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Monday 30 November 2020

All you need to know about French cider

Cider is, quite simply, an alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of apples.

It is widely produced in Britain, particularly the West Country, and Ireland. 

The UK has the world's highest per capita consumption but the drink is also popular in France (particularly Normandy and Brittany) and even in Australia, where it is mainly made in Tasmania. 

In the US, varieties of fermented cider are often called hard cider to distinguish alcoholic cider from non-alcoholic apple cider or "sweet cider". 

In France, cider must be made solely from apples, while perry is a similar product to cider made from fermented pear juice. 

In France, the Brittany and Normandy regions compete for cider drinkers' attention. 

Harvest takes place from mid-September to December in Breton and Norman orchards. Once harvested, the apples are sorted, washed, crushed (skin, flesh and seeds included), then pressed to extract their juice, known as 'must'. 

The juice is then stored in vats (sometimes oak barrels) for fermentation. Once bottled, the cider rests in a cellar for a few weeks to several months, depending on the flavour the cider maker wants.

'Cidre fermier' is made from apples from the actual farm that produces it, and 'cidre bouché' owes its name to its cork stopper.

The most famous French cider is made in the Cornouaille area and bears its name: Cornouaille AOP cider. It is the only Breton cider to benefit from a protected Designation of Origin. 

Another popular cider is Royal Guillevic, made exclusively with Guillevic apples, while the Domaine de Kervéguen in northern Brittany produces a cuvée from organic farming, called Prestige Carpe Diem. 

Normandy has its own cider route covering the Pays d'Auge and Cotentin with stopovers in the villages of Cambremer, Beuvron-en-Auge, Bonnebosq and Beaufour-Druval. 

Nicknamed 'Norman champagne' for its bubbles, perry is made in Domfrontais, an area covering the departments of Orne and Manche in Normandy and Mayenne in Pays de la Loire. 

Information from Atout France.

Sunday 29 November 2020

Have yourself a merry British Christmas

Christmas markets, Christmas carols, Christmas lights - nowhere does Christmas quite like Britain. 

When it comes to festive traditions – from mince pies to the Queen’s speech – no one does Christmas with more reverence than the Brits.

Christmas lights are ubiquitous, and are often switched on as early as mid-November. The Brits like their festivities to last at least six weeks. 
Twinkling fairy lights can be seen all over Britain, from Regent Street in the capital, London, to quaint market towns such as Harrogate in Yorkshire.

Electric bulbs were first used to add a touch of magic to the winter festivities in 1881, a year that saw the Savoy Theatre in London’s West End become the first building in the world to be entirely lit by electricity.

Pantomimes, known as pantos, are a Christmas tradition enjoyed almost exclusively in the British Isles, often extravagant and comedic retellings of classic tales such as Dick Whittington, Cinderella or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. 

The history of pantomimes dates back to the Middle Ages, where religious tales highlighting the triumph of good over evil were performed. The theatrical style of the performances has its foundations in 14th-century court entertainment, which commonly featured song and dramatic mime.

One of London’s best-known festive traditions is the annual Christmas tree displayed in the heart of Trafalgar Square. First gifted to Britain from Norway in 1947, in thanks for the country’s support during the World War II, the tree has become an annual tradition and sits proudly at the centre of the square bedecked in dazzling strings of fairy lights. 

Many families also choose to celebrate the holidays with their own decorated Christmas tree, a custom first introduced to the people of Britain by Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, in 1800.

There are special dishes also enjoyed over the holiday period, roast turkeys, mince pies and Christmas puddings among them. 

Mince pies have been enjoyed by Brits since the Tudor period, when they were stuffed with a savoury meat filling! Now mixing fruit and spices encased in a buttery pastry, they are a firm favourite in festive Britain.

Also soaked in warming spiced fruit, but with an alcoholic twist, is the classic Christmas pudding. Made from dried fruit, spices and brandy, the traditional Christmas pudding is an iconic part of Christmas day lunch across Britain. 

Dating back to medieval times, this potent pudding was created with a high alcohol content to prevent it from spoiling too quickly. To give it an added touch of festive flare, it is usually set on fire as it is served, an effect created by pouring a pre-lit ladle of brandy over the pud before it is presented at the table. 

No Christmas dinner in Britain would be complete without the ceremonial pulling of the crackers, traditionally used to decorate the table for the day’s feast. 

These paper tubes come primed with a ‘cracking’ mechanism that, when pulled by two people, creates a small bang. Each loaded with a small prize (ranging from bottle openers to magic tricks), classic paper crown hats and an inevitably terrible joke, crackers are a fun addition to the day’s festivities. 

A relatively modern tradition, these cracking decorations were first introduced in the Victorian period and continue to win the hearts of Christmas-loving Brits to this day.

After the fun of roast lunches and crackers, fans of the Royal Family sit down to watch the Royal Christmas Message – a staple part of British yuletide since it was first broadcast by King George V on BBC radio in 1932. 

This royal communication is broadcast to the Commonwealth at 3pm on Christmas Day, highlighting the year’s standout events and the monarch’s personal reflections on the past 12 months.

Many churches, concert halls and music venues are filled with the sound of Christmas carols in the days leading up to Christmas and Boxing Day is marked by the start of post-Christmas sales across stores in Britain.

Info: Visit Britain 

Saturday 28 November 2020

Taste wines from some of the best small producers in Tasmania

Calling all Tasmanian wine lovers at a loose end this Sunday afternoon.

How about a trip to the opening event of the Vino Amigos season at the Port Cygnet Cannery complex. 

With wines from Sailor Seeks Horse, Mewstone/Hughes & Hughes and Anim Wines, tacos and live music this sounds like a whole lot of fun. 

Paul and Gilli Lipscombe from Sailor Seeks Horse (above) - whose cellar door and winery is part of the Cannery complex - will combine with a rotation of their Tassie winemaker mates to pour their wines for guests to taste, drink and take away. 

On one side of the Cannery you will find wine and ping pong and on the other side there’ll be tacos, beers, cocktails, live music and beer garden games.

Guests at the first event are Jonny Hughes from Mewstone and Hughes & Hughes, and Max Marriott from Anim Wines. Both are young winemakers from the nearby Channel region. 

Music will be by Yvan and Emily, who combine alternatively tuned guitars, violins and violas with ethereal vocals. 

The opening event will run from noon-5pm on Sunday with an entry fee of $10 to support the musicians at the waterfront venue.

"We’re finally getting our act together and organising some wine events on the winery side of the Cannery," said Paul Lipscombe. 

"Vino Amigos will run once a month over summer. It’s meant to be fun and relaxed; we’ll offer tastings, wines by the glass / bottle, plus takeaway sales."

On December 6, there will be a Christmas Market at the Cannery and wineries involved include Altaness, Chatto, Elsewhere, Stefano Lubiana/Lucille Vineyard and Two Bud Spur. 

The Sailor Seeks Horse cellar door is now also open over the weekends for walk-in tastings. 

Friday 27 November 2020

Chinese give it to Australian wine producers with both barrels

It looks like Scott Morrison, Marise Payne and their mates have seriously aggravated the Chinese Government.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) today announced the imposition of preliminary anti-dumping tariffs on Australian bottled wine imports. 

The tariffs range from 107% to 212% from Saturday, November 28, 2020.
The restriction on Australia’s exports to China will adversely impact the wine sectors of both countries. 

It will also be particularly disappointing for the millions of Chinese consumers who enjoy Australian wine, and the distributors in China who have built relationships with Australian wine businesses. 

Given the size of the tariff, Australian winemakers will now be forced to consider alternative markets for export sales.

This decision will have a significant impact on Australia’s rural and regional economies, particularly in those states most invested in grape growing and winemaking, where the impact on regional employment is likely to be felt most acutely.

“These are preliminary tariffs, and both the anti-dumping and countervailing duties investigations are ongoing” said Tony Battaglene, Chief Executive of Australian Grape &Wine.

“We continue to stand firm that Australian exporters are not dumping wines in the Chinese market, nor have they received subsidies that have had a negative impact on the Chinese wine industry.

“While we are disappointed with this development, our members will continue to cooperate with MOFCOM as the investigation continues, working towards an outcome that is consistent with the facts of the case, and supports the growth of the wine industry in Australia and China.”

Sick of being a global laughing stock, village changes its name after 1,000 years

Tired of tourists sniggering and taking photos in front of the town sign, the long-suffering residents of a small Austrian village have decided to change its name.

The village of Fucking will be known as Fugging from January 1, 2021.

Mayor Andrea Holzner told Austrian broadcaster Oe24 that the small community in Upper Austria had been pushing for a name change for years, the German Press Agency reported.

The name of the town, which lies north of Salzburg near the German border, has no meaning in German.

Locals have grown frustrated by the thefts of the town signs by tourists and of milling groups of people photographing the sign.

The small village largely escaped the notice of the wider world until the birth of the internet, when it was frequently included on lists of the funniest or most explicit place names.

Fugging apparently better reflects the pronunciation of the town by locals. It is unclear what will happen to the current town signs.

No news has yet emerged about possible name changes to the nearby hamlets of Oberfucking and Unterfucking. The town has been known as Fucking for around 1,000 years.

No news yet on whether the Germany village of Wank will follow Fucking's lead.

Katnook's new owners swoop to sign winemaking talent

Accolade Wines has swooped to sign Natalie Cleghorn as senior winemaker and manager for Katnook Estate as it completed the acquisition of the renowned Coonawarra wine brand.

Cleghorn has been making award-winning wines from the Coonawarra region for more than 10 years. 

Accolade produces a range of heritage-rich wine brands including Grant Burge, Petaluma and St Hallett. 


Katnook Estate is the company’s first acquisition under the new leadership team and Carlyle group ownership. Accolade Wines was first attracted to the region of Coonawarra and then to the heritage of the Katnook winery and vineyard.


Katnook lies in the heart of Coonawarra, a region with a wine history stretching back to 1867. 

Cleghorn starts her new role on January 4, in time for the 2021.vintage. 

“I am thrilled to be joining Katnook Estate and the broader Accolade Wines team," Cleghorn said. 

"I have a great passion for the wines of Coonawarra and the region as a whole. I am looking forward to being able to fully immerse myself focusing on the region, wines and winery and I am excited by the prospect of working with the experienced team to guide this historic brand into the future.”

Cleghorn, a former track rider for the Hayes family at Lindsay Park,  has 21 years of industry experience. 


She has worked for the Hill Smith family’s estate vineyards, including Yalumba, Oxford Landing Estates and Dalrymple as well as a vintage at Clos Figueres in Priorat, Spain. 

She has been working on Yalumba's Coonawarra brands for the past decade. 

Katnook Estate wines are offered under three ranges: Katnook Founder’s Block; Katnook Estate and the limited release range of iconic Coonawarra wines from exceptional vintages, including the Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon and the Prodigy Shiraz.

MONA's Christmas present to Tasmania and tourists

Tasmania's biggest tourism drawcard - MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art - will reopen its semi-subterranean galleries, outdoor art and bars and restaurants on Boxing Day. 

MONA will initially be open for four days a week - from Fridays to Mondays "'provided the world and its many surprises don't intervene". 

The galleries have undergone a major revamp, displaying owner and founder David Walsh’s extensive personal collection of ancient, modern and contemporary art. 

From old favourites to hidden gems that have never been seen at Mona before, the rehang comprises around 350 collection highlights (and lowlights).

"We are, of course, aware that we are reopening just before our 10th anniversary, so we've dug out some old stuff to commemorate our opening," Walsh said. "We are also looking to the future. In this time of crisis, community is more important than ever, and so we are looking inwards while we look outwards"

Outside, a giant sculpture by American artist Tom Otterness will double as a children’s playground. Titled Gals Rule, the sculpture features two figures with slides for limbs. It is over 7 metres high and made from bronze. 

A brand new venue, Dubsy’s, will serve burgers nearby on the lawns, which will also play host to live music every operating day selected by MONA music curator Brian Ritchie and his team.

Inside the museum, Tasmanian musician Ben Salter will be in residence each day writing songs, and occasionally performing them, in a gallery designed to feel like an art-filled lounge room. Another new lounge area is to offer pizzas and cocktails.

The Moorilla Wine Bar, The Source, and the Void Bar will be open. Faro, which has been serving lunch and dinner experiments while the rest of the site has been closed, will continue to operate—bookings required.

Mark Wilsdon, the MONA Co-CEO said:  "After nine months of being closed we’ve been busy doing our own reno. With major changes to the art, a daily music program and a playground, not to mention plenty of delicious things to eat and drink, we’re ready to throw open the doors once more. Whether you’re a local who has been to Mona regularly or a first-timer planning a trip, we’re looking forward to having you."

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

Visitors will also be 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 is now available on iOS and Android.

Mona will reopen Friday to Monday, 10am-6pm, from December 26, 2020.

The MONA ferry will resume a regular service from Brooke Street Pier to the museum, with tickets costing $15 until the end of January. The MONA Pavilions will be available to book for overnight stays Thursday through Sunday.

For more information or to purchase ticket:

Wednesday 25 November 2020

If they had to do the same again, they would, my friends, Orlando

Iconic Australian wine brand Orlando is back on bottle shop shelves with two ranges, The Legends and The New Heroes, capturing the essence of some Australian classics and introducing Australians to a new range of modern wines.

Under the hand of chief winemaker Ben Thoman (above), the new Orlando portfolio will feature regionally focused wines that showcase the best expression of the varietal, including iconic wines Steingarten, Jacaranda Ridge and Lawson’s.

Established in 1874 by the Gramp family, Orlando was an Australian household name in the 1950s and 1960s and was recognised as one of the biggest producers of quality wine in Australia with over 1000 awards and accolades since records began in the 1980s.

Orlando led Australian winemaking at pivotal times in history, challenging the status quo at a time when fortified wines dominated the industry.

The visionaries of Orlando led technological innovation in Australian winemaking, for example importing the first temperature-controlled pressure fermentation tanks from Germany which introduced Australia to a revolutionary new method of table wine production.

“Orlando’s winemaking history, and the legendary name that comes with it, is founded on exploring new opportunities yet respecting what’s already been discovered and proven," says Thoman.

"I look forward to continuing this journey; maintaining the legacy of the wines while creating new wines for Australians to fall in love with.”

Orlando, now owned by Pernod Ricard, is releasing five wines in The Legends range and four of the next generation under The New Heroes.

The Legends comprise Lawson’s 2015 Padthaway Shiraz, Jacaranda Ridge 2015 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Centenary Hill 2015 Barossa Shiraz, Steingarten 2019 Eden Valley Riesling and Lyndale 2018 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. 

I had the Jacaranda Ridge the other day - and it is a classic, drinking beautifully. 

The Orlando New Heroes wines are modern Australian wines and include Cellar 13 2019 Barossa Grenache, Printz Shed 2018 Northern Barossa Shiraz, Bungalow Lane 2014 Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon and Hilary 2019 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

The grenache and Hilary shiraz - the wines I have tried so far - are both outstanding. See

Tuesday 24 November 2020

New wine markets in focus for South Australia

A South Australian program to help small and medium wine businesses start exporting to Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and India has been launched in the wake of continued uncertainty about shipments to China.

The South Australian Wine Industry Association has announced the new export-focused project that will help wine producers diversify into the emerging Asian markets for the first time.

The Emerging Markets Program will develop a series of resources on each of the four markets to help wineries know what to expect and how to prepare. Each resource will consist of a market overview of each country, information about sales channels, an in-depth consumer profile and a guide to doing business in each market.

SAWIA chief executive Brian Smedley said the program aimed to equip wine businesses with the tools and opportunities they needed to enter the four emerging markets.

“We’ll also provide case studies, a guide to conducting tastings and explore traditional wine and food pairings in each market,” he said.

“If they then decide to travel to those markets or engage with them virtually, they will be aware of the tips and traps that they might face and be able to showcase their wine to interested persons in a structured way.

“This program is welcome good news for South Australian wine businesses given uncertainty in some of our existing export markets.”

The second part to the Emerging Markets Program is the development of a turn-key South Australian wine education program for decision-makers in each market, including wine importers, buyers, distributors and hospitality professionals.

“We’re aiming to equip wine businesses with the tools and opportunities they need to enter these emerging markets, which will assist with business sustainability during this Covid19 recovery phase,” Smedley said.

“We’ll explain the current performance and perception of Australian wine in each market and the opportunities for South Australian businesses.

“We’ll also provide case studies, a guide to conducting tastings and explore traditional wine and food pairings in each market.”

Last year was a bumper year for Australian wine exports but 2020 is shaping to be much quieter with exports to China remaining under threat.

Hobart scores an Australian hotel first

The Tasmanian capital of Hobart will be home to Australia's first hotel under the  Mövenpick brand.

Accor’s premium Swiss-born hospitality brand, Mövenpick, will pair with Singaporean-based global hospitality group, Global Premium Hotels, to open a Movenpick in Hobart in January, 2021. 

Mövenpick Hotel Hobart will be designed to be "a warm, contemporary designed hotel with a cosmopolitan vibe that invites exploration and discovery".

Located on Elizabeth Street, one of Hobart’s principal heritage streetscapes, and close to the Hobart waterfront, the new-build hotel is within close reach of the city’s key commercial, retail and leisure attractions and will have 221 guest rooms and suites with views of Hobart’s historical city and harbour, an on-site restaurant and meeting facilities.

All guest rooms are situated on floors four to 18, providing panoramic views and connecting guests with Hobart’s spectacular natural setting. The hotel’s common areas will be located on the first three floors.

Simon McGrath AM, Chief Executive Officer for Accor Pacific, said: “We are delighted to be working with Global Premium Hotels to bring our first Mövenpick hotel to Australia. 

"Located in the heart of the city and close to the harbour, Mövenpick Hotel Hobart is well positioned to appeal to business and leisure travellers visiting the vibrant capital city of Hobart. We are planning more locations for this premium brand across the Pacific and believe Mövenpick will quickly gain recognition for its culinary and service excellence in the Australian hotel market.”

The hotel will feature a flexible function space for up to 100 guests, which can also be divided into two smaller meeting rooms, along with a pre-event area and full bar, while both business and leisure travellers will enjoy the hotel’s modern gym.

Mövenpick Hotel Hobart will also house the Tesoro modern Italian restaurant.

Plus, with the brand’s Swiss origins being famous for chocolate, Mövenpick Hotel Hobart will dedicate one hour each afternoon to ‘The Chocolate Hour’ – an indulgent tasting experience for hotel guests to sample an assortment of sweet treats, such as éclairs, brownies, truffles and more.

There wlll be free wifi in the hotel building and its surroundings.

The Mövenpick brand sits alongside a suite of other premium Accor brands such as MGallery, Art Series, Pullman, Swissôtel, Grand Mercure, Peppers and The Sebel. This property was first going to be a Hyatt, before a change of heart. 

Monday 23 November 2020

Major recognition for Languedoc wine pioneer

Regular readers will remember a couple of trips I have made to the Langeudoc as the guest of Jean-Claude Mas, the "Arrogant Frog" and founder and owner of Domaine Paul Mas.

Well, Domaines Paul Mas was this month named European Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine in their Wine Star Awards 2020.

That's no small matter. Wine Enthusiast has a circulation of over a quarter of million. 

Jean-Claude is one of the most generous people in the wine industry, which is in his blood. He recalls escaping from his mother during harvest as a toddler, running two kilometres through the vineyard to find his grandfather in the cellar.

Based in the Languedoc region in the south of France, in the town of Pézenas, the Mas family has wine experience dating back to 1892. 

That’s when Mas’s great-grandfather, Auguste Mas, acquired the first plot of family vines. Subsequent generations only continued to grow the family’s vineyard holdings.

In 1987, Mas received around 45 hectares of vineyards from his father, Paul Mas, to forge his own path.

Thirteen years later, Mas founded Domaines Paul Mas, named in honor of his father. Combining his passion for his family’s history, the wines of his native region and his education in marketing and economics, he aimed to create a brand of uniquely personal yet distinctively Languedoc bottlings, while also spreading regional awareness around the globe as well as bringing the family name into a new echelon of the wine world.

“Vineyards have always been part of the Languedoc—the diversity of soil, elevation and the climatic conditions are all the elements necessary to bring to optimum maturity the grapes need while letting express their character and origin," he says.

Today, after 20 years in business, it’s clear that he succeeded in his mission. Domaines Paul Mas is now a powerhouse producer known around the world. The company’s portfolio currently boasts 15 chateaux and more than 20 brands, with a total annual production of around 22 million bottles that are distributed to 71 countries.

The family now controls over 2,400 hectates of vines. Of the family’s vineyard holdings, 60% are certified organic with the intent to be 100% organic within a couple of years.

"Basically, the biggest challenge is producing 20 million bottles with the same attention as when I started with 10,000 bottles,” he says.

“This an achievement! Especially when we consider the importance of US media. Ever since Tim Atkin recognized us in 2008, we have achieved some significant results in competition. 

"Over the past 20 years we have learned how to manage 25 different terroirs and how to vinify 45 different grape varieties, and this year we will have vinified around 20 million bottles of wine from our 2340 hectares of vineyards.

“We have our own rules when it comes to sustainable winemaking, and we’ve established several processes and relationships when it comes to working ethically and ecologically. It is a 360˚ approach.

“I’m proud to have established a new model when it comes to winemaking in France, and I’m very grateful to Wine Enthusiast for this recognition in our 20th year of existence.”

You can find several Domaines Paul Mas wines in Australia at Dan Murphy's stores - including two brand-new releases: the 2018 Chateau de Cres Ricards Oenethera, Terrasses de Larzac (a syrah-grenache blend for $29.99), and the 2019 Nature en Heritage Organic Chardonnay Pays d'Oc ($17.99). I'm tasting them tonight. 

Sunday 22 November 2020

Luxury on offer for those willing to give cruising another crack

Australians willing to have another crack at ocean cruising may be tempted by the chance to sail on the Seven Seas Explorer with Regent Seven Seas Cruises in late 2021 and early 2022. 

The luxury ship will conduct a series of ‘Close to Home’ sailings in Australia and New Zealand as part of her inaugural Asia-Pacific season.

The Seven Seas Explorer has been dubbed "the most luxurious ship ever built" and will offer 14 all-inclusive itineraries in local waters between October 2021 and April 2022.

“With the recent disappointment of cancelling Seven Seas Explorer’s three early 2021 sailings in Australia and New Zealand due to unprecedented global public health challenges, we’re delighted that we will be welcoming the most luxurious ship ever built later in the year and into 2022 with some truly incredible, ‘Close to Home’ sailings,” said Lisa Pile, vice president of sales, Australia & New Zealand, for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. 

“Seven Seas Explorer delivers a level of luxury never seen before in this region, and we can’t wait to share it with discerning local travellers. From her all-balcony, all-suite accommodation, sublime cuisine and lavish interiors, to one of the highest space-to-guest ratios at sea and a nearly one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio ensuring impeccable service, sailing with Seven Seas Explorer is an experience guests will treasure forever.”

Regent Seven Seas Cruises boasts that it is the only cruise line offering guests free unlimited shore excursions in every port, free unlimited beverages, including fine wines and spirits, free specialty restaurant dining, a complimentary in-suite liquor and mini bar replenished daily, pre-paid gratuities, free valet laundry service and unlimited wifi. 

Guests booking a Concierge Suite or above can also enjoy a complimentary pre-cruise one-night hotel package, as well as a hotel-to-ship transfer.

Guests can choose from an extensive suite of shore excursions, such as an indulgent epicurean adventure in Tasmania sampling gourmet cheeses, creamy chocolates and  local wines, or a horse-riding expedition along the secluded beaches of New Zealand’s Waipu coast.

For those looking to venture a little further afield, Seven Seas Explorer’s 32-night Asian Enchantments sailing will be an extensive exploration of some of South-East Asia’s most fascinating and exotic destinations. Departing from Bali, Indonesia, on February 4, 2022, guests can fully immerse themselves in the region with several overnight stays in cities including Singapore; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Hong Kong, China; and Osaka, Japan.

The Seven Seas Explorer’s fittings and finishes, including 473 chandeliers, an  art collection, including pieces by Chagall and Picasso, and more than 4,262 square metres of marble.

Onboard amenities range from the relaxing pool deck and sports deck with a golf net, putting green, paddle tennis court and bocce court, to the Serena Spa and Wellness Centre and Culinary Arts Kitchen, where guests can take cooking masterclasses from international chefs.

Restaurants include French cuisine in Art Deco surroundings at Chartreuse, Asian dishes at Pacific Rim, steak in Prime 7, a casino, several elegant lounges with views and the Constellation Theatre for musical revues and more.

A video showcasing Regent’s close to home voyages has been created.

For more information please visit, call 1300 455 200 or 0800 625 692 (NZ), or contact your travel agent. 

Saturday 21 November 2020

New look for one of Tasmania's top wine destinations

Tasmania’s south-east has a new-look wine attraction just in time for the summer tourism season with Bangor Vineyard opening a brand new wine tasting room, tour offering and function/event space.

“In a year of challenges for the wine, tourism, and hospitality sectors, we are delighted to open this new facility, following the hard work of the Bangor team over the past few months,” said owners Matt and Vanessa Dunbabin (above). 

"Building on the success of Bangor since we first opened six years ago, this significant investment doubles the size of Bangor Vineyard Shed, offering a dedicated wine tasting bar, private wine tasting room, and additional function space.

“In keeping with the existing building, the extension showcases Tasmanian timbers and stone, and has a stunning outlook over Bangor Vineyard and Blackman Bay.

“Tasmania offers some of the best wine and food tourism experiences in the world and our continued development of Bangor Vineyard Shed reflects our optimism for the future of wine, tourism, and hospitality in our beautiful island state.”

Bangor's vineyard is part of a 6,200 hectare property farmed since the 1830s for supplying beef to the Port Arthur Settlement, and owned by the Dunbabin family since the 1890s. 

The property has over 5,100 hectares of native forests and wetlands, 35 kilometers of coastline and 2,100 hectares of private nature conservation reserve. It is a perfect stopover on any trip to Port Arthur or the Tasman Peninsula.

The vineyard is one of the most southerly in Tasmania, with four hectares planted with pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay.  

The official opening was performed this week by Sheralee Davies (CEO Wine Tasmania) and Alex Heroys (CEO Destination Southern Tasmania). 

Bangor Vineyard Shed is at 20 Blackman Bay Rd, Dunalley, and is open seven days a week.

Friday 20 November 2020

How frequent flyers and regular hotel guests can double dip on points

Qantas and Accor have announced a new partnership that will see members of both their loyalty programs be rewarded at every stage of their journey.  

Scheduled to launch mid-2021, it will be the first partnership of its kind between an airline and hospitality group in the Asia Pacific region.

The new partnership will give eligible members of both programs the opportunity to boost their rewards by simultaneously earning both Qantas Points and ALL – Accor Live Limitless reward points on Accor hotel bookings, and Qantas points and ALL points on Qantas flight bookings.

Members will also enjoy more opportunities to redeem points as well as a suite of exclusive benefits for top-tier members, the press release says.

The partnership will apply for hotel stays across the Asia Pacific region and across Qantas’ domestic and international flights.

Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth said Qantas Frequent Flyer is always looking for new and innovative ways to reward and recognise its members.

“From next year, eligible members of Qantas’ and Accor’s loyalty programs will earn twice when they fly or stay with the two brands," she said. "This is an entirely new way to recognise the loyalty of our frequent flyers which we know will be very popular. 

"Although our members haven’t been flying much lately due to border closures, we know there is huge pent-up demand, and we’ve been looking at how we provide even more value when their travel resumes whether that’s for business or leisure."

Accor Pacific CEO Simon McGrath said the enhanced partnership between Accor and Qantas was a major milestone for the travel industry, enabling greater benefits for loyalty customers across Accor’s 1,240 hotels, apartments and resorts in the Asia Pacific region.

“We are joining forces to enable our customers to be part of something special; delivering exceptional travel benefits and unrivalled service for people who enjoy our two much-loved brands,” McGrath said.

“Customers are at the heart of this joint venture and the combined strength of Accor and Qantas will bring significant extended benefits.”

Members of each loyalty program will receive further information on the full details of the new partnership early next year. The deal puts increased pressure on Virgin Australia's rival Velocity lotalty program. 

Stay tuned. 

Thursday 19 November 2020

Dry takes over 170 years of wine history

Clare Dry has been given the responsibility of carrying on the 170-year history of Seppelt Wines. 

Commencing her role this week in succession to Adam Carnaby, Dry brings plenty of experience to her new role. 

Her CV includes spells on the Mornington Peninsula and Germany, as well as a 13-year stint with Wolf Blass Wines. 

“I’m delighted to be joining the Seppelt team," she said. "As a label with a long and celebrated history, I’m looking forward to continuing this legacy and showcasing the diversity of our vineyards and regions with each vintage release.

“As pioneers within the Australian wine industry, particularly with styles such as sparkling shiraz, it’s a privilege to help shape the Seppelt story going forward and join a winemaking fraternity I greatly admire.”

Carnaby, who had been with Seppelt for almost a decade, is joining Wicks Estate Wines, located in the Adelaide Hills.

Is Australia ready for Californian wines aged in bourbon barrels?


Calling Australia's Marlboro Men and King's Cross Cowgirls. It is time to step up and try the newest Californian wine innovation - wines with a unique barrel-aged twist of bourbon and rum. 

Giant Californian wine producer Robert Mondavi has just released its private selection range in Australia; a bourbon-barrel-aged chardonnay, a rum-barrel-aged merlot and a bourbon-barrel-aged cabernet sauvignon blend. 

Australians have not generally embraced wines from the United States in the past. They have  been seen as over-oaked, over-sweet, over-priced and over here. 

The price of even much-vaunted California cabernets - often $100 a bottle and over - has pushed them outside the price range of average wine consumers. 

The good news is that the new range will retail for $25 - and will be available in BWS, Dan Murphy's, Liquorland and First Choice stores nationally. 

All three wines are well made and have depth and substance, although they are all under cork. There is a fair amount of American hype behind them as well, as evidenced in a Zoom tasting this afternoon with winemaker Glen Caughell in Monterey. 

"The three wines for us are an example of exploration and boundary-kicking innovation," says Caughell, but even he would acknowledge these are not wines for everyone. They do, however, "spice up the wine category". 

If your preferences tend towards pristine rieslings, or elegant pinot noirs, then look away. But for those who like their wines with a bit of grunt, richer, fuller flavours and a point of difference, stay on board.

All three wines come from the 2018 vintage and the chardonnay has very ripe fruit (think toasted pineapple and fresh honey notes) alongside creamy vanilla notes from Kentucky bourbon barrels. Perfect with a bacon sandwich or roast pork. 

The merlot has the most serious spirit impact with toasted coconut and molasses flavours dominating the ripe fruit and would pair well with Mexican dishes, while the cabernet (with a dash of petit sirah, malbec, petit verdot and other varieties) is the star of the show. 

The vanilla, caramel, brown sugar and spice notes work well with rich berry fruit and would be terrific with a char-grilled steak. 

There is nothing subtle about these wines, but they are a pleasant surprise, all in all. They follow in the footsteps of whisky-barrel aged wines from Jacob's Creek.    


Wednesday 18 November 2020

AirAsia confident it will rebound from pandemic

As once-great Virgin Australia continues its plunge into mediocrity under new ownership, another of my favourite airlines also looks like surviving in slightly different guise.

As Virgin strips away free in-flight meals and many of its lounges, budget carrier AirAsia says it is confident it will bounce back after the pandemic.

AirAsia Group remains confident of returning stronger, more robust and faster than many competitors in this new world of travel, it said in a press release.

"AirAsia is positive it will continue to chart stronger growth in the coming months and well into 2021," it said. "AirAsia’s third quarter 2020 operating statistics highlight the clear, quick path to recovery is well underway. 

"There were strong improvements from every major domestic airline in the group across many key metrics in comparison to the preceding quarter. These include a 36% increase in passengers carried by AirAsia Malaysia, 79% increase in passengers carried by AirAsia India and an increase of 65% of passengers carried by AirAsia Thailand." 

Sales in Thailand for domestic travel reached 93% of pre-Covid levels this week and there has been a marked improvement in Indonesia with sales volume up 52% and sales value soaring 126% over the past week.

“Air travel is essential for the world’s economy and AirAsia is already seeing strong signs of recovery in our key domestic markets where there is much pent-up demand," said Bo Limgam, president (Airlines) of AirAsia Group. 

"AirAsia’s domestic services in Thailand, for example, are already at close to 100% of pre-Covid capacity levels and there are similar strong positive signs from across the AirAsia Group including in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, indicating that forward bookings for future travel are already on the rebound in our major markets.”

For more info see the recently-launched super app. 

Carnaby quits Seppelt for top job at Wicks Estate


Former Seppelt chief winemaker Adam Carnaby has been appointed chief winemaker at Wicks Estate in the Adelaide Hills. 

Carnaby's impressive CV includes spells at Yering Station with Tom Carson and a spell at Xanadu in Margaret River. He has also had overseas experience in Champagne and Burgundy.

He moved Seppelt at Great Western in Victoria in 2011, producing some outstanding wines under difficult corporate circumstances. 

“We are  thrilled to announce Adam as chief winemaker at Wicks Estate - and are excited for what the future holds,” Wicks Estate director Simon Wicks said.

“His experience across all our key varietals and his knowledge of vineyard, terroir and winemaking along with an enormous passion for wine will be a great asset for the Wicks brand.” 

Carnaby said: “I’m extremely excited to be joining the team at Wicks and look forward to working with premium Adelaide Hills fruit from the estate vineyard. It’s paramount that wine be regionally expressive and have a sense of place."

Wicks Estate is a family owned and operated wine company producing hand crafted wines from their vineyard and winery at Woodside. As a vertically integrated company, it controls the wine making process from vineyard to winery. 

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Add a taste of the US to your Christmas drinks menu

The folks from Westward Whiskey - the most awarded American single malt whiskey - thought it would be a good idea to hold a Zoom tasting to show Australians how to craft a bespoke Thanksgiving cocktail.

It is Thanksgiving Day in the US on November 25; a holiday that usually goes unnoticed and unremarked upon by most Australians. But I guess no one told the Americans. 

With 2020 having been an utter shit of a year no matter where you are in the globe, I went along with the idea of a little alcoholic celebration - and discovered the perfect drink to accompany what we in Australia call Christmas fruit minced tarts. 

Thanksgiving is synonymous with a roast turkey feast, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings, so my Westward Old Fashioned will simply step back for a few weeks and be enjoyed with family and friends at Christmas. 

This "simple yet flavoursome" cocktail is described by Westward as "perfect for all celebrations, no matter where you are in the world".

This Old Fashioned uses both sweet and spiced notes to bring out the flavours in the whiskey, and go down smoothly alongside a Christmas pudding or tart. 

Here are the ingredients: 60ml Westward American Single Malt Whiskey; 8ml Monin Chai Tea Syrup; three dashes of Fee Bros Old Fashioned Bitters (or Angostura) and a cinnamon stick. 

Pour the whiskey, chai tea syrup and bitters into a mixing glass and stir. Then pour into a big glass on a large cube of ice. Garnish with the cinnamon quill.


All the ingredients are sold at Dan Murphy's stores, I am advised.

After your cocktail you might like a glass of Westward on the rocks. Founded in 2004, the Portland distillery is a leader of the craft distilling resurgence in the US. 

Westward is both the largest distilling operation in the Pacific Northwest and the largest craft distiller on the West Coast. 


Brewer and train enthusiasts head in refreshing direction

One of Queensland Sunshine Coast’s most popular attractions, the heritage Mary Valley Rattler, has partnered with Gympie’s Latitude 26 brewery to supply a specially-branded Off the Rails Ale and Cider for their Rusty Rails Café.

Latitude 26 brewery is located opposite the historic Gympie Station, from where the ‘Rattler’ departs for tourism rides through the picturesque Mary Valley.

Graham Kidd, owner of Latitude 26 (above), said that Off the Rails Ale is an easy drinking American Pale Ale is a refreshing drink that was ideal for pairing with dishes from the Rattler’s café.

For the launch, local chef and supporter of Mary Valley produce Matt Golinski produced dishes to complement the beer, while some of the region’s best-known food producers provided guests with a taste of the Gympie region’s legendary fresh produce.

Micheal Green,  general manager of the Mary Valley Rattler, said that as neighbours it was a great opportunity to partner with Latitude 26 to add some ‘liquid gold’ to the region’s rich gold-prospecting heritage.

“The region’s European settlement and the construction of the railway were a result of the Gympie gold-rush in the mid-1800s, so to have local Gympie ‘gold’ flowing again through the taps at our café really adds to the visitor experience,” he said. 


Monday 16 November 2020

New book celebrates Qantas' 100th birthday

It is a memorable day for Qantas, which is marking a century since its first flight.

Through never-before-seen photographs and historical detail from Qantas’s archives, new book The Flying Kangaroo tells the story of Qantas’s evolution from a wild idea by two hobbyists to world-renowned airline.

Qantas (which stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services) began by connecting Australians across western Queensland’s unforgiving terrain - but soon was connecting Australia with the world.

It went from carrying mostly mail to flying 50 million people a year.

Qantas’s history is entwined with Australian identity, launching in the aftermath of World War I and the Spanish Flu, and soaring to match Australian ambitions in the one hundred years since. 

Its centenary year has been the most turbulent year yet, with a pandemic grounding virtually the entire fleet and Qantas coming to the rescue of Australians stranded overseas.

The Flying Kangaroo, written by Neil Montagnana-Wallace, commemorates a century of Australian aviation. 

Qantas defines air travel in Australia having seen off several rivals.  

The Flying Kangaroo: 100 Years of Qantas (Affirm Press and Bounce Books) is available online at Booktopia and where good books are sold. $49.99.

Saturday 14 November 2020

Fancy a sea change in Tasmania with your own vineyard?

Tasmania is a dream destination for city folk looking for a sea change, tree change, or even a Brie change. 

Just on the market this week is the ultimate home for wine lovers looking to escape the city rat race. 

With Tamar River frontage and its own vineyard with chardonnay and pinot noir vines, Humburg Reach is in a beautiful private setting but within easy commuting distance to Launceston. 

The property is already set up with extensive and productive garden beds, established fruit and nut trees, a chicken shed and room for a pony or two. 

Situated on around 2.35 hectares, located on a school bus route, and within minutes of the local business centre and supermarket complex, the Launceston CBD is an easy 15-minute drive, and the Launceston Airport a 30-minute commute.

The home has four bedrooms and three bathrooms with local timbers a feature throughout. 

The Master Suite has double en suites each with their own separate dressing rooms attached, and a separate reading nook, that would be perfect as an office space. 

The sunken lounge features a large open fire, and is a cosy place to relax and enjoy the river view.

Humburg Reach has its own petanque court and there is a separate self-contained, two-bedroom cottage ideal for guest accommodation. 

The hobby vineyard has produced some very good wines in the past and a large shed houses a wine preparation area. 

Offers over $1.5 million. 

Lambert Estate: Wisconsin comes to the Barossa

Contributor Roderick Eime goes exploring.

On a recent visit to the Barossa, I was able to revisit a winery that is becoming a personal favourite, Lambert Estate winery at Angaston. 

The story behind this unusual property is unique in the Barossa in that it is not founded by one of the old families, rather an American businessman, Jim Lambert, who brought his family here from, of all places, Wisconsin. 

From a US state known for Milwaukee’s beer and big motorcycles, Lambert fell in love with the Barossa in the 1990s and decided to grow grapes on 100 acres of fabulous soil. Today his ultramodern cellar door is a winery, tasting room and restaurant with super quality food and wine with a heavy reliance on local produce.

Three generations of Lamberts (R Eime)

The superb restaurant is helmed by Chef Roger Farley, who has a delightful touch of ‘mad scientist’ about him.

His triple-cooked, hand-cut potato wedges and mandarin glazed carrots are ridiculously yummy and make an ideal accompaniment to his superb meat dishes like slow-cooked lamb shank and pork belly with red cabbage kimchi. 

All produce is grown on-site and meat procured locally. Enhancements are planned including a state-of-the-art pizza oven. Ideal for groups and events of any size, just book well ahead. 

Lambert Estate Restaurant is open for a la carte dining Friday to Sunday from noon until 3pm.

A very small selection of Lambert Wines and tasting room (R Eime)

Not forgetting the wine. 

Lambert’s 2015 Shiraz ‘The Commitment’ is a knockout and a credit to winemaking son Kirk and Peruvian-born daughter-in-law Vanesa. 

Step up to ‘The Family Tree’, one of the best premium, old vine, single vintage shirazes under $100 you will find anywhere. I couldn’t decide, so I bought one of each.

Cellar door is open seven days a week from 11am until 5pm with platters and tastings available.

There is also accommodation available on-site, The Retreat, a full three-bedroom cottage capable of sleeping six.

Lambert Estate, 55 Long Gully Road, Angaston SA 5353. Phone (08) 8564 2222

Friday 13 November 2020

So you fancy owning a beautiful Clare Valley wine farm?

One of the most desirable vineyards and wine production facilities in Australia has hit the market.

The family-owned Skillogalee property in South Australia's beautiful Clare Valley is known for producing quality reds and rieslings and is also home to an on-site restaurant and guest accommodation.

Skillogalee is a boutique vineyard/ winery/restaurant/ accommodation business located on 125 hectares, including 51 hectares of vines. It has been operated by the Palmer family for the past 30 years and is being sold as a fully integrated enterprise.

The offering includes: total land area of 124.2 hectares, with 51 hectares of shiraz, riesling and cabernet sauvignon; winery plant & equipment to crush 450-500 tonnes and over 250,000 litres of tank storage; an award-winning restaurant and cellar door with a commercial kitchen; owner/ mnager's residence with in-ground swimming pool. 

There are also water licence entitlements and three independent bed and breakfast accommodation properties.

Skillogalee vineyards sit as some of the highest altitudes in the valley and are less than 10km from Clare Township. 

The vineyard has been planted to the classic varieties suited to the terroir, with first plantings dating back to 1970.

Expressions of Interest must be received by Ray White Rural SA on or before 1pm, Tuesday, December 15.