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Thursday 31 December 2020

Moet tops the Champagne charts

Moët Hennessy rules the Champagne world, new data released by Dutch company BoldData reveals. 

The data specialist gathered a list of the 100 most prominent Champagne houses - and lists them by annual revenue. 

The wines and spirits division of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) owns six iconic Champagne brands including Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon. 

Moët & Chandon is the far and away the biggest Champagne house with 64.7 million bottles sold last year. Prices start at around €40 a bottle. 

Altogether, Moët Hennessy brands together make up an annual revenue of  €2.21 billion and a total of 2.485 employees.

Vranken-Pommery Monopole is the second largest Champagne group, with a revenue of €218.8 million. The group owns five Champagne brands including Vranken, Demoiselle, Charles Lafitte 183, Pommery and Heidsieck & Co. 

Next come the Champagne houses of Nicolas Feuillatte (€211.9 million revenue) and Laurent Perrier (€206.2 million revenue).  Then come Louis Roederer, Taitinger and Mumm.

No sign of Bollinger, which might surprise Australians, who are lovers of the brand. 

Gosset - the oldest Champagne House - can only be found at spot 33 on the list with an annual revenue of  €23.7 million.

For more info see

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Japan and Indonesia shut their doors to foreign arrivals

Thinking of visiting Japan in January? Think again. 

Japanese authorities have banned all non-resident foreign nationals from entering the country as they seek to contain a new infectious Covid-19 strain.

The ban takes place with immediate effect and was followed by Indonesia imposing a similar ban. That means Bali is also off limits. 

Japan's Foreign Ministry said the new entry ban will continue until January 31, 2021.

Japan has already restricted travellers from the UK and South Africa, where more infectious strains of the virus have been detected.

It tightened restrictions after seven people in two days were found to be infected with a new strain of Covid-19, including five who had travelled from the UK.

The re-entry of Japanese nationals is subject to negative Covid-19 test results, and they must self-isolate for a period of two weeks.

Foreign nationals arriving under business travel agreements or who had already obtained landing permission before Monday will be allowed to enter the country, providing they have not visited the UK or South Africa within 14 days. 

Japanese nationals and foreign nationals with valid residence permits will be able to enter Japan whether or not they have visited those countries.

Indonesia's ban runs from January 1 to January 14. 

Indonesians returning home will need negative Covid tests and must quarantine on arrival.

Tuesday 29 December 2020

How to learn some gourmet secrets from the experts

Do you ever feel that you waste your holidays sitting by a swimming pool?

An increasing number of travellers are opting to spend their time off learning more about their passions, be they wine, food, history, art or gardening. 

Renaissance Tours, a leading operator of special interest and cultural tours and cruises caters to aficionados of art, culture, music, opera, ballet, gardens and food. 

Their point of difference is that their tours are all expert led by specialists in their fields e.g. archaeologists, opera experts, art experts, gardening experts etc. 

Not only that, the tours take people behind the scenes , often to places the general public can’t access. 

The tours generally comprise small intimate groups of like-minded people and the Yarra Valley tour visits standout wine producers including De Bortoli, Levantine Hill and Oakridge (above). 

Here is a list of upcoming tours of interest to gourmets and wine lovers. 

Ø Food and Wine in Central Otago, New Zealand with Peter Bourne - February 19-23, 2021

Ø Epicurean Delights of the Yarra Valley with Nicci Crossing - March 23-26, 2021

Ø Food and Wines of the Canberra District Wine Region with Peter Bourne - March 20-24 March, 2021

Ø Food and Wine of the Tamar Valley with Peter Bourne - April 20-24,  2021


Ø Northern Rivers Food Trail with Jane Jutcheon  - May 11-15, 2021 

Other tours, including Orange and Margaret River, will be added.

For details see

Monday 28 December 2020

What a time to unveil a new airline

The world remains in a crisis caused by Covid-19 as several aviation operators have gone out of business but one travel company thinks this is the ideal time to launch a new airline.

Vietnam Travel Aviation Company Limited, to be known as Vietravel Airlines, was officially launched on December 26, industry newsletter Travel Mole reported.It will become Vietnam's sixth airline and will start selling tickets from January 1, director general Vu Duc Bien said.

The airline has taken delivery of its first Airbus aircraft and will acquire two more in the coming weeks.

It hopes to have up to 10 planes within five years with a route network that will focus on Hue and tourist destinations in the central coast region from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

It has plans to expand to other domestic destinations, and eventually to cities across the ASEAN region, Bien said.

The airline is based at Phu Bai Hue International Airport (above) and is targeting one million passengers in its first year of operation.

It is backed by Vietravel, one of the country's largest tour operators.

Full marks to them for optimism, if not for timing.


Saturday 26 December 2020

MONA throws open its doors with a whole new vibe


Tasmania's biggest tourism attraction re-opened this morning after being closed for nine months due to Covid-19 restrictions.

MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart's northern suburbs, unveiled a major revamp of its semi-subterranean galleries and two new outdoor works of art.

Over 350 highlights (and lowlights) from David Walsh’s extensive personal collection are on display. 

The gallery spaces have been transformed to showcase his treasure trove of ancient, modern and contemporary art, with hidden gems that have never been shown at MONA before. 

Newly opened is House of Mirrors, an art installation composed of a labyrinth of seemingly endless mirrors. Created by Australian artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, it is the world’s largest travelling mirror maze.

Visitors can also view, and climb on, a giant bronze sculpture by American artist Tom Otterness. Doubling as a children’s playground, Girls Rule is over seven metres high and features two figures with slides for limbs.

Nicole Durling, MONA director of exhibitions and collections says: ‘We have taken the opportunity across the past nine months to think about what makes MONA unique, and simply it’s David Walsh’s home. 

"This is what we have focused on for the rehang of the museum. All of David’s interests are gathered together, and in a way it reveals his identity. It’s like a portrait of David."

MONA is currently open for four days a week; from Fridays to Mondays, 10am-6pm.

All visitors must have a pre-booked ticket. MONA offers site-only or full museum entry tickets. Although entry remains free for locals, all Tasmanians are required to pay a deposit, which can be refunded following a visit.

Visitors are required to download MONA's app (The O), which will become their digital guide to the museum and grounds - and to bring headphones to access additional audio content. The O, developed by Art Processors, is now available on iOS and Android.

The MONA ferry has resumed its service from Brooke Street Pier to the museum—tickets are $15 until the end of January. The MONA Pavilions are also available to book for overnight stays Thursday through Sunday.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit:

Positive growth prediction for Australian wine industry

The Australian wine sector is projected to grow from $11.3 billion (US$7.9 billion in 2019 to $12.7 billion (US$8.7 billion) in 2024, with a compound annual growth rate of 2.4%, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. 

GlobalData’s report, Australia Wine - Market Assessment and Forecasts to 2024, reveals that the sector is largely driven by growth in the sparkling wine category, which is forecast to register the fastest value CAGR of 2.7% during 2019-2024. 

The category will be followed by still wine and fortified wine, which is expected to record CAGRs of 2.4% and 1.6%, respectively, during the next five years.

Sanchi Agarwal, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, says: “Favorable economic conditions for wine production coupled with the Australian consumers’ willingness to spend more on premium wine products are driving the Australian wine sector. 

"Additionally, millennials (aged 20-34 years) form a vital consumer segment as they perceive consuming wine to be an important part of social life while spending quality time with family and friends.”

Hypermarkets and supermarkets were the leading distribution channel in the Australian wine sector in 2019, followed by food and drinks specialists.

The per capita expenditure of wine in Australia decreased marginally but per capita expenditure on wine in Australia is expected to reach US$385.4 in 2024.

Constellation Brands Inc, Treasury Wine Estates Vintners Limited and Pernod Ricard SA are the top three companies in the Australian wine sector. Rosemount Estate and De Bortoli were the leading brands in the Australian wine sector in volume terms in 2019.

"Australian consumers are highly discerning of wine quality and regard wine containing artificial or synthetic additives/preservatives to be harmful for health, rendering them unfit for consumption," Argawal said. 

"This consumer emphasis on purity of ingredients and in wine is prompting winemakers to use organically farmed grapes in their creations for a clean label positioning.”

Thursday 24 December 2020

A Christmas tale of drop bears and fallen iguanas

In Australia, locals and visitors alike know they need to look out for the fabled drop bears, which sometimes plunge from trees and attack the heads of the unwary. 

Now locals in Miami, Florida, are being warned to look out for falling iguanas, CNN reported. 

Miami faces its coldest Christmas in more than 20 years and the National Weather Service has issued a warning that chilly temperatures could send iguanas plummeting from trees or curling up on footpaths. 

Iguanas are not native to Florida but have been common in the state for 60 years. They still have not adapted to the rare cold spells. 

Once temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, iguanas go into a paralysis-like shock and are at risk. As are passers-by if the creatures fall from trees and hit them.

Australians know ways of repelling drop bears: forks in the hair or Vegemite or toothpaste spread behind the ears. No such solution is yet known to scare off tumbling iguanas.

Note use of the word fabled.  


Leading Tasmanian winemaker strikes out on his own

Jeremy Dineen,  chief winemaker and general manager at Josef Chromy Wines in Tasmania for over 15 years, has announced his resignation. 

Dineen was employed by Chromy before the business even launched, making the first wines in primitive conditions. 

He helped make the Josef Chromy brand one of Tasmania's leading producers. 

Dineen said he hoped to "focus more on my own winemaking and consulting and hopefully spend some more time with my family". 

Tasmanian-born Dineen was hand-picked by Chromy to head his new operation in 2004 after shining at Hood Wines and Frogmore Creek. 

"Steering the growth of Josef Chromy Wines from the purchase of the vineyard in 2004 has been an amazing experience and I will be eternally grateful to Joe for the opportunity and the trust he placed in me," Dineen said. 

"I believe I am leaving the business in a very strong position, with some great wines, strong brands and exciting plans for the next phase of growth and development. The outstanding team at Josef Chromy Wines will remain and they are all well placed to ensure the continued success of the business."

An announcement will be made shortly regarding the appointment of a new general manager. 

"It has been a privilege to be a part of the Josef Chromy story and I have enjoyed, not just the achievements of the vineyard, winery and restaurant, but the strong relationships formed with so many people during these years," Dineen said.

"I wish all the Josef Chromy team the best for the future and I look forward to following their continued success."

Dineen plans to consult as well as building on the success of the Haddow and Dineen label with Bruny Island cheesemaker Nick Haddow. 

Tuesday 22 December 2020

On the right track between Madrid and Barcelona

I love catching trains in Europe. The journey from city centre to city centre is usually faster than flying; and invariably more comfortable. 

Good news, then, that a new low-cost train service is launching in Spain with services operating between Madrid and Barcelona. 

Some tickets will be priced as low as €9 - but you can bet they will be rare as hen's teeth with plenty of restrictions. 

Trains on the route will also stop in Zaragoza and Tarragona, with a journey time of 2 1/2 hours between the national capital and Catalan capital. 

Journeys are expected to launch in May, though they could be brought forward again if pandemic travel restrictions within Spain are eased, Lonely Planet reported.

The trains will be run by Ouigo Spain, a subsidiary of SNCF, the state-owned railway of France, which has said that tickets for its double-decker trains would cost about half of the current price, which can run up to €110. 

Ouigo Spain’s pricing structure is similar to that of a budget airline. 

Ouigo will operate five return journeys between Barcelona and Madrid every day. The route between Barcelona and Madrid will be the only line on this service to start, but the company hopes to expand its network across Spain and offer services to Valencia, Alicante and Seville. 

Thai cuisine gets global recognition


One of the reasons Thailand is my favourite Asian destination is the food; fresh, spicy, salty and delicious.

My personal preference is for street food, or cafes frequented by the locals, but Thailand can also do fine dining for those who want it.  

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) welcomed recent additions to the country's growing stable of Michelin-starred restaurants, with two new entrants and two given an additional star as part of the 28 total Michelin stars awarded.

These were included in the fourth edition of The Michelin Guide in Thailand, which features 299 dining establishments inclusive of six two-star, 22 one-star, 106 Bib Gourmand, and 165 Michelin Plate eateries. 

The new guide covers restaurants in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Phang Nga, with TAT looking to expand coverage to more areas in the country by 2021 under a five-year agreement with Michelin.

Tanes Petsuwan, TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications, said: “I do believe the food sector is, and always will be, a key to the tourism industry's recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Diners now know more about authentic and innovative Thai cuisine, and Thai chefs are now on par with their international counterparts. The Michelin Guide has helped us spread this message to the global arena, as well as continue being top-of-mind for world travellers.”

Pru, a Phuket restaurant that has its own organic farm and sources its ingredients locally, was awarded the Michelin Green Star for its eco-friendly and sustainable operation. 

Monday 21 December 2020

Why a leading Australian winery wants to help save endangered seahorses

A new chain of five-star hotels is set to open in Sydney Harbour - but only guests of the seahorse variety will be welcome to stay. 

Family-owned South Australian winery Taylors Wines has partnered with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) to launch an initiative to save the endangered White’s seahorse (or Sydney seahorse) from extinction. 

The SeaBnB campaign is a fundraising initiative calling on Australians to give these underwater equines a temporary home while SIMS researchers work to rebuild their permanent, seagrass habitats.

All donations (less any transaction fees) go directly towards SIMS’ research projects with the aim to fully restore the seahorse’s natural habitats and give the creatures a fighting chance of avoiding extinction. 

“I’ve always been fascinated by the great work that SIMS does and I’m blown away by the innovative research they are doing to restore the homes of these precious marine creatures,” Taylors Wines third-generation winemaker and managing director Mitchell Taylor said. 

“Seahorses, much like grapevines, are an indicator species that raise the alarm to serious climate-related issues. It’s very important we do what we can to reverse their population decline before it’s too late.”

The Sydney seahorse is endemic to the east coast of Australia and is one of only two seahorses on the planet to be listed as an endangered species. 

Their preferred homes, the underwater seagrass meadows known as posidonia australis, are declining at a rapid rate, like coral reefs. 

SIMS says the survival of this seagrass species is crucial in the fight against climate change. It has the ability to slow climate change by storing carbon 30 to 40 times faster than terrestrial forests. 

And while being home to beautiful sea critters like the Sydney seahorse, the seagrass helps filter the debris in our oceans. 

“This is such an exciting initiative between SIMS and Taylors – it’s a partnership which unites two quite distinct organisations who share common values focused on safeguarding the future of the planet,” said SIMS CEO Martina Doblin. 

“Many people don’t realise that changes in the earth’s climate system impact both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Every second breath we take is from our oceans. The SeaBnB initiative is an important project that brings together two areas of research - restoring seagrass meadows in Sydney Harbour, and artificial seahorse habitats for the endangered Sydney seahorse. 

“We hope this campaign will inspire everyone to support our work and learn more about the importance of these restoration efforts.” 

The goal for the SeaBnB initiative is to raise $150,000 which will enable SIMS to fully restore select areas of seagrass meadows that have been lost. In turn, this creates the opportunity to reintroduce a herd of captive-raised seahorses to their natural habitat. 

Donations of any denomination can be made at or selected from the list of luxury SeaBnB seahorse accommodation packages. 

To launch the campaign, Taylors Wines hascalled upon Australian record free diver Adam Stern to act as an underwater hotel concierge for incoming seahorse guests in a short film about the initiative. 

“We have some incredible marine life in Sydney," Stern said. "I think most people in the city don’t even know what an amazing underwater world is all around them. 

“It’s hard not to notice the deterioration of marine habitats all over the country. Without projects like these, we’re going to continue to see the degradation of these underwater environments. 

"In addition to donating to the cause, I reckon all Australians should grab a mask and snorkel, jump into the ocean and explore. I think once people see what a special thing we have, they’ll realise how important it is to protect it.” Funds raised for this campaign directly supports three phases of SIMS research and restoration projects. 

The seahorse logo features on Taylors wines labels.   

To kick start the campaign, Taylors has chipped in $10,000. 

Sunday 20 December 2020

Bio strategy. Meet a winery doing its bit for the environment

In a competitive wine marketplace a point of difference is good. 

Biodynamic, organic, "orange", gluten-free and preservative-free are all proven winners. 

Increasingly, however, sustainability and evironmentally friendly attributes are proving popular. 

In recent weeks I have written about wine brands that are supporting animal charities, planting trees for every case sold, removing plastics from the ocean and using lighter bottles to save the planet. 

Following in the footsteps of Banrock Station, the team from Shingleback in McLaren Vale has just launched its new "The Bio Project" range of wines for Coles. 

The Bio Project, which has included 200 volunteers, represents Shingleback's ongoing commitment to undertake native revegetation within its Davey Estate vineyard. 

Shingleback is a single-estate, family-owned winery that controls all aspects of the winemaking process, from growing the fruit, to bottling the wines. So a tick for that. 

In conjunction with the McLaren Vale Biodiversity Group, a four-hectare wetland area has been planted with a selection of beneficial insect-attractive native plants. 

A good thing for the environment then. 

But warm and fuzzies don't matter unless the wines are any good. The trio comprises the 2019 The Bio Project Tempranillo Blend, the 2020 Bio Project McLaren Vale Fiano and 2020 The Bio Project Monastrell Dry Rosé. 

No animal products were used in making any of the wines, which means they are all vegan-friendly. 

The red, a blend of tempranillo, monsatrell (known also as mataro or mourvedre), grenache and touriga nacional is a real lip-smacker with an Iberian accent, while the rosé is a monstrell/pinot noir blend with a fresh, dry finish. 

The range retails for $25 a bottle at Vintage Cellars, Liquorland and First Choice Liquor Markets



Saturday 19 December 2020

How much would you pay for an empty row of three or four airline seats?

How much would you pay for exclusive use of a row of three or four economy seats on a long-haul flight? 

Paying for access would enable you to stretch out and sleep for several hours without shelling out for business class.

Airlines are busy testing new ways to travel for when the world opens up again and German airline Lufthansa is testing out ‘sleeper rows’ for its economy passengers.

The airline is currently testing the plan, in which a row of three seats is transformed into a "bed", on its Boeing 747-8 planes between Frankfurt and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

The trial is expected to continue across December and January and, if all goes well, the sleeper rows could be rolled out to each of the airline’s long haul routes.

Passengers pay extra for a row of three or four seats instead of reserving a single seat - and Lufthansa provides a mattress, pillow and a business class blanket to make the beds a little comfier.

Pasengers who book a sleeper row are able to board earlier than other economy passengers so that they can set up their bed.

That's good as it is hard to see any airline crew wanting to step in if another flyer invades a "sleeper" row.

Sleeper rows cost around €220 ($AUD355) on top of the regular fare.

Of course, once we get back to normal, it might be hard to find a seat, let alone a row, to book on a long-haul flight.

Friday 18 December 2020

London hits Macao: Spend it like Beckham

David Beckham was a very good footballer - but I had no idea his skills included interior design.

No matter. Celebrity sells and Sands China Ltd has said the former Manchester United star  styled some of the suites at lavish The Londoner Macao resort, which will open in early 2021.

The all-suite Londoner Hotel is accepting bookings from January and phase one of the US$2 billion project includes the Crystal Palace atrium, dining venues and various London-themed attractions.

The hotel includes a level of accommodation branded 'Suites by David Beckham', who is a global ambassador for the resort.

"I am excited for the launch of the first phase of The Londoner Macao and I hope guests will enjoy the London elements that are close to me," Beckham said.

"It has been amazing working with the Sands team to create the first-ever Suites by David Beckham."

The building façade will be a re-creation of the Houses of Parliament, including a mini Big Ben clock.

Amenities will include a new 6,000-seat theatre, a British-themed restaurant called Churchill's Table and a Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill.

Themed elements include a Changing of The Guard show, a full-size Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, an interactive 'Black Cab Escape' attraction and a five-metre red telephone box.

"Our investment in The Londoner Macao is a clear signal that we believe Macao's future as one of the world's most important leisure and business destinations remains on course," said Robert Goldstein, president and COO of Las Vegas Sands.

The Londoner Macao is a top to bottom conversion of the former Sands Cotai Central and is the third themed resort complex after The Venetian Macao and The Parisian Macao.

Thursday 17 December 2020

Not all that is gold glitters. Meet the worst hotel of 2020

Imagine investing over $200 million to build a new luxury hotel. Imagine making sure that it stands out from the pack.

Imagine defying the odds after 11 years of construction and opening during a global pandemic.

And then imagine your new project being named the worst luxury hotel opening in the world for 2020.

That was the fate of the Dolce by Wyndham Hanoi Golden Lake, today named worst new hotel of the year by LTI – Luxury Travel Intelligence, a global, members-only organisation, providing digital reporting for affluent travellers.

The Dolce by Wyndham Hanoi Golden Lake, billed as the most "golden" hotel in the world, copped a major serve from LTI.

"Even pre-pandemic, this 'all gold' hotel (with their gold crust topped hamburgers) would have been considered too ostentatious and out of touch with the needs of today’s luxury traveller," it reported.

"This is an embarrassment for the luxury hotel sector – as it struggles with the biggest global challenge it has ever faced." 

The Dolce aimed high. "As the very first Dolce hotel in Asia, we aim to transform every moment with our guests into extraordinary opportunity to inspire them," it says on its website. 

But its excesses proved hard to take. 

For a start, the hotel building exterior is fully 24-karat gold-plated. Inside, the gold plating continues across lobbies, an infinity pool and rooms with even cutlery, cups, shower heads and toilet seats receiving the golden treatment.

Worse, dishes from hamburgers to lamb come covered by a gold-coloured substance.

A theme too far, perhaps. Gilty as charged. 

On a more positive note, Capella Bangkok was named Best New Luxury Hotel for 2020

"Capella really is one to watch," LTI reported."We have been following the team with great interest for several years, as they have crafted six very special luxury hotels throughout the world. With Capella Bangkok, they have created another exceptional property. A blueprint for what a luxury hotel now needs to be – personal, memorable, authentic and inspiring." 

To access LTI go to and use the code INVITE400 



Wednesday 16 December 2020

Industrial chic shows the way on the Auckland waterfront

When a new hotel is promoted as offering a "rock star lifestyle without the hefty price tag" then expectations are going to be high. 

When that new hotel is centre stage in Auckland’s up-and-coming, industrial-chic waterfront precinct then it had better deliver. 

TFE Hotels’ opened Travelodge Hotel Auckland Wynyard Quarter at the end of October, promising a simple customer service philosophy: delivering "more of what you want, minus the unnecessary extras".

The new hotel is footsteps from the city’s buzzing ASB Waterfront Theatre; superyachts; Auckland’s working fish market; zen Silo Park and North Wharf’s funky cafes, breweries and bars. 

It is just a stone’s throw from where the world’s yachting elite will descend to contest events in the lead-up to the 36th edition of the America’s Cup in March. 

Travelodge Wynyard Quarter Hotel General Manager Nick Mannion said: “Team New Zealand’s base is just up the street – you’re talking maybe 500 metres from the hotel’s door. 

“That will definitely be a big drawcard for hotel guests, placing them at the epicentre of the action.”

Located on the corner of Halsey and Packenham streets, the seven-storey, 154-room hotel is the first of six new buildings under development as part of a mixed-use commercial/residential block owned by transport and infrastructure investor Infratil.

It features a sawtooth roof and stunning patchwork façade of exposed steel, glass and concrete panels. 

For bookings and details see


Tuesday 15 December 2020

All change. New owners for McLaren Vale winery

Three wine industry friends and colleagues have snapped up McLaren Vale wine producer Fox Creek Wines. 

Ben Gibson, Jock Harvey and Dim Georgiadis are the trio of new owners. 

Gibson has held a broad cross section of wine industry roles over the last 20 years, including various director positions at Pernod Ricard and more recently as CEO of Clare Valley winery, Kirrihill Wines.

Harvey, a wine industry stalwart, is best known as proprietor of Chalk Hill, while Georgiadis is a founder and director of business development for the FABAL group of companies that specialise in large scale agri-business and vineyard management.

All three share a love of high-quality shiraz, grenache and alternative varietals along with a passion for the McLaren Vale region; the wines, the food, the environment and the local community.

Fox Creek was established in 1984 by Helen and Dr. Jim Watts following the purchase of the property on Malpas Road in McLaren Vale. 

Fox Creek has won numerous domestic and international wine awards.

Gibson, who will assume the role of CEO, said that they quickly realised the potential of Fox Creek with its rich soils, 1,200 tonne winery, 20 hectares of premium vineyards and historic cellar door - all within a 46-hectare property. 

“In spite of the hardships the wine industry has faced in the current climate and pandemic, Jock, Dim and I immediately saw the value in investing in such an iconic wine brand in McLaren Vale, ” Gibson said.

“With Fox Creek located so close to our hometown of Willunga, Jock and I could not be happier to be reunited. In partnership with our great friend Dim, we embark on what will be an exciting new chapter for Fox Creek Wines.  

“We have a shared passion for the local community, which will sit foremost at the heart of the Fox Creek Wines philosophy."

Monday 14 December 2020

The best weekend of the year for a wine lover in Tasmania?


Many wine producers in Tasmania are so small that they do not have the time or staff to operate a cellar door. 

Over one weekend a year, however, tiny wineries like Resolution Vineyard at Middleton and Quiet Mutiny at Granton throw open their doors to welcome visitors for tastings and a look behind the scenes.

The Tasmanian Southern Open Vineyards weekend is set to go ahead on February 19-21, 2021. 

As was the case for many, 2020 has been a tough year for Tasmanian winemakers who have been hit with export woes and a sharp decrease in sales as a result of hospitality industry Covid-19 restrictions. 

Determined to push forward, the industry has banded together to ensure the event happens  key southern Tasmania's key wine regions:the Derwent Valley, Coal River Valley and Huon Valley.

Over 40 vineyards across these regions will throw open their doors to guests for the three days, offering a unique opportunity for wine lovers to meet the makers. 

Many vineyards will be offering live music and food options created especially for the weekend.

Hobart-based winemaker and event manager Greer Carland of wine label Quiet Mutiny is leading the charge for the 2021 weekend after pulling together a successful 2020 event that took place just prior to the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Winemaking can be a solitary occupation and even more so this year due to Covid-19," Carland said. 

"The Southern Open Vineyards Weekend is a chance for winemakers to proudly showcase their work, but more than that, it’s an opportunity to meet and get to know the people who enjoy their wine. There is a lot of power in that.” 

Some of the notable labels involved include Meadowbank, Frogmore Creek (below), Pudldeduck (above), Sailor Seeks Horse and Mewstone Wines. 

Southern Open Vineyards Weekend is perfectly suited to ‘Covid times’ with social distancing in place at all participating vineyards. 

A full list of participating vineyards is available at

Images: Chelsea Bell/Ewen Bell 

Sunday 13 December 2020

Britons voted for chaos; now they are about to get it

There can be no argument that the British Government has made a complete dog's breakfast of Britain's exit from the European Union - the move known as Brexit.

But now fears are rising that Britons may be barred from visiting EU countries from January 1, when existing Covid-19 safety rules will no longer apply to the UK.

Only a handful of non-EU countries with low coronavirus rates are exempt from rules that prohibit non-essential visitors from outside the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).

Countries on that non-EU safe list include Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

The UK only has an exemption until the end of the Brexit transition period, with the European Commission indicating that it would not be extended beyond January 1.

That could mean most of the EU being out of bounds for UK travellers, throwing the travel plans for millions of Britons into chaos - probably not what they expected when they voted, dimly, for Brexit. 

As Gilles Tremlett pointed out in The Guardian: "The idea that ending “freedom of movement” simply prevented a one-way traffic of Polish plumbers and Romanian fruit pickers into Britain was always absurd.

"The new reality is this: travel to France is not an absolute right. Nor are trips to Spain, Greece, most of Europe’s best resorts, or anywhere else British people love to go in the EU."  

Norway has already said it will stop British citizens from entering the country from the new year.

A UK Government spokesperson said with typical stoicism: "We cannot comment on decisions that could be taken by other states on public health matters.

"We take a scientific, risk-based approach to health measures at the border, and it is of course in the interests of all countries to allow safe international travel as we emerge from the pandemic."

No word yet from Britain's buffoon leader "Bungling" Boris Johnson. 

Saturday 12 December 2020

Meet a wine that is not packaged like a wine

"What's that?" asked my team of wine tasters. Their confusion was understandable. New Zealand wine range Round Theory comes in packaging very different in shape to any other 750ml wine bottle. 

The bottles are curvy, squat and clear. 

The blurb is that that Round Theory has been "consciously crafted from the ground up to have as positive impact on the planet as possible". Very much on message then. 

What are Round Theory's ethical positives then? 

Its environment credentials include being climate positive thanks to its program with CarbonClick, which offsets at least double its carbon emissions produced; those unique-shaped glass bottles are 30% lighter, 35% shorter and made from clear glass for improved recyclability and to lower carbon footprint. 

But wait, there's more: All cartons are made from 100% recycled paper; with the back and front labels made from FSC certified paper, which has been harvested in a responsible manner. 

And the grapes are sustainably grown and sourced from Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)-accredited vineyards in Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. Plus the wines are certified vegan- friendly. 

So far so hipster/hamster then. 

I was sent the 2020 Pinot Gris, which tasted fine for the $23 a bottle it will set you back at Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Liquorland and First Choice Liquor Markets nationally. Or less, actually as I’ve seen it on special for under $19. 

The ladies behind the Cygnet tasting bench (well, bar) enjoyed it as well. 

Designed for wine lovers looking to make more environmentally friendly decisions, the Round Theory range features: rosé, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and a white field blend. 

Friday 11 December 2020

No socks; no hankies. Discover the cutting-edge gift guide

No socks, no hankies, no underpants. This is a serious Christmas gift guide in which I have personally tested all the submissions - and rejected the average ones.

Super sharp

Every kitchen needs a set of ultra-sharp knives and this smart set from Kleva certainly delivers. For anyone who loves to cook, a dull knife is the bane of their existence.  This Australian-designed, tough Japanese Vamolcrium multi-alloy steel kitchen knife set has range of smart-looking knives for different purposes and comes sharpened and well balanced for immediate and comfortable useEndorsed by chefs including celebrities such as Peter Russell-Clarke and the original Masterchef Julie Goodwin. The set also includes a knife board and optional sharpener. Comes with a 10-year guarantee and free delivery. RRP: $179. 

Whiskey with a difference 

Whiskey lovers will enjoy the Teeling Irish Small Batch Whiskey Glass Pack from Dublin with flavours from unconventional cask maturation techniques (former bourbon and rum casks). The pack includes a very smart premium Teeling tin, a bottle of Teeling Small Batch (700ml) and two whisky glasses. This is a premium Christmas gift for someone who loves whiskey and enjoys something a little bit different. Available from Dan Murphy’s RRP $73.99 and $74 from BWS or online.

Breathe Easy 

The Scandinavian Feel 200ml Hand-Blown Glass Aroma Diffuser with lavender essential aroma oilis terrific for anyone who wants a fresh-smelling home without the risk of lit candles. This smart-looking diffuser is crafted with hand-blown glass and a genuine bamboo base and completely replaces the need for chemical air sprays to get rid of overpowering kitchen, bathroom, and laundry smells. Diffusers can also help you to unwind, relax, and relieve stress – I use mine in the bathroom before sleeping to resolve a blocked nose. You can use any oil you choose with this nifty device. It has colour changing lights and automatically switches off when the water runs out. I'm using this a lot.  RRP: $129

A Tasmanian Escape 

How about booking family and friends in for a couple of nights at Truffle Lodge, Tasmania’s luxury bush glamping destination? Known for its idyllic riverfront location and for being akin to a 5-star hotel under canvas, Truffle Lodge’s luxury safari-style en-suite tents cater for every creature comfort and are naturally socially distanced – all eight tents are located right on the Derwent River. Truffle Lodge guests can enjoy a range of eco-friendly outdoor activities within moments of stepping outside their tent – and even spot platypus in the river. Each Truffle Lodge tent is double-walled and triple-roofed for maximum comfort and features a hand-made wooden bath, rain shower, extra-large and deep double beds, a coffee machine, tea-making facilities, a bar fridge, and many more thoughtful touches. Breakfasts, drinks, and two-course evening meals are served in Truffle Lodge’s communal areas. From $400 per couple per night including breakfast and dinner.

Vodka with a twist

Svedka is a premium Swedish vodka producer and the number one imported vodka in the US. This is its niche product for the summer with vodka blended with 5% rosé wine. Think tropical fruit flavours and a lighter style (30%  alc/vol). Perfect served over ice cubes or chilled straight from the fridge, or just add a dash of sparkling water. Instant holiday refreshment. Available now at BWS and Dan Murphy stores nationally at RRP $49.00 a bottle. 

# This is an edited version of a story that is running in Ciao Magazine. 

Thursday 10 December 2020

Gourmet gurus to offer a Hobart summer treat at the Hanging Garden

Some of Tasmania's top food gurus have signed up for In The Hanging Garden's five-day Tasmanian Summer Barbecue series, featuring a rotating mix of chefs and producers who will deliver their individual spin on the summertime barbecue tradition.

“Hobart is so fortunate to have our lush Cathedral space in the city centre, and this month we’re excited to launch a five-day-long Tassie Summer barbecue series,” In The Hanging Garden food curator Jo Cook said.

“Our talented guest chefs carry credentials from celebrated businesses like Garagistes, Fat Pig Farm, Rough Rice, and Urban Bounty, so we’re looking forward to the adventurous and quality offerings they will bring to our big backyard barbecue.”

Head to the Cathedral in downtown Hobart to sample a new creation each day, or enjoy In The Hanging Garden’s regular kitchen offerings, including cheesy treats from Bruny Island Cheese and Co. and pan-Asian cuisine from Oryza.

Boxing Day will signal the start of the series - with a yet-to-be-revealed guest chef.

Luke Burgess, the Garagistes co-founder, will be in the hot seat on December 27. Since closing Garagistes in 2015, Burgess has cooked in eight different countries and co-wrote a guidebook called Only in Tokyo, with Melbourne chef Michael Ryan (The Provenance). He has prepared a kilometre of broad beans ready for harvest—and ready to turn into fresh falafel, paired with young garlic toum sauce and barbecued pita bread.

Megan Quill and Thea Webb will man the fire on December 28, to create Double Bangers (two sausages in a bun) including Middle Eastern-style wallaby and lamb merguez with sumac pickled red onions, red pepper and herb salsa; and Georgian-style pork and fennel sausage served with cabbage kraut, creamy mustard, crispy shallots, and tkemali plum sauce.

Nick Cummins from Urban Bounty is next up on December 29, plating up lamb ribs with quince and Willie Smith’s Bone Dry Cider BBQ sauce and slaw.

Adam James from Rough Rice closes the season on December 30, bringing a Georgian-style charcoal-grilled pork mtsvadi to the table, served with walnut and herb pilaf, fermented pickles and tarragon, and chilli and pomegranate sauce.

Every good barbecue deserves good music, and so each day of the Tasmanian Summer BBQ series will feature local artists performing on the Cathedral stage.

Across the five days, performances will include acoustic duo The Foley Artists, contemporary jazz quartet The Moonshine Collective, ex-Nashville now-local Americana muso Ross Sermons, groove six-piece Little Island, banjo and fiddle duo The Wolfe & Thorne, electric banjo ska band Black Swans of Trespass, acoustic guitarist Alan Gogoll, and spicy Australian swing outfit the Cope Street Duo.


Art from the heart in New Zealand

Over 76,000 returning New Zealanders have experienced 14-day managed isolation in hotels around the country in order to keep New Zealand free from Covid-19 in the community. 

Over the past 14 days, globally renowned Kiwi artist Ruby Jones has brought her experiences to life in a unique artist residency called Thanks from Iso.

Jones collaborated with Accor New Zealand, who approached the artist after receiving thousands of items of creative and written work from guests undergoing managed isolating in their hotels. 

The material offers insights into the journey made by those who have experienced 14 days of managed isolation as well as those Kiwis who have been working on the front line for the majority of the year. 


Ruby Jones gained international prominence after her artwork was published on the front cover of Time magazine following the Christchurch mosque shootings.


As part of her 14-day residency at Allpress Studios in Auckland, Jones interviewed dozens of Kiwi workers and residents who had been in isolation. 

Jones and Accor will eventually donate all 14 pieces of unique artwork to Auckland Museum.


 “The journey for our teams, government agencies and guests since the first lockdown has been both heart-wrenching and rewarding," says  Gillian Millar, Accor Senior Vice President Operations

"I am incredibly proud of the way our teams step up to help the government and our communities stay safe. We knew we needed a way to capture these tales, inner thoughts and experiences in a concentrated body of work that will encompass this moment in time - providing a visual understanding for generations to come.”


Jones’ residency at Allpress Studio in Auckland ran from November 24-December 7. 

Throughout the exhibition, thousands of Kiwis were able to view guest creations and artworks directly, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who shared her experience with followers online.


“I feel incredibly honoured to have worked with Accor on this impactful project,” says Jones. “Hearing the heartfelt stories of managed isolation residents and frontline workers is an experience I’ll never forget. I hope the works I’ve produced resonate with the people of Aotearoa and spark a deeper sense of understanding for those to come.”