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Sunday 28 February 2021

Take a taste of Canberra's wine and food scene

The Australian national capital of Canberra has a vibrant wine and food scene that is constantly evolving. Here's the latest from Visit Canberra. 

The newest kid on the block is tucked away in the city centre's outskirts in the suburb of Campbell 5 precinct. 

Here you'll find Paranormal Wines (above), a bottle shop and bar specialising in natural wines and left-field wines. 

Pick from a selection of local Canberra district wines and a wide range of Australian and international drops. Stay for a while and sip on a drink of your choice, order a snack and take in the relaxed surroundings, or choose a bottle to take home. It is open Wednesdays to Sundays, 11am-8pm (no late night hijinks here) 

The Eat Canberra team are back and ready to help visitors discover some of the best eats and hidden gems in Canberra. 

Join them on a Taste of Braddon food adventure and eat your way around and sample tasty food and drink at five venues with a four-hour walking tour along the Lonsdale 'Eat' Street in Braddon. From $145 per person

The latest hot spot to eat can be found in a laneway behind the historic Sydney Building off Northbourne Avenue. 

The Verity Lane Market is a chef-driven food hall with three kitchens Ramen Daddy, Super Bao and Pizza Artigiana serving the hungry hordes and the art deco cocktail style Verity Bar offers an extensive list of drinks. 

In time, the laneway offerings will expand. It iss open for dinner Tuesdays to Sundays until late and lunch Thursdays to Saturday.

Saturday 27 February 2021

Jailed: one of the dumbest families in Britain

The Byng family thought they would try to recoup the costs of their package holiday to the Canary Islands by taking legal for the food poisoning they alleged they suffered on their trip. 

Their case fell apart when they failed to consider all the social media posts they had published having a good time on the trip - and in the end their stupidity ended them in jail. 

The four holidaymakers who claimed they picked up a gastric illness while on a Jet2holidays package were identified as fraudsters. 

The court was shown them using the waterslide, swimming in the pool and drinking in the bar - all while they claimed to be sick, Travel Mole reported.

Christopher Byng, 38, Barbara Byng, 64, Linda Lane, 36, and Anthony Byng 66, all from Middlesbrough, were convicted of contempt of court at Teesside Combined Court after admitting to submitting false gastric illness claims.

The Byngs were jailed for four months while Lane received a suspended sentence.

The four claimed that they, and the two children they were travelling with, had all suffered with stomach cramps, sickness, diarrhoea, headaches and hot and cold sweats as a result of food poisoning on an all-inclusive holiday at the Paradise Lago Taurito & Waterpark, Gran Canaria (above), in November 2016.

They then issued court proceedings, which were defended by Jet2holidays.

During investigations, Jet2holidays and law firm, Horwich Farrelly,  discovered evidence which showed the claims were fabricated.

The evidence included a number of social media posts from the family, including images and video footage of them enjoying themselves on holiday despite claiming to be ill.

This included the family using the waterslide, swimming in the pool and drinking in the bar. No mention or sign of any illness was made, despite the severe symptoms they claimed to have been suffering.

Christopher Byng also made no mention of the illness in a post-holiday survey, saying he was 'very satisfied' with the choice, cleanliness and quality of meals at the hotel.

Asked in the survey whether he was likely to book with Jet2holidays again in the next 12 months?' he responded 'very likely'. 

The Byng family are not very bright. 

Stay in the centre of the Hunter Valley wine action

For wine lovers there is a special thrill in staying in a vineyard or on a winemaking property. 

Leading Hunter Valley producer De luliis has just launched the Winemakers House at De luliis: which for the moment is one of the valley's best-kept secrets.

The contemporary four-bedroom house is a split-level residence billed as being ideal for up to seven guests. 

Located on Broke Road at the home of De luliis, Winemakers House has a fully equipped kitchen, fireplace, air-con, wifi, Nespresso machine and an outdoor entertaining area with a private barbecue.

Nestled just 30 meters from De Iuliis’ architecturally designed cellar door, guests are free to wander around the winery and taste premium wines. 

The house features four bedrooms comprising one king room with an en-suite bathroom, two king rooms, one king single room (ideal for the snorer in the party) , and two and a half bathrooms. 

Winemakers House at De luliis is pet-friendly, meaning four-legged friends are welcome to join a family getaway.

To celebrate the launch, De luliis is offering a "Book two nights, receive the third night free" deal that includes a premium wine tasting at the De Iuliis cellar door. 

Rates start from $683 per night midweek for a minimum of two nights. 


Friday 26 February 2021

Newcastle unveils a month of gourmet celebrations

There can be few cities anywhere on the planet that have made such a success of re-branding themselves than Newcastle, two hours north of Sydney. 

The once-grimy mining centre is now equally known for its gastronomy. 

The city will host the inaugural month-long Newcastle Food Month in April and will join 80 other global cities as it presents for the very first time, Le Diner en Blanc on Saturday, April 10 when over 1000 people will take to the city streets dressed in white for a Parisian-inspired pop-up dinner.

Newcastle is home to an ever-growing number of cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs. 


Event organiser Louise Maher from Newcastle Events said “Over the next five years our aim is that the Newcastle culinary scene becomes one of our most recognised assets and that the Newcastle Food Festival becomes one of Australia’s leading regional food festivals, drawing diners from around Australia to celebrate with us.


“Barely two hour’s drive from the nation’s capital, New South Wales’ second-largest city has never been more accessible and has the people, the wine and the produce to support the thriving foodie culture that we’re seeing in Newcastle.


“We’re so fortunate to have the Hunter Valley - renowned for its wines, and Port Stephens - known for its pristine seafood on our doorstep and a plethora of amazing produce and talent accessible to us.” 

Newcastle Food Month will include more than 100 food-focused events, including Plate Dates with over 60 local venues each offering their specialities on a plate with a matching beverage for just $25. 

The full program is now available at  

Record loss for struggling Thai Airways

Thai Airways, traditionally one of the best international carriers in Asia. has reported its worst ever full-year financial performance, with an annual loss of over $6 billion for 2020.

It was the highest loss ever for a Thai company, based on Stock Exchange of Thailand data, Travel Mole reported.

Ticket revenue plunged 73.8% to THB48.3 billion while it posted a one-time charge of THB92 billion for its employee separation plan as well as large impairment losses on aircraft.

The news came just days before the airline submits a final debt rehabilitation plan to the Thai bankruptcy court in a bid to significantly reduce its liabilities.

The availability of vaccine supply and how quickly Covid jabs are carried out in Thailand and overseas will determine how quickly the airline can recover.

"Vaccines will be a significant factor in the aviation industry because it affects entry restriction policy of Thailand and other countries around the world," Thai Airways said in a statement.

"However, air travel around the world is expected to return to normal in 2024."

Thai Airways shares are suspended by the Stock Exchange of Thailand as it mulls whether to de-list the airline due to its negative equity.

Thursday 25 February 2021

Australia's first Indigo hotel celebrates Adelaide culture

I've stayed in a couple of Indigo properties; most notably an excellent one in Shanghai. 

Now IHG Hotels & Resorts' boutique lifestyle hotel brand is set to debut in Australia. 

The Hotel Indigo Adelaide Market - opening its doors on March 1 - is a boutique 145-room property located next to Adelaide Central Market. 

It will offers a design inspired by area's industrial heritage and will feature Adelaide's highest rooftop bar, Merrymaker, with a raw food focus and sweeping city views. 

There will also be a ground-floor restaurant, Market and Meander, showcasing regional produce, spirits and beers (sounds very Easton West). 

The hotel's public spaces will feature brick archways mimicking those in the adjacent market and street art-inspired murals. 

Adelaide Festival-inspired poster art will adorn corridors and rooms, while a rotating selection of artworks will create an engaging, ever-changing backdrop in public spaces.

“Hotel Indigo has paved its way across the globe as a truly fascinating brand designed to draw inspiration and spark curiosity from the roots of its surrounding neighbourhoods," said general manager Thomas Zinn. 

"With our ideal location right next door to the iconic Adelaide Central Market and near the newly renovated Her Majesty's Theatre, Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets will be the perfect escape for visitors and locals looking for a new way to connect with Adelaide.” 

In addition to the hotel's food options, the neighbourhood's laneways are lined with inviting bars and eateries. 

The hotel is also walking distance from many of the city's big-ticket attractions including Rundle Mall, Adelaide Botanic Garden, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide Zoo and Art Gallery of South Australia. It also has convenient transport access with a free CBD tram stop nearby.

In addition to a 24/7 fitness centre, the property will have a 13-metre outdoor infinity pool, two boardroom-style meeting rooms and the option to hold events on the mezzanine level and rooftop. 

King standard rooms start from $250 per night.

For further information visit

Qantas expects to relaunch international flights by October

Australians will have to wait until at least late October to fly to most international destinations with Qantas.

The national airline announced today that it is planning to restart regular international passenger flights to most of its destinations from late October - a four-month extension from its previous estimate of July, which had been in place since mid-2020. 

This date aligns with the expected time frame for Australia's Covid-19 vaccine rollout to be effectively complete. 

Flights to 22 of 25 of Qantas's pre-Covid destinations will resume on October 31, 2021.

Direct flights to New York, Santiago and Osaka won't resume initially, but Qantas says it remains committed to flying to these destinations. 

 Flights to New Zealand are still expected to ramp up significantly from July 1, the airline said in a statement. 

Qantas continues to navigate the impacts of the Covid crisis with a significant half-year loss reported today. Figures showed an underlying loss before tax of $1.03 billion and a statutory loss before tax: of $1.47 billion.

"Our priority is on recovery and repair and we're hopeful domestic border closures will soon be a thing of the past with the vaccine rollout underway," said the statement from executive manager for global sales and distribution Igor Kwiatkowski. 

"We're confident we'll be in a strong competitive position to meet increased travel demand and support our customers."

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Major move for star Australian winemaker

Wine industry veteran Teresa Heuzenroeder has been appointed senior winemaker and manager for Accolade Wines’ historic Tintara facility in McLaren Vale. 

In addition, she will take on the role of senior winemaker for the Petaluma and Croser brands.

The announcement follows the decision by Mike Mudge to step down from the role of senior winemaker and manager at Petaluma.

Heuzenroeder spent almost 27 years with Yalumba and Hill Smith Family Wines, with 15 years in the role of senior winemaker. She is renowned for her prowess with sparkling wines and whites, particularly Heggies rieslings.

“Having the opportunity to join the amazing team at Accolade Wines and learn from world-class experts was a big drawcard for me," Heuzenroeder said.

"The Tintara site has such strong heritage as a distinguished wine-making facility and I am so excited to work with some of the most respected Australian wine brands. I look forward to coming on-board with Accolade Wines and bringing a new set of skills and perspective to help take these wines to new levels.”

Sandy Mayo, Chief Marketing Officer at Accolade Wines, said: “We recently bid farewell to Mike Mudge. Mike has been integral to the growth and success of the Petaluma and Croser brands, and has been an upholder of quality and an ambassador for the Adelaide Hills region.

"We would like to thank Mike for his outstanding contribution to Petaluma and Croser over 30 years and we wish him and his family every success for the future.”

Last year, Accolade Wines announced that, due to increased demand for the Petaluma and Croser brands, it had reached capacity at Woodside Estate in the Adelaide Hills and outgrown the site.

The decision was made to move production of the Petaluma and Croser portfolio to the Company’s Tintara facility in McLaren Vale to support the ongoing and planned growth of Petaluma and Croser, in Australia and internationally.

The company is currently investigating new locations for the Petaluma cellar door to reach even more Petaluma consumers and provide new and interesting experiences for wine and food lovers.

“Teresa, who is well known to the industry, is a highly experienced winemaker," Mayo said. "We are excited for her to join our talented team at Tintara and look forward to seeing the great work she does in her new role.”

Hardys Tintara has grown to become Accolade Wine’s largest premium winery and state-of-the-art wine-making facility.

Acolade Wines' diverse portfolio is made up of Australian wine brands including Hardys, Grant Burge, St Hallett, Petaluma, Banrock Station and Katnook.

The lowdown on Hobart's newest gourmet destination

The recent opening of the Mövenpick Hobart Hotel was double good news for the Tasmanian capital. 

Not only did it gain much-needed luxury rooms in the centre city, it also added Tesoro - a new gourmet destination for both locals and visitors. 

Mövenpick is a Swiss brand, known globally for its ice creams as well as its hotels, but this its first property in Australia.

There are 221 rooms over levels three to 18, but the hotel has a more boutique feel. 

The rooms feature Tasmanian artworks and have fast free wifi, while Tesoro uses local produce with an Italian spin. The staff are multinational and uniformly efficient - not always a Hobart strength. 

As is the case in all Movenpick hotels, there is a daily chocolate hour each afternoon with guests offered chocolate-inspired treats, drinks and cocktails. 

The lobby level is warm and welcoming with plenty of shared spaces, stunning art and plenty of power points, and flows into the hotel’s eatery, which boasts a broad selection of cocktails and local and imported wines (think names like Chatto, Holyman and Waterton Hall). Web check-in is available. 

Mövenpick Hotel Hobart boasts a flexible function space for up to 100 guests, which can also be divided into two.   

The rooms are stylish and spacious - even in their smallest iteration. The beds are comfortable and the design well thought out with plenty of plugs and USB ports at bedside, effective lighting and even a wireless charging port. 

TVs come with Chromecast so guests can cast Netflix or Stan from their own devices. Mini bars are "order only" in these Covid times, while the best views of the Hobart waterfront come from the higher levels - and were superb from 1801, where we were lodged. 

The Mövenpick entrance lobby (above) - and that of Tesoro - are in the Hobart bus mall precinct, however hotel guests can drive in their vehicles for valet parking under a "local traffic" exemption. There are several eating options within a couple of hundred metres, and the waterfront is just a short stroll away.    

Accor Pacific CEO, Simon McGrath, said: Mövenpick Hotel Hobart transcends the traditional hotel experience by masterfully blending the brand’s Swiss heritage with a premium hospitality experience. 

"We’re so excited to share this stunning property with guests visiting Hobart from other parts of Tasmania and Australia. Accor is planning more locations for Mövenpick across the Pacific and we believe this premium brand will quickly gain recognition for its culinary and service excellence.”

Then there is Tesoro, quickly becoming a favourite with the locals.

The range of Cape Grim steaks, dry-aged in house, are a star attraction and bloody delicious, particularly alongside plates of grilled asparagus with black garlic, parmesan, truffle oil and poached egg. 

Risottos of locally foraged mushrooms and Tasmanian truffle oil are also popular, along with local seafood dishes. The dessert pannacotta with Prosecco and wild berries (below) was a perfectly judged end to our evening. 

Executive Chef Trent Whelan said: “For the team at Tesoro, it’s important we showcase the exceptional produce for which Tasmania is known, along with Italian cuisine.

"Simple food and ingredients sourced through local, sustainable and ethical producers – many of whom we know personally – form the foundation of our food ethos."

Tesoro is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. See

And for sweet tooths, between 4pm and 5pm daily, a complimentary sweet treat, such as an éclair, brownie or truffle, is served with any chocolate-inspired cocktail, mocktail or affogato purchase. The hotel also offers an indulgent assortment of chocolate tasting packages available at any time of the day.

Surely I must have had some complaints? Well, the toilet paper could have been of a higher quality and the breakfast menu was a peculiar mishmash of dishes like breakfast pizzas and corn fritters. But I'm nitpicking.

I'm happy to report both the mushrooms with basil puree, goat's cheese and poached eggs; and scrambled eggs on toast with bacon were delicious and non trendy.   

Mövenpick Hotel Hobart, 28 Elizabeth Street, Hobart TAS 7000. Book before March 31 for an opening special of $325 per night in a classic king or classic twin room for two adults including a Tasmanian cheese platter and wine on arrival and a leisurely 3pm late check-out. To book, visit

The writer was a guest of Mövenpick Hotel Hobart  



Tuesday 23 February 2021

Discover Australia's first festival dedicated to rosé wines

Nowhere in Australia does pink better than Queensland's Gold Coast.

And it the Gold Coast which is to host Australia's first wine festival dedicated to rosé wines.

Rosé Coast co-producer and creative director Kristen Francis said the one-day festival at the Gold Coast’s Kurrawa Beach on May 1 was aiming to be the nation’s premier rosé celebration.

Producers from over 20 wine-growing regions across Australia have already locked into the Gold Coast showcase that highlights the growing popularity of rosé.

Francis, who is also founder and festival director of the Wine Island festival held on Clark Island in Sydney Harbour, said the Gold Coast was the obvious choice as the Australian location to exclusively host the event.

“Queensland is a big market for rosé, everywhere you look people are drinking pink. It is a drink that has been on the rise for the past five years and it’s just not going anywhere,” she  said.

“Rosé is best enjoyed outdoors in the sun and on the beach, it is not an indoor style drink so that just complements Queensland perfectly.”

Francis said the Gold Coast was synonymous with the pink drop as well as being famous for its beaches and maturity as an events city.

“We’ve got a background of putting on unique events in special places,” she said.

“Rosé and the Gold Coast go hand-in-hand. They are very complementary of one another, conjuring up sunshine, beachside, lifestyle and friends.

“This is where Rosé Coast is starting and this is where it will hopefully take place each year.”

Major Events Gold Coast chief Jan McCormick said the Gold Coast had already lured significant national and international events allowing the city to host a full program of more than 100 events for 2021.

“As an event which fits our destination so perfectly, I am delighted to welcome Rosé Coast Gold Coast to our city,” McCormick said.

Australian labels including Tulloch, Grant Burge, De Bortoli, La Prova, Pipers Brook, Soumah and Pizzini  will be joined by Sirromet, the only Queensland winery to feature at Rosé Coast.

For details see:

Try a little cannabis in your gin and tonic

Fancy a little bit on canabis infused in your gin? The Cannabis Company’s Myrcene Hemp Gin is billed as a feel-good spirit to warm us up as the weather gets cooler. 

Myrcene Hemp Gin has an earthy aroma and distinctive earthy flavours as a result of 15 botanicals including juniper, orris, angelica, rosemary, sage, lavender, balanced with a soft touch of myrcene, an active terpene in both hemp and hops. 

It is known for its restorative and healing properties. 

Crafted in Healesville in the Yarra Valley, Myrcene Hemp Gin was the first in Australia and is available online via The Cannabis Company and at Dan Murphy’s stores ($99). 

It is promoted as 100% Australian grown, organic and made using the cannabis sativa plant, grown in Tasmania. 

The terpenes are added into the distilling pot to create an aromatic and flavour-rich juice. The gin has a rich medicinally flavoured goodness. 

While I make no claims for its health benefits, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to the therapeutic benefits of various terpenes. 

“The Myrcene Hemp Gin has become a staple spirit for so many households, and the feedback we constantly receive about the beverage is nothing short of amazing,” said Alexandra Poznyak, managing director of Treeline Beverages, a division of The Cannabis Company.

“The cannabis sativa plant is one of the world’s most restorative botanicals, used by healers for thousands of years. 

"We’re excited to offer a drink that not only tastes good, but also does good, using some of the world’s best-quality hemp grown right here in Australia. 

“We are on a mission to promote the natural healing power of the cannabis plant, challenging the orthodox principles of the big pharmaceutical companies, and Western medicine.” 

My esteemed South African correspondent Raymond Dibden reports there is also a similar product from that country: Monks Mary Jane from the Monks Distillery in the Western Cape, the first South African gin to be infused with hemp.

See The Myrcene Hemp Gin is not intended to be, or consumed as, a medicinal product.

Monday 22 February 2021

Take a peek behind the scenes at a sparkling wine specialist

The Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia is a group of wine producers who offer more than just a taste of wine at their cellar doors.

Members offer a range of experiences and tastings designed for serious wine lovers.

Family-owned Printhie Wines in Orange, New South Wales, is the latest addition to its collective.

“We’re delighted to welcome Printhie as our 26th winery member,” says Kate Shilling, Executive Officer, Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia. “They bring new and exciting winery experiences to our offering, as well as superb cool climate craftsmanship found in their wines and sparkling range.”

Rated at five stars by James Halliday for the past 11 years, Printhie Wines was established in 1996 when the first vines were planted on the Swift family’s property by Jim and Ruth Swift. The winery was added in 2004, changing the dynamic of the business from grape growing to wine production.

Their sons, Ed and Dave, returned home in the early 2000s to manage the winery and vineyard operations. They’ve now forged a reputation for world-class wines that capture the defining element of the Orange wine region - altitude. Each of their four vineyards were chosen with site, aspect and elevation in mind and include the highest vineyard in Orange at 1070 metres.

Printhie Wines makes the méthode traditionnelle Swift sparkling range, considered to be one of Australia’s finest and awarded best bubbles at the NSW Wine Awards for the last three years.

“It’s very much a family affair that focuses on the quality of our cool-climate wines above all else,” says Dave Swift.

The Printhie Sparkling Masterclass offers guests a guided walking tour of the vineyard, providing a rare insight into the process of creating sparkling, hosted by one of the estate’s sparkling specialists, including a private tasting of the Swift sparkling range.

Guests can also explore the estate during an intimate Printhie Picnic, which includes a guided tasting and a picnic hamper filled with delicious sweet and savoury treats. Using a map of the property, guests can select a private place to relax among the vineyards or the heritage apple orchard.

The region of Orange is renowned for producing impeccable wines, with vineyards like Printhie taking advantage of the unique viticulture offered by the high elevations created by the extinct volcano, Mount Canobolas.

“This results in consistently high quality, distinctive wines,” says Dave.

Discover more at

Sunday 21 February 2021

Take the Covid-19 jabs or you won't be sailing anywhere


Bad news for any anti-vaxxers hoping to assert their independence by refusing immunise against the Covid-19 virus. 

Crystal Cruises this week announced it will require all passengers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before boarding its ships, Travel Mole reported.

The company said guests must have received both jabs at least 14 days prior to departure.

Last month, Saga Cruises became the first UK travel company and cruise operator to insist that all its clients must have received both doses before its holidays resume on May 1.

Crystal Cruises passengers will also be required to produce a negative Covid test, while temperatures will continue to be taken ahead of boarding. So bad luck anyone who feels differently. 

"We are encouraged by the progress being made with the Covid-19 vaccines and what this means for our Crystal Family and the travel industry as a whole as we eagerly look forward to exploring the world again," Crystal's interim president and chief executive Jack Anderson said.

"We know that peace of mind is the greatest luxury and the vaccine requirement is simply the best way to ensure the safest possible Crystal experience for all on board."

He predicted customers would welcome the move, citing a study which found 80% of respondents would cruise if a vaccine was required.

Crew members who are not yet eligible for a vaccination will be tested prior to leaving their home and again at embarkation.

"They will also need to quarantine for seven days upon arrival; be tested again at the end of that seven-day period and must receive a negative result before beginning their duties," Anderson said. 

"When vaccines are widely available, they will be a requirement of employment for crew which must be completed at least 14 days prior to service."

Saturday 20 February 2021

Gatwick leads the way as travel industry rip-offs kick in

Penny pinching is a way of life in the hospitality industry. Resort charges, credit card surcharges, late check-out fees; premium seats. Some hotels still charge outrageous sums for wifi. 

And as Covid-19 continues to bit into income streams look out for more nickle-and-diming of customers across the travel spectrum. 

London's Gatwick Airport is the latest operator to sting passengers - but travellers can expect more across the globe. 

Gatwick Airport has confirmed it will introduce a £5 minimum fee ($9) to drop passengers outside its North Terminal from March 8 "as it explores new revenue streams'. 

The charge will be £5 for up to 10 minutes, and £1 for each additional minute up to 20 minutes. The maximum charge will be £25 - an absolute outrage. The maximum length of stay 30 minutes.

The airport will extend the charge to the South Terminal "at a later date". No surprise there. Only the North Terminal is currently operational, Travel Mole reported.

Gatwick said the initiative will help reduce traffic congestion and emissions and create a "vital new revenue stream".

Anyone not wishing to pay the charge will be able to drop off and pick up passengers in the airport's long-stay car parks, which have two hours free parking and a free shuttle bus to the terminal. 

Chief Commercial Officer Jonathan Pollard said: "It is no secret that the airport is going through the most difficult period in its history and we have little choice but to explore new revenue streams that will us help us recover from the Covid-19 crisis and continue as an important provider of economic prosperity and jobs across the region.

"This scheme will also encourage passengers to consider more sustainable transport options."

Disabled drivers will be able to access the forecourt free of charge by registering their details up to three months in advance before arriving at the airport. 

The rest of us can be prepared to be ripped off - right across the globe. 

Friday 19 February 2021

Anarchic Dark Mofo returns to Hobart for 2021

Australia’s midwinter solstice festival Dark Mofo has announced its 2021 festival will go ahead from June 16-22 in Hobart, Tasmania.

The festival was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19. 

“Dark’s back, which, in the immortal words of Mark Spitz, who was also making a comeback, ‘could be good, could be great, could be terrible’," said MONA Museum owner and festival guru David Walsh. 

"Mark didn’t mention that there is another possibility: it could be cancelled. But it wouldn’t be worth doing if there was no risk. There’s lots of risk, so it must really be worth doing.”

Leigh Carmichael, Dark Mofo creative director said: “It’s with some trepidation that we announce Dark Mofo will descend in 2021 from June 16-22.”

“Like everyone else, we’ve been soul searching for almost a year, trying to understand our place in a changed world. 

"Last year we lost our sense of purpose overnight, and it appears that experience is having a resounding impact on this year's festival program. Our patrons will be pleased to know they can expect a typically grim and gloomy affair in June.”

 “This year the festival will run for one week only, making it smaller and more intense."

“We’re dropping all sponsorship activations, as we felt they were having a detrimental effect on the festival. While we’ve appreciated the support from many high-profile brands, we want to be able to pursue our own cultural agenda free from restraint and with a renewed commitment to the art.” 

This year is the final year of the festival’s five-year agreement with the Tasmanian Government. Dark Mofo’s future beyond this event isn’t clear or guaranteed.

“The Hobart City Council have withdrawn financial support and this will impact the scope and scale of the Winter Feast, which will be reduced to five nights," said Carmichael. 

“While our future is a little uncertain, we are optimistic that there is enough gunpowder in the barrel to propel us into 2022.”

The full Dark Mofo program will be announced in April 2021. 


Thursday 18 February 2021

In the pink. Brachetto proves a success for Soumah

The brachetto grape is very much a bit-part player in the diverse and colourful theatre of Italian wine.

Brachetto is a red wine grape grown primarily in Piedmont that dates back to Roman times and Brachetto d'Acqui is made in in both still and spumante versions.

Brachetto tends to produce light-bodied, aromatic wines with distinctive notes of candied ripe strawberries. In Brachetto d'Acqui it produces a slightly sweet sparkling wine that can be similar to Lambrusco, and has been called a red equivalent of the sweetish white Moscato d'Asti. 

In recent years, brachetto has found a home at Soumah Wines in the Yarra Valley, where they produce both a still and a frizzante (gently sparkling) version that are both defiantly pink in colour. 

I tasted both with my tasting group this week and the reaction was largely - but not uniformly - positive. 

Both wines are low in alcohol and offer brightness, freshness and delightful summer refreshment when enjoyed lightly chilled. 

The 2020 Brachetto Frizzante ($28) is described as like "liquid Turkish delight with the sweet flavours of rose water and strawberries". 

My favourite, although only marginally, was the 2020 Brachetto Tranquillo ($32) - a lovely aperitif or dessert wine with a very similar flavour profile. Pair it with a summer tart. 

Pizzini, Parish Hill and La Fattoria  are among the other Australian producers of brachetto.  

For details see

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Meet a new hotel brand that promises to be different

As far as I'm concerned, the last thing we need right now is another hotel brand. But I'm a curmudgeon who is easily confused. 

The travel market constantly demands different experiences, however, so say hello to A by Adina, which has opened in Canberra and will open in Sydney soon. 

The A by Adina brand is a premium offering from TFE Hotels and Adina Hotels CEO Antony Ritch says the launches mark Adina Hotels' imminent 40th birthday. 

Ritch says A by Adina purposely side-steps any hotel category currently on the market. It promises form and function across private, upscale apartment-style rooms in tandem with everything expected of a premium, full-service hotel. 

“Traditionally apartment hotels have been built with a residential feel, but that’s changing,” Ritch said. 

“What was missing was the 'underlying experience' for those chasing a premium stay – that feeling you get when you stay in a place where people know you and, most importantly, know how you like to stay.”

And thus, the concept of ‘hotel living’ was born.

“A by Adina hotels will appeal to those confident travellers who appreciate incredible design and quality of finishes as well as impeccable, personalised hospitality when they receive it,” he said.

“And, when you step inside an A by Adina, you’ll find that perfectly suited balance between a hotel and a private apartment,” he said. “We want the entire experience to be understated, but impactful.”

A by Adina’s bold brand promises are underpinned by three brand pillars – Contemporary Australian, Detailed Simplicity and Quiet Confidence. 

"We do things well, in a subtle but sophisticated way,” says Ritch. “You’ll see touches of finer detail at every turn and touch point. And, for guests, everything will feel intuitively right.”

That's a bold promise. I've stayed in thousands of hotels and none of them have been perfect. 

A by Adina Canberra has 130 apartments and is the centrepiece of Capital Property Group’s $300m mixed-use precinct, Constitution Place.

Guests at A by Adina Sydney, the brand’s second hotel scheduled to open at Australia Square in Sydney’s CBD in April, will sample contemporary Australian cuisine, with executive chef Jane Strode at the helm of the hotel’s food and beverage experience. 

Meet the Californian versions of an Australian wine icon

Penfolds wines are a uniquely Australian Australian icon; like Vegemite, Bondi Beach and the Hills Hoist. 

Penfolds Grange is Australia's highest-profile wine, which means news today of the launch of a Penfolds range of wines from California might prove controversial. 

The release of the 2021 Penfolds California Collection on March 4 follows over 20 years of company interest and experiments in the US. 

"Over 20 years ago, Penfolds started exploring the bountiful soils of California, with an ambition to create a range of wines unrestricted by vine, border or continent," says chief winemaker Peter Gago. 

"Today, Penfolds winemakers pick up where previous generations left off, to unveil four new Californian wines that extol an otherworldliness and something special."

The California’ Collection will comprise four wines: 2018 Quantum Bin 98 Cabernet Sauvignon ($950), 2018  2018 Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon ($220), 2018 Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon ($110) and 2018 Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz ($90). 

The two flagship wines that lead the collection, 2018 Quantum Bin 98 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2018 Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon, can be referred to as "wines of the world" as they comprise predominantly Napa Valley cabernet parcels but each wine also contains a significant addition of flagship-worthy shiraz (Quantum) and cabernet (Bin 149) from South Australia. 

“A quality-first approach underpins this inaugural release, led by 2018 Quantum," says Gago. "This blend assembles parcels of prized cabernet sauvignon from some of the Napa Valley’s best vineyards and pedigreed shiraz from South Australia. This is a first for Penfolds.”

Chief winemaker Gago, senior winemaker Stephanie Dutton and winemaker Andrew Baldwin re-established Penfolds footprint within the northern hemisphere, selecting fruit from Californian vineyards including Napa Valley AVAs Oakville, Diamond Mountain, District, Howell Mountain and Rutherford. Grapes were also sourced from Camatta Hills, Paso Robles, from original Australian vine cuttings planted in 1998 and 1999.

Penfolds California Collection will be available from Thursday, March 4, at

Tuesday 16 February 2021

New direct rail link between Luton Airport and London

A new train route connecting Luton Airport and central London is to launch this northern hemisphere summer, taking just 30 minutes to get passengers to the terminal.

This is good news for travellers flying with low-cost carriers, with the airport operating flights with Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air, Travel Mole reports.

Taking a London airport taxi from Luton airport to the downtown area of London is currently the most convenient transfer option. The ride costs approximately 80€ (£70) and takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes

Trains do not currently run from Luton airport to the centre of London. To reach the train, you will first have to take a 10-minute shuttle bus from the terminal to Luton Airport Parkway - inconvenient for those with luggage.

The new route - set to open from May - will be a faster, non-stop option. It will run between 6am and 10pm every half an hour on weekdays. It will also link with Corby in Northamptonshire

Eeast Midland Railways managing director Will Rogers said that the new route will offer "more seats, quicker journeys and a simpler and more resilient timetable".

Other London airports already have fast routes, include the Gatwick Express, Stansted Express and the Heathrow Express.

Monday 15 February 2021

Discover the latest luxury accommodation in the Barossa

Fine Acres Estate is the latest luxurious accommodation option in the Barossa. 

The newly renovated Barossa homestead, founded in the 1870s and re-designed by Jamie Gladigau from JBG Architects, is imagined as an ideal base for exploring the cellar doors of the Barossa region. 

Located in Vine Vale, an hour’s drive from Adelaide and in the heart of the Barossa, Fine Acres Estate is close to some of the best restaurants, wineries and produce in South Australia. 

The homestead is located between the three principal towns of Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston.

The renovation took 18 months to complete and mixes gorgeous modern Hamptons-style interior with original 19th-century features to create a private space in a 28-hectare working vineyard.

The homestead overlooks the vines and comprises three suites that have been designed to be used as either a communal accommodation space, or, alternatively, can be divided for separate bookings. It can accommodate between 10 and 14 guests.

The Indelicato and Chizen suites are designed for larger groups of up to six people, each fitted with a living space with Smart TVs, a gas fireplace, gourmet kitchen, en-suite bathrooms, free wifi and access to the large communal entertaining deck with a gas barbecue that overlooks the vineyard.

With room for two guests, the Day suite is perfect for a more intimate getaway with spectacular views from the bedroom that opens out to a small private deck.

“We want to give people the best that Australia’s greatest wine region has to offer,” says co-owner Sandy Day. 

“We support the local community wherever possible, with most of the renovations carried out by local Barossa-based artisans and tradesmen. 

“We also have a few pieces of incredible indigenous artwork on display from talented artists Janet Golder from Utopia in Central Australia and Carolanne Ken from Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of South Australia.”

Fine Acres Estate also offers a unique underground experience, with an original 1870s cellar restored and ready for enjoying a wine tasting experience or dinner among the barrels.

All guests receive a breakfast hamper upon arrival, full of local Barossa produce, as well as complimentary bottles of Vineyard Road wine and a selection of chocolates from Barossa Valley Chocolate Company.

More details at 

Polar bears get their special day under the spotlight

Just about every food and drink has its own special day on the calendar, but I must admit I was ignorant of the fact that February 27 is International Polar Bear Day. 

It is the time of year that polar bear mums and their newborn cubs snuggle together in snow dens across the Arctic; and is aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by polar bears in a changing world.

With more than 60% of the world's polar bears found in Canada, many Australians are longing for the time when they can fulfill their lifelong dream of safely encountering polar bears in the wild. 


It is easy to view polar bears throughout Nanavut, as all but one of the territory's communities are located by the ocean. Autumn is the best time to see them, as they gather on the shorelines waiting for sea ice to form.

Polar bears, or 'Nanuq' in Inuktitut, dwell on the floe edge, hunting for seals and other prey. Connect with a polar bear expert in a community like Pond Inlet, Resolute Bay, Arviat or Hall Beach. These guides know exactly how close you can get, and where you're likely to find them. 

Churchill, Manitoba

In Churchill, Manitoba, travel by land is probably the most common way to see the lords of the Arctic. Here you can climb aboard one of the all-terrain vehicles that stand over three metres tall and you'll feel like you're on top of the world. Check out: Frontiers NorthLazy Bear ExpeditionsGreat White Bear Tours

Alternatively, a smaller scale, open-air, low-impact tundra vehicle, called a 'rhino', works well to navigate the boggy lowlands and tidal flats and gets you closer to your goal of seeing bears.

Churchill is the only place in the world that offers a polar bear walking tour. 

Fun Facts

  1. Polar bears are the largest land carnivore: Males can weigh more than 700kg.
  2. Polar bears aren't actually white: Polar bears have black skin and hollow, colourless hair. Their hollow fur reflects light and traps the sun's heat to help keep them warm.
  3. Their movements might look slow and cumbersome but don't be fooled: Polar bears can reach speeds of up to 40kph on land and around 10kph in water.
  4. Shrinking sea ice is their biggest threat: The bears rely on sea ice as a platform to hunt prey like seals. Rising temperatures is causing sea ice to melt earlier.
  5. Click HERE to watch a live polar bear cam in Wapusk National Park, Manitoba.


Sunday 14 February 2021

Is Britain about to botch Covid quarantine?

The British Government has made a mighty hash of dealing with Covid-19. 

Is it now poised to mess up the hotel quarantine program it has imposed several months too late? 

British rules on quarantine hotels for travellers arriving from Covid "red list" countries are far less stringent than those enforced in Australia, the BBC reports.

For a start, those entering Britain from Monday will serve 11 nights in quarantine instead of 15 in Australia - and those in quarantine will be allowed out of their hotel rooms to stroll around. 

The UK government said its hotel quarantine measures were "in line with those in other countries" - which is clearly not true.

At least the penalties will be harsh with those who fail to follow the rules facing fines of up to £10,000, and anyone who lies on their passenger locator forms facing up to 10 years in jail.

Australia's system, introduced early last year, is seen as among the best internationally but as a result of repeated outbreaks among staff and guests, and the arrival of new variants of Covid, the rules in Australia have been tightened and are under review again.

UK Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the system being introduced this week was "very strong" and its "standards are among the strongest in the world".

In Australia, people staying in quarantine hotels are not allowed to leave their rooms. 

This follows incidents in the early months of the pandemic when security guards and hotel guests were seen to mingle, and were blamed for spreading the virus.

One of these outbreaks led to a surge in cases that forced Melbourne into a five-month lockdown.

Authorities in Britain have issued a conflicting array of messages about policy. 

The upshot is that travellers will be allowed out of their rooms for a limited set of exemptions, including exercise. Smoking, which at one stage had been described as a legitimate reason for going outside, will not qualify.