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Saturday 30 November 2019

Calling Game of Thrones lovers and whisky aficionados

Looking for a special Christmas gift for a Johnnie Walker whisky lover, or a fan of cult HBO show Game of Thrones?

Johnnie Walker has created two collectors’ edition whiskies – Song of Ice and Song of Fire – in celebration of the final season of Game of Thrones.

The new whiskies are inspired by and adorned with imagery from the two great Houses who face off in the final series - House Stark, represented by the fearsome Direwolf, and House Targaryen, represented by the fire-breathing Dragon.

The pair is available from liquor stores nationwide now at $69.99 for 700ml.

When the bottles are paired side-by-side, on the A Song of Fire bottle, Johnnie Walker’s iconic Striding Man uncharacteristically faces head-to-head with the A Song of Ice Striding Man, both backed by the fangs of the Direwolf and the breath of the Dragon.

All of which means nothing to me - as I've never seen a single episode.

Having taste tasted the pair alongside a couple of experienced whisky tasters I can report they "taste like Johnnie Walker" and "look very impressive".

A Song of Ice has a crisp, clean taste "inspired by the unforgiving, sharp Winterfell terrain and the freezing ice that shapes its mountains and stops its rivers". It is crafted using whiskies from Clynelish, one of Scotland’s most northern and iconic distilleries, lending a fresh crispness to the Scotch.

Diageo folk say A Song of Ice is best enjoyed on the rocks.

My preference was A Song of Fire, which boasts flavours of subtle smoky peats from the Caol Ila distillery.

Diageo, which owns Johnnie Walker, has a collection of brands including Bundaberg Rum, Johnnie Walker, Talisker, Lagavulin and The Singleton whiskies, Smirnoff and Cîroc vodkas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Don Julio, Tanqueray and Guinness.

Hobart "International" Airport: Tasmania's shame

Hobart International Airport is a complete misnomer. 

Despite a decade of sabre-rattling and vague promises from politicians and the aviation industry there are precisely zero scheduled international flights to or from Hobart - and still no facilities set up to deal with customs, immigration or security. 

Hobart Airport is, in fact, a disgrace and an embarrassment. A second-rate, Third World facility that several years of cosmetic improvements have done nothing to rectify. 

Some tatty but comfortable seats have been replaced by hugely uncomfortable seats in the departures area; but the food remains grotesquely over-priced. Only one of the airlines serving Hobart has a business lounge for customers. 

Despite several years of being a building site, Hobart Airport is still not fit for purpose - its lack of air bridges (and no plans for them either) making it a joke for arrival passengers when it is cold (often) or raining (less often). Not to mention the regular severe winds.

Time your arrival wrongly and you are soaked through and freezing within minutes of landing.

Flying in during heavy rain on Friday night, Virgin Australia had to warn elderly and infirm passengers to be careful of slipping on the wet, metal stairs that the Hobart Airport authorities use instead of air bridges.

Passengers then had to brave the rain (no umbrellas available) across the tarmac, to the new arrivals area, complete with two conveyor belts. 

When the baggage arrived it was, predictably, soaking wet. Passengers then had to walk through an ill-lit, puddle-strewn pathway through more building works to the long-term "saver" car park, which is already often full beyond capacity. 

Not to mention airport authorities blocking off of roadside waiting zones, and grumpy security personnel ready to pounce on those waiting to collect arriving passengers from the inadequate pick-up zone. 

Tasmania has to realise that travel is global competitive and first impressions are important. If visitors think our facilities are second rate they can choose to visit Bali, Noosa, Thailand or Perth instead. 

An air bridge for international flights and a covered walkway to distant parking would be an absolute minimum of what is needed. 

Instead, our complacent politicians continue to lure tourists promising them first-rate luxury experiences, but offer a dismal first look at what Tasmania has to offer. Not good enough.


Friday 29 November 2019

New accommodation at Christchurch Airport

A $80 million new-build Novotel has opened at Christchurch in New Zealand. 
Accor, the largest operator of hotels in airport precincts across the Pacific region, welcomed the first guests this week. 

Spanning across six floors, the 4.5 star Novotel Christchurch Airport has 200 premium guestrooms, including 10 suites and 10 wheelchair accessible rooms. 
Located next to the terminal of New Zealand's second largest airport, the architectural design of the hotel is the work of Warren and Mahoney Architects, the same team behind the award-winning Novotel Auckland Airport hotel.
Novotel Christchurch Airport hotel is located 15 minutes from Christchurch's city centre and features a restaurant and lobby bar, fully equipped gymnasium, car parking, kids' corner, wifi and 10 conference and function spaces.
The top floor is the hero feature, with floor-to-ceiling windows, offering panoramic views across the runway and over the Southern Alps. 

A modern restaurant and social hub, Food Exchange, is also a highlight. 
Senior Vice President Operations for Accor New Zealand, Fiji and French Polynesia, Gillian Millar says: “This is a stunning development and certainly not your average airport hotel. Accor is very proud to have answered the call from international tourists seeking new hotel product at the gateway to New Zealand's South Island.
“Christchurch has enjoyed its highest visitor expenditure on record, reaching a total of $3 billion, for the year ending June 2019, with visitors from Australia and Asia accounting for just over half of the region's international tourism expenditure.
“Increasing tourist numbers and such positive visitor expenditure figures highlight the need for a sophisticated accommodation option at Christchurch Airport, and we know that short-stay business travellers, leisure guests and Accor's valued 4.5 million Pacific loyalty members will be impressed with the hotel's features, catering to their transit needs.
“Accor continues to lead the industry as airport hotel specialists, and we understand the specific needs of transiting guests and the Novotel brand's multi-service offering will allow guests the freedom to thoroughly enjoy their stay,” concluded Gillian.
Novotel Christchurch Airport complements Accor's two existing airport hotels in New Zealand - Novotel Auckland Airport and ibis Budget Auckland Airport. 
Novotel Christchurch Airport is the ninth Novotel branded hotel in New Zealand and joins a global network of over 520 Novotel hotel's in 61 countries. Novotel Christchurch Airport is Accor's 45th property in New Zealand.

Images from an iconic wine chateau

It is 20 years since entrepreneur John Geber and his family took control of derelict Barossa Valley wine icon Chateau Tanunda.

The Gebers have spent millions of dollars on refurbishing the buildings, creating a showpiece winery and cellar door.

This week they are celebrating the 130th birthday of Chateau Tanunda with a series of tastings, a dinner and a cricket match on the winery oval.

Here are some images of the celebrations.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

All change at Bells at Killcare: new chef takes the reins

Bells at Killcare, the five-star boutique resort on the New South Wales Central Coast, has announced a new look and name to its restaurant from December. 

The eatery will be named the wild flower bar and dining with a kitchen team to be headed by chef Sean Connolly. 

The chef is currently a business partner with Bells at Killcare owners Karina and Brian Barry at their other Central Coast hot-spot, The Bon Pavilion at Gosford. 

Connolly and right-hand man Tony Gibson will refresh the menu and dining experience, broadening the restaurant’s Italian dining style to a modern-European approach with the same focus on quality food and service. 

Bells’ dining room style will transition toward a casually-luxe aesthetic that complements its location - surrounded by the Bouddi National Park and the region’s vast coastal waterways. 

The space has been designed by Sydney image consultant Mark Patrick. 

“I have long been a fan of Bells at Killcare – it’s this beautifully Australian location surrounded by national park, beaches and waterways filled with high-quality seafood," said Connolly. 

“We are going to unearth some of the incredible seafood from our local Hardy’s Bay fisherman. We’re also going to inject a little more life to the dining experience; the sights and sounds of a buzzing dining room will welcome diners, and we’ll be creating more theatre on the floor with trolley service and table-side cooking including salt-crusted fish cracked right there on the table and pasta tossed fresh in front of your very eyes."

The restaurant will continue to employ sustainable practices with more than 15% of the produce on its menu supplied from the 500 sqm kitchen garden on the grounds, as well as bee hives and free-range hens.

Bells at Killcare is at 107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights. For more details visit

Tuesday 26 November 2019

The brochure every lover of Tasmanian wine needs

Tasmania's vineyards and cellar doors are spread over a surprisingly large area - and are often hard to find. 

To aid wine lovers in finding somewhere to sip and sup off the beaten track enter he 2020 Tasmanian Wine Trails guide released today. 

The guide is aimed at helping to drive regional visitation to Tasmania’s cellar doors and complementary experiences.

Over the past year, close to 300,000 interstate and international visitors to Tasmania called into a cellar door during their stay - 22% of all visitors to Tasmania

Importantly, this segment of visitors spend around $1,000 more per person on average than other visitors to the island.

“With Tasmania’s key focus on growing regional visitation and encouraging high-yield travellers, wine is an important motive and part of the visitor experience,” said Wine Tasmania CEO Sheralee Davies.

“This hugely popular guide has been updated for 2020, featuring more than 70 cellar door and vineyards around the island, together with complementary dining and visitor offerings.”

Release of the 2020 Tasmanian Wine Trails guide follows recent collaboration between Wine Tasmania and the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania, to develop the Bottling Wine Tourism Plan.

Bottling Wine Tourism aims to establish Tasmania as the country’s premier wine tourism region, with a focus on increasing high value visitation to Tasmania cellar doors and the overall value of wine tourism to Tasmania’s economy,” Davies said.

“The Tasmanian Wine Trails guide helps the increasing number of wine lovers visiting Tasmania to navigate their way around the state and its cellar doors.”

Davies said the brochure continued to grow in popularity each year, with more than 250,000 people accessing the guide annually through the printed and digital versions.
Copies are available by contacting Wine Tasmania on (03) 6223 3770 or, visiting, and from cellar doors, airports, tourism outlets and visitor information centres.

Monday 25 November 2019

Is business class necessary on short-haul flights?

Is business class an excess we can do without on short-haul flights? 

It often seems absurd to me to see all those empty business class eats between, say Hobart and Melbourne, or Sydney and Brisbane. 

Now a European airline honcho has called for business class to be banned on short haul flights to reduce the carbon footprint of aviation.

Jozsef Varadi, chief executive officer and co-founder of Budapest-based Wizz Air, is calling for the industry to eliminate business class on flights under five hours, TravelMole reports.

"Business class should be banned," he said. "These passengers account for twice the carbon footprint of an economy passenger, and the industry is guilty of preserving an inefficient and archaic model," he said.

"A rethink is long overdue, and we call on fellow airlines to commit to a total ban on business class travel for any flight under five hours."

Wizz Air claims it currently operates at the lowest CO2 emissions per passenger and expects to reduce this by 30% for every passenger in the next 10 years.

Varadi said: "While it's a step in the right direction, we still have a very long way to go. The industry as a whole needs to be more aggressive in its ambitions if we are truly to make a difference."

Sunday 24 November 2019

Are you ready to be tickled pink by rhubarb gin?

The latest entry to the crowded Australian spirits market is Warner's, the UK’s No.1 super-premium gin brand.

Since being launched in 2012, Warner’s has helped pioneer the craft gin movement and the current pink gin craze. It released the UK’s first rhubarb gin in 2014, leading to a plethora of copycat products.

I sampled the Warner's Rhubarb Gin this weekend - and found it delicious.

Led by husband and wife, Tom Warner and Tina Warner-Keogh, Warner’s is the largest independent gin brand in the UK. The farm-born company creates its nine gins on-site in a 200-year-old barn on Falls Farm in Harrington, Northamptonshire, which has been in the family for generations and is still operated as a cattle farm by Tom’s father.

Falls Farm is home to six acres of botanical gardens, many of which are harvested and distilled fresh.

Every bottle of their gin is born on the farm and distilled in small batches before being filled, labelled and sealed by hand.The family draw water from their own spring for every distillation, grow many of their botanicals and collect fresh honey from their own beehives.

Despite being only a recent arrival, Warner's currently has 23.5% of the UK super-premium gin market and is legally confirmed as inventors of Rhubarb Gin (34% of each bottle is pure rhubarb juice) .

Warner’s Gins are available exclusively in Dan Murphy's stores priced at $69.90 for Warner's Rhubarb Gin and  $67.90 for Warner's London Dry Gin. 

A peek inside Tasmania's latest gourmet hot spot

A restaurant, bar, winery and cellar door, local beers and ciders, and one of the world's highest-tech pizza ovens.

Head deep into the Huon Valley, Tasmania's most southern municipality, to discover Port Cygnet Cannery built in 1937 - and re-opening early next month, paperwork permitting.

Situated 45 minutes drive south of Hobart in the historic port town of Cygnet, Tasmania, Port Cygnet Cannery is the home of Cannery Kitchen and Bar and Sailor Seeks Horse winery and cellar door.

The building was formerly an apple canning factory and is now evolving into a hub of food, beverage and agricultural businesses.

Overlooking Port Cygnet, there will also be a courtyard, table tennis and table football and and an events space that will be ready by mid 2020.

This space will host weddings, parties and functions as well as live music, movie nights and special events. 

Cannery Kitchen and Bar comprises a restaurant, cafe and beer garden.

At the heart of the open kitchen is the wood-fired oven creatives Asher Gilding and Franca Zingler have named Dante the Inferno. He has travelled from Naples, Italy.

The wine list will be curated by winemakers, and co-tenants, Paul and Gilli Lipscombe from Sailor Seeks Horse.

Here are several photos from a soft opening event this weekend. 

For full details visit

Saturday 23 November 2019

Thinking about Samoa for a vacation? Think again.

The normally idyllic Pacific Island nation of Samoa has been badly hit by a measles outbreak with a death toll in the 20s.

The Government has declared a state of emergency and closed schools as it tries to contain the outbreak.

The death toll includes 19 children under the age of four and an additional 11 children are critically ill in hospital.

A compulsory vaccination program has been ordered (rather too late) and schools have been closed and children banned from public gatherings.

Australia and New Zealand have sent medical specialists and supplies, while the United Nations children's agency UNICEF is distributing more than 110,000 doses of measles vaccine to Samoa's population of about 200,000.

Tonga and Fiji have also experienced outbreaks, although much less severe and without any deaths so far due to higher vaccination rates among the population.

Children are most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to blindness, brain damage and death.

Sadly, I could find no mention of the measles outbreak on the front page of the Samoan Tourism website - which seems neglectful. Hotels are apparently still open for business.

First London hotel for Relais & Chateaux

The Relais & Chateaux group features five-star properties of culture and style - but it has always been notably week in Britain, particularly London.

Now the luxury group has welcomed 11 Cadogan Gardens as its first-ever London hotel.

It will be the third hotel in the UK to join the luxury group,following country house properties Chewton Glen in Hampshire and Cliveden House in Berkshire.

Located in Chelsea, just off Sloane Square, 11 Cadogan Gardens has 56 luxury guest rooms, including 25 suites, and a new restaurant, Hans' Bar & Grill. Petite rooms start from £250 per room, per night.

It is a member of Iconic Luxury Hotels, a collection of star properties that also includes the Chewton Glen, Cliveden House and The Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds.

Relais & Chateaux was established in 1954 and has 580 members in more than 60 countries.

Friday 22 November 2019

Opera Australia returns to Uluru

The success of the inaugural Opera Australia performance at Uluru in 2019 has resulted in an immediate return to the rock.
The opera company will return to Uluru from December 11-13, 2020, with an expanded program of four intimate performances.

“This year's performance completely sold out in just five days, and the event itself was a great success, so we knew that we needed to find a way for a bigger encore performance”, said Voyages Indigenous Tourism CEO Grant Hunt. 
“It was such an honour to perform in front of the Rock this year, you could feel the excitement and awe ripple through the audience”, said Lyndon Terracini AM, the Opera Australia artistic director. 
“We're thrilled to be partnering with Voyages again to announce our return to Uluru in 2020 – it will be a fabulous showcase of our incredible singers and musicians, combined with the spectacular outback landscape and the spiritual energy that is Uluru.”
Guests in 2020 will be able to curate their own operatic experience from the program, choosing one or multiple performances depending on their own preferences. 
The weekend commences on Friday night with the Marriage of Figaro poolside dinner set in the poolside surrounds of Sails in the Desert. Opera Australia will present a performance of the joyous final act of Mozart's opera before guests enjoy a three-course dinner. 
On Saturday morning, the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes sunrise performance will be limited to 100 guests. The performance will be followed by a light breakfast. 
The main event, Opera at Uluru, on Saturday evening will feature some of Opera Australia's finest singers performing under the stars, accompanied by a chamber orchestra. Details of the program will be announced later in the year. 
On Sunday morning guests will have the opportunity to experience Taryn Fiebig with Cello, Sunrise Performance, an exclusive outdoor recital performed as the sun rises over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. 
The Helpmann Award-winning soprano and accomplished cellist's performance will again be limited to 100 guests. 
Packages start from $725 per person and include accommodation at Desert Gardens Hotel (twin share) plus entry to the Opera at Uluru gala concert. 
For more information on the full range of packages go to or call 1300 134 044.

A plague of airline passengers keen to make an in-flight exit

Anyone who travels regularly has come across a nightmare fellow airline passenger.

There is the fellow flyer who farts; the passenger in front who reclines their seat fully immediately the seat belt sign goes off, the fatty who intrudes on your seat space and the chatty chappy next door who simply won't shut up.

None of these merit physical aggression, but what if the passenger seated next to you is a behaving like a certified lunatic?

A 26-year-old woman appeared in court last month accused of trying to open the door on a Jet2 flight from Stansted to Dalaman in Turkey.

A cabin crew member was allegedly scratched as she tried to stop the incident, Travel Mole reported. .
The plane had to be escorted back to Stansted by two RAF fighter jets.

And just this week another nutter suffering from a “panic attack” tried to make an in-air exit from a British Airways flight between Heathrow and Riyadh.

He was eventually subdued by fellow passengers. Not the air crew. He may face charges.

British Airways said it was impossible for an aircraft door to open in flight but ignored how it was passengers, not crew, who restrained the deranged fool.

A BA spokesperson said: “Our cabin crew cared for a customer who suffered from a panic attack during the flight. We are sorry for any concern this caused our customers.”

In the earlier case, Chloe Haines, of High Wycombe, appeared before Chelmsford magistrates charged with assault and acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft.

She was released on bail on the condition she does not travel from any UK airport.

If I had been sitting anywhere near this person, and she behaved in the manner alleged, then I would feel entitled to try to restrain her - and possibly hurt her. Your thoughts?

Thursday 21 November 2019

Stay on a cruise liner for the World Cup

Football fans attending the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar will be given the chance to stay on board luxury cruise liners during the tournament.

Given a shortage of hotel accommodation, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (what an impressive name) has signed an agreement with MSC Cruises to charter two cruise liners to accommodate spectators.

MSC Poesia
The cruise liners, which feature a combined capacity of 4,000 cabins, will act as floating hotels during the tournament. They will be berthed at Doha Port, giving fans a spectacular view of the West Bay skyline.

His Excellency Jassim Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti, Minister of Transport and Communications, congratulated the SC for its collaboration with MSC and said significant progress had been made in accomplishing the country’s ambitious plans in the field of transport and communications.
Al Sulaiti said: “The Ministry of Transport and Communications has completed the development of Doha Port to accommodate multiple large passenger ships and enable the port’s capacity to receive the largest cruise ships in the world, serving fans and visitors who come to Qatar during the 2022 World Cup.”

He also noted that the Ministry has completed the development of standards to facilitate access to Qatar’s transportation system. We shall see.

Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, said: “We are delighted that Qatar has selected our ships to ensure that tourists who visit the country during the upcoming FIFA World Cup have high-end accommodation and services available."

Under the terms of the agreement, Qatar will charter MSC Cruises’ MSC Europa and MSC Poesia.

Scheduled for delivery in 2022, MSC Europa is currently under construction in Saint-Nazaire, France.

In addition to floating hotels, Qatar’s other accommodation options will include hotels, apartments and fan villages.

MSC Cruises is the fastest-growing cruise line in the world with a fleet 17 ships that will expand to 27 over the next decade.

A special Champagne release for tennis fans

Piper-Heidsieck has re-released its limited-edition bottle with bespoke Australian Open label - as well as a special tennis gift tin. 

In its second year as official Champagne of the Australian Open, Piper-Heidsieck is promoting the tennis gift tin as an ideal present for festive season and it s now available for purchase at select retail outlets. 

The limited-edition bottle will be served on-site at the Australian Open precinct in Melbourne as well as through Piper-Heidsieck’s pouring partner, Crown Melbourne, during January.

For the first time, Piper-Heidsieck will also be releasing a limited-edition Australian Open ice jacket (below), available to purchase via the Australian Open Gift Store on-site or as a gift with purchase with a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut at Liquorland stores.

Piper-Heidsieck Chef de Cave, Émilien Boutillat, said the Cuvée Brut is perfectly paired with a summer of tennis. 

“The crisp and elegant Cuvée Brut is the House’s signature drop; it’s lively, subtle and light with notes of fresh pear and apple,” he said, stretching the bounds of credibility just a little. 

The limited-edition Piper-Heidsieck gift tin is available in selected retail outlets, including Sip’n Save and Bottlemart, for RRP $55. 

Wednesday 20 November 2019

New wine tasting experiences unveiled at Leeuwin Estate

Margaret River's iconic Leeuwin Estate prides itself on the range of tasting experiences it offers - from a $25 winery tour and tasting to the $699 Ultimate Blending and Dining Experience. 

Leeuwin offers behind the scenes experiences that provide visitors with insight into the history of the estate, the collection of contemporary artworks featured on the ‘Art Series’ labels and the philosophy behind the winemaking. 

The property has just launched two brand new experiences; The Connoisseur Tour & Tasting ($95) and The Ultimate Ride to Wine & Dine ($399), both designed to engage wine lovers and cycling enthusiasts alike.

Between the two experiences, guests will enjoy visits to the Barrel Hall, walks through the vineyard, tours of the Art Gallery and even a guided cycle through the Estate's surrounding forest that delivers you right into a world-class lunch.

For a full list of experiences go to 

Tuesday 19 November 2019

A special gourmet waterfront pop-up for summer

Head to Lakes Entrance in Victoria for a new gourmet pop-up experience over summer.

The redevelopment of the Lakes Entrance Slipway site, unused for a number of years, is the location where a dynamic group of prominent local folk will be turning the site into what they describe as "a vibrant community retail and entertainment space".

This space will be taken over by a group comprising local craft brewers, chefs, producers and artists and turned into an outdoor events arena.

The group has been brought together by Gabrielle Moore of Sailors Grave Brewing; Samantha Mahlook of Miriam’s Restaurant; Sallie Jones of Gippsland Jersey; and Andrea Lane, of FLOAT Lake Tyers Beach.

The site will offer freshly-caught Lakes Entrance seafood, award winning local beer, renowned ice cream and dairy goods, fresh breads, wines and art inspired by the natural beauty of East Gippsland.

John Keeble of Event Studios Australia (who build and supply mobile event infrastructure at some of Australia’s premier events) has pledged to level the ramp site and provide purpose-built facilities to house the businesses.

The Slipway Collective will be largely open-air. Vendors will be housed within redesigned shipping containers and the existing concrete ramp will be transformed to hold dining tables.

The site is in a prime position in the popular tourist town of Lakes Entrance but has been unused for a number of years.

Slipway Collective will be open noon-9pm seven days a week from Christmas to the end of January.

Monday 18 November 2019

Engine problems to cause Air New Zealand cancellations

Air New Zealand has flagged cancellations and schedule changes over the peak summer period - pointing the finger at engine supplier Rolls-Royce.

"Like many other airlines around the world, for the past couple of years we’ve been managing challenges with the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines fitted to our Boeing 787-9 aircraft," Air New Zealand said in a email to customers. 

"We thought these issues were almost behind us, however Rolls-Royce has informed us that our newer Trent 1000 TEN engines also require maintenance earlier than expected. 

"Alongside this, Rolls-Royce has told us it doesn’t have the capacity to do this maintenance work quickly, as we are just one of many airlines affected globally.

"Some of our flights will be impacted this summer.

"Getting customers to their destinations is our top priority. We’re doing all we can to minimise disruption, but unfortunately we need to make a limited number of cancellations and changes to some flights over summer.

Most of these changes are contained to our Perth flights and we estimate around 14,000 customers will be impacted by cancellations. Flights within New Zealand will not be affected.

We are deeply disappointed to be in this position again, but safety is paramount and non-negotiable."

Passengers whose flights are affected will be contacted by Air New Zealand, said acting CEO Jeff McDowall.

Artisan tastes of the Apple Isle: Tasmania

A lot of ciders in Australia are made from apples that were designed for eating, not drinking. 

Willie Smith's in Tasmania has a focus on heritage apple varieties that have been used for traditional ciders in England and France. 

The latest such release is the Kingston Black 2019, a follow-up to the 2018 release of the cider made from the same apple, which rapidly sold out.

The Huon Valley business started planting heirloom apple varieties over six years ago to ensure greater complexity in its traditional style ciders, with the trees now starting to become more established.

The 2019 Kingston Black is a single varietal cider that showcases the world-renowned English heirloom apple of the same name, known for its aromas and complex flavour profile.

Willie Smith’s co-founder Sam Reid said he hoped there would be enough of the new drop to keep customers satisfied longer - last season’s release sold out months ago.

“We were really excited to get a bumper crop of Kingston Black this harvest, as this cider grows in popularity year on year," he said. "It’s been great to see Australia’s craft drinkers embracing this more complex style cider that really shows just how good cider can be.” 

Reid said he expects the variety to do for the Tasmanian cider industry what pinot noir has done for Tasmania’s wine reputation.

“We think Kingston Black is the pinot Noir of the cider apple world," he said."It’s tricky to grow and tricky to work with. But with love, patience and a lot of attention to detail, this variety can produce exceptional ciders with outstanding aroma and structure.”

Head cider maker Tim Jones said “This year’s release showcases the stunning aromatics of this awesome variety – it’s intriguing, with standout fresh green apple and sherbet aromatics.

“With crisp acidity it’s a great lower alcohol alternative to wine - perfect for summer lunchtime drinking.” 

The Willie Smith’s team will be serving the latest release at events over the summer including the Big Design Market (Melbourne, December 6-7), the Taste of Tasmania (Hobart) and Festivale (Launceston).

The 2019 Kingston Black is sold in 750ml bottles with an RRP of $30. Also new from the same team the Charles Oates Apple Brandy, inspired by the tradition of Calvados in North-West France. 

This handsome tribute can be enjoyed as a digestif or with mature cheeses or rich desserts. It weighs in at 42% alc/vol and retails for $130. Briliant!

Sunday 17 November 2019

Celebrate Anzac Day with a special cruise

A special Murray River cruise will mark the Anzac Day holiday, with guests able to choose between a three-day or seven-day adventure on the PS Murray Princess. 

Departing Monday, April 20, or Friday, April 24, 2020, on board the paddlewheeler Murray Princess, the Anzac Day cruise promises to be something special. 

A special dawn service on April 25 will be followed by a traditional Gun Fire Breakfast and game of Two-Up. There will also be an Anzac trivia quiz and buffet lunch. 

In addition to celebrating Anzac Day, the cruise will explore the Murray River and uncover its history. 

Food and wine lovers can sample some of the Murray and Riverland regions produce and wines with a structured tasting event held on board in the Sturt Dining Room as part of the three-day cruise.

The seven-night cruise will visit historic Swan Reach and feature a cellar door tasting and tour of the vineyard at Burk Salter Boutique Winery.

There is also the chance to learn about Aboriginal history at the Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Reserve - and take part in a guided boardwalk tour of ancient rock carvings.

The three-night cruise departs Mannum at 4.30pm on Friday, April 24, 2020 and early booking saver fares start from $941 per person twin share.

The seven-night cruise departs Mannum at 4.30pm on Monday, April 20, and Friday, April 24 with early booked fares starting from $2053 per person twin share.

Cruise fares include accommodation, all meals, guided nature walks, eco-excursions, Anzac Day activities, on-board presentations, wifi, the Captain's Dinner and use of ship's facilities including a sun deck, bar, two lounges, restaurant and a mini gymnasium.

Complimentary coach transfers from Adelaide, or secure car-parking in Mannum, are also included.

For further information visit

Saturday 16 November 2019

Four fun wine labels to look out for

Wine lovers enjoy nothing more than being the first in their group of friends to discover an
exciting new wine producer.

Here is the lowdown on four of the hottest Australian wine labels that will delight you –
and put you ahead of the crowd.

Atze’s Corner
The first Kalleske family members arrived in the Barossa Valley in 1847 and various branches of the family have been involved in grape growing and the wine industry ever since. 

The newest Kalleske venture is Atze’s Corner, which produces wines made from shiraz,
mataro, graciano, petite syrah/durif, montepulciano, grenache, cabernet sauvignon and

The family recently opened a cellar door which offers views over the valley along with
tastings and produce platters.

Atze’s is run by sixth-generation Barossa vigneron Andrew Kalleske and the fruit used
includes grapes from vines dating back to 1912.

Minimal intervention practices in the winery include using open, small-batch fermentation,
hand plunging and pumping, gentle oak maturation and minimal filtration. The wines have a
delicious savoury element.
Mewstone Wines/Hughes & Hughes
Well-travelled winemaker Jonny Hughes and his brother Matthew are based in the hamlet
of Flowerpot in the Channel region south of Hobart, but source fruit from all over Tasmania.

The small-batch wines tend be made with minimal intervention.

Last year the brothers were named Best New Act in the national Young Guns of Wine
awards and best newcomers in the James Halliday Wine annual.

While the Mewstone wines are strictly produced from the Flowerpot vineyard, the
Hughes & Hughes range of wines brings together fruit sourced from around Tasmania,
with the aim of producing wines that are high on both natural acidity and drinkability.

In addition, individual small batches are released that capture the results of
investigations into the use of skins, stalks, solids and other fermentation variables. All
Hughes & Hughes wines are bottled unfined and with low sulphur.
Liz Heidenreich Wines
For the past 13 years Liz Heidenreich has been the winemaker at Sevenhill Cellars, the
Jesuit-owned winery in the Clare Valley. Before that she did four vintages as winemaker for
British pop star Sir Cliff Richard’s Vida Nova brand.

Now Heidenreich, whose family have grown wine grapes since 1936, has struck out on her
own with three releases under her own label, a bold Barossa shiraz, a Barossa grenache and a Clare Valley riesling. 

“My philosophy is to source small parcels of fruit from the regions in which they excel and
handcraft individual batches that capture the fruit’s formidable character.

”I’m really pleased that this new venture recognises my family’s long association with the
Barossa Valley and their involvement in grape-growing and winemaking.”

Heidenreich is also moonlighting as consultant winemaker for Peter Teakle Wines at Port
No website.
Lost Farm Wines
Richard Angove caught the Tasmanian wine bug when doing a vintage stint at Tamar Ridge
back in 2008. 

Angove, a fifth-generation member of one of Australia's most famous wine and brandy-making families, loves drinking fresh, vibrant fruit-driven wines, so decided to make some small batches of his own on the Apple Isle.

The Lost Farm, Angove's personal range of two sparkling wines, along with a chardonnay
and a pinot noir, has recently launched. 

Angove had stints working at Tahbilk, Domaine Carneros in California and Brokenwood
before re-joining the family firm, which has been in the wine business since 1886.

The name has a double-barrelled impact. It refers first to a Tea Tree Gully vineyard the
family was forced to surrender to urban creep in McLaren Vale back in 1974, but also shares its name with one of Tasmania's finest golf courses, which will be selling the wines. 

Angove is making the wines at the Josef Chromy facility, working with Jeremy Dineen,
before finishing them off at the high-tech Angove facility in Renmark.

"Clean and fresh wines is what I am looking for, because that is the style I love to drink," 
Angove said. "I have relished the chance to work with high-quality, cool-climate fruit."

This is an edited extract of a story that first appeared on