Saturday, 11 July 2020

New era for grand old Fiji hotel

InterContinental Hotels has agreed to operate and re-brand the famous colonial-era Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva - one of the grandest old hotels in the Pacific region.

The century-old property is set for a refurbishment and will re-opens as the InterContinental Grand Pacific Hotel Suva in 2022.

It will become IHG's fourth property in Fiji, and second under the InterContinental flagship brand, Travel Mole reported.

IHG also operates InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort on Natadola Bay.

"We are committed to retaining the heritage and grandeur, while adding all the elements of InterContinental's 'true hospitality' experience," said Abhijay Sandilya, IHG VP of development - Australasia, Pacific and Japan.

The hotel is located on Suva's Victoria Parade and is owned by the Fiji National Provident Fund.

Current amenities include multiple specialty dining venues and bars, a ballroom, club lounge, meeting rooms, spa, and swimming pool.

Taste some wine with some friends; do some good

Bill Calabria was a tidy boxer back in the day. Even fought briefly as a professional. 

A very handy winemaker, too, producing some excellent wines under the Westend Estate and Calabria family labels, including pioneering alternative varieties.  

Good businessman, as well, expanding the family's holdings from the Riverina to the Barossa Valley. 

Bill has handed most of the Calabria Family Wines winemaking duties to Emma Norbiato these days, but he's still a good bloke - and a doughty worker for charity. 

Calabria Family Wines are giving wine lovers a virtual look inside their Griffith cellar door in an online tasting event with proceeds supporting Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation.

Guests are invited to join Bill Calabria AM and winemaker Norbiato for a guided tasting of the family’s premium wines on Thursday, August 6, from 6-7pm AEST.

Norbiato has hand selected six wines to taste in this online-only event, but interested tasters should get in quickly, as registrations close this Thursday, July 16.

Registration for this one-night-only virtual event is $300 with 50% of proceeds going to Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation. An ideal way to taste with some mates.

Each registration includes free delivery of the six selected wines, access to the online interactive tasting event, winemaker tasting notes, and an exclusive coupon for future purchases from Calabria Family Wine’s online cellar door.

“With the necessary social distancing measures in place, the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation has been unable to host its usual calendar of fundraising events,” said Calabria.

“As one of the foundation’s long time beverage partners, we thought this event would be a great opportunity to connect with the community and continue to raise some much-needed funds in the process.”

Funds raised for the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation will go towards helping front-line medical staff continue to care for sick children with serious conditions and illnesses.

“We hope in some small way this tasting experience will do some good for those less fortunate and I look forward to welcoming everyone, virtually, into my private cellar,” said Calabria.

For more information or to register visit

Friday, 10 July 2020

An overnight stay on Maria Island is a Covid-19 Tasmanian treat

Many Tasmanians have never had the chance to explore Maria Island - but in the era of Covid-19 they are being offered a special a two-day, one-night taster courtesy of the team behind the famous Maria Island Walk.

The special deal offers Tasmanians the opportunity to explore the northern end of Maria Island with experienced local guides.

There will be an opportunity to climb spectacular peaks, encounter an abundance of wildlife (think Tasmanian Devils and wombats) and experience some of the highlights of the island in comfort.

Guests will stay in Bernacchi House, a beautifully restored heritage home in the convict settlement of Darlington, which is exclusively used by guests of The Maria Island Walk. I've stayed here and it is lovely.

After walking or climbing they can relax in front of a wood fire with a glass of Tasmanian wine and let their guides prepare a three-course meal.

The deal includes all meals and drinks, including restaurant quality meals matched with Tasmanian wines and local beers; the ferry crossing from Triabunna to Maria Island, use of gear including day packs and waterproof jackets and National Parks entry fees.

A maximum of eight guests will be on each adventure at a cost of $800 twin share.

For more information, please see this information sheet, ring (03) 6234 2999 or email

Australian beer lovers can toast Liverpool's triumph

Fans of English Premier League champions Liverpool are celebrating their team's triumph with a special beer release. 

Special "champions" cans of Carlsberg Pilsner have been released in Australia and close to 100 Liverpool fans who had pre-purchased cans gathered at the Highway Hotel at Plympton in Adelaide for the first delivery. 

The red, limited-edition 500ml cans are being released in 25 countries around the world by Carlsberg, Liverpool's long-standing sponsor. 

Approximately 20,000 cartons have been produced for the Australian market under licence by Coopers Brewery and are now bound for liquor stores around Australia. 

Coopers director of marketing and innovation, Cam Pearce, said: “The cans are now being rolled-out to major liquor wholesalers and selected venues around Australia.

"Given the extreme level of interest, we don’t expect they will be available for long.” 

The limited-edition packaging sees Carlsberg switch its iconic green colour to Liverpool’s equally iconic red. 

The “champions" cans feature Liverpool's crest, player signatures and replace the words “1847 onwards” (a reference to Carlsberg’s 173-year heritage) with the words “Champions, 2020 onwards”.

The cartons and cluster packs are also red.

Liverpool was the runaway winner of the English Premier League, wrapping up the title in June with seven matches still to play. Carlsberg’s partnership with Liverpool is the longest in the Premier League, spanning 27 seasons. 

The cans are expected to sell for around $65 per carton.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Crisis time for AirAsia

I am an unashamed fan of budget air carrier AirAsia, but its future is in severe doubt. 

The group reported a record US$188 million first-quarter loss as its external auditor cast doubt on its ability to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

AirAsia shares tumbled after Ernst & Young said its future may be in "significant doubt"'

In a statement to the stock exchange, Ernst & Young said AirAsia's liabilities exceeded its assets even before the pandemic began, Travel Mole reported. 

It "indicates existence of material uncertainties that may cast significant doubt on the group's and the company's ability to continue as a going concern." Ernst & Young said.

The airline is exploring various avenues to raise capital including investment and joint venture proposals.

After a promising first few weeks of 2020, "demand collapsed" in February and March. Leading to a 22% drop in passengers.

Most of AirAsia's regional affiliate businesses have resumed limited domestic services, in Malaysia, India, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

"We are gradually adding frequencies and opening routes in the domestic sector, with the advice and regulations from government and health authorities," it said.

"AirAsia has ongoing deliberations with a number of parties for joint-ventures and collaborations that may result in additional third-party investments in specific segments of the group's business," the airline said.

AirAsia is part-owned by colourful chief executive Tony Fernandes and pioneered low-cost air travel across Asia in the early 2000s at a time of growing demand from a fast-emerging middle class. 

Fernandes also owns football team Queen's Park Rangers. 

A luxury train journey with a gourmet difference

Anantara Hoi An Resort and Anantara Quy Nhon Villas are two of the outstanding resorts in Vietnam and now guests can travel between the two on a unique gourmet train journey.

The Vietage, which departed for its inaugural journey on July 1, links Da Nang and Quy Nhon cities on journeys through the lush Vietnamese countryside.

The Vietage has been developed by Anantara to bring guests closer to the "real" Vietnam.

The custom-designed carriage, with just 12 reservation-only seats, immerses its guests into the culture, nature and history of the country through the stories of its daily return journey.

The Vietage carriage has modern interiors, big picture windows and large comfy seats, while a sit-up bar offers a change of scenery and the chance to enjoy local craft beers, wines and snacks over conversation with friends, before the main culinary experience.

During the six-hour journey, guests encounter local taste sensations as the countryside rolls by.

A curated menu evokes the essence of Vietnam with a French twist. Dishes such as Quy Nhon seafood salad, barley risotto and braised Wagyu neck feature.

A dedicated area with spa treatment chairs offers head and shoulder treatments on the go as the train passes through local villages, rural countryside and stops at a few stations on the way.

A one-way ticket aboard The Vietage costs US$185 per person, including a three-course, pre-ordered meal, free-flow wines, beers and soft drinks, bar snacks and a 30-minute head and shoulder treatment.

An à la carte menu also offers premium wines, Champagnes and treats such as caviar.

The Vietage departs from Da Nang every morning at 09:31, arriving at Dieu Tri station in Quy Nhon at 15:43. The return journey departs from Dieu Tri at 17:29 and arrives in Da Nang at 23:01.

The Vietage runs for eleven months each year, taking a break during the annual Vietnamese Tet holiday period.
Combination accommodation packages are available with Anantara Hoi An Resort and Anantara Quy Nhon Villas for guests to experience each destination and can be booked directly on the website at

Please visit for more information and to book.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Your eyes do not deceive you: a new Pepperjack release is from Argentina

Pepperjack Wines may have a Barossa heritage but one of the brand's new releases has a serious points of difference: it was made using fruit from Argentina. 

Winemaker Richard Mattner travelled to Mendoza to source the grapes for the 2018 Pepperjack Malbec. 

“Argentinian malbec is different to Australian malbec in that it has a depth of rich dark fruit, but still displays fresh aromatics of spice and violets and a bold tannin profile," Mattner said.

The Pepperjack philosophy is to create wines that are synonymous with the regions that they are from. Therefore, as we expand beyond shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, there was a need to expand our sourcing from beyond the Barossa.” 

The new releases also include a 2019 sangiovese using fruit from the Barossa and Padathaway and a 2019 chardonnay that is a blend of Adelaide Hills and Padthaway fruit. 

“With chardonnay seeing a real revival recently, we felt it was a good time to once again try our hand at making some white wines, beginning with a chardonnay," said Mattner. 

"This is a really exciting time for Pepperjack as we evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers and occasions – especially the demand for lighter-bodied, more refreshing varietals as we head into the warmer months.” 

Some good news after a challenging year for Tasmanian wine producers

The 2020 wine vintage in Tasmania presented a number of challenges with producers working hard to craft exceptional quality wines from a lower-than-average yield, peak body Wine Tasmania reports.

Wine Tasmania Technical Officer Paul Smart (right) said that quality from the 2020 Tasmanian wine grape vintage looked to be outstanding, with highlights including pinot noir and chardonnay for both still and sparkling wines, as well as aromatic white wines such as riesling, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.

Overall, yields were down approximately 28% on the 2019 vintage, roughly equating to 890,000 cases (dozens) of wine, with 12,308 tonnes produced in 2020.

“The island is one of the most challenging and the most rewarding places to grow grapes in Australia - there are no two seasons and no two vineyards the same," Smart said. "Our dedicated grape growers have to be highly skilled to deal with the variabilities and extremes, as they again demonstrated in 2019-20.

“Regardless of vineyard location, the 2019/20 season will be remembered as one of the most challenging in recent years, from the initial budburst in spring through to a delayed harvest throughout March, April and May.”

With viticulture and other agricultural activities being deemed essential services during Covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 vintage continued largely unimpeded in Tasmania but there are broader impacts on the livelihood of Tasmanian wine businesses, due to restrictions in cellar door visitation and licensed premises, such as restaurants and bars around the country.

“Tasmanian wine lovers will soon be able to taste the first wines from the 2020 vintage, and we are encouraging people to buy directly from their favourite wine producers wherever possible,” Smart said.

“This will help Tasmania’s small wine producers during these challenging times, as well as bring a little flavour of Tasmania to wine lovers as we start to welcome Tasmanians back to our cellar doors and look forward to welcoming interstate visitors over the coming months.”

The full 2020 Tasmanian wine grape vintage report and video interviews with wine producers can be accessed at

Pushing the boundaries of luxury in Bali

There are certain brands that are synonymous with luxury. Think Rolls-Royce, Chanel and Pol Roger.

To that list you can add Raffles, a name always linked to sumptuous high-end accommodation.

Raffles Hotels & Resorts has just opened the 15th Raffles Hotel in the world with the launch of Raffles Bali (above), which offers views over the Indian Ocean and Jimbaran Bay sunsets. 

With just 32 private pool villas, Raffles Bali is designed to appeal to well-travelled connoisseurs seeking elegant spaces, privacy and cultural discovery.

Once we can travel again, the journey will start with a private limousine transfer from Ngurah Rai International Airport. 

“Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or an intimate oasis of emotional wellbeing, Raffles Bali offers unparalleled panoramic ocean views and captivating sunsets from every villa,” says general manager Katya Herting. 

“Our beachfront resort is surrounded by lush tropical gardens, providing utmost relaxation due to its generosity of space.”

The pool villas are being promoted as the largest and most private in Jimbaran and there are wellbeing butlers on hand. All villas include indoor and outdoor showers, yoga mats and bespoke beach accessories, in addition to an indulgent soaking tub.

Located at the resort’s highest point is Rumari restaurant, while Loloan Beach Bar and Grill is on the resort’s secluded beach, overlooking a 25-metre infinity pool. 

Intimate dining experiences can also be arranged at The Secret Cave, illuminated with flickering torches and candlelight, or at the Purnama Honeymoon Bale, built on the rocks at the edge of the resort’s ocean frontage.

The Writers Bar and the adjoining Library offer Champagne, cocktails and after-dinner digestifs. Perhaps try a Raffles Bali Sling. 

“We are delighted to introduce our most iconic hotel brand to the beautiful island of Bali,” says Michael Issenberg, Chairman & CEO Accor Asia Pacific. 

“The highly-anticipated Raffles Bali will be the brand’s second hotel in Indonesia, joining the stunning Raffles Jakarta, and is set to become a special retreat for guests to feel pampered, through meaningful experiences and service that is both gracious and intuitive.”

The opening offer features of two nights’ stay in a private pool villa, inclusive of return limousine transfers, daily a la carte breakfast as well as selections of wellbeing and cultural experiences. Prices start from $US2,660++ for three days and two nights.

See for details. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

By the numbers: The Australian wine vintage of 2020

The Australian wine grape crush in 2020 was 1.52 million tonnes – the equivalent of over 1 billion litres of wine, the National Vintage Report 2020 released by Wine Australia shows.

The 2020 crush was 12% lower than the 2019 crush, and 13% below the 10-year average of 1.75 million tonnes.

It was the smallest crop since 2007 but was most similar in terms of yield to 2010 - a year of exceptional wine quality - when the crush was 1.61 million tonnes. 

The vineyard area then was about 4% higher than the current area.

Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark said while the crop was down, wine quality was expected to be high. 

Autumn temperatures were generally around average or slightly cooler, leading to ideal ripening and harvesting conditions, and the reduced yields have resulted in more concentrated colours and flavours in the berries.

"This vintage will enable us to continue to meet our targets of value growth in premium wine market segments, although the constrained supply will restrict overall volume growth in the next 12 to 24 months," Clark said.

Continuing strong demand for Australian wine is reflected in the 5% increase in the average value of grapes, which has increased by a compound average of 5% per year for the past six years.

The total value of the wine grape crush is estimated to be $1.07 billion, with an average value of $694 per tonne compared with $663 in 2019.

A smaller crop was widely anticipated given a number of seasonal factors, including bush fires. 

Clark said that the wine sector had made significant investments in research and development, leading to improved vineyard management techniques and water use efficiency since the last drought.

He said crop losses due to fire and/or smoke damage were reported in around one-quarter of Australia’s wine-growing regions; but the overall reduction due to direct damage or smoke effects was estimated to be less than 40,000 tonnes, or 3% of the total crush.

# The National Vintage Report is based on a survey of winemakers conducted in May-June each year. In 2020, responses were received from over 500 businesses, including all wineries known to crush over 10,000 tonnes, and in total are estimated to account for 90.5 per cent of all Australian wine grapes crushed in 2020.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Have a free beer on the folks from Coopers

Coopers Brewery is putting more than 15,000 beers on its tab to support Australian pubs on the road to recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown.

As restrictions are lifted across the country, the Australian family-owned brewery will be shouting rounds of Pale Ale at 335 metropolitan and country venues over the coming weeks.

“We want to encourage communities to get out and support their local pub,” Coopers managing director Dr Tim Cooper said.

“Pubs have been doing it extremely tough over these past months. These are often family-run small businesses employing dedicated and hardworking local people.

"As a family business ourselves, we understand the enormous pressure this places on everyone involved in a pub, from the owners to the staff and suppliers.

“In the face of such adversity and uncertainty, our pubs have held on admirably.

“Now, as the social restrictions are eased across the states and territories, we can all play a part in the recovery and enjoy a beer with friends in the process.

“We’re hoping that through our pub tabs we can encourage more people to drop into their local for a social drink.

“The whole industry has suffered from the impacts of Covid-19. We’ve gone through this together and we’re coming out of it together.

“As a community, we’ve all missed heading to the local pub. It’s one of our most popular past-times. Pubs are back open again, so let’s have a beer and celebrate.”

The Coopers national sales teams will work directly with selected venues in each state and territory to schedule the Coopers pub tabs.

The initiative coincides with an advertising and social media campaign to help raise awareness and encourage patronage of local pubs. The billboard and Facebook campaign will roll-out from today and run for seven weeks with the celebratory message Roll On In, Pub’s Open.

This is one of a number of initiatives and promotional activities Coopers Brewery is planning to assist local pubs on their road to recovery.

Meet the innovative wine bottle made from paper

Meet the Frugal bottle – which is being promoted as the most important innovation for wine and spirits since the launch of the glass bottle.

The 75cl Frugal bottle is made from 94% recycled paperboard with a food-grade liner to hold the wine or spirit. It can be refrigerated and keeps liquid cooler for longer than glass.

The Frugal bottle, which is comparable in cost to a labelled glass bottle, is the brainchild of British sustainable packaging firm Frugalpac, which creates and supplies recycled paper-based products with low carbon footprints that are easily recycled again so they don’t need to go to landfill. 

The Frugal bottles are made at Frugalpac’s facility in Ipswich.The paper wine bottle, known as the has been pitched as a lighter and more environmentally friendly alternative to glass.

At 83 grams, Frugalpac says its bottle is up to five times lighter than a regular glass wine bottle and that major supermarkets in the UK are considering the packaging. The design also
 allows for 360-degree branding across the bottle.

The bottle’s debut is the latest in a series of initiatives designed to shrink the wine industry’s impact on the environment, from recycled plastic bottles to lighter-weight glass and shipping more wine in bulk.

While there is some plastic involved, the company said that its Frugal bottle uses "up to 77% less" than a plastic bottle and that the plastic lining is recyclable.

The first wine released with the Frugal bottle is Cantina Goccia, 3Q 2017, a sangiovese, merlot and cabernet blend. 

‘We’ve had fantastic feedback from people who’ve trialled the Frugal bottle,’ Malcolm Waugh, Frugalpac’s CEO, said.

"As well as the superior environmental benefits, it looks and feels like no other bottle you have ever seen."

The downside?  It is  hard to tell how much you’ve drunk, because you can’t see through the packaging.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

The influence of oysters. Bookings open for QT Auckland

QT Hotels & Resorts has unveiled the first look at the new QT Auckland, which will open later in the year. 

QT Auckland is accepting bookings to stay and play in Viaduct Harbour's newest hub for quirky luxury from November 1, 2020. 

The QT Hotel Group always offers something quirky and fun for guests, having pioneered the philosophy of "expect the unexpected". 
Complementing existing properties QT Queenstown and QT Wellington, QT Auckland is the third QT property in New Zealand and has been designed with the natural, wild beauty of the city's surrounding landscape in mind. 
Long-time QT collaborator and designer Nic Graham - in conjunction with the Event Hospitality and Entertainment design team - has curated a design that flows through the 150 rooms and suites, public spaces and meeting rooms, and carries through to the restaurant.
Graham has drawn inspiration from the oyster and oyster trawler with the rough, raw and natural textures of the outside of the shell juxtaposed with the smooth, clean and luxurious nature of the inside. 
Exposed concrete and brass accents feature alongside plush sofas, luxurious rugs and sassy furniture.
“We have blended contrast and quirk for QT Auckland as we have with each unique QT property," Graham said. 
"The idea was onset by my first visit to Auckland and a dozen oysters - the salty sweet is a metaphor for the design, where we have elevated the bold use of colour and created a cocooning interior that uses interesting local materials and suppliers, adding to the harbour-based neighbourhood narrative of QT Auckland.
“We have mixed custom furniture with found objects and iconic originals, creating an unmistakeable QT experience. Bold environmental graphics draw from the wonderlands of the NZ coast and we proudly support local and international artists throughout the hotel.”
Public spaces will feature local artworks and private function spaces are just steps from the water. 
QT Auckland will also boast a signature dining concept in collaboration with international chef Sean Connolly and a rooftop bar that offers sweeping views of Viaduct Harbour.
QT Auckland is now accepting bookings from November 1. For more information and to make a booking, visit

Saturday, 4 July 2020

A special taste of Bruny Island

As Tasmania reopens after lockdown, tourism operators are planning different offerings and post-Covid-19 treats.

Some island state attractions, including highly-respected Hobart eatery Franklin and Ilha in Cygnet, might have closed for good but there’s still plenty to keep future travellers busy.

One of the places I reviewed just before Covid hit, Free Spirit Eco Pods on Bruny Island is offering guests a special post-pandemic gourmet gift with every booking.

Free Spirit has partnered with biodynamic and organic “funky neighbours” to offer organic vegie boxes freshly harvested from their farm. 

Guests also receive their own Snug barbecue pack sourced from a local gourmet butcher, as well as a bottle of either Tasmanian wine or warming spiced-mulled wine, Bruny Island chocolates and ‘oversized’ marshmallows to toast.

My tip: Enjoy a glass or two of mulled wine while fishing for flathead from the shoreline.

Just down the road is Bruny Island Cheese and Beer Co, which also can ship its chilled boxes of artisan cheese anywhere in Australia.

The company has assembled all manner of Tassie gourmet goods for dispatch, from pickled walnuts to apple cider vinegar.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Demand for premium wines is hotter than ever

The demand for high-end collectible wines has not been slaked by Covid-19.

A Melbourne buyer this week purchased a 1951 Penfolds Bin 1 Grange for over $103,000, which is the highest price ever paid for a bottle of Australian wine.

The record came just two days after 246 bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) - widely considered the world’s greatest wine - were sold from James Halliday’s cellar, making it the largest successful sale of this ethereal wine from Burgundy in one parcel.

“The demand for fine wine is stronger than ever judging by these two flagship auctions, as fine wine collectors look to enhance their cellar collections,” said Langton’s general manager Jeremy Parham.

In total, 1092 bottles of Penfolds were sold during the Langton’s Penfolds: Rewards of Patience Auction, which closed on Tuesday. The previous record for the first vintage of Penfolds Grange was $81,000. 
“The early 1950s Penfolds Grange wines are very rare, so collectors will snap these up when they can in order to complete their sets of every vintage of these incredible wines - the 1951 Penfolds Grange truly represents the beginning of modern Australian wine,” said Langton’s Head of Auctions Tamara Grischy.
In December, a set of Penfolds Grange from 1951 to 2015 was sold for $372,800 by Langton’s.
A few days before the Penfolds auction, James Halliday’s collection of DRC wines closed. The auction of his pristinely cellared 252 bottle collection had a 98% clearance rate (only six bottles were passed in).
The online auction attracted international attention, with approximately 35% of the wines sold to overseas buyers. All wines came with a certificate of authenticity signed by Halliday himself.
“The authenticity and provenance of the James Halliday collection drove all-time highs in bidding and pricing for DRC in the Australian market,” Grischy said.  
“With many of us still unable to visit our favourite restaurants or travel to cellar doors, new and existing clients have instead immersed themselves in the world of fine wine from the comfort of their homes,” Parham said. 
Langton’s will be  auctioning wines from James Halliday’s Australian collection later this year. 
Langton’s Rewards of Patience Auction is in its 24th year and takes place every six months. The next auction will take place in December 2020.
“I think we love Penfolds because it’s such an Australian story, it’s the underdog story defined. Max Schubert was Penfolds’ first chief winemaker, who started making the Grange as an experiment," Parham said. "At the time, Australian winemakers were mainly making fortified wines. 
“He believed in his conviction, and he kept making Grange, although he was actually told to stop making it by his supervisors. He was a rebel, and the wine world can forever be grateful for his refusal to do what he was told.”

The wine times they are a changing

Remember the days when headed to your local wine region, ready to hit as many wineries as you could in a day and do some serious wine tasting/drinking?

Covid-19 has put the hand-brake on much of that, and while many wine regions are reopening you will need to plan ahead, and understanding the new post-pandemic tasting etiquette.

Regional travel restrictions in New South Wales lifted in June and with that came a flurry of winemakers and marketers working out how to best navigate the tricky but necessary legalities of serving and selling wine. 

The Hunter Valley, on Sydney’s doorstep, is the oldest and most-visited wine region in Australia. Several of its leading winemakers have got together to help you navigate what the new normal looks like.

For a start, you can now book ahead (and its absolutely recommended that you do) for most of the cellar door offerings, and with each brand having to reinvent the way they run their cellar doors.

With the 4 square metre rule applying just as it does to restaurants, and the requirement that all guests must be seated, comes the need to offer finite spaces for tastings at cellar doors.

Paid tastings have slowly crept into the wine tourism experience over recent years, but now it’s a genuine need. With limited spots available to taste, and the huge increase in resources required to manage the hygiene and social distancing measures in place, there is no other way for these winemakers to exist. 

In addition to the need to be seated, the law requires that wineries gather contact details from a person within your group attending a tasting be that by pre-registration or signing in on arrival. 

Operators are empowered to refuse entry to anyone who presents unwell, with cold or flu like symptoms or with a fever or temperature. They’re required to provide floor markings and designated order, pay, collect areas as well as single entry and exit points if feasible. 

There’s sanitiser on hand, disposable utensils, single-use spittoons, laminated or single-use tasting lists, and no communal water on offer.  It’s a whole new world.

Our are the tips for visiting the Hunter Valley this winter from Andrew Thomas, David Hook, Andrew Margan and other leading producers. 

  1. Book ahead, do your research on which kind of wine experiences you’re after.
  2. If you’re travelling with a group, check with cellar doors can accommodate your group size.
  3. If you’ve got kids in tow, check if children are allowed, or if there’s any activities for them to do while you taste.
  4. Please understand that these aren’t “our” rules, but they are state government restrictions placed upon us, designed to keep us all safe.
  5. Arrive on time for your pre-booked tasting experience.
  6. Allow the time recommended to best enjoy your tasting experience.
  7. Adhere to NSW social distancing laws.
  8. Stay home if you’re at all unwell.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Covid-19 a disaster for Thai tourism industry

Thailand, a nation whose economy is propelled by tourism, has again marked down its tourist arrival forecast for the year.

The Thais now expect no more than eight million arrivals, a decline of about 80%, Chairat Triratanajaraspon, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, told Travel Mole.

Last year Thailand welcomed nearly 40 million visitors.

The country has lifted a ban on international flights but leisure tourism is still suspended.

Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the Asian nation is now firmly pinning its hopes on the domestic market in the short term, and hopes to see about 100 million domestic trips.

The Government has approved a multi-million dollar stimulus package to encourageThais to travel.

The tourism ministry said it hopes to open up five islands to foreign tourists from August.

They are Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

Indigenous art in the travel spotlight

The largest presentation of Tiwi art ever staged, TIWI, will be exhibited from November 13, 2020, to March 8, 2021, at The Ian Potter Centre: the National Gallery of Victoria.

The Tiwi, the original inhabitants of Melville and Bathurst Islands, are known for their art and cultural practices, which are distinct from those of mainland Aboriginal people. 

Located 80km north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands are unique, in part due to their geographical position, but also language, customary ceremonies, material culture, and kinship system, all of which have a profound influence on Tiwi art.

“Retaining strong creative traditions, the Tiwi Islands remain a vital place for exclusive artistic practices that are deeply rooted in traditional storytelling and feature the hallmarks of good design known as jilamara,” said Tony Ellwood AM, director of the National Gallery of Victoria.

“The NGV is delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit so many works from the NGV Collection alongside those from public and private lenders, including historical and contemporary works by artists from the Tiwi Islands’ most significant cultural institutions: Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association, Munupi Arts & Crafts Association, Tiwi Design and Ngaruwanajirri.” 

TIWI will showcase works from 1911 to the present day and will consist of almost 300 works by over 70 artists. 

TIWI avoids a linear chronology, instead dividing into spaces that reveal different aspects of Tiwi art and culture. 

A major highlight of TIWI will be a display featuring the NGV’s extensive collection of pukumani tutini (poles), which will be installed to suggest a forest setting.
Occupying a space devoted to the theme of bereavement, these monumental ironwood sculptures – painted with Tiwi ochres – are customarily created for pukumani (mourning) ceremonies. 

The selection features tutini created between 1912 and 2019 and will include the works of master carvers Declan Apuatimi, Mani Luki, Tommy Mungatopi, Paddy Freddy Puruntatameri, Pedro Wonaeamirri, Leon Puruntatameri, Pius Tipungwuti and Mario Walarmerpui.

TIWI will also feature ochre paintings on bark, canvas and paper – now recognised as important forms of Tiwi contemporary art – created by senior artists including Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, Nancy Henry and Kutuwulumi Kitty Kantilla. 

Further information is available via the NGV website.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

New blood: a family affair at Pertaringa Wines

Sixth-generation vigneron Bec Hardy today took over the ownership of McLaren Vale wine brand Pertaringa, which was established in 1980 by her father Geoff Hardy.
Richard Dolan and Bec Hardy 

She became the first female member of the Hardy family to own her own vineyard and
produce her own wine, taking over the ownership and running of Pertaringa together with her husband and company joint managing director, Richard Dolan.

The Hardy name has been synonymous with South Australian wine since the 1850s and Bec Hardy continues that tradition, building on the experience and reputation of her predecessors.

“My family has been tending vineyards in the premium maritime region of McLaren Vale since the early 1850s when my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Hardy, arrived from the UK,” Bec said. 

“He was one of McLaren Vale’s first settlers and is widely regarded as the father of the South Australian wine industry.”

In 1980, Bec’s father left the then family-owned Hardys to make his own way in the Australian wine world. 

The same year, he purchased the Pertaringa vineyard in the foothills of McLaren Vale.

Inspired by her father’s passion for cultivating premium fruit and producing fine wines, Bec also went on to study and work in the wine industry in both Australia and overseas. In 2010, she returned to South Australia and joined her father’s company, Wines by Geoff Hardy.

Bec taking over the Pertaringa element of the business has been part of the family’s succession planning for some years. 

It will be ‘business as usual’ as the team continues to work with the group of McLaren Vale growers who have been instrumental in fueling Pertaringa’s success. 

Bec will consider additional recruitment to strengthen the winemaking team and to further complement the brand’s evolving style and philosophy.

“I’m really excited to start this new chapter and very grateful to my parents for giving me this
opportunity,” she said. “While we never envisioned acquiring Pertaringa in the midst of a global pandemic, this is something my family has been working together on for some time. 

"We’re grateful to my mum and dad for allowing Richard and I to become the next custodians of the Pertaringa brand, which is celebrating its 40th year. We understand the business well, having managed it successfully since 2011, and seeing it grow to be five times the size today from what its was back then.”

Immediate plans include refurbishing the Pertaringa cellar door with renowned interior designer Georgie Shepherd has been appointed to oversee the project. 

Australians: How To Holiday Overseas Without Leaving Home

"How To Holiday Overseas Without Leaving Home" is the snappy new slogan being used by Norfolk Island Tourism for its relaunch campaign. 

Norfolk Island reopens its borders from July 10, 2020, and is welcoming back visitors from across the water. 

The relaunch campaign will run over July and August and messaging will showcase Norfolk Island as a safe, secure, virus-free domestic destination offering a diversity of adventure and relaxation, nature and outdoors, food and wine, historical, cultural and community experiences. 

It will also focus on a range of accommodation tailored for all age groups and budgets.

The campaign will be carried out by Norfolk Island Tourism’s Australian sales, marketing and public relations representative The Unique Tourism Collection.

Air New Zealand will continue to operate one return domestic flight per week to Norfolk Island from Sydney on Mondays and from Brisbane on Saturdays from the respective international airports.