinema?

In a rapidly changing world, it pays to be on the ball with info: a little research might prevent you from booking into a previously perfectly adequate hotel that now offers views of a massive, and noisy, new freeway construction site. 

Or worse, that the No.12 bus now only runs twice a day and you are destined to spend several hours waiting for the next one. 

Search engines, websites and apps can all play a major part in ensuring a stress-free trip. 

A major holiday destination, Thailand, recently upgraded its Amazing Thailand and Tourism Thailand mobile apps to ensure accurate and timely travel information is at the fingertips of local and international tourists. 
In response to the way modern travellers seek services online, in particular on their mobile devices, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has developed mobile apps which give travellers instant facts and data on general tourist information or more niche services. 
The English-language Amazing Thailand mobile app is aimed at helping international tourists find data on attractions, tours, dining and accommodation. The Tourism Thailand mobile app, meanwhile, offers a similar range of services to local travellers with Thai language listings about events and attractions.
Both the Amazing Thailand and Tourism Thailand mobile apps are boast new features including maps, GPS and 360 VR images of destinations to enable users to easily find attractions and gain preliminary impressions of places of interest. Information can also be shared via e-mail and other social media platforms and email.
In addition, the Amazing Thailand mobile app also allows users to 'speak Thai' via an English-to-Thai translation dictionary, which can be voice-operated enabling tourists to find words they need to communicate with Thai people, shop owners or food sellers.
How very convenient should you urgently need a post office, or, even more urgently, be looking for the public toilets in some remote village in Nakhon Ratchasima. 
For more information, see