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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.


Friday 28 May 2021

France further shuts the door to UK travellers

It used to be so easy for British folk wanting to travel to France. Hop on the Eurostar and a couple of hours later you were enjoying a pastis in a chic Paris café. 

Then along came Brexit, and Covid-19. All of a sudden Brits are persona non grata

Now, due to fears over the spread of the Indian variant of Covid-19, France will subject all travellers coming from the UK to quarantine for seven days.

The move takes effect from May 31 and travellers must be able to prove their reason for travel is essential.

This will likely be limited to reasons of health, family emergencies or business, the Travel Mole website reports.

England's Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty said the Indian variant of Covid is expected to become the dominant variant in the country.

"There is a new situation with the progression of the so-called Indian variant in the United Kingdom. We will set up compulsory isolation for people coming from the UK," French Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

It is a blow to the struggling tourism sector as France welcomed about 13 million Britons each year pre-Covid.

Although they will be allowed to self-isolate at a residence of their own choice, there will be a fine of up to €1,500 for anyone caught breaking the quarantine.

Other countries, including Germany and Austria have this week imposed tighter restrictions on travel from the UK. 

Thursday 27 May 2021

Grab a case of grenache and help the homeless

It is a terrible indictment on our federal and state governments that a winery should have to release a wine aimed at helping reduce homelessness - but probably not a surprise.

Family-owned Yalumba today released its Homefullness Grenache in collaboration with Forage Built to raise funds to help combat homelessness.

Fifty percent of funds from each pack sold of the the Yalumba x Forage Built Homefullness Grenache 2017 will go to Forage Built, an organisation that helps the homeless. 

The aim is to raise $90,000 to fund the build of a Forage Built Calyx – a transportable, eco-friendly space for someone to call their own, store belongings and sleep safely.

The first Calyx pod prototype was unveiled at Tasting Australia earlier this month, sparking feedback and conversation around homelessness. The design of the pod has been in consultation with those who it is intended for. 

Yalumba marketing manager Jacinta Gibson said challenges faced by the hospitality industry over the past year have been unprecedented. Statistics show that 272,816 people in the industry were laid off during 2020 and the figures continue to rise following the end of Job Keeper. Many people are now experiencing homelessness for the first time.

“We have had a longstanding relationship with Scott and Justin at Forage Supply Co., as well as a long term partnership with the Hutt St Centre," Gibson said. "When we heard about the Forage Built initiative, we were excited to get on board and help raise the necessary funds.” 

Forage Built’s mission is to build a community of modular housing, where people can begin to safely connect with others, access support and services and eventually find their way back into permanent housing.

Scott Rogasch from Forage Built said he was thrilled to have Yalumba supporting the initiative, and the partnership with Tasting Australia was a natural fit to help spread the word.

“We are working with South Australian businesses to create small cohort villages in areas of need, providing the necessary support to transition people out of homelessness,” he said. 

“Housing alone is not a sufficient solution to break the devastating cycle of homelessness that many people experience. Forage Built takes a more integrated approach, bringing together housing solutions, community support programs, volunteers, private and public funding and meaningful work opportunities to help solve an increasing problem in Australia.” 

Yalumba x Forage Built Homefullness Grenache 2017 packs of 12 bottles are available to purchase from the Yalumba website and Wine Room for $120.

Established in 1849, Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family owned winery. See

Blinded by the lights: How to enjoy Sydney's Vivid festival from the water

There can be few better places to enjoy Sydney's Vivid Festival light displays than from a boat on Sydney Harbour. 

Captain Cook Cruises has released a program of Vivid Sydney cruises taking in the key precincts of Darling Harbour, The Rocks and Circular Quay including Sydney Harbour Bridge and the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Running from August 6-28, Vivid Sydney returns to light up the winter nights. 

Experiencing Vivid Sydney from the water can add an extra dimension, with a kaleidoscope of light reflecting on the water in every direction. 

Two of the hottest new releases for 2021 are onboard Sydney's new 'Harbour Bar & Restaurant'.

Cruisers can experience sitting in one of the comfy new lounges as they laze back and enjoy a range of cocktails and live music with the lights of Vivid as a backdrop. 

Guests can add a little luxe and a lot of bubbles when you upgrade to the Vivid Mumm Harbour Bar, including 1.5 hours of bottomless Mumm Champagne and a seafood platter to share. 

The Vivid Harbour Bar prices range from $39 for cruise only, up to $99 per person including Champagne and seafood.

Vivid Sydney's dinner cruises are back as well with family-friendly, 1.5-hour dinners departing at the earlier time of 5pm. Options range from $59 for a two-course menu, up to $199 for a deluxe four-course degustation menu with paired wines.

The 7pm dinner departures give passengers three hours on the water with viewing windows providing spectacular viewing from every table while guests enjoy a superb dining experience. Prices range from $99 for a three-course menu, up to $259 for a deluxe six-course degustation menu with paired wines. 

For those short on time, one-hour Vivid Light cruises depart up to three times nightly between 5.45pm and 8.15pm. Prices start from $29 per person and are a great option for family and social groups.

 “Captain Cook Cruises has been proud to partner with Destination NSW to provide on-water experiences for Vivid Sydney since its inception in 2009,” said Captain Cook Cruises' general manager Nick Lester. 

“There is nothing better than seeing the world's best harbour and its iconic landmarks illuminated at night from the water.” 

All Captain Cook Cruises on-water Vivid Sydney experiences depart from Darling Harbour, King St Wharf 1. 

Vivid Sydney is an award-winning Destination NSW initiative, in conjunction with the Love Sydney campaign. 

For information and bookings call (02) 9206 1111 or visit


Wednesday 26 May 2021

Ahead of the pack: a Barossa wine range that shines with food

Usually when I taste a range of wines from one producer, one or two stand out as being of particular quality, or outstanding value. 

Not so at a recent tasting with Alex Head from Head Wines. Not only did just about every wine shine; they were also all excellent value - from entry level to cellaring prospects. 

From the black-fruited Head 2020 Heart and Home Barossa Dry Red for around $25 retail to his Côte-Rôtie tributes, each wine I tried offered attention to detail and balance. 

Head says the Rhone Valley is both his "obsession and inspiration".

He qualified in chemistry at Sydney University before working for importers, retailers and fine wine producers; including Tyrrell's and Torbreck.  

In 2006 he started Head Wines, with an unashamed Rhone accent to his production; using fruit from the Eden (80%) and Barrosa valleys. 

In contrast to some of his Barossa cohorts, Head says his house style is "one of elegance, freshness, balance and purity of fruit." 

The focus is on vines that can be early picked and produce dried herb and subtle styles using larger-format, less intrusive, oak. 

"We've got enough big wines in the Barossa; we tend to operate at the other end of the spectrum," Head says. "It is about not dominating the food at the table, and making wines that are accessible." 

All the vineyards from which he sources fruit are farmed sustainably using organic principles where possible. Minimal sulfur and other additions are used during the whole wine-making process and bottling is without fining or filtration. 

He makes over 6,000 cases a year, distributed by Red & White in Australia, and says: "I’ve been fortunate enough to find unique, elevated sites in the Barossa where the geology and climate allows me to explore my take on these Old World styles."

The first-release Heart and Home cabernet and blend offers exceptional everyday drinking value with its fruit-driven richness and easily accessible style with some dry tannins.

For under $30 retail you'll find the "H" red and rosé wines (above); prime among them a 2019 GSM, my pick with outstanding drinkability, and a 2018 shiraz, but also a montepulciano. Dinner party worthy.

Next step up, the 2018 Brunette ($69) and Blonde ($54) shirazes - as close to Côte-Rôtie as you'll find in Australia and from special sites; designed for cellaring. 

Also the Old Vine Shiraz and Grenache (from 50 and 100 year old vines in traditional Barossa style) and the idiosyncratic The Contrarian ($38). 

This challenges Barossa orthodoxies with fruit from vineyards in the Eden Valley which develop flavour at lower than usual alcohols and show ripeness in their stems.

"We use a different medium for fermentation in cement; which holds the acidity and tannins in a fresher light," says Head. "We mature (instead of age) the wine in oak that is 10 times larger than a traditional barrel and bottle a little earlier too."

A step up again is the 2019 Ancestor Vine Grenache ($98), made in tiny quantities.

All the wines are balanced and food friendly. 

"Big wine is easy, but it is also lazy," Head says. "We want to give people wines with personality that complement dishes, not overpower them."

He recommends pairing his wines with French cuisine (no surprise there), Italian food, and, more surprisingly, Japanese dishes. The GSM and The Contrarian are his tips to pair with Japanese foods.  

For details see 


Tuesday 25 May 2021

A brief chance to get up close and personal with dwarf minke whales

For just a couple of months each two months every year - in June and July - Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the only place in the world where you can swim with dwarf minke whales.

Dwarf minke whale diving and snorkelling trips from Cairns to the Ribbon Reefs north of Port Douglas are a highlight of the Great Barrier Reef calendar, happening at the peak of the whales' annual migration.

Just a handful of tour boats operate under a special licence offering people the chance to interact with the little whales. Interactions are purely dictated by the minkes, with boat engines cut when a pod is spotted. 

Liveaboard expeditions to the Ribbon Reefs only depart in June and July, typically for three to seven days, with just Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, Divers Den and Pro Dive operating this year and all three, along with Spirit of Freedom, returning in 2022.  

Calypso Reef Cruises and Quicksilver's Silversonic take divers and snorkellers on day trips from Port Douglas to the Ribbon Reefs and both are permitted to allow passengers to enter the water with the dwarf minke whales if they encounter them.

F5rankland Islands Reef Cruises offer adventure snorkel safaris which regularly see manta rays in May as well as the clownfish, angelfish and green sea turtles seen year round. 

During July and August passengers travelling to the Great Barrier Reef often see humpback whales playing in the warm waters during their migration north. 

Cairns Whale Watching Tours offers dedicated whale watching tours from July 17 to August 20, which can also include two hours on Fitzroy Island where the whales may be seen breaching. 

For more information go to 

Monday 24 May 2021

Meet a beer that ticks all the dietary boxes

Dietary requirements, allergies and intolerances can be a nightmare for restaurants and bars. 

In addition to vegetarian and vegan requirements there are guests who need gluten-free food and drinks, who are allergic to dairy products or perhaps on a Paleo diet, or with religious, or perhaps cultural, imperatives. 

Winemakers make a point nowadays of saying if their drinks are vegan-friendly and now Tribe Brewers are doing their bit to help coeliacs.

Earlier this month was a celebration of International Coeliac Day; the perfect toast being Wilde Beers newest release: Wilde Crisp Lager.

This beer features pure sorghum to ensure it is 100% gluten free (GF), as well as being all natural and vegan friendly, as well as low carb. It is endorsed by Coeliac Australia and certified FODMAP friendly.

The Wilde brewing team, based out of Tribe Breweries' headquarters in Goulburn, tweaked, tasted, and refined their beer recipes.

“Our brewers have been working around the clock to create the recipe and find a unique way of processing the sorghum in the beer, in order to improve its mouthfeel, maintain head retention and yet still keep a crisp and refreshing taste," says Roland Thiemann, head of innovation at Tribe Breweries.

"Carefully selected kettle hops improve the flavour, so you are left with a clean and refreshing drop that tastes just as good as its gluten-based counterparts.

“Sorghum is frequently overlooked by beer producers, because of the difficulties to brew with it. What many people don’t realise, however, is that sorghum actually has many great health benefits and is highly nutritious with good amount of iron, but also, it is the better choice for our farmers!

"Since sorghum is drought resistant and demands significantly less water than other grains, it makes it the perfect base from which to brew Wilde Crisp Lager.”

Wilde Gluten Free Crisp Lager is available from leading retailers including First Choice and Liquorland, at an RRP of $21 per six-pack. 

# It tastes pretty good, too. Fresh, crisp, dry lager with plenty of citrusy zing. If you enjoy rieslings then you’ll like this. Great with honey-roasted nuts 


Do you trust your airline to tell you the truth?

Public relations can be a tricky business, particularly when you spin a press release and get caught out. 

That happened today to budget airline Ryanair, which released a press release that omitted nearly all of the most important facts surrounding a major story. 

The tale concerns a Ryanair flight from Athens bound for Vilnius in Lithuania withy 170 people on board. The flight was was forcibly diverted to Minsk in Belarus yesterday after flying over Belarusian air space.

Once it landed, Belarus authorities removed and placed under arrest dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who, media reports suggest, could now face the death penalty in that country.

The plane was diverted after Belarus air traffic authorities alerted the pilot to a "bomb threat". 

No bomb was found but Protasevich - a noted critic of the Belarus regime - was detained after Ryanair flight FR4978 was pulled from its route - accompanied by a Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet - and ordered to land n Minsk. 

The flight resumed after a delay of seven hours in Minsk.

Ryanair released the press release below; completely omitting the fact that a passenger was ordered off the plane - and that four Russian passengers apparently - and mysteriously - left the flight of their own accord. 

Ryanair did say "the flight crew were “notified by Belarus [air traffic control] of a potential security threat on board” and instructed to divert to Minsk. 

 “Nothing untoward was found and authorities cleared the aircraft to depart together with passengers and crew after approximately seven hours on the ground in Minsk,” the company stated. 

Ryanair said it has “notified the relevant national and European safety and security agencies”.

The Belarus Government, led by authoritarian Alexander Lukashenko, has not commented on the incident but the affair has caused global condemnation of Belarus. 

Saturday 22 May 2021

What a week for Hunter husband and wife wine stars

What a week for the Margan family from Margan Wines and Restaurant in the Hunter Valley.

First Lisa Margan graduated from the WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits course.

Then her husband, Andrew Margan, was named Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year at the Hunter Legends Awards.

He was previously named 2015 Viticulturalist of the Year and has consistently produced outstanding wines year after year with Margan recognised as a 5-Star winery by James Halliday every year since 2009.

Since planting their own small vineyard in 1991 with a focus on environmental sustainability, Margan is now a business that operates a successful winery, cellar door, restaurant and events business in the Broke-Fordwich sub region.

“What I like to think I bring to the table in this ultra-competitive wine world is the important connection between growing our own grapes and making our own wine," Margan said. 

"Over more than 40 vintages I have developed my own unique style of winemaking. I make wines of structure, balance, elegance and texture. Wines that speak of their variety and the soil in which they are grown. And importantly, wines with their own sense of place.” 

Margan, well-known for harvesting young talent, also saw winemaker Nicole Wilson named Riedel 2021 Hunter Valley Rising Star of the Year. 

The Rising Star award recognises any person associated with the wine or tourism industry as well as young achievers consistently working for the benefit of the Hunter Valley as a destination. 

Margan Wines & Restaurant will host several events during the upcoming Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival, including Barrel Hal Masterclasses on June 12 and 13, a Mini Growers Family Fun Day on June 29 and 30 and the Original 100 Metre Meal every Friday to Sunday. 

Also check out the Grape & Graze program every Monday to Thursday and Art of Aperitivo evenings on Friday and Sunday evenings. 

I was lucky enough to lunch at Margan a couple of weeks ago and can report it remains one of the Hunter's premier wining and dining experiences with excellent food - much of it sourced from the family's own vegetable garden - and service. 

There is also the chance to try favourites like semillon, shiraz and chardonnay alongside some different varietals from albarino to barbera and mourvedre, and even a delicious riesling that Andrew Margan made in Germany.

Asian hotel group ups the ante in Europe

There is a huge difference between Asian hospitality and European hospitality but Asian-based Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is upping the ante with a range of new branded hotels in Europe.

Anantara will open its first luxury property in the Netherlands later this year: Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky Amsterdam.

Located in Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam, the existing property will be re-branded from the NH Collection Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky.

The hotel will receive a soft refurbishment, including some of the guest rooms and suites, the garden, and will have a new spa and gym.

The 402-key Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky will include a two-bedroom presidential suite and a royal suite, overlooking the Royal Palace of Amsterdam.

The building itself dates back to 1866.

Dillip Rajakarier, Group CEO Minor International, parent company of Anantara, said, "This historic hotel will be a fantastic addition to the Anantara portfolio when it joins later this year after enhancements to the property and represents an exciting milestone for the brand as the first in northern Europe."

Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas will continue its strategic expansion in Europe with the re-brand of two well-known hotels in Italy and Hungary: Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome and Anantara New York Palace Budapest.

Its European portfolio currently consists of Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort on the southern coast of Portugal and Anantara Villa Padierna Palace in Marbella, Spain, as well as the Marker Hotel in Dublin, Ireland.

The Thai-based group is probably best known to Australians for properties including the Anantara Riverside in Bangkok and the Layan Resort in Phuket. 

Friday 21 May 2021

How very artistic: wine region trail sets new records

A record 140 artists from Busselton to Witchcliffe south of Margaret River will participate in the eighth Margaret River Region Open Studios from September 11-26.

As well as popular art forms such as painting, ceramics, sculpting, illustration, photography, jewellery and glass, this year's Open Studios will also feature a number of more unusual creators including a milliner, hand-woven rug maker, two tattoo artists and a handcrafted book maker.

Margaret River Region Open Studios Chairman Jim Davies said there was much anticipation for this year's event following the success of the 2020 event.

“We thought all the records were smashed last year – visits to studios up 50%, largest-ever art sales and over $7 million in economic benefit generated, but we've already broken one record this year before the event has started: attracting our highest number of artists to Open Studios since we started eight years ago.

 “The scope of artists is hugely diverse so art lovers will be able to plan a stimulating and creative time in the Margaret River region to visit the fascinating homes and studios of their favourite artists and discover some new talent, too.

“Renowned favourites Leon Pericles (above), Rebecca Cool, Rachel Coad, Lauren Wilhelm, Christian Fletcher, Fi Wilkie, Gerry Reilly (extreme top) and Ian Mutch are returning, and we have more than 40 artists new to the event which also makes it exciting for visitors who come back each year.

“We know from our visitor surveys that most people spend three to four days visiting a variety of studios from in Busselton, Dunsborough, Yallingup, Cowaramup, Margaret River and everywhere in between, so my advice is to book in your accommodation early. The event covers 16 days so there's plenty of opportunity to enjoy region's art and springtime beauty.”

The event website will soon feature all of the 2021 Margaret River Region Open Studios artists and free event guide will be available to collect at Visitor Centres, Jacksons Drawing Supplies and tourism venues down south. 

A brilliant chance to combine some wine tastings with art stops.

# Margaret River Region Open Studios is supported by the Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural industries, Tourism Western Australia, City of Busselton, Shire of Margaret River, Jacksons Drawing Supplies, Private Properties, Hemsley Patterson and arts partner Art Gallery of WA.

Thursday 20 May 2021

Three generations make Scarborough Wines a family affair

For a real family wine tasting experience, head for Scarborough Wines in the Hunter Valley. 

Not only are three generations of the Scarborough family actively involved, but the tasting room is in the old family homestead on Gillards Road in Pokolbin. 

The recently renovated facility is set up for groups large and small and you'll almost certainly meet a Scarborough, whether that be founders Ian and Merralea Scarborough, winemaker son Jerome or his sister, marketing manager Sally Scarborough. 

There is also a point of difference here. While most Hunter producers are best known for their semillons and shirazes, the Scarborough family is probably most famous for its range of stellar chardonnays. 

Visitors to the cellar door also get the chance to try "The Obsessive" range, named after Ian Scarborough, who is known for his attention to detail in both the vineyards and the winery. This range comprises a semillon, a chardonnay, and a shiraz ($30-$60).

The family are prime movers in the Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival to be held throughout June and share their recipe cards with cellar door visitors, from Ian Scarborough's favourite pasta dish to cellar door manager Merralea's pate. 

Ian and Merrelea Scarborough are long-time Hunter residents, having moved from South Australia in the 1970s, where Ian (below) worked with the legendary Peter Lehmann at Saltrams. He then worked at Tyrrell's before he purchased the Gillards Road property at the end of the decade.

Their decision to make chardonnay their flagship coincided with the variety's boom - and the first vintage was made in 1987  in the garage of the house where the cellar door stands today.

Jerome (below) worked in various roles and from 1996-2000, he was Lindemans Hunter vineyard manager, before joining Scarborough Wine as general manager. In 2005, Jerome assumed the winemaking role under Ian’s guidance.

Keeping matters in the family, Jerome is married to viticulturist Liz Riley, who consults to several producers across the region.

Liz and Jeremy have two children, Callum and Hannah, both of whom are learning the family business.

In addition to the family's home vineyard, they are also own the 100-acre Sunshine vineyard, part of the Lindemans property with fine, deep sandy soils that suit semillon vines. 

There are a range of paid tasting experiences available at cellar door (Thursdays to Mondays), very helpful staff and some great views. It pays to book for curated tastings, which can be matched with a cheese platter. Phone 1300 888 545. Nice people. Excellent experience.

Matriarch Merralea Scarborough was inducted into the Hall of Fame with the Hunter Valley Tourism Industry 2021 Living Legend Award this week and Scarborough Wine Co. was also named Wine Selectors Cellar Door of the Year along with receiving the Hunter Valley Innovation of the Year award for a unique approach to tastings introduced during Covid-19. Liz Riley, Scarborough’s viticulturalist, was also awarded the Hunter Valley Award for Excellence. 

Scarborough Wine Company, 179 Gillards Road, Pokolbin, NSW.   


Wednesday 19 May 2021

The perfect winter wine date in the Adelaide Hills

Have you been meaning to pencil in a wine date in the beautiful Adelaide Hills?

Why not jot the weekend of July 23-25 into your diary for the Winter Reds in the Adelaide Hills festival.

This annual celebration sees wineries open up their cellar doors, light their fire pits, crack open their special wines and embrace winter.

This year’s theme is ‘What’s Your Red?’ – with wineries creating special experiences that champion the best of their red wines.

There will be tutored tastings, parties, lunches of seasonal produce paired with wines, and a host of other events, all packed into one weekend.

“Winter Reds is one of our most popular events of the year – South Aussies and those from further afield can’t wait to rug up, head up to the Hills, enjoy the fresh air and cosy up by a log fire with a glass of their favourite red," says Jared Stringer, the president of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region.

"After a slightly more subdued event last year due to restrictions, we’re looking forward to a weekend of fun times and great wines to fight off the winter blues.”

Details of specific events will be confirmed in June and shared at

Photo: Ben McMahon Images

Crazed American terrorises fellow airline passengers

You can count on Americans for bizarre, often dangerous behaviour, but an airline passenger on board a JetBlue flight from New York to San Francisco this week set new standards of mania.

The man refused to wear a mask, threatened other passengers, groped a woman and was seen "snorting a white substance."

Mark Anthony Scerbo, of Mechanicville, New York, was arrested for drug possession in Minneapolis after JetBlue flight 915 from New York City to San Francisco made an unscheduled stop in Minnesota to kick him off the flight.

It was alleged Scerbo refused to wear a mask so he could snort cocaine.

A bag filled with a white substance was confiscated by cabin crew after the man was "acting erratically and aggressively" towards cabin crew and other passengers, the airline said in a statement.

"The flight was met by law enforcement, the customer was removed and the flight continued on to San Francisco," JetBlue added.

In a cell phone video recorded aboard the flight, an attendant could be heard telling passengers that a passenger allegedly touched another passenger, refused to wear a mask and made repeated trips to the bathroom.

He was also seen making stabbing gestures toward other passengers.

"It was decided that all four flight attendants felt uncomfortable with what was going on," he said. "This was the closest place to go, so we as a team made the decision to come here."

Passengers alleged the man also yelled racial slurs. It is believed that he is known to police.

Tuesday 18 May 2021

Hotels predicted to drive Melbourne's economic revival

                                                Novotel & ibis Styles, Melbourne Airport

A new generation of international hotels will be a key driver for the revival of Melbourne tourism prior to the re-opening of international travel, Simon McGrath, Chief Executive Officer of Accor Pacific, Australia’s largest hotel operator, has predicted.

While corporate and non-leisure travel to Melbourne has dipped over the past year, impacted by the closure of local and international borders, and is likely to remain subdued for the next 12 months, McGrath forecasts that leisure travel will shape a recovery.

“Melbourne is one of the world’s greatest cities and, over the next two years, we are bringing eight hotels and 1,583 rooms to the city," he said. 

"That is an investment of over $700 million by a variety of owners. This will create around 600 jobs, while boosting the appeal of the city and the quality of accommodation available.

“As well as the new Mövenpick hotel, which will open in June, we will be opening new hotels which include SO/ (shown below), 25hours, Mercure and Peppers - before the end of 2023. 

"These new properties will complement our current portfolio of 43 hotels in Melbourne, offering even greater choice for travellers.

”People love to visit Melbourne for its world-leading events calendar – for its sport, arts and culture. Sporting events such as the Australian Open, the AFL and Formula One are also tourism events, attracting thousands into the city. Even without international travel, events can contribute to the city making a serious tourism comeback.”

Accor is Australia’s leading operator of hotels, and is set to unveil the second of its Mövenpick branded hotels in Australia next month, in a prime location in the Melbourne central business district. 

Mövenpick Hotel Melbourne on Spencer follows the debut of the brand in Hobart earlier this year and brings to the Victorian capital a design-focussed hotel that captures the vibrancy of Melbourne’s dining and fashion district.

The Mövenpick opening follows the addition in 2019 of the lifestyle-focused Hotel Chadstone, part of Accor’s MGallery collection. 

The proposed Accor hotel opening schedule:  Mövenpick Melbourne on Spencer, June 2021 (172 rooms); Mercure Doncaster, 2022 (181 rooms); Novotel & ibis Styles, Melbourne Airport 2022/23 (464 rooms); SO/ Melbourne, 2023 (288 rooms); 25hours Melbourne, 2023 (203 rooms);  Peppers Richmond, 2023 (83);  Mercure La Trobe, 2023 (192 rooms). 

A wine weekend with a serious but fun difference

Do you love a glass or two of wine? Fancy the idea of a gourmet weekend? But cringe at the idea of being lectured on clonal variations and diurnal rhythms. 

Two of the most knowledgeable wine people in Victoria are planning a special wine weekend in September. They promise it will be both educational and fun. 

Join Caroline Bailey & Dr Kimberley Pearce in the Macedon Ranges for their Wine Retreat from September 10-12 at Lancemore Macedon Ranges (above). 

The duo wanted to develop a wine retreat combining the best parts of a wine industry trip without the pretense. 

They have created guided tastings and course notes, wine games and discussions, local produce-focused menus, and made time to relax in a de luxe setting to immerse their guests within the Macedon Ranges. 

Local wine pro Caroline Bailey (below) opened Woodend Wine Store in 2011 having earlier worked as a winemaker at Bass Phillip and Hanging Rock and in the trade at Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar and Florentino’s. 

Kim Pearce started her wine marketing practice
 Wine Brain in 2014 and has worked for Levantine Hill, Royal Melbourne Wine Show and Melbourne Food & Wine Festival as well as several vintages at her family’s Domaine Levin in the Loire Valley. 

The duo will guide tastings of over 20 wines valued at $3,000+ and compare chardonnay, pinot noir and Champagne with wines from local producers including Bindi Winegrowers, Curly Flat, Granite Hills, Mitchell Harris and Wilimee. 

Imports will include Domaine Leroy, Bernhard Huber, Taupenot-Merme, Heymann-Löwenstein, Jacques Prieur, Champagne Lacourte-Godbillon, and Bollinger.

The duo promise a lively wine panel discussion, followed by a five-course tasting menu dinner with local winemakers Michael Dhillon and Ben Rankin and importer Patrick Walsh (Cellarhand), as well as a barrel tasting at Lyons Will with Renata Morello. 

The weekend (two-nights, three-days) of wine immersion includes accommodation at Lancemore Macedon Ranges with all meals. It is limited to 30 guests with early bird pricing until June 30 at  $1,975 per person. 

Monday 17 May 2021

Try a little kindness with your glass of wine

Choosing a bottle of wine is more confusing than ever. There have never been more option to choose from - and now wine drinkers are being encouraged to do their bit for the planet when they buy a bottle or two. 

From donating to save endangered cheetahs to helping plant native trees and shrubs, wine producers - both big and small - are pulling at your heartstrings.

Take Kimbolton, a family winery established back in 1947 in Langhorne Creek. 

Their 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (a nifty little drink for $28) is adorned with a lovely picture of a cheetah with a note that each purchase of the cabernet sauvignon helps support Zoos SA, a charity helping to keep alive the cheetah population - of which there are only 7,000 left in the wild. 

Monarto Safari Park works with cheetahs both in Australia and Africa. 

Or take Banrock Station (above), which has committed to planting 100,00 native trees and shrubs each year in partnership with Landcare Australia. 

Over the past 20 years, Banrock Station - known for offering great value - have been committed to environmental causes, contributing over $6 million to projects that help conserve the planet.

"Supporting biodiversity and animal habitats, clean air and water, while responding to the impcats of changing climate and deforestation, the new initiative will see thousands of trees and shrubs planted each year," the press release says. 

Dr Shane Norrish, CEO at Landcare Australia, says: "We have worked closely with Banrock Station for many years on projects in Australia."

Which is a really good thing.

Other wineries partnering with charities to do good include Taylors, who are helping conserve seahorses; Hidden Sea, which has pledged to remove the equivalent of 10 plastic bottles from the ocean for every bottle sold and Shingleback with its new "The Bio Project" range of wines for Coles, aimed at boosting native revegetation. 



Sunday 16 May 2021

Sydney set to sizzle with new winter festival

Sydney has a new festival to mark the winter solstice.

Think live music paired with stargazing at the Sydney Observatory. winemakers at Aria showcasing their wares, or country music in Newtown.

How about a street party in South Eveleigh (I think that used to be called Redfern) with Kylie Kwong; an ice rink at Darling Harbour and interactive art installations and dance performances in Chinatown laneways?

Sydney Solstice aims to showcase Sydney's hospitality, music and creative industries and thriving night-time economy (it is not that long ago, of course, that Sydney shut down soon after dusk).

The Sydney Solstice event will be held from June 8-20 with over 200 different experiences at Sydney restaurants, pubs, precincts, art galleries, museums, and live music venues across the CBD, Darling Harbour, Newtown, Oxford Street and surrounds.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the event program was set to stimulate the Sydney visitor economy during the winter period by encouraging Sydneysiders and visitors to get out and explore the city.

“The NSW Government remains committed to the revitalisation of Sydney CBD and surrounds and we are thrilled at the response and interest from local Sydney businesses with more than 150 venues and hundreds of artists, chefs and performers participating in Sydney Solstice," he said.

“We anticipate Sydney Solstice will attract many locals and visitors to Sydney, and particularly, the four key precincts activated as part of the program. This is incredibly positive for so many businesses that were affected by Covid-19 restrictions to help support their recovery, as well as the community, who are looking for new ways to rediscover the Harbour City and restore their social calendar to its pre-Covid heights."

The program is available here, or go to

The "must do" guide to Tasmania's East Coast

With world-class beaches, national parks and myriad gourmet distractions, the East Coast of Tasmania is where many of the locals choose to take their holidays.

There are several icon destinations here: Maria Island with its furry locals, spectacularly beautiful countryside and, of course, the Bay of Fires with pristine white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and orange lichen-covered rocks.

Freycinet National Park is known for its granite peaks and spectacular scenery, while Wineglass Bay has been named as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 

Freycinet National Park was founded in 1916 and is one of Tasmania’s oldest parks. Add some adventure by taking an ATV tour, paddling in a kayak or snorkelling into an underwater paradise.

Townships like Coles Bay and Bicheno, sleepy during the off season, come to life in the summer months as local descend on their holiday homes, known locally as “shacks” even though many are luxurious.

Throw in destinations like Freycinet Vineyard, Milton, Spring Vale, Priory Ridge, Craigie Knowe, Gala Estate. MacLean Bay and Devil's Corner (about to undergo a massive expansion) and there is plenty to keep wine lovers happy, although local seafood is also a huge drawcard.

Check out the crustaceans at the Lobster Shack overlooking the Gulch on the Bicheno waterfront (the chowders are also outstanding) and be prepared to line-up for the outstanding fish and chips at Tasmanian Coastal Seafoods. Well worth the wait. 

Mussels and oysters are harvested fresh daily at Freycinet Marine Farm.  


The East Coast is one of the fast-emerging regions in Tasmania and new vineyards are being planted all the time. Boomer Creek and Overtime are among the newest cellar doors on a strip that includes several bigger names.

Mel’s Kitchen at Spring Vale, Milton and Devil’s Corner all have on-site restaurants.

In Bicheno, The Farm Shed, aka the East Coast Wine Centre, always has several local wines available for tasting, or by the glass, and sells over 50 wines from more than 20 regional producers, large and small. 

The experienced team of Subi Mead and Helen Bain, formerly of Swansea's Left Bank, pour the wines and tell the story of the vineyards in question. 


The coastline stretches 220km with some of the most scenic, coast-hugging roads imaginable.

Many visitors saddle up and go mountain biking. Whether you like to shred some serious downhill, enjoy some cross-country flow or just want a fun day on the trails with the family, St Helens Mountain Bike Trails has an experience for everyone.

Sometimes walking is the best way to discover something wonderful in the bush, maybe take a stroll before bathing in the crystal blue waterholes in Douglas Aspley National Park. 

A hike to St Columba Falls – one of Tasmania’s tallest waterfalls with a drop of over 90 metres – is on a track suitable for most ages.

History lovers can follow the trails of the convict settlers by taking a bush walk along the old convict road, which runs beside the Prosser River to the ruins of the Paradise Probation Station or stop off at Spiky Bridge and learn why it was built with such an unusual design. 

Peaceful Kelvedon Beach is much loved by shell collectors. The cobbled rock patches and sands are littered with beautiful shells to collect. While you are there, be sure to check out the old boatshed, which stands solitary on this exposed strip of beach.

For golfers there are courses at St Helens, Scamander, Fingal, St Mary’s, Bicheno, Coles Bay, Swansea and Orford.  


Visitors to the Freycinet Peninsula have the chance to experience the national park at its finest with a new five-and-a-half-hour guided walk starting and finishing at Freycinet Lodge, a fabulous spot to kick back and escape from life for a while.

The Freycinet Walking Tour, for a maximum of eight guests, starts with a gentle 45-minute climb to the Wineglass Bay viewing platform.

From there, walkers descend to Wineglass Bay beach for a up of tea before heading west to the peninsula along the Isthmus Track to Hazard's Beach, an impressive stretch of largely empty beach. 

Guests will learn about the unique animals that live there and the peninsula's history, including the pink granite peaks of the Hazards Mountains.

After a gourmet picnic lunch at the southernmost point of Hazards Beach, the Freycinet Aqua Taxi will pick guests up off the sand for the 30-minute journey back to the Freycinet Lodge jetty.

The walk is offered by Experiential Tasmania and provides a qualified and experienced walking guide, day packs, rain jackets, a water bottle, thermos, lunch, morning tea, sunscreen and water.

Guests need a reasonable level of fitness and must be comfortable walking between eight and nine kilometres carrying a lightweight day pack along beaches, rocky headlands and steps.


Natureworld, at Bicheno, is a fabulous one-stop shop to get up close with Australian native animals, including wombats, quolls, bandicoots, kangaroos and wallabies. 

The stars of the show, however, are Tasmania's own fiery indigenous creatures: Tasmanian Devils.

Natureworld is surrounded by lagoons, forests and ocean - and many of the animals have been rescued and are being returned back to full health. 

Three times a day, a handler comes out to explain to visitors the history of the Tassie Devil - and its prodigious carnivorous appetite. 


Saffire is the standout luxury resort on the coast, an all-inclusive resort in a spectacular setting. Packages include breakfast, lunch and dinner including selected beverages, complimentary mini bar and exclusive local experiences.

The new Coastal Pavilions at Freycinet Lodge (recently purchased by NRMA) are just a little bit fabulous – and more affordable. Freycinet Lodge (below) is an eco-lodge with a superb waterfront setting.

St Helens Waterfront Holiday Park is ideal for families, while Piermont Retreat, south of Swansea is a long-time favourite.

For those that prefer to camp, there are terrific locations at Freycinet National Park, Maria Island and the Bay of Fires.


# Take a ferry from Triabunna to the Maria Island National Park, which is teeming with wildlife and has a fascinating history. You will need to walk everywhere as no cars are allowed – choose from easy self-guided walks to challenging ascents of Mount Maria or Bishop and Clerk.

# Anyone driving to or from Hobart to the East Coast will want to stop at The Fish Van at Triabunna, which sells fresh fish from the local fleet cooked to order.

# This is an edited version of a story that first appeared on TrulyAus, which features stories on all states and territories of Australia. See