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Friday 30 August 2019

Honorary doctorate for wine science pioneer

Charles Sturt University has conferred an honorary Doctor of Science on the late Dr Tony Jordan, OAM, who died earlier this week, and paid tribute to the pioneer of wine science education.
The University Council resolved at its meeting on August 2 to confer the title on Dr Jordan (pictured) for his outstanding commitment to Charles Sturt and the Australian wine industry through education, winemaking, consulting, administration and wine show judging.

Dr Jordan was informed of his award prior to his passing earlier this week.

Charles Sturt vice-chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said he was saddened to hear of Dr Jordan’s passing and the award was a fitting way for the university to recognise his contributions to the higher education sector and the Australian wine industry.

“Dr Jordan contributed greatly to Charles Sturt, in particular to the establishment and development of our wine science and viticulture courses,” Professor Vann said.

“He was an early advocate for developing stronger links between academia and the wine industry, and over the past 25 years remained an active supporter of Charles Sturt’s wine science program.

“Dr Jordan was also a highly respected and accomplished leader in the Australian wine industry, who made great contributions to the industry through the many esteemed positions he held.

“Dr Jordan leaves behind a remarkable legacy. He was a true pioneer in the Australian wine industry and the University was very fortunate for his contributions.”

Dr Jordan had a long relationship with Charles Sturt, beginning his academic career as a lecturer in chemistry in 1974 at the Riverina College of Advanced Education, a precursor institution of Charles Sturt.

During his time at Charles Sturt, he helped to establish the University’s first Bachelor of Wine Science and Diploma of Viticulture and was later appointed as wine science course co-ordinator.

After leaving full-time employment with the university, Dr Jordan held senior leadership positions with several leading organisations in the wine industry such as Domaine Chandon Australia, Chandon Estates, and the French Möet Hennessy group, and established his own consultancy business, vineyard, and winery business.

Macao celebrates its unique cuisine

Macao’s standing as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy goes far beyond the dinner table.

Home to one of the world’s earliest forms of fusion cuisine, this popular Asian centre has its sights firmly set on sustainability and avoiding food wastage, important ingredients to not only promoting its stance on a worldwide problem but also boosting its tourism appeal.

“Macao is on a ‘great green food journey’ which the locals, restaurants and other forms of eateries see significant in the future of the city,” said Helen Wong, general manager of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) Australia and New Zealand.

“Food is very much the spice of life in the former Portuguese enclave, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China for 20 years, but still well aware of the importance of sustainability in addition to maintaining its culinary legacy,” she said.

“It’s estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption around the world every year is wasted, but the chefs, kitchen hands and the growing number of hotel and resort managers in Macao are wasting no time in trying to quell the flow through education and sustainable efforts.

"All is food for thought for a bright, healthy future.”

When it comes to cooking up interest among food lovers, the tiny Pearl Delta enclave has a growing number of contemporary restaurants now boasting Michelin star ratings.

The fusion cuisine began at home, where locals of Chinese and Portuguese background would experiment in the kitchen to create a cuisine which would become uniquely Macanese – recipes using spices and ingredients collected by Portuguese seafarers along the coasts of Africa, India and South-East Asia with locally grown produce.
While the cuisine was primarily Portuguese based and inspired, the point of difference was in the addition of curry, coconut milk, chillies, cloves and cinnamon, to mention a few ingredients.

Such spicy creations as African chicken would become a signature dish in the restaurants along with chilli shrimps, the minced meat dish minchi, and, of course derivations of the traditional Portuguese dishes caldo verde (soup of green cabbage), giant grilled sardines, casserole of rice, pork and seafood and the always popular bacalhau patties (fried cod fish cakes).

Today, those passed down family recipes have been recognised by UNESCO with Macao designated among an elite group of 26 cities around the world as a Creative City for Gastronomy - and one of only three in China.


Thursday 29 August 2019

Thailand targets the social media set

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has launched a new social media brand campaign, called See Yourself in Thailand, across Australia and New Zealand.

The campaign aims , to place a spotlight on Thailand and its growing markets across luxury, gastronomy, adventure and nightlife segments.

The campaign was launched on Tik Tok, the world's fastest-growing social media platform and will focus on a four-part mini-series.

Promoting Thailand across media channels, it is expected to drive over 100,000 visitors to the Oceania website before finishing on September 18.

The launch is also across Facebook and Instagram as well as the website.

Taking a uniquely Oceania view, the stories are viewed through the eyes of Adam Rikys, founder of Bucketvision, and Anna McEvoy former Miss World Australia.

The TAT campaign is intended to target key specific groups and will focus on the regions of Bangkok and Surat Thani (Ko Samui, Ko Tao, Ko Nang Yuan).

In 2018, Thailand welcomed a record number of tourists, 38.27 million, an increase of 7.5% from the previous year.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Virgin Australia is struggling. I know why.

Virgin Australia is blaming a "tough economic environment" for its financial woes. I say it should blame its own dishonesty and its lack of support for loyal customers.

I was a Virgin Platinum frequent flyer and always chose Virgin, but now fly whichever airline has the most convenient schedule or cheaper flights, pushing me down to gold, and soon to silver.

My reason for abandoning Virgin as my first choice came down to several reasons.

1. Former CEO John Borghetti promised a Virgin lounge in Hobart eight years ago. He lied and we are still waiting. That means I lose the value of being a lounge member one flight in two on every return trip I make from my home base.

2. I was unwell and unable to fly for several weeks last year. That cost me my platinum status. I asked Virgin for a dispensation and was refused.

3. Virgin started selling the front-row seats in economy to all-comers. So instead of frequent flyers being in rows 3-4-5 they found themselves pushed further and further back.

4. Lounge quality fell further and further behind Qantas with even basics like newspapers and magazines hard to find in lounges (Melbourne particularly). 

5. There is a meanness about the offering. The "snacks" on my two flights today weighed 28 grams and 20 grams respectively. And back when I was platinum it was often impossible to use the allocated upgrades because either I was on the wrong fare type, or business class was full.    
Brisbane got their new lounge in 2015. Hobart is still waiting
I know of at least three regular FFs who no longer choose to automatically fly Virgin. And there must be many more.

So there is a reason for Virgin losing money it made from once-loyal customers.

Virgin Australia now says it will review its flights and slash 750 jobs after posting a “disappointing” full-year loss of $349.1 million.

The airline said it would restructure its operations and look at everything from how it uses its planes to individual routes after posting its seventh annual loss.

Wednesday’s figures came despite Virgin’s revenue for the year to June 30 rising 7.5%.

The results are an improvement on the previous year’s $653 million loss, but it is still Virgin Australia’s third-worst performance.

Virgin will cut head office and corporate positions as it tries to save money.

“There is no doubt that we are operating in a tough economic climate with high fuel, a low Australian dollar and subdued trading conditions,” Virgin Australia chief executive Paul Scurrah said.

Maybe you'd fancy a chat, Mr Scurrah. I'm ready and waiting. 

50th birthday celebrations for Balgownie Estate

Balgownie Estate is turning 50 this year and to celebrate the Bendigo-based winery is hosting a range of community events to mark the occasion.

Located just under two-hours from Melbourne, Balgownie Estate Bendigo – the oldest wine producer in the region - makes complex cabernet, shiraz and chardonnay.

Balgownie Estate Bendigo has more than 70 acres of vines enabling the winery to experiment with trends crafting and producing lighter, earlier drinkable wines – which are set to be showcased across all festivities and events throughout the 50th anniversary event celebrations.

To commemorate the milestone Balgownie Estate is releasing 50 cases of a new limited-edition 2015 Old Vine Cabernet ($120) - vintaged entirely from original 1969 cabernet sauvignon plantings.

“The Old Vine Cabernet is a beautifully complex wine with a concentration of savoury flavours and supple fine tannins to close on the long finish and is a perfect wine to celebrate this half a century milestone” said Balgownie Estate chief winemaker Tony Winspear.

The celebrations will include wine dinners and a free community day with live music, food stalls and wine games for those looking for more light-hearted fun.

Balgownie’s 50th Anniversary Wine Making Dinner showcasing limited-edition releases will be held at Ryne in North Fitzroy on September 4.

For details see

A world first: a fine art exhibition at sea

MSC Grandiosa, the newest ship in the MSC Cruises fleet set to launch in November, will host the world’s first fine art experience on board a cruise ship.

The immersive art and dining experience featuring Degas Danse Dessin aims to bring guests closer to the world of fine art with an exhibition of original Impressionist art.

Housed in a purpose-built installation within the chic L’Atelier Bistro at the heart of the ship’s Mediterranean-style promenade, the Edgar Degas exhibition is the first curation of this unique collection on board a cruise ship.

The Danse Dessin series presents 26 studies of movement and dance, which was previously exhibited in major international galleries and museums.

Degas’ work encapsulates the soul of romantic Paris, fitting within the setting of the new French bistro on board MSC Grandiosa.
It will also offer an immersive experience for guests with five videos running alongside the artwork detailing details of Degas’ work and life.

The introduction and presentation of the renowned works is part of a collaboration between MSC Cruises and THE AIMES, experts in creating multi-sensory interactive experiences, employing innovative technology to engage people with art and culture. 

The exhibition has been curated by art historian, critic and member of exhibition producers THE AIMES, Marcello Smarrelli.
The exhibition curator said: "Despite his apparently romantic subjects, Degas was a great experimenter, deeply interested in the use of new technologies available in those years of great scientific and industrial renewal.

"The focus of his artistic research was the study of the movement of the human body and the attempt to reproduce it in an artwork. For this reason, his artistic practice was fundamental for the birth of photography and cinema of which Degas was a pioneer. 

"I'm sure he would have loved this interactive art exhibition, the first of its kind at sea and it is an exciting opportunity to connect people with Degas’ artwork in a new way and bring it to life through digital content for MSC Cruises guests.”

MSC Grandiosa will become the new flagship in the MSC Cruises fleet when she launches in November with brand new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows, and a wide choice of international dining options.

For more information on MSC Grandiosa visit

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Oops. British Airways hits ticket turbulence

British Airways has apologised to thousands of passengers who were wrongly told their flights had been cancelled around the dates of the airline's upcoming pilots' strike.

An email blunder saw thousands receiving emails on Saturday saying their original flights would not operate and they needed to re-book, Travel Mole reported.

BA pilots are due to strike on September 9, 10 and 27, but BA also told customers with tickets booked on other days that their flights, too, were cancelled.

They were later contacted to say the original email had been sent in error and their tickets were usable. By then, however, many had already booked alternative tickets.

In the second email, passengers were not given a link to automatically re-book onto their original flight, meaning they had to contact BA directly.

Some customers spent hours trying to get in touch with BA's customer services without success.

One woman, told the BBC she called the airline 67 times, while another said she'd re-booked flights to Orlando, but was then told by BA she was not entitled to a refund because the flight was now operating.

In response to one passenger on Twitter, a BA representative said: "We're extremely sorry that you're having difficulties trying to rearrange your flights.

"Our teams have been working tirelessly to help as many of our customers as possible, in these unprecedented circumstances."

A BA spokeswoman said customers who were told their flights were cancelled in error and had booked alternative flights or incurred other expenses would be entitled to refunds if they submitted receipts.

BA said it received 38,000 calls and 33,000 tweets in first 24 hours of the strike being announced; contact centres stayed open 24 hours to help resolve issues, with 70 extra staff and around 100 staff working to answer Twitter queries.

Floriade's NightFest draws crowds and big names to Canberra

Commonwealth Park in Canberra turns into an illuminated playground for the four nights of NightFest, one of the highlights of Floriade. 

Dubbed as "Floriade's dark side",  the festival will run from October 3-October 6 to let let visitors see Floriade's theme, World in Bloom, in a whole new light with giant interactive lighting installations, pop-up performances, markets and dishes from around the world. 

Open each night from 6:30pm to 10:30pm, Thursday to Saturday will feature live music on Stage 88, including The Veronicas, Busby Marou and Electric Fields, while Sunday night will see the return of Comedy NightFest with back-to-back laughs featuring Urzila Carlson and Dave Hughes, among others. 

After the sun sets, the park will come alive with awe inspiring lights illuminating the flowerbeds and two interactive lighting installations, created by lighting specialists 

Set in the Rhododendron Garden, one of the installations, Framed, features a series of 20 towering picture frames, covered in thousands of pixels of LED lights which create a 60-metre tunnel. 

The NightFest night markets will feature treats from local Canberran food producers, brewers, dsitillers and winemakers.

Tickets are on sale now. For more information visit

Monday 26 August 2019

Are breasts out of fashion as a sales tool?

Just what is happening with Hooters? First it is selling its Las Vegas casino, and two it is serving awful food at its Phuket outlet. 

Having never tried a Hooters before, I sampled its Thai offering recently - and vowed never again. Big bosoms, thin smiles and terrible tucker. 

Then I read that rapidly expanding Indian hotel unicorn Oyo Hotels & Homes is adding the Hooters Casino Hotel near the Las Vegas Strip to its portfolio.

Following renovations, it will re-brand as Oyo Hotel & Casino, Travel Mole reports. This follows a $20 million revamp two years. Obviously not a success.

And the number of Hooters "breastaurants" is falling.   

The Las Vegas property has more than 650 rooms across 19 floors and Oyo has partnered with hospitality company Highgate which will manage hotel operations. Paragon Gaming will continue to operate the casino, Oyo said.

Oyo only recently officially launched in the US, and by adding its name to a gaming resort marks a huge shift for the brand.

Its business model so far has been to re-brand and standardize small independent budget hotels.

In fact, gambling is outlawed in nearly all its major existing markets, from China, India, Southeast Asia and the Gulf region.

"We are excited to cater to a completely different audience segment and are certain this will be the perfect start to Oyo's journey in Las Vegas," said Oyo founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal.

Sunday 25 August 2019

A very different ocean cruise proposition

Many ocean cruises feature exotic and warm destinations like the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. 

Not this one. Cruise lovers are being offered the opportunity to explore the rugged landscapes of Newfoundland on a circumnavigation of the wild Canadian island. 

My late father was Newfoundlander and I still have many family members living on what is a fascinating island with unique history and amazing wildlife. 

Adventure Canada and Australian small ship specialist Cruise Traveller are offering an 11-night Newfoundland Circumnavigation package that begins in quirky St. Johns, on June 25, 2020, and
includes one-night’s pre-cruise accommodation and a 10-night circumnavigation of Newfoundland.

St John's is the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador province and its harbour was settled by the British in the 1600s. It is bleak and cold in winter, stunning in summer with its colourful row houses (below). 

Guests can save 15% when booking twin share - prices start from US$5945 per person, twin-share, in a category 3 interior cabin – a saving of US$1050 per person. 

In a junior suite, prices start from US$12,575 per person, twin share – a saving of US$2220 per person. This offer is available until October 31, 2019.

For a limited time and subject to availability, Adventure Canada and Cruise Traveller are also offering supplement-free fares for single travellers (in categories 3-7). 

Newfoundland is an island located off Canada’s east Atlantic Coast, similar in size to Ireland but a whole lot wilder. 

The cruise will be on board 198-passenger, eco-friendly vessel Ocean Endeavour. 

Highlights include a traditional Mikmaq welcome at Miawpukek First Nation Reserve and hiking at Gros Morne National Park. The itinerary also features a visit to the restored, 1000-year-old Norse Settlement of L'Anse aux Meadows - the earliest evidence of European presence in North America.

Before returning to St. John’s guests will also visit the French territory of Saint-Pierre. Located off the coast of Newfoundland, Saint-Pierre is the last bastion of France’s colonial presence in North America.  

It all sounds fantastic. 

Flights from Australia are, of course, extra. 

Call 1800 507 777 or visit

Where the country meets the city; the magic of Daylesford

There is something special about Australian country towns.

People have time to smile when you walk past them or to offer help if you look lost.

There is fresh local produce, picked from a tree that morning, or plucked from the earth before being served for lunch.

You’ll probably be able to visit a cellar door where the person serving you also made the wine you’ll be tasting, and there will be all day parking, for free, on the main street in town.

Daylesford, just an hour north of Melbourne Airport, is one such place with a country vibe, but being so close to Melbourne it also offers some of the best elements of the city, including broad-mindedness and an artistic vibe.

Think barista-made coffee served swiftly, a real butcher’s shop, delightful food cooked by serious chefs (no Maccas or KFC) and accommodation options that range from city slick to country comfort.

It means shops that sell the latest fashionable wear – but also op shops with serious bargains (I’m still using my much-loved Vinnie’s scarf).

There are few traffic jams in Daylesford and neighbouring Hepburn Springs; I don’t recall having seen a traffic light and if you hear a car horn it is probably just someone greeting a friend.

What a contrast to the city, where you can spend considerable portions of your day waiting in a traffic logjam.

Sure, in the country life moves a little bit slower. But science suggests that living in the country is beneficial for both your physical and your mental health.

While city and suburb living certainly have plenty of benefits, there’s something about spending a few days in somewhere like Daylesford that just leaves your mind and body feeling good.

There’s cleaner air, for a start. Life is generally cheaper out of the big cities and you have easier access to great dishes with far fewer food miles. There is less crime, too.

With just 2,548 people as of the 2016 census, Daylesford was first established in 1852 as a gold-mining town.

Today, it pulls in the visitors as one of Australia’s few spa towns – another bonus for locals.

The Daylesford-Hepburn Springs region accounts for more than 80% of Australia’s known mineral water springs.

There are no police sirens in Daylesford, and no noisy jet planes overhead.

Daylesford and Hepburn Springs have no fumes or stress; but the service levels are good. Many young people train in the city, but then return to their own slice of heaven.

You may be troubled deciding which of the many excellent eateries to patronise, which local Macedon Ranges wine to choose, and – for visitors – whether to choose to stay in homely pub accommodation, in luxury self-catering apartments, or in one of the several world-class gourmet and spa resorts.

It’s that level of choice that makes Daylesford-Hepburn Springs so special. That, and the beautiful surroundings.

There can be few better ways to greet the day than with a brisk walk around the shores of the lake followed by a hearty country breakfast in front of a wood-fire in winter, or al fresco in summer.

Daylesford is a perfect escape for the spoiled city dweller.

You’ll find great shops, art galleries, wine bars, regional charm, wellness treatments and other joys of city living without the hassles. Where in a city could you be close to 140 natural mineral springs rich in magnesium, calcium and silica and believed to cure afflictions from acne to arthritis?

Throw in the majestic mystery of Hanging Rock, formed six million years ago, the many regional bushwalks and the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens and it is hard to imagine anywhere better to escape the hustle and bustle for a few days, or a lifetime.

Saturday 24 August 2019

Airline rated "greedy, sneaky and arrogant"

Budget airline Ryanair has come bottom in the annual Which? survey rating the customer services of 100 popular brands in the United Kingdom.

It's the sixth year in a row that the controversial airline has been last on the list, Travel Mole reports.

The Which? survey asked 4,000 members of the public to rate the customer services of well-known brands on customer service, knowledge and how helpful they were.

Ryanair scored 45% for customer service overall and received the lowest rating of one star in all three categories. When asked about how well the airline handles complaints, 50% of respondents gave it the lowest rating possible.

Given a choice of 50 terms to describe the companies on the list, many respondents chose to describe Ryanair as 'greedy', 'sneaky' and 'arrogant'.

British Airways came 83rd on the list, with an overall customer service rating of 66%. EasyJet was the highest performing airline, coming in at 79th, with an overall score of 68%.

Which? magazine editor Harry Rose said the firms that have "gone out of their way to prioritise customer service as a key part of their business" are the ones that have done best in the survey.

The highest overall brand on the list was First Direct, a retail bank, followed by kitchenware store Lakeland and retailer Marks and Spencer.

Friday 23 August 2019

A litre of wine for $10?

Baily & Baily - an in-house brand for Woolworth's stores including Dan Murphy's and BWS -  has just launched its Silhouette series in one-litre bottles for $10. 

With more Australians favouring a night at home as opposed to a night out with restaurant bills, bar tabs, Uber fares and babysitting costs attached, Baily & Baily believes its new-look own-label brand will prove popular for backyard barbecues and dinner parties. 

"With 33% more delicious wine to enjoy with family and friends at the same price as the 750ml bottle, the 1-litre Baily & Baily Silhouette Series offers Australian wine lovers quality and value for money," says the blurb. 

I asked for samples so I could review the wines and let you know about the "quality and value" bit. Are they better value than casks, for instance?

I was sent the sauvignon blanc and the shiraz. The white was impressive, the red acceptable. Both were labelled “Wine of Australia”. 

Baily & Baily sources fruit from regions including the Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and Margaret River. The range features images and names inspired by bingo calls including Legs Eleven, Jump & Jive, Two Little Ducks, Tickety Boo and Kelly’s Eye.

It includes rosé, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, dry white, shiraz, cabernet merlot, cabernet sauvignon and a moscato set to launch later this year.

BWS Wine Category Manager, Nitin Arora says: “There is no doubt that Australians are tightening their budgets with the increased cost of living choosing to stay at home with their partners, family or friends rather than venturing out to restaurants, bars and clubs. 

"As a result, we are seeing a trend towards consumers seeking wines that offer both great taste and fantastic value for money, and we are confident that the new Baily & Baily 1-Litre Silhouette Series delivers against both.”

The verdict:
The 2018 sauvignon blanc is light, fresh, crisp, easy to drink and varietal. Ideal for a picnic or a party.  

The 2018 shiraz offers simple, sweet fruit that would pair well with burgers or a kebab. 

For more information, visit

California dreaming. The Napa Valley, wine and marijuana

Marijuana was legalised in California in 2016 and as from next year it should be a whole lot easier to grow it as an agricultural product in the Napa Valley. 
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the Napa County Board of Supervisors decided to put a proposal – the Napa County Cannabis Regulation Initiative – to a vote. 
If given the green light, it would allow for the cultivation of cannabis for commercial use on land considered best suited to agriculture, though pot won’t be able to be grown on the same lot of land as a vineyard.
The proposal would allow businesses to grow just one acre of marijuana apiece, a far smaller area than many vineyards in the region, which can stretch to hundreds of acres. 
The Napa Valley, renowned for its vineyards, has yet to permit cannabis farming, as a number of local grape growers fear the odour from the farms may contaminate grapes grown nearby.
The move to legalise commercial cannabis farming in Napa is being backed by the Napa Valley Cannabis Association, made up of entrepreneurs in both the wine and weed industries, who believe grapes and grass can happily co-exist.
The group gathered thousands of signatures in favour of the initiative, leading to the vote, which will take place on 3 March next year.
Eric Sklar, co-founder of the Napa Valley Cannabis Association, believes the commercial cultivation of cannabis in Napa would help boost the local economy.
“For two-and-a-half years all we’ve been asking is for the supervisors to have a discussion about what’s best for Napa Valley in terms of a cannabis ordinance, and that’s what they did at the last minute,” Sklar told the SFC
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported this month that California is on track to post a record $3.1 billion in licensed cannabis sales this year, solidifying its status as the largest legal marijuana market in the world. 
Legal sales are up significantly from an approximate $2.5 billion in 2018, the first year of licensed cannabis sales in California, according to the analysis by sales-tracking firms Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics. 
“Any market in the world would be ecstatic about a 23% growth rate,” analyst Tom Adams said. “That is fabulous for any industry to have that kind of growth.’’
But California’s black market for marijuana continues to flourish as high taxes and a refusal by most cities to allow licensed shops makes it sometimes cheaper and easier for people to buy from illicit dealers. 

Ray Martin, a star photographer, and a country wine bar

Talented photographer Ewen Bell is a friend of mine, as is excellent winemaker and wine bar host Johnno Harris. And I've seen Ray Martin a lot on the telly.

The three combine for a photo exhibition, Feathers of the Dragon, that starts today upstairs at the Mitchell Harris cellar door and wine bar in Ballarat.

Martin, yes the former TV journalist and now photographer, travelled with Bell to Bhutan to capture a special collection of images from two perspectives, the birds that live in the forests and the Bhutanese who protect that habitat.

They met with farmers, monks, conservationists and rangers. What they discovered was a beautiful expression of conservation that has deep cultural roots, and yet is awakening to the modern world and a modern way to look at conservation values.

Where they come together is the idea that the best way to protect wilderness is by local awareness of the wildlife who live there. When communities see the birds, they will act protect them.

The exhibition is part of the Ballarat international Foto Biennale and has its official opening on August 31.


Thursday 22 August 2019

Debbie Lauritz takes coveted winemaking role

Debbie Lauritz has been appointed head winemaker - Mudgee for Robert Oatley Vineyards.


Lauritz has been senior winemaker for Cumulus Wines for a decade and will be supported by David Richards, also ex Cumulus, who moved to Mudgee earlier this year when ROV began processing for Cumulus Wines at the family’s Montrose winery.

The appointments follow the departure of Rob and Pia Merrick who moved to Victoria earlier this year to pursue other career options.

Lauritz is an experienced wine show judge and has also worked in Alsace (France), Marlborough (NZ) and Niagara (Canada). She has also made her own range for Naked Wines.

“This augers well for ROV” said the group's director of winemaking Larry Cherubino.

“Debbie will be working with a wide range of regions from across the country – she is a very experienced and talented winemaker. Additionally, her offsider David Richards is a terrific new appointment.”

How Australian wine shows really work

We are in peak Australian wine show season right now. From Sydney to Tasmania, judges have been swirling, sniffing and spitting. 

There are literally dozens of Australian wine shows every year – but the wine-drinking public generally have no idea how system works. 

First wins gold, second gets silver and third gets bronze? Nothing quite that simple. You can win a gold medal for coming 15th in a particular class. Sounds crazy? Stay tuned. 

Wine shows are designed as ways to sell wines using little gold stickers. 

From those run by Royal Agricultural Societies (e.g. Sydney Royal Wine Show), to smaller regional shows; niche shows like the Australian Sparkling Wine Show; private shows such as the Sydney International Wine Competition (where finalists are judged with food), and specialist international challenges (the Canberra International Riesling Challenge, for instance) the judging process is pretty consistent.

That's the case even at tiny sub-shows like the Taste of Tasmania, or even the Bream Creek Show.

To ensure that they are judged fairly, wines are grouped into classes according to their variety (or blend - and sometimes, their vintage). 

The judging panel comprises three industry experts (winemakers, media etc), who taste "blind"- with no knowledge of what the wines are - and in silence. 

Once all the wines from a class have been tasted, the panel compares scores and impressions, and, in consultation with the panel chair, agrees a consensus score.

The highest scoring gold medal winners advance through to Trophy judging at the end of the show. Trophies, not gold medals, are the most coveted awards in the Australian system.

At the recent Royal Melbourne Wine Awards, no fewer than 32 trophies were awarded. 

It is possible that a panel could award a dozen gold medals in any particular class - or hundreds during one show. Any wine scoring over 18.5 points using the traditional 20-point system is scored gold. It takes 95 points under the the 100-point system. 

Winning over 17 points earns a silver medal and 15.5 or more merits a bronze. So not like the Olympics at all. 

There are also several other issues. Panel chairs may instruct judges to look for certain characteristics, perhaps ruling out very good, but heavily oaked wines. And some judges are able to identify wines from their winery - or even region - at 20 paces, giving them high scores and arguing their merits. 

Also, no judge's palate can hope to be as sharp on shiraz No.80 in a line-up as it was on No.1.

So if you are buying gold medallists thinking you are drinking the best of the best, think again.    

Wednesday 21 August 2019

New Zealand wine to mark a memorable milestone

Central Otago pinot noir vines
This September will mark 200 years since the first planting of a grapevine in New Zealand, a stat that might surprise many wine experts.

From the humble beginnings of a few vines planted 200 years ago in the Bay of Islands, the New Zealand wine industry has grown to become a major export earner, with an international reputation for premium, diverse and sustainable wines.

Sauvignon blancs from Marlborough and pinot noirs from Central Otago are known all over the wine-drinking world. 

It may, however, surprise many connoisseurs to learn that New Zealand’s wine story is older than they think.

Reverend Samuel Marsden, who was Chaplain to New South Wales (1765-1838), records September 25, 1819, as the day he planted a grape vine in the fertile grounds beside the Stone Store, at Kerikeri in New Zealand's Bay of Islands. 

That pioneering vine also gave New Zealand’s wine heritage a unique story as one of very few countries in the world where the exact date of the planting of the first vines is recorded.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, a significant number of European arrivals established vineyards in different regions, contributing to the early establishment of the diverse wine regions of New Zealand. 

But it wasn’t until the second half of the last century that a new wave of Kiwi viticulturalists and winemakers began to earn their place in the international wine world. Until then the major grape in New Zealand was the mediocre Muller-Thurgau. 

Today, the New Zealand wine industry consists of over 700 wineries and more than 600 grape growers, with its growing success depending strongly on the commitment and passion of the people behind it.

Since the 1990s, there has been an evolution in the grape varieties planted throughout New Zealand. Sauvignon blanc is now the most widely planted variety, accounting for 76% of total production, followed by pinot noir and chardonnay.

Around 98% of New Zealand’s vineyard production land is certified under Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ), a voluntary scheme that is unmatched anywhere in the world.

New Zealand Winegrowers will be marking the 200-year anniversary of the first vine planting with an event that includes a ceremonial re-planting at the historic Stone Store, followed by a regional wine tasting and dinner on the nearby Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

In his diary, Marsden prophesied: "New Zealand promises to be very favourable to the vine, as far as I can judge at present of the nature of the soil and climate. Should the vine succeed, it will prove of vast importance in this part of the globe."

The first recorded New Zealand wine was made in the Bay of Islands in the 1830s.

The first wine-maker was James Busby – representative of the British Crown in New Zealand.

Busby lived in what is now known as the Treaty House in the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi.

When French naval explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville (commanding officer on the Astrolabe) visited the Bay of Islands in 1840, he was disappointed to find Busby was not at home.

d’Urville, however, sampled Busby’s wine and subsequently penned New Zealand’s first wine review: "With great pleasure I agreed to taste the product of the vineyard that I had just seen. I was given a light white wine, very sparkling, and delicious to taste, which I enjoyed very much."

Chinese swoop to buy Knappstein winery and vines

The Knappstein winery and several associated vineyards in the Clare Valley have been sold by global congolmerate Accolade Wines following a strategic review of the business.

Australian Yinmore Wines Pty Ltd (Yinmore Wines), a Chinese-owned company based in Kunming, will acquire the Knappstein winemaking facility in Clare, five associated vineyards and the Knappstein label. No price was disclosed. 

The Knappstein business was in 1969 founded by Tim and Annie Knappstein as Enterprise Wines and has gone through changes of ownership since, including Petaluma, subsequently part of Lion Nathan.

Accolade will continue to distribute the Knappstein range of wines until the new owners have determined their sales and marketing strategy.

Yinmore last year purchased Wickham Estate vineyard in McLaren Vale, also in South Australia.

The Australian subsidiary of Yinmore Sugar, part of Chinese conglomerate Bright Food Group, bought the historic 42-hectare Wickham Estate with 24 hectares of vines for an undisclosed price

Excluded from the new sale agreement are Accolade’s two remaining Clare Valley vineyards, over which it will retain ownership to ensure supply of riesling grapes to its Petaluma, Hardys and Leasingham brands.

The sale follows Accolade’s review of its global operational footprint.

As part of the same review, Accolade is considering the potential sale of the Houghton winery in Western Australia’s Swan Valley. The Houghton sale process is continuing.

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Celebrating the wines of Mudgee in country style

Grapes have been grown in the Mudgee region in central western New South Wales for around 160 years. 

Such is Mudgee's love affair with the wine grape that it is home to a wine and food festival that runs over a whole month. 

The Mudgee Wine + Food Festival, which dates back to 1979, will be held from September 7 to October 7 having grown impressively over four decades.
Flavours of Mudgee. Pic: Amber Hooper 

I tasted several delicious Mudgee cabernets last night thanks to David Cumming of Define Wine, an indefatigable marketer of the region. 

Stars included familiar names like Hungtington Estate 2014 Special Reserve Cabernet and Robert Stein 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, along with lesser-known names like organic duo 2016 Guneemooroo and Vinfera 2016 (my standout).

These wines, along with wines and food from all of the Mudgee region, will be on show during the 40th Mudgee Wine + Food Festival. 
The following signature events for the festival will be complemented by a diverse range of experiences at each of Mudgee’s cellar doors during the month.

# 40th Anniversary Festival ‘Ruby’ Launch
Saturday, September 7, Craigmoor Pavilion, 6-9pm

# Mudgee Wine Show Trophy Dinner
Friday, September 13, Putta Bucca House, 6.30-10pm

# Go Tasting
Saturday, September 14, AREC Pavilion, from 5.30pm

# Go Grazing
Saturday, September 21, Blue Wren Hall, from 6.30pm 

# Wednesday Night Wine
Wednesday September 25, Roth’s Wine Bar, from 6pm

# Flavours of Mudgee
Saturday, September 28, Mudgee CBD from 4-8pm

Full details of the 40th Mudgee Wine + Food Festival, along with ticketing, will be published on their website

Kiwi love affair with amber ale

Which country has more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the world?

You may be surprised by the answer, but a warm welcome and a cold beer are never far away in New Zealand, or so New Zealand Tourism reports.

The Kiwi brewing industry has boomed in recent years and small boutique breweries are leading the charge. 

A New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report on behalf of the Brewers Association of New Zealand (BANZ) found there were 218 breweries in 2019 compared with just 65 in 2012.

Those statistics, however, are disputed by many beer lovers.

What is certainly true is that thanks to a rapid rise in breweries, beer tourism in New Zealand is flourishing, with more operators than ever offering beer tours across New Zealand.

The Brewers Guild of New Zealand has launched a website this year called the New Zealand Ale Trail, which helps guide thirsty travellers to the best breweries around the country.

While food and wine festivals are still popular in New Zealand, beer festivals are quickly becoming a favourite with locals and international visitors.

This year saw the first edition of the Gisborne Beer Festival, while Nelson’s MarchFest is seeing a 20% rise in attendance year-on-year.

New Zealand’s premier beer festival Beervana is held annually in August.

IPAs, red ales and sour beers are regulars on taps around the country and there are brewers, tour guides and event organisers waiting to welcome visiting beer lovers.

Tour operators include BrewBus and Keith Prenne’s Craft Beer Tour of New Zealand. 

For details see:

Monday 19 August 2019

Back to where it all began for new Elderton winemaker

Brock Harrison, who has spent over 13 years working for Pernod Ricard, is the new winemaker at Elderton Wines in the Barossa Valley, where he began his wine career.

Harrison led a small team of winemakers overseeing all stages of production across the sparkling and chardonnay portfolios for Pernod Richard and also managed the premium red fermentation area at Rowland Flat, crafting small parcels for Jacob's Creek and St Hugo.

He also has a long history with the Ashmead family, who own and operate Elderton. He will work alongside Julie Ashmead.

Harrison first worked as a weekend cellar door casual for Elderton back in 2003, a job that helped him pay his way through his winemaking degree.

A local Barossa boy, he worked with the cellar door crew for two years and then did his first vintage at Elderton in 2005.

"The team at Elderton are very excited to have Brock aboard and know that he will work in harmony with Julie Ashmead to create the next generation of stunning wines," said co-owner Allister Ashmead.

Are you ready to sleep underwater?

Australia's first underwater accommodation, Reefsuites, will open this summer. 
With floor-to-ceiling views of the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef, Reefsuites is the brainchild of the team at Cruise Whitsunday's Heart Pontoon in the Whitsundays.
Guests will arrive via a scenic cruise through the Whitsundays Islands to the outer reef where they will be able to choose from two private, underwater rooms available (king double or twin single options). 
All meals and beverages, including breakfast, morning and afternoon teas and dinner will be included with a dining experience under the stars. 
Activities at the reef including a private guided snorkelling tour and semi-submarine tour will be included in the tariff of $749 per person. 
For more information visit