Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Kyoto is calling all Nintendo fans

Japanese electronics and video game company Nintendo has unveiled
plans to convert one of its former factories into the world’s first Nintendo museum. 

The Nintendo Uji Ogura Plant in Kyoto, which is to be the site of the new museum, is one of Nintendo’s older factories. 

Constructed in 1969, the Uji Ogura Plant was used to make playing cards and hanafuda cards, a traditional game played in Japan and throughout Asia that is sometimes referred to as “the battle of the flowers” for its floral designs, as well as for product repairs, Travel Mole reported. 

The building has been empty since its functions were transferred to a new Uji plant in 2016.

Nintendo, which began as a producer of playing cards in 1889, has achieved success with its game consoles as well as with the Mario, Legend of Zelda and Pokémon media franchises.

In 2020 Nintendo was named Japan’s richest company. 

The release of the new game Animal Crossing, New Horizons coincided with the pandemic lockdown, which contributed to record sales of the Nintendo Switch handheld gaming system. 

Profits increased by 34% as the company earned over $16 billion in sales.

Pokémon playing cards have also found renewed interest during the pandemic, with a rare sealed Pokémon card set fetching $408,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas.

The museum, tentatively titled the Nintendo Gallery, will showcase the company’s historic products as well as related exhibits and game experiences. It is scheduled to open in 2024, Nintendo said in a press release.

East Coast wine festival expands to over 50 events

Tasmania's Great Eastern Wine Weekend is now the Great Eastern Wine Week with a program of over 50 events scheduled. 

The popular festival will now run from September 3-13, encompassing two weekends of tastings and events. 

This year marks the seventh year and a major expansion. The festival is recognised as a significant contributor to the island state’s regional tourism economy and is supported by the Tasmanian Government through Events Tasmania.

“As we enter our seventh year, we are immensely proud of our achievements in promoting not only the wine but the excellent diversity of regional produce, experiences, chefs, cooks, caterers, providores, restauranteurs and communities of the East Coast," said Glenn Travers of Craigie Knowe, chair of the East Coast Wine Trail.

"From humble beginnings in 2015 when the Great Eastern Wine Weekend was a concept developed by RACT Destinations and Freycinet Lodge, the Great Eastern Wine Week has evolved into a ‘must do’ wine and food festival, positioning the East Coast of Tassie as one of Australia’s aspirational wine and food destinations.” 

Great Eastern Wine Week comprises 50 satellite events hosted by local cellar doors, restaurants, cafes, local producers and even a three-day walk on Maria Island, creating a full program of long lunches, degustation dinners, wildlife adventures, walks and wine tastings.

The highlights will include: Mingle with the Maker at Freycinet Lodge; Discover Freycinet Vineyard with Claudio Radenti; Trail, Shuck & Cheers at Boomer Creek and a Plumm glassware tasting at Craigie Knowe (above).

Spring Vale, Devil's Corner, Overtime, Milton, Ironhouse and Gala Estate will also be hosting events. 

Some something different try Dine with the Devils at East Coast Nature World or a Great Eastern Wine Cruise with Wineglass Bay Cruises.

See https://eastcoasttasmania.com/great-eastern-wine-week/ 

Images: Mel Ferris and Puddlehub

New guide for wine-loving visitors to West Australia

Heading west to taste some wines?

Wines of Western Australia, Wine Australia and Tourism Western Australia have created a new online and interactive wine tourism guide called The Wine Adventurer designed to inspire and inform international and domestic visitors and help them plan trips into the state's many and diverse wine regions. 

Eight wine regions are featured in an easy-to-navigate e-brochure that includes each region’s unique wine tourism experiences and hero wine varieties.
The Swan Valley, Perth Hills, Peel, Geographe, Margaret River, Blackwood Valley, Southern Forest and Great Southern each have a section  with practical information such as driving distances, climate, harvest times, soil types as well as tips on what to eat, where to stay, what to do and must-see attractions.
The 60-page guide features more than just wine, there is a cross section of experiences including, authentic regional dining, art and museums and cosy vineyard stays like at Mandoon Estate in the Swan Valley (above)..
From the accessible Swan Valley, an easy 25-minute trip from Perth CBD, to an epic road trip of 4.5 hours to the Great Southern, The Wine Adventurer is a very useful resource.

Launching The Wine Adventurer,  Wines of WA CEO Larry Jorgensen said it is the first detailed wine tourism guide of its kind in Australia.
“People love visiting wine regions and The Wine Adventurer makes it easy for them to discover and find information about WA’s wine tourism experiences  in one place, and it’s interactive, so if they want to book or find more info they can click through,” Jorgensen said.
“The Wine Adventurer is designed to work with wineries that have a unique bookable experience such as a wine flight tasting, vineyard tour, barrel room wine and food pairing, or a degustation lunch.
“There’s assistance through Wines of WA to help wineries create bookable experiences and be featured on The Wine Adventurer.
“For the international travel industry, it’s an important tool that raises awareness of WA’s wine region experiences, and it makes it easier for them to start incorporating wine experiences into itineraries driving visitors into the regions once borders reopen. 
“It’s also an excellent resource for businesses that service visitors such as cellar doors, visitor centres, attractions, restaurants, accommodation providers and for media writing about WA’s wine regions.”
There is a supporting media kit and media library of stunning imagery and video by renowned south-west photographer Frances Andrijch. 
Jorgensen said that Wine Adventurer would be updated bi-annually to remain accurate and relevant.
The Wine Adventurer can be found here on WesternAustralia.com and at winewa.asn.au here

Monday, 14 June 2021

A remarkable 50-year wine journey of inspiration and innovation

When local doctor Kevin Cullen and his physiotherapist wife Di met with their friend Dr John Gladstones in the 1960s to discuss the possibility of a wine business in the sleepy surfing haven of Margaret River they were on the first steps of a magical, inspired and innovative journey. 

Earlier this month their daughter Vanya Cullen and her team celebrated 50 years of excellence that has encompassed a movement to organics and then biodynamics, early adoption of screw caps, a carbon-neutral winery and a largely self-sufficient restaurant.

Cullen Wines is today globally recognised as a beacon of eminence with the Kevin John Chardonnay and Diana Cullen Cabernet blend regarded as being among Australia's icon wines. 

Under the slogan "quality, integrity, sustainability" Cullen is now firmly established as an icon.

A celebration dinner and three days of memorable tastings marked the milestone. 

In many ways, though, not a lot has changed at all over half a century. The wines remain a work of art, with inspiration coming from the instinct of Vanya and winemaker Andy Barrett-Lennard. 

"The wines remain artisanal - there is no recipe," says Vanya Cullen. "Each year's wines depend on what the fruit looks like when it makes its journey from the vineyard to the winery." 

Instinct, emotion and the beautiful setting - as well as the biodynamic calendar - all play a large role in what emerges in bottle. There is also an essence of hospitality.

Yet before their conversation with Gladstones, Kevin and Di Cullen had planned to plant lupins, not grapes on their land at Wilyabrup. 

No one in Margaret River really knew much about grape growing back in 1971. Kevin Cullen said the work was "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration". The business, now a global brand, did not break even until 1994, the year Kevin Cullen died. 

The Cullens had six children, while Vanya is the figurehead all play some role in the business. Former winemakers including long-serving Trevor Kent were part of the 50th birthday tastings and lunches/dinners in the Biodynamic Wine Room. 

Today, Cullen is the only biodynamic and carbon positive winery in what is now a booming wine region. A remarkable 90% of the food served in the restaurant is grown on site. A worthy legacy. 

Those of us lucky enough to attend the tastings - I was honoured by be invited - worked through myriad wines that have been made biodynamically since 2004 and carbon positively since last year. The first "orange" wine - Amber - emerged in 2014. 

The use of amphora and biodynamically made barrels are among the latest innovations and the wines remain universally savoury, textural and stylish across the board; wines of balance, poise and layering. 

Lucky tasters got to sample semillon/sauvignon blanc blends back to 1995; Amber vintages, Mangan vineyard reds, early cabernets back to 1977, cabernet merlots and Diana Madelines 1995-2019; Vanya cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays and Kevin John vintages from 2002 to 2020.

As is typically the way with Cullen, the tastings were beautifully structured and timed to allow maximum appreciation. Detailed tasting notes; another time, another place.

Across the cabernet blends and Diana Madelines there are different blends, different oak regimes, different vintages and closures, but a symmetry of style; and among the Kevin Johns a familiar energy and texture and the constant vineyard influence.  

Maybe just open a bottle of Cullen and toast a half century of excellence. 

See www.cullenwines.com.au.



Sunday, 13 June 2021

Meet the new one-stop shop for gourmet goods from West Australia

Imagine a one-stop indoor market where you can taste and buy the best of West Australian produce, wines and beers while enjoying entertainment and the chance to visit local glassblowers, woodworkers, indigenous artists and other artisans. 

It is still a building site, but the potential of the $50 million Origins Market in Busselton was obvious when I visited last week with curator and co-ordinator Louise Cashmore. It will be a big drawcard for both locals and tourists en route to or from Margaret River. 

Origins Market will open in November and aims to showcase leading local providores, while also offering a shopping and dining destination. 

Origins is calling on local producers, makers, growers and artisans passionate about food and West Australian artisanal products to become involved. 

Busselton is one of Western Australia's fastest-growing regional centres and is just 10 minutes from the Busselton Margaret River Airport ,which is soon to receive direct flights from Melbourne. 

It is located in a bustling new retail hub that already sees more than 25,000 weekly visitors. 

Over 100 curated West Australian growers, producers, artists and creators will come together under one roof, all sharing the market’s ethos of sustainability and connection to the land. Local Wadandi elder Wayne Webb is among the consultants.

“For the past few months, I’ve been busily connecting with farmers, producers and artisans across the state to share the Origins Market story and unearth new talent who are ready to take their vision to market,” says Cashmore (below).

The idea has been inspired by some of the world’s best gourmet markets – like London’s Borough Market Barcelona’s Mercado de La Boqueria. 

“Busselton is experiencing a steady population increase, particularly in young families and working professionals. When the new airport is operating as a gateway to Margaret River and beyond, we’ll see further growth in tourist numbers and Origins Market will showcase a taste of what this region has to offer,” says developer Allan Ercig

Attractions will include offshoots of Homestead Brewery and Mandoon Estate wines - both also owned by Ercig - deli operators, a fishmonger, gelato maker, cheese maker, coffee roaster, vegan and vegetarian options and even an active and observable beehive. 

There will also be interactive stalls, hands-on workshops, pop-up restaurants, communal tables and local food trucks.

“Nobody knows the finest local products better than those based in the region of their origin, so we’re calling on West Aussies to nominate their favourite local produce and makers too, to ensure we can truly advocate to have the best of the West,” Cashmore said.

For details see www.originsmarket.com.au.

A sharp idea: how to Covid colour code your picnic or barbecue

In these very different Covid days it is a stroke of genius to be able to colour code your cutlery at a picnic or barbecue.

I'm red; you are blue and your mate (who recently visited Victoria and is not the most reliable dude around) is green. No confusion. No risks. 

The latest release from Victorinox (the Swiss Army Knife people) is a range of Swiss Classic tableware in vibrant colours, made from dishwasher-safe stainless steel. Swiss designed and made. 

The tomato and table knife ($10.55) comes in red, navy blue, black, green, pink, yellow and orange.

This knife is designed to deal with gnarly fruits and vegetables, while the table fork ($13.95) comes in red, pink, orange, green and black and the table spoon ($15.95-$17.95 is available in the same colours and the coffee spoon ($13.95) is either red, pink, green or black.

I liked them a lot. The range is available now at www.victorinox.com.au.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Massive deal for Adelaide Hills craft booze producers

The craft drinks business is booming and fast moving Mighty Craft has announced the acquisition of Adelaide Hills Distillery, Mismatch Brewing, Hills Cider and the Lot.100 venue. 

Mighty Craft managing director Mark Haysman (below) announced the purchases of the businesses and the 84-hectare Lot 100 property in the Adelaide Hills.

As part of the $47 million transaction, the businesses’ co-founders Sacha La Forgia, Ewan Brewerton, Steve Dorman and Toby Kline will be retained to drive growth for the brands.

The combination aims to transform Mighty Craft into a producer, wholesaler, and retailer, as well as create one of the largest craft spirit producers in Australia and the potential to be a leading player in the craft whisky market.

Haysman is excited by the cross-market opportunities that will be created by the enlarged craft beverage portfolio, bringing the required scale, synergies, and profitability to the Mighty Craft business.

Haysman says that having the highly specialised production and management from the Adelaide Hills-based businesses in Mighty Craft to help integrate the brands, from a production, distribution, and sales and marketing perspective, was an essential part of the deal.

"This merger wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Sacha, Ewan, Steve and Toby and we warmly welcome them to the Mighty Craft team," he said. "They will guide us through this transition, ensure alignment of both our interests and people, and drive growth for all our brands.” 

Adelaide Hills Distillery’s founder and head distiller La Forgia said he was excited by the opportunities for growth and profitability.

“We’re thrilled to be part of an incredible team that champions the growth of the Australian craft beverage industry," he said. "Their knowledge and team will give us a unique position to grow; not only with our current portfolio but also our emerging whisky offer that will now be part of one Australia’s largest craft spirit producers.”

Mighty Craft, formerly known as Founders First, also includes craft brands Ballistic Beer Co (Qld), Sauce Brewing (NSW), Slipstream Brewing (Qld), Brogan’s Way Distillery (Vic), Torquay Beverage Co (Vic), Foghorn Brewery (NSW), Jetty Road Brewery (Vic) and Darwin-based Seven Seasons, which was started by former Port Adelaide footballer Daniel Motlop.

It's a deal! Calabria purchase of McWilliam's Wines deal finalised

                                           Andrew Calabria and Scott McWilliam

Calabria Family Wines’ purchase of McWilliam's Wines is now complete.

Calabria family patriarch Bill Calabria announced the finalisation of the deal in a letter to associates.

"Both of our families have a rich heritage, contributing much to the Australian wine industry 
and the Riverina wine region," he said. 

"While the recent acquisition closes a difficult period for the McWilliam family, I speak for everyone in the Calabria family that we aim to respect their many contributions to the growth of Australian wine and champion the unique attributes that have made the McWilliam’s name celebrated around the world.

"Since our own founding 75 years ago, the supportive relationships with our Riverina neighbours have always been an important part of our journey, not least with the McWilliam family.

"The McWilliams were instrumental in helping my father, Francesco Calabria, in establishing our vineyard and winery. I know that it’s in this spirit that Frank, Michael, Andrew and Elizabeth are proud and honoured to be working with Scott McWilliam and the rest of the family to bring both of our businesses together in the best way possible.

"Over the next four weeks, our focus will be to integrate each McWilliam's Wines business department into our own - from production and sales to marketing and operations. We aim to align all systems to work together, while both brands maintain their unique identities.

"Our ultimate goal is to ensure we are both on a path to prosperity. Combined, McWilliam's and Calabria have over two centuries of winemaking experience and excellence - and it’s our goal to give the utmost respect to that.

"While these businesses will continue to operate as two entities, both families will work together - stronger as one."

Andrew Calabria and Scott McWilliam

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Check yourself in to one of Sydney's best addresses

Regular readers will remember I was enthused last month about my stay at Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour. 

Now that hotel has launched a new self check-in experience for guests, delivering a seamless modern check-in process for guests.

A first for Sofitel hotels nationally, guests of Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour can now check in, pay and receive their room key through a new digital kiosk. 

The hotel owner, Dr Jerry Schwartz, said he is excited to champion the evolution of the check-in experience.

“The self-service trend is leading the way to a future which prioritises convenience," he said. "We are investing in improved technology that enhances digital guest experiences. 

"With the advancement in this process, we're catering for travellers who are wanting a new revolutionised experience which is fast and efficient. However, this does not replace the traditional landscape of hotel processes where guests prefer a personal touch, which we love to deliver when checking guests in.” 

So take your pick. 

The self-service model and the convenience it implements extends to the in-room experience with Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour implementing the Order Up platform. This platform allows guest to order in-room dining items through a QR code located bedside. 

With this technology in place, hotel employees are less transactional and can focus on establishing genuine connections with guests.

Enjoy some museum wines in the heart of a museum

Fancy a night at the South Australian Museum, some fine older wines and some good tunes? 

Bottles of wine are being brought up from cellars and dusted off in preparation for the pop-up event RESERVED wine at the South Australian Museum on Friday, June 25.

No fewer than 15 South Australian wineries will be serving reserved, museum release, back-vintage, cellar-door-only and hard-to-find wines from 5.30pm to 8.30pm.

Listen to tunes from a local DJ while you sip wines from Bec Hardy Wines and Pertaringa, Bleasdale, Chateau Yaldara and 1847 Wines, Gatt Wines, Hentley Farm, Kirrihill, Karrawatta, Knappstein Wines, Levrier by Jo Irvine, Loom Wine, Schild Estate Wines, The Pawn Wine Co., Thistledown Wine Company, Woodstock Wines and Zonte's Footstep while enjoying exhibits in the Mammals and Pacific Cultures Galleries.

Chief executive of the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) Brian Smedley says he is excited to be hosting pop-up wine events again.

“We’re thrilled to once again be able to bring a selection of South Australia’s best wineries from our regions to the CBD after a brief event hiatus due to COVID restrictions,” he said.

Bec Hardy will be pouring the 2016 Pertaringa Over the Top shiraz.

“This wine acknowledges the very best site, climate, vines and production techniques, hence its name,” she says. “The 2016 museum release showcases how amazingly well this McLaren Vale shiraz develops with a few years in the cellar.”

To accompany aged drops will be tasty bites served up by the team at the South Australian Museum. Food is included in the ticket price which is $20 + booking fee. This also gets you a Great Wine Capital wine glass to keep and two tasting tokens to be redeemed by any of the wineries.

Once your tasting tokens have been redeemed, wine will be available for purchase directly from the wineries by the half-glass, the glass, the bottle or to be packaged and taken home.

RESERVED is presented by the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) and Adelaide a Great Wine Capital of the World, and celebrates 2021 the Year of South Australian Wine.

Visit  www.eventbrite.com.au/e/reserved-wine-at-the-south-australian-museum-tickets-156024925753 to book your RESERVED ticket.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Take your cruise ship and go away

Not everyone is happy to see the cruise industry make a return to European ports.

In Venice, the first major cruise ship arrival in more than a year was met by protesters out in force, Travel Mole reported.

The visit of the MSC Orchestra (above) - ironically from an Italian-owned cruise line - reignited long-time tensions as it was circled by demonstrators in small motorboats.

Protesters argued that cruise ships bring "hit and run" tourism that bring minimal benefit to the city.

MSC Orchestra set sail from Bari with fewer than 1,000 passengers marking the return of cruise ships to the city after nearly 18 months.

The Italian Government has vowed to remove cruise ships from Venice lagoon to a new dock but a new permanent home for cruise ships could take years.

Cruise Lines International Italy said that Venice's economy had suffered a €1 billion hit due to Covid-19.

"We don't want to be a corporate villain," said Francesco Galietti of CLII.

"We don't feel we should be treated as such. We feel we are good to the communities."

The Government has said it will issue a request for proposals soon for bids to construct a terminal outside the Venice lagoon, while a temporary dock will not be ready until at least next year - and possibly much longer.

Monday, 7 June 2021

What do "use by" and "best-before" dates really mean?

Should you throw out that unopened packaged cheese because has passed its use-by date? 

Next time you’re about to throw food in the rubbish, you should double check the dates on it first. 

Food safety experts say some labelling is confusing – and you could be throwing out food that is actually still perfectly safe to eat.

Today is World Food Safety Day (who knew?) an annual call for the production and consumption of safe food for the benefit of people, the planet and the economy. 

It aims to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks.


Dr Alison Jones, a food technologist from the University of New South Wales School of Chemical Engineering, says that food labelling can be confusing and stresses the fact that use-by and best-before dates are very different.


“Food manufacturers are responsible for determining the type of date marked on their products to help give consumers a guide as to how long the food product will last before it deteriorates,” she says.


“This is particularly important in determining the quality, nutrition and microbiological safety of food.”


use-by date indicates that the safety of the product cannot be guaranteed after the displayed date. Food should not be eaten after its use-by date, and it is illegal for retailers to sell food after its use-by date for health and safety reasons (something many supermarkets ignore).

Foods which display use-by dates are commonly those where the health and safety of the food cannot be guaranteed after a certain date, and often where the spoilage is not clearly discernible before consumption, for example, fresh pasteurised milk, chilled ready-to-eat foods or deli meats. 

Best-before dates indicate that the product may suffer some loss in quality after the displayed date - but may still be safe to eat. That’s provided its packaging is intact and/or it has been properly stored since food can spoil prematurely if it has been subjected to factors including temperature abuse, physical damage, broken packaging, high humidity.

Most foods which display a best-before date should still be safe to eat for a little time after, and retailers can still sell food after the best-before date provided it is still fit for human consumption.

Foods that commonly carry best-before dates are those which do not support the growth of pathogens or, in the case of fresh meat for example, where a later process such as cooking will destroy any bacteria that might be present.

Examples of foods that usually have a best-before date are shelf-stable foods such as retorted canned products and pouches, low-water activity foods such as confectionary, tea, freeze-dried coffee, sugar, salt, cereals and dried fruits. Other examples include acidic fermented products such as yogurt or sauerkraut or frozen products.

If products require special storage conditions in order for the date markings to be effective, then manufacturers can provide specific storage condition statements on the packaging. This is compulsory in the case of a use-by date where specific storage is essential for the health and safety of the product – so it’s important to keep an eye out for these.

So how long is a food still safe to eat after its "best before" date?

That very much depends on the food – the best advice is to look for signs of deterioration, spoilage and/or damage such as mould, slime, rancidity, off-flavours or odours, staling, gas-production or broken packaging.

As a consumer, you should also follow any of the manufacturer’s specific storage instructions to ensure the best-before and use-by dates are effective.

If you can get to the Middle East, you can fly to Phuket

Emirates will resume four weekly services to the Thai holiday island of Phuket from July 2 as the destination reopens for international tourists.

Thailand will allow vaccinated travellers to enjoy quarantine-free travel on the island - but there will be no flights from Australia in the immediate future.

The Dubai-Phuket route will be operated with a three-class  777-300ER offering premium services in first and business class as well as economy class, Travel Mole reported.

Emirates flight EK378 will depart Dubai on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 3am, arriving at Phuket International Airport at 12:30pm the same day.

The return flight, EK379, will depart Phuket at on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.

Flights to Phuket can be booked by visiting www.emirates.com where all details on mandatory documentation required for non-Thai nationals can be found.

Emirates has been gradually rebuilding its global network and has resumed passenger services to over 120 destinations, allowing travellers to connect to the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Asia Pacific via Dubai.

The airline has also recently introduced contactless technology to ease the customer journey through Dubai airport.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Vincent: a dangerously decadent slice of Paris in Perth

It is a very good thing for me that I live on the other side of the continent to recently opened Perth wine bar Vincent. 

If Vincent was close to Cygnet I would be a whole lot fatter - and a whole lot poorer. 

The European-styled wine bar and bistro opened in January and on Thursday night it was buzzing - while the rest of the Perth suburb of Northbridge gently snoozed. 

I felt very much at home as Vincent is a very close replica of two of my old Paris hangouts: Juveniles and Willi's; a selection of wines by the glass, many more by the bottle, good, simple bistro food and snappy, intelligent wait staff.

Like at Juvenile's and Willi's the vibe is very laid back - but when we ran out of sliced baguette to accompany our rather delicious charcuterie plate, replacement bread arrived within seconds, as if by osmosis.

The wine list of over 200 bottles has a focus on France, particularly Burgundy and Bordeaux, and Italy, but also includes some very good small producers from across Australia and New Zealand, from Tasmania's Pooley to Margaret River's Hoi Polloi.

As for the blackboard menu think dishes like steak tartare, ricotta gnudi, and pork and veal meatballs with a bean cassoulet. Simple. Satisfying. 

The chicken liver paté and duck rillettes on the charcuterie plate were spot on.

I'd like a little more choice in the wines by the glass, which clearly move fairly quickly, but Vincent is a "must visit" for any wine lover who finds themselves in Perth between Wednesday and Sunday. 

The website warns: no bookings; no cash. 

Vincent, 465 William St, Perth. www.vincentwine.com.au. 

Gourmet highlights unveiled for Dark Mofo

Probably the best time to visit Hobart is during Dark Mofo's annual Winter Feast, where visitors can eat and drink the finest produce from Tasmania's gourmet artisans. 

Crackling fires, live music, warming comfort food and a range of delectable drinks will be on offer on the Salamanca waterfront for five nights from Wednesday, June 16 to Sunday, June 20. 

Returning for its eighth year, the Winter Feast is a contemporary take on pagan solstice celebrations and is the hedonistic hub of the Dark Mofo festival. 

Continuing the event’s long-running 'cooking with fire' theme, the 2021 Winter Feast will host more than 80 stalls offering a diverse array of ethically-sourced Tasmanian produce.

Winter Feast food curator Jo Cook said this year’s event would feature a range of returning favourites alongside 30 first-time stallholders - including several exciting new collaborations which emerged during the pandemic.

“We have many stallholders who are thrilled to return with new and delicious menus, and a whole lot of stallholders who will be showcasing their products for the first time,” she said.

“There's rare-breed beef from regenerative farms, free-range pork from small producers, filter-feeding bi-valves such as fresh oysters and mussels, octopus from Bass Strait, Maria Island arrow squid, scallops from the east coast, and a variety of Tasmanian-grown mushrooms and other vegetables.

“Mona’s Heavy Metal Kitchen has gone vegetarian, and teamed up with other local businesses Annapurna, Urban Bounty and Tunnel Hill Mushrooms," Cook said. "There's also plenty of plant-based foods including desserts like ice creams, apple pies and marshmallows; and a massive range of exciting new-release spirits, craft beers, wines, ciders and low-sugar soft drinks.” 

All Winter Feast stallholders are going completely cashless this year, meaning all transactions will be digital for the first time. 

New measures have also been introduced to ensure the event complies with Covid protocols, including capacity restrictions. Patrons are advised to arrive early, and allow extra time to buy tickets and enter the site - there may be a queue. 

Patrons will also need to check in with the Tasmanian Government’s ‘Check in TAS’ app, individually or as a group. 

Visitors will need to be seated while at the venue, except when browsing stalls and buying food and drink.

Additional seating will be available both indoors and outdoors. Limited standing drinking and dancing will be permitted, but patrons may be asked to take a seat if things get too crowded. 

A number of stages across the Winter Feast precinct will host live musical performances, with the program to feature King Stingray, Boil Up, Baba Bruja, Claire Anne Taylor, Son Del Sur, Arauco Libre and many more.

The venue for the festivities is Princes Wharf No.1, Castray Esplanade, Hobart waterfront

See www.darkmofo.net.au


Friday, 4 June 2021

Welcome to the boomtown: Doing Perth in style

So you want to be within walking distance of Perth's downtown core, but also want to stroll to Northbridge at night for a few drinks and meal. 

Peppers Kings Square - just across the road from the Perth Arena and round the corner from trendy King St - has location, location on its side. 

You're just a stroll from the CBD, boutique shopping, dining and laneway bar districts meaning it is an equally good choice for leisure or business stays. 

With a 24-hour reception (good news as our Qantas flight didn't get us into town until well after midnight), the rooms are well thought-out with modern furnishings, very comfortable king beds with great pillows, air conditioning, wifi, Nespresso machines and gourmet tea facilities. Effective blackout curtains, too, for those wanting a lie-in.

The bathrooms have good showers with quality Appels toiletries and there are plenty of charging points for those of us with voracious laptops and iPhones.

The on-site Stage Bar & Kitchen is closed right now, but the kitchen turns out some pretty spectacular breakfasts. The staff are very professional across the board, too. Nothing is too much trouble. 

Rooms start from $199 - which is excellent value in a city that is booming. The upper level rooms have some great light in the mornings and evenings. 

There is no on-site parking. There are, however, plenty of public transport options on the doorstep, so you might not need a car.

Details here: https://www.peppers.com.au/kings-square/

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Snoop Dogg aims to convert Australian wine drinkers

Americans traditionally drink a whole lot more Australian wine than Australians consume wine from the US of A. Too sweet, too oaky, too expensive are three commonly given reasons. 

One man is aiming to change that: US rapper, turkey donator and home delivery advocate Snoop Dogg. 

Dogg is the man behind 19 Crimes Snoop Cali Red, which was named the number one wine innovation of 2020 launched in the US and exceeded its initial 12-month sales forecast in the first two months of launch.

But will Australians take to this blend of petite sirah (someone tell Mr Dogg we call it durif in Australia) and zinfandel? 

Born and raised in Long Beach, Dogg joined forces with 19 Crimes to create the first Californian wine in the portfolio, a wine described as "a unique red blend with ripe, punchy fruit". 

“I’m such a fan of this wine and I’m excited to bring ‘Snoop Cali Red’ to my Australian peeps and share the experience with my fans," Snoop Dogg says. "19 Crimes is one of the most successful brands in the market, so I’m more than eager to bring this collaboration to the world!” 

Angus Lilley, Treasury Wine Estates Chief Marketing Officer says: “Snoop Dogg is a culture creator, innovator and a leader in pop culture. Australians love him, and they have been asking for this wine since it launched in the US back in July. We are truly excited to launch 19 Crimes Snoop Cali Red to Australia.”

19 Crimes Snoop Cali Red is available now for $18 RRP. I have no idea what to expect of wine doggstyle. 

Join the club: a whole new experience in the Southern Highlands

The heritage village of Berrima was recently named Top Tourism Town in New South Wales. 

Adding to the Southern Highland's hamlets attractions is Berrima Vault House - originally hand built by convicts in 1844 and now a recently opened five-star hospitality venue and private members club. 

Si Philby, Berrima Vault House's Founder and CEO, said: “When I first saw this building it was clear there was a special canvas to work with. The property has a series of spaces - including unseen rooms that have stood the test of time - with unbelievable history. 

"The original jail cells with their stone walls built by convicts are now private dining rooms, for example. We have curated a specific team with local expertise and world-class credentials, to bring the building back to life for the 21st century to continue to tell the story of the building but in a modern way.

“One of the silver linings to come out of the global pandemic is people have realised they don't need to live in the city or if they're living in the Highlands, commute as much – or at all - anymore. They're also a bit tired of working from home so are looking for somewhere they can hold business meetings, take business calls, have great wifi with high-level data security, print, scan, whatever they need to work…but they also want to relax and socialise.”

Berrima Vault House includes a number of public and private areas, including Taylor's Inn Cafe, 'The Dining Room' restaurant, The Snuggery, The Fireplace Lounge, private dining jail cells known as King George's Cell and Queen Victoria's Cell, The Village Shop, Hank & Molly's Bar, The Vinery, and The Rose Garden, giving guests plenty of places to retreat and relax. 

Guests will also discover a three-bedroom boutique accommodation offering, known as 'The Courthope Residence', where a stay includes complimentary access to all membership facilities. A concierge is also on hand to offer anything guests might need – but without the old-fashioned formality and stuffiness members clubs are all too often known for.

“Berrima Vault House is a place which doesn't quite feel like anywhere else," said advisor Dan Flower. "It's a place to call home, and that's how we want guests and members to treat the House – we won't tell you to take your feet off the couch – not literally of course."

Executive chef Tommy Prosser is leading the gastropub-style Taylor's Inn Café and The Dining Room, where local produce and ingredients are showcased. 

Pairing with the food is a substantial wine list by local sommelier Linda Lambrechts. 

Southern Highlands wineries such as Artemis, Bendooley Estate and Cherry Tree Hill feature on the list, along with organic and biodynamic wines. 

Memberships at Berrima Vault House start from $2,400. Applications are open now, with enquiries to be sent to concierge@berrimavaulthouse. 

Stays at Berrima Vault House's 'The Courthope Residence', start from $1,200 midweek and $1,600 on weekends (minimum two-night stay).

See www.berrimavaulthouse.com/

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Meet the most exclusive wine school in the world

So you are involved in the wine industry, as a sommelier, perhaps, a distributor, or even a writer?

You think you have a decent palate and like the idea of one day judging at wine shows?

Here is your chance to get a foot in the door.

Applications are now open for the 2021 Len Evans Tutorial, which this year celebrates 20 years, having seen close to 230 scholars attend what is said to be "the greatest wine school on earth".

The Tutorial was postponed last year due to Covid-19.

Twelve Australian wine professionals will attend Spicers Guesthouse in the Hunter Valley from Monday, November 1 to Friday, November 5 with the chance to taste some of the world's greatest wines.

The panel of tutors includes James Halliday, Ian McKenzie, Iain Riggs, Michael Hill Smith MW, Vanya Cullen, Sarah Crowe, PJ Charteris, Jim Chatto, Tom Carson, David Bicknell, Matt Harrop, Tyson Stelzer, Samantha Connew, Randall Pollard and Patrick Walsh, with Philip Rich joining for the first time in 2021.

Over its 20 years, the Len Evans Tutorial has proved to be an invaluable training ground for its scholars many of whom have gone on to become wine show chairs and senior wine judges, industry leaders and better wine professionals.  

Held annually in the first week of November, this year the Tutorial will include additional judging sessions featuring riesling from around the world as well as a masterclass on Barolo.

As has been the case from inception, the week concludes with a tasting of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, led by James Halliday AM.

All tuition, accommodation, travel, wine and food is covered by Tutorial sponsors and donors.

Applications will be reviewed by a panel made up of current and past tutors, past scholars, chairs of judges from capital city wine shows, and a range of industry advisors.

Applications received for the cancelled 2020 LET will be rolled over to 2021, though applicants are encouraged to update details and experience as required.

Visit www.lenevanstutorial.com.au/apply for more information and how to apply. Applications will be accepted until close of business Friday, August 13.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

New date for peninsula wine party

The Mornington Peninsula’s Winter Wine Weekend has been rescheduled to Saturday, July 24, as a result of the current lockdown.

Wine lovers across Victoria will now enjoy a mid-winter experience in picturesque Red Hill, tasting world-class wines and some of the state’s most celebrated food.

As the event is no longer taking place on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, the Winter Wine Festival in the Pavilions at Red Hill Showgrounds will be the focus with the Long Lunch to be rescheduled later in the year.

Running from from 10:30am to 4pm, The Winter Wine Festival will be a showcase exhibition and tasting offering attendees the opportunity to taste over 200 premium wines from 45 Mornington Peninsula wineries.

Designed as a progressive tasting, three sheds will be transformed into sub-regional experiences, allowing groups to circulate from one to the next after 90-minutes.

Each shed will house two restaurants who have created bespoke menus of 
entrée-sized dishes from regionally sourced produce and designed around the wines. 

Restaurants include Montalto, Many Little (Polperro), Paringa Estate, Barmah Park, Lindenderry Red Hill and Pt Leo Estate.

All tickets purchased for Saturday’s event have been transferred to the new date unless requested otherwise.

For more information and to purchase a ticket, please visit www.mpwine.com.au

Tickets are $120 and include a complimentary Riedel tasting glass, all wine tastings, a tasting book and three entrée-sized dishes.

A sweet symphony of drinking pleasure

Penfolds has Grange. Henschke has Hill of Grace. Yalumba has the much more recent - but equally compelling The Caley - named in honour of a family pioneer. 

Australia’s oldest family-owned winery is today celebrating the global launch of the fifth release of The Caley - the 2016 vintage. 

This unique blend of Coonawarra cabernet and Barossa/Eden Valley shiraz is the Yalumba flagship that celebrates over a century of cabernet/shiraz blends. 

I was fortunate enough to have an advance tasting with winemaker Kevin Glastonbury (below) - and to finish the rest of the bottle that night. 

So what is it like? 

Harmonious is the first word that comes to mind. 

Think Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (stay with me people). Think of the cabernet as Smokey's pure and precise voice and the shiraz as the beautiful, sweet harmonies of the Miracles. Smooth. 

Everything in its place, with 25% new oak soaked up by the quality fruit..

You can drink it now, but cellaring is certainly recommended.

"It's a wine of style and substance that reflects the very best of two regions," says Glastonbury. "In each vintage we are aiming for greatness, but each release will also reflect the year." 

Fifth-generation proprietor Robert Hill-Smith said: “Since its inaugural release in 2017, The Caley has relied on our own provenance, integrity and enthusiasm which we have built over the past 172 years.

"Through consistent narrative and quality, we have recruited a loyal base of connoisseurs across the world, and we are buoyed by the exceptional feedback we receive. 

“Having followed the ferments and the development of the wine since 2016 and worked alongside KG on the final blend, I cannot help but be excited about this release. It was an even ripening season, with clean bunches and exceptional balanced flavours."

This release of The Caley is a blend of 71% Coonawarra cabernet and 29% Barossa shiraz, numbers Glastonbury says will vary from vintage to vintage depending on the season. 

He described 2016 as “a magnificent vintage. It gave us pristine fruit with richness and concentration”.

“The Caley 2016 comes into its own as a very sleek, refined and focused wine. It is a wine that sets us on a clear trajectory which we are very excited about. Aromatic, plush, rich, inviting, with the hallmark palate drive of The Caley.” 

The wine is named in honour of Fred Caley Smith, grandson of Yalumba’s founder Samuel Smith. Fred was a horticulturist who had a profound impact on the development of Yalumba’s orchards and vineyards. 

He is best remembered for a ground-breaking research journey he undertook in 1893 and 1894 to the USA, UK, Europe, the Middle East, Sri Lanka and India. 

His detailed and poignant letters to his father, sent home every few days, were collected and are kept in Yalumba’s archives.

Each release of The Caley celebrates a step in Fred’s journey, and for the 2016 vintage, the spotlight falls on January 1894 and his journey to visit his family in the United Kingdom. 

Yalumba The Caley 2016 is available at yalumba.com and in fine wine retailers from today with an RRP of $365. I'm as sure as I can be that this will be a collectors' item.

Monday, 31 May 2021

A glass of Belgian wine, anyone?

When you think of wine-producing nations in Europe you probably think first of France, or Italy, then maybe Spain or Portugal, or perhaps Germany or Austria.

Very few wine lovers would know that beer-loving Belgium even has a wine industry - but the number of Belgian wine growers is increasing year after year and grew by a quarter in 2020 alone, the Flemish infocentre for agriculture and horticulture (VILT) reported.

No fewer than 198 wine growers were registered in 2020, said The Brussels Times.

Winemaking  has been booming in Belgium as more and more growers in the country join in, and Belgian wines have even won prizes in international competitions. The vineyards sometimes use outdoor heaters to keep the vines safe from frost (above).

Grape varieties include chardonnay, chasselas, pinot blanc, muller-thurgau, gamay, merlot and pinot noir. 

Europe has also awarded nine regions in Belgium special designation as protected wine regions.

“For our company, 2020 was the year of the start,” said Dirk Syx, general manager of the Den Nachtegael winery in Westhoek, on the French border next to Pas-de-Calais.

“Belgian wine growing is increasing in prestige and value year after year. The shift from craftsmanship to entrepreneurship is also in full swing. Who would have thought that together with all wine growers we would exceed 500 hectares? And the end is not yet in sight.”

The largest increase in the number of wine growers took place in the provinces of Limburg (37 wine growers compared to 27 in 2019) and Liège (21 wine growers compared to 9 in 2019).

Flanders has twice as many winegrowers as Wallonia with 68% of the total registrations, but Wallonia is beginning to catch up.

“Viticulture in our country is growing and flourishing,” said Flemish Minister of Agriculture Hilde Crevits.

“The wine growers seem to have the wind in their sails: they are growing strongly and there is a remarkable diversity.”

Saturday, 29 May 2021

A taste of the best of the Hunter

Thommo and Andy sound like a comedy duo, or a breakfast team on local radio. 

Winemaker Andrew Thomas from Thomas Wines and chef Andy Wright from Pokolbin Catering Co. are, in fact, deadly serious about food and wine and their collaborations are some of the hottest tickets for June's Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival.

Join them to explore 12 vintages "The Distinguished Dozen" of the iconic Thomas Braemore Semillon, paired with a tasting plate and followed by lunch hosted by Thommo in his winery on June 5.

Two weeks later, on June 18, there will be complementary event looking a dozen vintages of Thomas Kiss Shiraz.

Both events include an in-depth look at Braemore Semillon or Kiss Shiraz, informal discussions around the wines with Thommo, that tasting plate paired with the 12 wines, and then lunch. Sounds like a perfect day. 

Tickets are $195 per person. Bookings here.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of both the wines and gourmet snacks and can assure you it will be an event worth attending.

Thomas, as most of you will know, is a specialist in the two key Hunter wine styles: semillon and shiraz - and his cellar door is one of the best in the Hunter.