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Tuesday 30 June 2020

Raspberry production expands in Tasmania

Queensland-based Piñata Farms is set to double production of specialty BerryWorld raspberries in Tasmania following a successful inaugural harvest at Orielton.

Managing director Gavin Scurr said key infrastructure including polytunnels and a high-tech packhouse were already in place to enable expansion plans. The packhouse features what is believed to be the only heat-sealing machine in Tasmania.

Planting for Tasmania's summer crop would begin in about September or when conditions were optimal, he said. The first harvest is now in its final stages.

"Raspberries have been harvested continuously at Orielton for the past six months and fruit quality and yield has exceeded expectations," Scurr said. "Given the farm was a greenfield site, there was a lot to make happen before the first harvest including the erection of wind breaks to protect the crop.

"Of Piñata Farms' raspberry growing regions, conditions at Orielton are the most like that of Europe where the varieties were bred. Therefore, the location is ideal for raspberry production and the result has been exceptional berry size and taste.

"We're very excited about the future of Tasmanian-grown raspberries."

Scurr said Tasmanian consumers, and particularly those local to the Orielton region, had embraced the berry offering and the farming business.

"Consumer feedback from the very first berry picked has been positive and the Orielton community has enthusiastically shown its support for the farm both as a local business and employer.

"At the peak of the harvest, we employed 25 people including a mix of locals and backpackers both in the field and the packhouse  - and that number will increase in line with production over the next year."

The farm, which is connected to the South-East Irrigation Scheme, is expected to enter full production by 2024.
Raspberries produced at Orielton are distributed to selected Woolworths stores in Tasmania and Victoria.

Specialty BerryWorld strawberry varieties will also be trialled at Orielton during the next 18 months, Scurr said.

Rex Airlines spreads its wings

I've flown many times with Red Airlines, as well as writing for its in-flight magazine.

Rex has tended to fly to regional destinations like Mount Gambier, MIldura, Burnie and Griffith - but all that is about to change. 
The Rex board has formed the view that Rex could successfully embark on domestic operations between major centres including Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. 
Due to the strong interest shown by various external parties to participate in a fund raising - including lessors willing to provide $30 million for 15 of Rex's fleet of 60 unencumbered Saab 340 aircraft, the board has formed the view that funding will be forthcoming for the minimum target sought. 
Consequently the board has authorised management to commence preparations in earnest for the operation of an initial fleet of five to 10 narrow-body jet aircraft to be based out of Sydney and/or Melbourne to service the golden triangle (Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane). 
The board has confirmed March 1, 2021, as the targeted start date for the start of those operations. 
Rex's deputy chairman, John Sharp, said: “Rex has the biggest regional network in Australia and we are the only carrier in Australia that has been able to successfully navigate the turmoil and shocks over the last two decades with uninterrupted operational profits since 2003.
“With Rex's expansive regional network of 60 destinations, existing infrastructure in all these capital city airports, superior efficiencies and unbeatable reliability, it will simply be an incremental extension for Rex to embark on domestic operations especially since one out of every 10 flights in Australia was already a Rex flight during the pre-Covid days.
"Leveraging on Rex's existing infrastructure and overheads, our cost base for the domestic operation is estimated to be at least 35% below Virgin's Australia's (pre-Covod) with 50% lower additional headcount needed proportionately.
“Rex's domestic operations will be priced at affordable levels but will also include baggage allowance, meals on board and pre-assigned seating."
Regional Express (Rex) is Australia's largest independent regional airline operating a fleet of 60 Saab 340 aircraft (pre-Covid) on some 1,500 weekly flights to 60 destinations throughout all states in Australia.

Monday 29 June 2020

Chip off the old block a winner for fast food operator

A chip van has come up with a simple but ingenious way to enable it to serve customers while maintaining social distancing. 

The Chip Cart, which has operated in Diss, Norfolk for 99 years, has returned to action after the Covid-19 put Britain into lockdown with a clever idea that could be copied around the world.
Pic: Eastern Daily Press 
All you need is a basket or two, a plank of wood and some fishing line. 

Locals have been impressed with the ‘pulley system’.

Simon Reeve, owner of the cart, told the Eastern Daily Press newspaper: “I had a nice picnic table at the front which I thought would be good for complying with the two-metre rule, but I didn’t know how to get the chips to the table.

“So, then I thought if I had a little slide a basket would slide nicely to the table and I wouldn’t have to keep bending down.

“It’s a wooden slide with a plastic covering along with a piece of fishing line and a couple of baskets and so far, it’s been working really well.

“A lot of people love it. It tickles people and gives them a bit of a laugh.”

The fish and chip van was originally a horse-drawn cart.

Another airline goes under in wake of Covd-19

The global Covid-19 pandemic has claimed another airline victim. 
Singapore-Thailand joint venture NokScoot is staying grounded for good it announced on Monday after the carrier's board of directors opted to liquidate the airline. 

The decision will be put to a general meeting of shareholders within the next two weeks, Travel Mole reported. 
NokScoot was a joint venture between Thailand's Nok Airlines and Singapore Airlines-owned budget carrier Scoot.

The closure won't affect either of these two airlines.

The joint venture was formed in 2014 and had consistently been operating at a loss, even before the pandemic. The Bangkok Post reported it had been laying off staff. 
"Unprecedented challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic have further exacerbated the situation," the company said. "Consequently, the board of directors does not see a path to recovery and sustainable growth for the airline." 
Based at Bangkok's Dom Mueang Airport, NokScoot operated flights across Asia including to China, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan.

Sunday 28 June 2020

Taste the history in every bottle of Moorooroo

There is an immense amount of history in every bottle of Schild Estate Moorooroo Shiraz. 

The new-release 2017 vintage - like its predecessors - is made from fruit grown on southern Barossa vines planted in 1847 by Johan and William Jacob.

There are only four rows left of these ancient vines - some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world. 

Ironically, the vines only survived through a piece of luck. They were due to be destroyed as part of a vine-pull program in the mid 1980s. Farmer Ed Schild's tractor broke down and the handful of rows survived. 

Today, they are recognised as "ancestor vines" in the Barossa Old Vine Charter  and are nurtured by the Schild family as irreplaceable history. 

Schild chief winemaker Scott Hazeldine says the 2017 has: "exceptional mouth-filling texture and genuine balance in its depth and layering. It has a presence of fruit that holds concentration and length throughout the palate, supported by super-fine tannins."

Aged in new to second-fill French oak hogsheads, this is a wine with an impeccable predigree; James Halliday has scored the previous two vintages 99/100. 

The 2017 is hugely impressive; a wine of dignity and style that lives up to the hype - and the $199 price tag. It is big but balanced; powerful but poised. 98/100 from me.  

The official release date is August 6, but you can order online now at 

Saturday 27 June 2020

Tourism industry aims to restart Phuket visitation

Phuket tourism industry operators have launched Asia's first post-Covid-19 campaign to relaunch travel to the Thai resort region.

The Imagine Phuket campaign focuses on the sights, sounds, feelings, tastes and emotions that Phuket evokes; making visiors yearn for all they have missed during the global pandemic.

The campaign is being masterminded by the Phuket Hotels Association and marketing agency QUO. 

Phuket has been one of the hardest-hit destinations in Thailand, and hotels have struggled to reopen.

“Phuket is the leading resort destination in Asia and one of the most-loved resort destinations anywhere in the world,” says Anthony Lark, president of Phuket Hotels Association. 

“Our members have come together with QUO to create a campaign, in both English and Thai, to evoke the soul of the destination.”

Asia's most-visited island destination, with over 10 million arrivals last year, Phuket is also hoping that it will be able to attract many of Thailand’s 20 million domestic travellers.

“The Imagine Phuket video, and integrated social media campaign, are designed to drive emotion,” said QUO CEO David Keen. “We know that there is a massive desire to travel again, both locally and internationally. Our intent is to bring the story back to Phuket.”

Watch the Imagine Phuket campaign introductory video:

UPDATE: Europe bans airline over fake licence scandal

UPDATE: July 2

The European Union has banned Pakistan International Airlines from flying to Europe for six months.

It comes after revelations that up to a third of PIA pilots have obtained fake pilot licenses.

This story may seem hard to believe. It is frightening, but true.

Pakistan International Airlines has grounded nearly a third of its pilots after the aviation ministry said around 150 pilots had fake licenses.

The scandal came to light during scrutiny of the airline following a fatal PIA crash in Karachi last month, Travel Mole reports.

It is alleged the pilots did not actually take a final exam, but paid other pilots to do it for them.

"PIA acknowledges that fake licenses are not just a PIA issue but spread across the entire Pakistani airline industry," a PIA spokesperson said.

The interim report into the Pakistan Airlines crash was published this week and laid the blame on human error.

The plane ploughed into a residential area in Karachi, killing 97 people onboard and one person on the ground.

There were just two survivors.

Aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said a 'fair' investigation was conducted and said an 'overconfident' pilot and air traffic control were at fault.

"There was no technical fault in the plane," Khan said."It was completely fit for flying. The pilot and co-pilot, who were both medically fit and experienced, did not mention any technical issue to the ATC throughout the flight."

"Unfortunately, the pilot was overconfident and not focused. He ignored the ATC's warnings several times until the final approach."

After a first failed landing attempt, the engine caught fire but that wasn't relayed to the cockpit by air traffic control.

"This is a free, fair, and transparent inquiry. Very strict action is being taken against those found responsible for the crash," Khan added.

Meet a winemaker facing a serious challenge

Winemaker Marty Edwards is facing a serious challenge fighting against Parkinson's Disease but that has not stopped him from launching a new label: Silver Lining.

Marty Edwards Photo: Duy Huynh
Edwards' family created Adelaide Hills benchmark The Lane and the former Navy clearance diver has committed to donating proceeds from his new label to Parkinson’s Research.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2012 when his daughter was just three months old. Given his wine and diving needs, a disorder that affected his movement was unthinkable.

“Each pursuit shares the same core philosophy: a commitment to being proactive and maintaining a focus on your goal, irrespective of any obstacles that present themselves,” Edwards says. 

“By focusing on what I know best and what I need to retain my health, creating a brand from pristine fruit sourced from elite parcels in the Adelaide Hills and donating proceeds to Parkinson’s Research is not only achieving a personal goal, it’s helping others who are on this journey.”

The new-to-market brand will consist of three varietals all from the 2020 vintage; a sauvignon blanc sourced from Hahndorf, chardonnay from a single vineyard in Macclesfield and a shiraz from Echunga and Macclesfield.

The whites will be released on July 1 and the shiraz in 2021. 

"These wines reflect the unique set of environmental influences experienced each season – a sense of place," Edwards says. The sauvignon blanc is $25 and the chardonnay $30. 

Silver Lining Wines are available via the website at, which will launch on Monday. 

Friday 26 June 2020

d'Arenberg pushes the organic envelope

Look for several new releases from McLaren Vale wine producer d'Arenberg with the word "organic" emblazoned across the front label. 

While organic and biodynamic practices have been at the heart of winemaking and viticulture at d’Arenberg for a long time, the launch of the new ‘The Organic’ range underlines chief winemaker Chester Osborn’s commitment to sustainable practices.

The first wines to be adorned with a new ‘Organic’ label are, The Witches Berry Chardonnay, Stephanie the Gnome with Rose Coloured Glasses Rosé and The Love Grass Shiraz.

The first three wines in the new range bring their NASAA-certified organic and biodynamic status to the fore.

“We’ve been practicing organics at d’Arenberg for many decades without being certified, and we started trialing biodynamics in the early 2000s, adopting them in the last decade," says Osborn. 

"In 2018 we obtained the winery certification for organic and biodynamic, hence the inclusion on the labels now.” 

Harmony between environmental sustainability and wine industry practice is a strong commitment for d'Arenberg. 

All d'Arenberg estate and leased vineyards have been certified for organic and biodynamic processes since 2015. 

“Organic and biodynamic wine making sees higher-quality wines, partly due to the lack of fertiliser, as well as other vineyard practices such as no use of glyphosate or other herbicides," says Osborn (below). 

"Biodynamics increases the complexity of the wine, with a creamier fuller flavor developing, as well as greater length. Organic and biodynamic practices accentuate the soil and geological expression of the site.”

Thursday 25 June 2020

Another key Australian wine celebration cancelled

Another important event on the Australian wine calendar has fallen victim to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Australian Pinot Noir Challenge 2020, scheduled for the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, has been cancelled for this year, due to the ongoing uncertainty around the coronavirus. The event was scheduled for September 28-29.

Paringa Estate’s Lindsay McCall, the event chair, said: “The committee has discussed the restrictions on travel and challenges surrounding hosting a national event at this time, and with unknowns still circling we cannot proceed with the event in 2020.

“With a fantastic result in 2019, maintaining the momentum to see representation from all pinot noir regions across the country is a priority.  

"We are extremely proud of the showcase event the Pinot Noir Challenge has become and are looking forward to launching a strong campaign in 2021.  Good things come to those who wait.” 

For updates and further information see

Changing of the guard at icon Australian wine labels

Adam Wadewitz and David LeMire
Back in 1990, I met up with Master of Wine Michael Hill Smith to take a look at a new wine he was releasing with his cousin, Martin Shaw.

It was a very impressive Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc; back in the days when that grape variety was not at all fashionable in Australia.

Thirty years on, Shaw + Smith is one of the country's most recognisable wine brands. The cousins make wines exclusively from the Adelaide Hills, from varieties that suit the cooler climate: sauvignon blanc (now a benchmark), riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz.

Shaw + Smith own two vineyards, in Lenswood and Balhannah, which is also home to the winery where the tasting room is open daily.

Shaw + Smith this week announced a changing of the guard, appointing winemaker Adam Wadewitz and sales and marketing specialist David LeMire MW as joint CEOs.

LeMire joined Shaw + Smith in late 2010 while Wadewitz came on board in early 2013. Both have been involved in the management of Shaw + Smith over recent years and both are highly respected wine professionals.

Founders Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW will remain actively involved in the business. In addition, Shaw will become executive chair of Shaw + Smith and Hill Smith executive chair of sister company Tolpuddle Vineyard.

Martin Shaw said: “Not only have David and Adam excelled in their specific areas of sales and marketing and winemaking, they are natural leaders with an excellent feel for business."

Michael Hill Smith MW added: “Most importantly both Adam and David are fully committed to the growing, making and selling of fine wine.”

The appointments are effective from July 1, 2020, and include overseeing the Tolpuddle Vineyard in Tasmania.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Australia gets its first ski resort gondola

Thredbo Resort has launched Australia's first alpine gondola in time for the ski season Down Under.

Merritts Gondola replaces a double chairlift and quadruples capacity.

The resort has also invested in a new car park, improved snowmaking and installed an expanded grooming fleet.

Thredbo is Australia's premier alpine resort and has been voted Australia's best ski resort in the World Ski Awards for three consecutive years.

The new cabin-style lift is similar to those found in Europe and North America and represents the culmination of two years of planning and development.

“The investment being made in Thredbo is really exciting to see, and I have no doubt Thredbo customers will agree," said Stuart Diver, general manager of Thredbo Resort.

"The launch of the gondola is a huge event for Thredbo and the entire community who have worked so hard to make this happen. It is a remarkable engineering achievement thanks to the tenacity and depth of knowledge and expertise at Doppelmayr, the world's leading manufacturer of ski lifts.

"The completion of this phase of our development plan will enhance the customer experience and continue to ensure we remain Australia's premier resort."

Thredbo plays host to close to around 750,000 visitors each year. It is located at the heart of the Australian Alps and nestled in the foothills of Australia's highest mountain Mt Kosciuszko.

In winter, Thredbo offers Australia's longest snow runs and a vertical drop close to double that of any other Australian resort with a European-style village. 

In summer, Thredbo has Australia's largest network of gravity mountain bike trails, as well as some of the best hiking trails in the country.

For more information see

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Organic wine pioneer opens new cellar door - and you can catch the train

Organic wine pioneeers Tamburlaine Organic Wines have opened a new tasting facility in the historic former Millthorpe General Store in Central Western New South Wales.

The opening follows hot on the heels of the multi-award-winning organic winemakers’ expansion in the Orange wine region via the purchase of the former Cumulus winery facility at Cudal, where it processed its 2020 fruit.

The new facility, to be run by local Phoenix Kamsteeg (above), will hold hosted wine tastings from Thursday.

Tamburlaine managing director Mark Davidson said Tamburlaine has enjoyed 35 years of providing exceptional cellar door service through its Hunter Valley operation and now is looking forward to supplementing the Orange region visitor wine experience.

“The cellar door opening in the region is not before time given our involvement with Orange region winemaking going back to 1989 and given the substantial vineyard holdings at Borenore and Belgravia,” Davidson said.

“This venue will complement the already established cellar doors in Millthorpe of Angullong and Slow Wine Co. The destination couples food and wine tourism with history and heritage.

“Tamburlaine built its Hunter business on tourism and cellar door hospitality. Over the decades we created a substantial customer base for the wines, one customer group at a time.

“We can now continue this highly effective model of direct sales with Orange region visitors and encourage our existing customers - who have not necessarily been before - to travel to the region.

"We know that many customers are just waiting for the excuse to visit Orange and Millthorpe."

Visitors to the cellar door can expect to sample a broad range of wine styles along with local gourmet produce. Guests can relax, get a bottle of wine, and a cheese plate to enjoy.

Millthorpe (above) is a heritage-listed village in Central West NSW and part of the Orange wine region. The historic town is 20 minutes’ drive south-east of Orange, only 10 minutes from Orange Airport, and 30 minutes west of Bathurst.

The drive from Sydney is 3 hours 30 minutes. Visitors can also come by train from Sydney, arriving in Millthorpe at 11.48am just in time for lunch, a spot of exploring, some cellar door tasting and then catch the train home at 4.11pm.

The Millthorpe Tamburlaine Organic Wines Cellar Door will initially be open Thursday through to Sunday, but special direct bookings can be made for small groups by phoning Phoenix directly on (02) 49 984 299 at

New cycling adventures in Victorian wine regions

Fancy a leisurely cycling tour through two of Victoria's most picturesque wine regions? 

Boutique Italian tour operator, A’qto Cycling has announced the launch of local tours in country Victoria to bring riders a ‘slice of Italy’at home; selecting Bright and Daylesford for their mountain climbs, rolling hills and views. 

Following the restriction of overseas travel due to Covid-19 and the subsequent postponement of fully-booked Italian tours across Puglia, Tuscany, Piedmont and the Dolomites, A’qto Cycling founders Nancy de Losa and Damian Hancock have put a local spin on their successful tours - both riding and non-riding components. 

The result is four-day getaways with an Italian accent. 

“We needed to innovate our business in order to keep our clients engaged for travel in 2021, so we have carefully selected local regions that encompass a true Italian adventure," Hancock says. "The destinations showcase both Italian heritage and sensational cycling experiences, all while encapsulating the natural beauty of Australia." 

The Gourmet Escapes guided tours, commencing September 2020, visit the rolling hills and backroads of Victoria’s spa country, around Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, and the Australian alpine landscape of Bright, on four-day and three-night adventures.

Cyclists will enjoy daily rides throughout Hepburn, Tawonga Gap and Mount Buffalo, guided by Damian through varying elevations and levels of difficulty. 

Non-riding guests, hosted by Nancy, will enjoy activities ranging from guided walks and visits to beautiful local towns to professional cooking and photography classes.

“One of our main points-of-difference from other cycling tour companies in the industry is our non-riding partner program, which allows couples to tour together, despite varying interests," says Nancy 

"As a non-cyclist myself, my time on tour is solely devoted to the enjoyment of our guests off-the-bike, whether that is hosting atmospheric evening aperitivo hours, indulgent dinners or facilitating rewarding non-riding partner activities.” 

Post-ride, all guests will indulge in authentic Italian dining, local produce and regional wines while residing in boutique and private accommodation, simultaneously supporting local tourism.

Tours of Daylesford and Bright are priced at $1,595.00 and $1,995.00 per person respectively, which includes accommodation, meals and activities.

For details see: 

Monday 22 June 2020

Qantas comes under fire from industry regulator

Australian national flag carrier Qantas has been slammed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for not telling customers about their entitlement to refunds.

The ACCC said it had been bombarded with hundreds of consumer complaints about Qantas's conduct in the wake of Covid-19 cancellations. 

"From the outset, Qantas did not communicate clearly with customers about their rights and in a large number of cases, simply omitted they were entitled to a refund," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

The agency said it thinks Qantas was guilty of using underhand tactics to avoid paying out refunds.

"In some cases, the ACCC considers Qantas' emails may have encouraged these customers to cancel bookings themselves in order to receive a credit when many would have been eligible for a refund."

An email sent to customers recently to 'remind' them that they can apply for a refund was only forthcoming because of weeks of pressure from the ACCC.

"I think that customers can and should expect better from Qantas, particularly when many of those customers may be out of work or experiencing financial hardship," Sims said.

"If any customer in this situation is unhappy with receiving a credit, or no longer wants one due to continuing uncertainty about when flights will resume, we strongly encourage them to contact Qantas and seek a refund.

"I think that customers can and should expect better from Qantas, particularly when many of those customers may be out of work or experiencing financial hardship.

"If any customer in this situation is unhappy with receiving a credit, or no longer wants one due to continuing uncertainty about when flights will resume, we strongly encourage them to contact Qantas and seek a refund."

Sunday 21 June 2020

Sorry. No face mask, no flight

Bad news for recalcitrants and Donald Trump supporters. 

American Airlines this week banned from flying a passenger who refused to wear a face mask.

Brandon Straka had a ticket to fly from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Dallas on Wednesday, but was not allowed to board, US media reported. 

American Airlines said the incident had been "thoroughly reviewed" and that Straka will not be permitted to fly American, as he failed to comply "with our stated policy and crew member instructions".

It is not currently US law to impose the wearing of face masks on flights, but airlines have implemented the policy in the wake of Covid-19.

Straka is a pro-Trump activist with over 400,000 Twitter followers.

American said: "We are committed to protecting the safety and well-being of our customers and team members, which is why we strengthened enforcement of our policy for required face coverings on board.

"We expect customers who choose to fly with us to comply with these policies, and if necessary, we will deny future travel for customers who refuse to do so.

"Restricting travel is a step we take very seriously, and it will only occur after a comprehensive review of the facts of an incident. Mr Straka will be permitted to fly with us once face coverings are no longer required for customers."

US media reported Straka said he was asked by a flight attendant if he had a condition that prevents him from wearing a mask, to which he replied: "Sanity."

I reckon most Australians would be more likely to fly American given their policy.  

Friday 19 June 2020

New Sydney Fish Market gets official go-ahead

Sydney Fish Market at Blackwattle Bay will have a whole new look with the New South Wales Government today approving final plans for a revitalisation project. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the green light paves the way for construction on the site to begin, creating 700 construction jobs and more than 700 ongoing jobs once the new markets open in 2024.

“Projects equal jobs. Building infrastructure will be key to our economic recovery out of this pandemic which is why we have already accelerated a number of infrastructure projects in NSW, creating thousands of jobs,” Berejiklian said.

“This is an exciting step forward for the new Sydney Fish Market, with construction to soon get underway on this incredible new precinct on the doorstep of the CBD.

“Not only will the new Sydney Fish Market continue to be the beating heart of our state’s seafood industry, it will also continue to lead the way as one of Australia’s leading tourist destinations.”

The new Sydney Fish Market has been designed by Danish architect 3XN, in association with Sydney firms BVN and Aspect Studios, and will be built over the waters of Blackwattle Bay and adjacent to the current site. 

Visitor numbers to the market are expected to double over the next 10 years, from three million to six million each year.

The new building will include a variety of fishmongers, restaurants, cafés, bars, and specialty food retailers in a four-storey market hall setting, as well as new public promenades and a ferry wharf.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the Sydney Fish Market was approved through the Government’s new Planning System Acceleration Program. 

“This is the 33rd project determined through the new accelerated assessment program, introduced as part of the NSW Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Stokes said.

Early works for the Sydney Fish Markets are expected to commence within the next eight weeks, with a stage one contract to be awarded shortly. A tender process is also underway for the major construction phase, which is expected to start in early 2021.

For more information visit the Sydney Fish Market webpage.

Fears as thousands of Beijing flights are cancelled

More than 1,500 flights have been cancelled at Beijing's two major airports as the city government tries to stem a second wave of Covid-19 cases in the Chinese capital. .

State media said nearly 1,000 flights at Beijing Capital International Airport were grounded on Thursday while more than 500 were cancelled at Beijing's new Daxing International Airport.

Dozens of new Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the past few days with most tied to the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale market, Travel Mole reported.

The market has recorded more than 130 cases in the past week.

City officials have urged residents not to leave Beijing.

"Because the Xinfadi market is the largest marketplace selling daily necessities, with thousands of migrant workers and a large number of visitors, it is hard to control the spread," said Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We may see a rise in confirmed cases in the coming days."

Officials are ramping up testing with thousands of people being tested every day.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Cruise industry facing a crisis in Australia

The ongoing shutdown of the cruise industry in Australia - and possible resistance to resuming cruising by consumers - is creating a potential crisis in the sector. 

The Cruise Lines International Association Australasia has warned thousands of jobs are at risk over the cruise ship ban.

Analysis commissioned by CLIA says the suspension will cost Australia more than $1.4 billion in lost economic activity by mid-September and put nearly 5,000 jobs at risk.

Research by AEC Group says the cruise shutdown has already led to $500 million economic loss to the end of May.

If the cruise suspension continues beyond the current end date of September 17 and impacts the summer high-season, job and economic losses will be significantly worse.

It forecasts an additional 13,000 jobs could go due to economic losses of $3.8 billion. This despite the fact that very few crew members are Australians.

"Cruise tourism is worth $5.2 billion a year to the Australia economy and supports more than 18,000 jobs," CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz told Travel Mole

"The suspensions that cruise lines and governments have enacted worldwide have been the right response but there is an enormous cost to those who make up the wider cruise community. 

"There are many thousands of travel agents, tour operators, ports and destinations, technical support providers, and food and beverage suppliers who support the cruise industry and are suffering enormous financial stress."

CLIA has written to the Australian Government to emphasise the importance of the cruise industry to the job market and the wider economic value to a number of indirect industries that it supports.

It has also requested an extension to the JobKeeper scheme for travel agents and t travel industry workers.

"CLIA cruise lines are using this time to ensure we learn as much as possible from Covid-19 and develop the best possible response," Katz added.

Northern Territory announces re-opening date

The Northern Territory borders will officially re-open on July 17, with iconic destinations including World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park accessible again for all Australians to enjoy.

Tourism Northern Territory is post Covid-19 tourists to turn their holiday dreaming into holiday bookings so visitors can enjoy the warm tropical north and spectacular blue skies of the Red Centre.

From July 17, self-quarantining for domestic travellers arriving in the Territory is no longer required. 

Visitors will be keen to visit popular destinations including Darwin, Alice Springs, Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Kakadu National Park, Kings Canyon, Nitmiluk National Park, Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands, says Tourism NT executive general manager of marketing Tony Quarmby. 

“The Territory is a truly iconic destination; one that’s on the bucket list for many Australians," he says. "For too long Australians have said ‘I’ll go one day’ – well that day has come, there are no excuses left.

“Everyone here is looking forward to re-opening and sharing this spectacular part of our own backyard with the rest of the country.

“This is your chance to escape your routine and the winter chill; the weather is warm, it’s more affordable than before, and there’s plenty of wide open spaces to explore and shake off the ‘isolation’ blues.” 

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Would you like your wine low cal, low alcohol and with zero sugar?

Choosing a wine is becoming almost as complicated as ordering a coffee in the United States.

California-based Scheid Family Wines has launched its new low-alcohol, low-calorie, zero- sugar wine label, ‘Sunny With a Chance of Flowers’.

They are designed to sit, so we are told, in the trending "better for you" wine category.

The Sunny With a Chance of Flowers range has 85 calories per five-ounce serving, offering consumers 30% fewer calories than an average serving of wine.

The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 Chardonnay and 2018 Pinot Noir are 100% varietal wines with 9% alcohol by volume.

Executive vice president of Scheid Family Wines Heidi Scheid says there was a demand in the US for wine consumers wanting to enjoy a glass or two on the lighter side of the spectrum.

“We saw a gap in the marketplace,” Scheid said. “Consumers are looking for a wine that is not only ‘better for you’ with zero sugar, low calories and low alcohol, it also needs to be delicious and authentically sourced and produced.

“Our winemaking team conducted so many wine tasting trials that we lost count in order to produce a wine that doesn’t make you feel like you’re giving up anything.

“With its positive message and attributes, Sunny is a mindfully made wine that makes you feel good inside and out.”

Scheid Family Wines is a family-owned company that has made wine in Monterey County, California since 1972. No news yet on an Australian distributor. 

Discover a unique regional fine dining experience in Victoria

Drift House at Port Fairy, one of regional Victoria's best luxury guest houses, will host a pop-up restaurant once a month for the rest of the year. 

But this will be no ordinary pop-up with former fine diner Fen taking up residence at Drift House to create one of the most exclusive dining experiences in Australia.

Two-hatted Fen closed its doors in early 2018 with chef Ryan Sessions and partner Kirstyn now serving gourmet burgers at Randy's Burgers in Port Fairy. 

With the exception of a one-night pop-up at Drift House in late 2018, the Fen team has kept a low profile - but his Sessions is ready to provide a post-lockdown lift for gourmets.

‘Flipping burgers has provided us with a great break from the intensity of fine dining and we fully intend to keep Randy’s ticking along, but the opposite end of the dining spectrum is where our hearts lie, so we can’t wait to get started at Drift House’ says Sessions.

Drift House picked up the gong for best hotel design in the 2019 Eat, Drink Design Awards with the newly opened Salon being recognised as one of the most elegantly beautiful dining spaces in the country. 

This was a huge drawcard for the Sessions. 

"The Salon at Drift House is a beautifully designed space and we are so lucky to have access to it. If Ryan and I sat down to design the perfect space to complement his food we would end up with something a bit like the Salon, but the Drift House team has done all the hard work for us’ says Kirstyn.

Drift House co-owner John Watkinson views the arrival of Fen at Drift House as an obvious and natural evolution of the offering to guests. 

"We pride ourselves on offering one of Australia’s best boutique accommodation experiences and now we will be able to add exceptional dining to complete the package for our guests," he says."We think that this will redefine destination dining in Victoria."

The residency will see Fen taking over The Salon at Drift House for just one night per month. There will be just 12 seats and bookings are only available to Drift House guests. 

"At Drift House I think I will have a lot more time to create a truly special dining experience and the small scale will mean I will be able to maintain a very tight rein on all aspects of the operation to ensure exceptional quality," says Sessions.

Dates for the first five dinners were confirmed today: August 1, August 22, September 26, October 31, November 21. 

Bookings for the $195 per person degustation can be made online as part of an accommodation package at or by calling (03) 55683309.

The package is priced from $1240 and includes two nights’ accommodation for two peopl, dinner for two people on the Saturday night and the signature Drift House breakfast on both mornings. I've stayed at Drift House and it is a gorgeous retreat. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Through thick and gin: explore Sydney's new gin palace

Four PIllars, one of Australia's most successful boutique gin brands, has opened a "Gin Laboratory" in inner Sydney suburb Surry Hills.

The Yarra Valley-based distiller has transformed the 1930s Bussell Brothers building which now features a gin shop, gin lab featuring an experimental still (Eileen, named after co-founder Matt Jones’ mother) and Eileen’s Bar, a destination cocktail bar.

Eileen’s Bar is Four Pillars’ dream gin bar and offers chic drinks and a snack menu from Matt Wilkinson. It is accessed via a discreet door on the corner of Fitzroy and Crown Streets. A ‘juniper blue’ 20-stool, concrete bar at 11 metres in length, is the gleaming stage and dominates the 60-person venue.

Banquette seating is organised around the perimeter and drinks are the branchild of mixologist James Irvine (below left).

Money Trees is a balance of tropical fruit and acidity with Navy Strength Gin, Kakadu plum, kiwifruit, lime leaf and carbonated to order. Innerbloom features Davidson plum, macadamia and blood lime mixed with Modern Australian Gin.

Classics like the Gin Lab Martini feature the new Sydney Winter Gin (made on-site by the distilling team led by co-founder Stuart Gregor. above right) with lemon myrtle, native sandalwood and orange oils.

Eileen's Bar is open 5pm-midnight Wednesday through Saturday.

The Lab offers all-day gin drinks for walk-in customers - including the Four Pillars G+T - and is open from noon-6pm daily,

The gin shop on the ground floor features all the signature and limited-edition gins from Four Pillars, alongside bar gear, books, merchandise and Made From Gin Marmalade and Chocolate. It is open 10am-6pm daily.

Bissell retires from Balnaves after 25 years in charge

Pete Bissell, all-round good guy and senior winemaker at Balnaves of Coonawarra for a quarter of a century, has announced his retirement.

Bissell has been a winemaker for 40 years and will not be leaving the industry all together. He will remain in Penola and work on his own vineyard, as well as becoming a grandfather.

Jacinta Jenkins, who has been working under Bissell, will take over as chief winemaker from July 1.

Originally from New Zealand, Bissell completed his studies at Roseworthy College in the late 80s.

While studying he gained experience working in France, and at Australian wineries including Mountadam, Lindemans Hunter River, Leo Buring, and Pipers Brook in Tasmania.

He has also worked for Wynns Coonawarra Estate and Penfolds.

“I am very grateful to the Balnaves family for the opportunity to initially design and build the winery back in 1996 but also for the 25 years I have spent here," Bissell said.

"I spent the majority of my career working in Coonawarra and was given the freedom to do experiments, evolve the styles and go in a unique direction.”

The Balnaves family and Bissell have had a dream run of awards since, with the Jimmy Watson trophy for Punters Corner in 1999 (when the vineyard was run and wine made by Balnaves), Qantas/Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year in 2005, Jeremy Oliver Wine of the Year in 2007, James Halliday’s Winery of the Year in 2008 and a Langtons Classification of Outstanding for The Tally three times. 

He was ASVO winemaker of the year in 2018.

Balnaves has been a 5-star-rated winery by James Halliday for 18 consecutive years.

New senior winemaker Jenkins was assistant winemaker in the Clare Valley at Pikes Wines before returning to Balnaves as assistant winemaker in 2018. 

Monday 15 June 2020

How to party in Hobart while saving money

Calling all Tasmanian locals. 

The newly reopened Alabama Hotel in Liverpool St, Hobart, has just launched a brilliant offer for friends and followers: one night of accommodation and a $40 bar tab for $100. 

The offer is valid until the end of July 2020.

I regularly stay at The Alabama overnight rather than fight the darkness and wildlife on the way home to the Huon Valley. 

The rooms are very comfortable and there is a nice vibe - although the bathrooms are shared. Which makes zero difference if you are staying for just one night. 

The Alabama was first established as a hotel in 1867 and is believed to have been named after the visiting American naval ship the USS Alabama.

It has lived through a few changes since but was reborn as an Art Deco style boutique hotel in 2013. 

The Alabama is more interesting than standard hotels because it is a whole lot quirky. 

The small bar, lounge area and balcony is open 8am-9pm daily and is a great spot to meet up with friends. 

Local and imported beer, wines and spirits are on offer, as well as tea and coffee. 

Contact and quote 'friendsandfollowers' to get the special deal. Tell them Winsor sent you. 

Hobart's new luxury downtown hotel to open on July 1

Hobart's new luxury downtown hotel will open on July 1 after having its opening delayed by the Covid-19 virus. 

Crowne Plaza Hobart will open its doors as Tasmania's tourism industry swings back into gear.

Located in the heart of Hobart's shopping and business quarter, the new-build IHG hotel will have 235 rooms with harbour and mountain views. The hotel is owned by the local Kalis Hotel Group. 

The Crowne Plaza Hobart will have two dining options: the signature Core restaurant and bar and The Deck. a vibrant outdoor bar perched above Liverpool street. 

Executive chef John Churchill has said he will celebrate local produce use foodstuffs sourced from farms that use sustainable practices. 

Guests staying at the hotel will enjoy touch-pad controls and boutique amenities, as well as stylish touches that "echo the Tasmanian landscape and the forestry history seen through timber accents". 

Crowne Plaza Hobart will also welcome groups, with six versatile spaces for conferences and events with state-of-the-art virtual technical capabilities.

Hotel Crowne Plaza Hobart,  110 Liverpool St, Hobart TAS 7000. 
Phone(03) 6213 4200. Rooms start from $174 including breakfasts and free wifi.