Saturday, 31 July 2021

New York splashes out on bringing tourists back

New York is one of the greatest cities in the world - certainly a personal favourite - and its officials do not mess around when it comes to enticing back tourists post Covid. 

NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for the five boroughs of New York City, has launched the first phase of It's Time for New York City,” the largest-ever, multi-phased global tourism marketing and advertising campaign to promote New York City. 

The unprecedented $30 million tourism recovery campaign is being rolled out as restrictions are lifted, more people are vaccinated and as travel resumes in the United States and beyond.

It's Time for New York City” will run in three phases and will include television, digital, outdoor media and partnerships. 

The initiative aims to remind visitors of the city's energy, excitement, and the abundance of experiences visitors can enjoy. 

New York City expects to welcome 36.1 million visitors this year - recapturing more than half of its record 66.6 million visitors in 2019.

“The Summer of NYC is here—and now it's time to tell the whole world about how this city is building a recovery for all of us,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Tourism impacts hundreds of thousands of jobs across the five boroughs, and its return will fuel our recovery even more. 

"The greatest travel destination in the world is ready to welcome back visitors from around the region, country, and globe, and we can't wait to greet them.”

“It's Time for New York City” will first target travellers in 23 markets across the United States, followed by Mexico, Canada and Latin America, with plans to expand farther internationally as other key markets reopen for leisure and business travel. 

For details on what to do and see in New York City, visit nycgo.com.


Friday, 30 July 2021

Forget Bali; Saipan may soon be calling Australian tourists


A remote and tiny US-run Pacific island with around 50,000 people hopes to replace Bali as a favourite with Australian tourists.

Saipan, an island that has variously been a Spanish, German and Japanese colony, is just six hours from Brisbane and hopes to become a new hub for Australian tourists seeking sunshine.

With 70% of adults on the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Saipan hopes to soon welcome Australian visitors.

Travellers with long memories might recall Saipan and Guam being destinations visited by Continental Airlines from Australian ports.

And with the virus running rampant in Bali, Saipan hopes to offer a safe and attractive alternative for Australians when international travel returns.

A new airline, Marianas Pacific, aims to operate services between Saipan and Australia.

The chairman of Marianas Pacific, Neil Hansford, says it is likely health authorities will allow Australians to travel to Saipan far earlier than other popular tourist destinations like Indonesia or the Philippines, due to the island’s success managing Covid-19.

“They have an excellent resort structure there with over 3000 rooms,” he said. “The economy is dependent on tourism so they’re doing something to get their way out of it.”

Diving is a key attraction in the former World War II battleground, site of fierce fighting in 1944. Suicide Cliff is where many Japanese civilians and soldiers jumped off of the high cliffs rather than surrender to the American forces in the last days of the battle for Saipan.

There are underwater caves and caverns to explore, wrecks, coral reefs, wall- and drop-off dives to be done. Perhaps the most visited and famous site is “The Grotto”.

It is consistently ranked as one of the best dives in the Pacific, and one of the top submarine cavern sites in the world.

The airline plans to operate as a United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved scheduled service air carrier, allowing unrestricted worldwide operations.

Marianas Pacific’s planned operations will provide 52 flights a week on seven niche routes in the next three years using three US-registered Boeing 757-200 aircraft.

The planned routes will be accessible to over 313 million people in four countries within a 6 hour 15 minutes flying time of Saipan.

The airline says a cornerstone of the plan is to provide direct links to Saipan from Australia, a high-yield tourism market that the Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) has sought direct access to for many years.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

A taste of Italy in a Germanic village in Australia


The hamlet of Hahndorf offers a little slice of Germany in the Adelaide Hills - but it is also the perfect spot to get up to speed with Italian grape varieties and wine styles.

You'll need to time your visit just right, however, as the La Prova cellar door is only open the first weekend of each month - or by appointment.

Winemaker Sam Scott founded La Prova in 2008 to make Australian wines using Italian grape varieties that thrive in South Australia.

Until recently, there were two labels - Scott Wines and La Prova. In 2019, Scott took the decision to focus all his energy on La Prova.


During a career in Australia and California, he has long been a believer in Italian varieties and sees Australia as the ideal place for growing them, especially as temperatures rise.

There is also a long family wine history in the Scott family. The winemaker's great-grandfather, worked in the Penfolds’ winery with Grange-founder Max Schubert.

At La Prova, Scott aims to refine the traditional textural and savoury characteristics of Italian varieties to create approachable, sophisticated wines from varieties including nero d'Avola, sangiovese, dolcetto, barbera, nebbiolo, aglianico and prosecco.

There are two ranges; alongside La Prova is La Prova Uno, with single site expressions from exceptional vineyards.

Two of the newest releases are absolutely outstanding. Make sure to try the La Prova 2021 Pinot Grigio and the La Prova 2020 Sangiovese - both exceptional value for $26.


Fruit for the La Prova ranges is sourced from vineyards Scott deems best suited to each variety; largely from the Adelaide Hills, but from farther afield including prosecco from King Valley in Victoria and Nero d’Avola from McLaren Vale.

"Italian varieties need less water and thrive in warmer conditions," says industry veteran Scott. "Many are future-ready, supporting a production philosophy that is inherently sustainable and in our view necessary to ensure the future of Australian wine.

"We prefer hand picking, indigenous yeasts, older oak, and avoid filtering, fining, and additions except for minimal sulphites."

All vineyards from which La Prova sources grapes use sustainable vineyard practices and are pesticide free. And all the La Prova wines are vegan friendly.

The cellar door is at 102 Main Street, Hahndorf, and offers a lounge-style tasting experience with flights of five wines served with local chèvre cheese and crackers. Local prouce platters are also available - and are dangerously delicious.

The next open weekend is August 7-8 ,11am-4:30pm. See www.laprova.com.au/

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

A special tipple marks an airline milestone



Hayman’s Distillery has been commissioned to craft a special gin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Singapore Airlines flight to London.

The London-based family distiller has fused its London Dry Gin with Asian flavours of kumquat, lemongrass, galangal and Persian lime to create the Singapore Airlines Connoisseur Gin.

The label has been designed to reflect the gold and blue colours of Singapore Airlines, with a gold wax finish, Travel Mole reported.

James Hayman, co-owner of Hayman’s Gin, said: “As the most Internationally recognised independent London gin, we are thrilled to have collaborated with Singapore Airlines.

“It has been great fun working on this gin together and fusing the very essence of London and Singapore to create this delightful gin.” 

Hayman's has been making craft gins for over 150 years.  

The gin is available in the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris lounge at Heathrow Airport, or online for £35 at haymansgin.com.

The airline started the route with three weekly London flights in 1971.

Members of Singapore Airlines' KrisFlyer program will be offered the chance to purchase the gin at a discount price.

Strange place indeed; most peculiar mama

I have been fortunate enough to travel widely, but one of the strangest places I have ever visited is Dawson City in the Yukon. Literally in the middle of nowhere. 

Almost deserted for a good portion of the year, this former gold rush hamlet is home to those who seriously want to get away from it all in a very remote - and very cold - location. Misfits and would-be miners are equally at home. 

Many of the shopfronts are fakes, which can be confusing, to say the least. And the locals are real "characters" - for better or worse.  

This year marks 125 years since 1896  when rich deposits of gold were discovered, heralding the Klondike Gold Rush.

As the news spread, almost 100,000 stampeders followed and Dawson City boomed. briefly coming known as "the Paris of the north". 

While the prospectors may have moved on, the merrymaking hasn’t. 

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the discovery of gold, Dawson City is hosting a Discovery Day festival – a weekend of events featuring a literary tour, arts and crafts fair, parade, pipe band and more from August 12-15. 

We can’t visit the Yukon right now, but it is worth adding to your basket list. Here are a few highlights. 

1. Pan for gold

Gold Bottom Mine Tours offers the only authentic operating placer gold mine tour in the Klondike. Learn the art of panning in the creek and listen to the incredible stories about life in the goldfields.  Visitors are welcome to bring their own pan and take away whatever they find. You can spend your winnings at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, Canada’s oldest operating casino and entertainment venue, in a historic building in downtown Dawson City.

2. Take a road trip

The Dempster Highway takes you far off the beaten track along an unsealed road that passes through diverse geological terrain through the iconic Tombstone Territorial Park, and on past the Arctic Circle to Canada’s northern coast. 

3. First Nations Immersion

Dawson City Museum tackles some of the history of the local Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people up until the time of the fur trade and eventual gold rush. Take a guided tour of the Hammerstone Gallery to understand the First Nation Peoples’ perspective of the gold rush era. Participate in a river walk tour, check out the art shows, and take home a piece of local culture. 

4. Bed down in a former brothel

It’s not every day you get to stay in a glamorous former brothel.  Built in 1900, Bombay Peggy’s is a beautifully restored Gold Rush inn featuring classic Victorian decor, antique furnishings, contemporary art and modern amenities. Stop by the adjoining pub for unique Yukon-brewed beers, a fine selection of single malt Scotch, and the most creative martini menu in town. Hollywood stars like Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson have stayed here. 

5. Join the Sour Toe Cocktail Club

This is one club you can’t join anywhere else on Earth. For just $5 at the Downtown Hotel Saloon, you’ll be given a shot of whiskey, complete with a severed toe. The tradition dates back to 1973 with the mummified toe of a miner which had been amputated in the 1920s. I didn't try it. 

For more information about Yukon visit www.travelyukon.com.


Tuesday, 27 July 2021

So you'd like to rent a luxury holiday home in Australia?

Some of Australia's finest private homes will soon be available to rent after Spicers Retreats announced the launch of Private Collection by Spicers. 

Inspired by the pandemic-driven demand for tranquil, nature-based getaways, Private Collection by Spicers will launch in September with a portfolio of high-end properties in iconic locations across Australia. 

Spicers plan to have over 50 private homes in the Collection within the next 24 months with destinations including Hamilton Island, the Barossa and Port Douglas. 

Properties will range from beach shacks to snow chalets with mountain views - and will include properties owned by Spicers founders the Turner family. 

Already confirmed are two retreats owned by Spicers Retreats founder Jude Turner and her husband “Skroo” Turner (the Flight Centre co-founder and CEO). 

They are the First Point apartment overlooking Main Beach in Noosa (top) and the Beach Shack on Belongil Beach in Byron Bay. 

Asgard House (above) in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland will also be part of the collection. 

David Assef, managing director of Spicers Retreats, says: “It’s the perfect time to expand our offering to meet the high demand for unique holiday experiences. 

"The luxury home market is a natural fit and extension for our brand and we are excited to open up these beautiful homes for people to come and stay.

“Celebrating our incredible natural world has always been a great passion at Spicers,” he says, “and people need an energising escape now more than ever.”

Private Collection by Spicers will be headed up by David Lacey, a 40-year hospitality veteran from the Hunter Valley. 

Bookings will be open from September 1. See https://spicersretreats.com/private-collection/


Monday, 26 July 2021

New look but familiar vibe for Hobart pub icon

It is one of Hobart's favourite drinking establishments with a history dating back to 1858. 

Closed since April, the Telegraph Hotel will be getting a new lease on life with works to restore the heritage venue underway under new ownership. 

Australian Venue Co, which is a food and beverage-led hospitality group that operates pubs, bars and event venues around Australia, as taken over the business: it's first Tasmanian venture. 

The venue team will be hired and trained locally before the hotel reopens towards the end of the year. 

The Telegraph has a prime location near the Hobart waterfront. 

The renovation will aim to celebrate the history of the heritage hotel, creating a pub with appeal to both locals and visitors. 

The previously underutilised second floor will be converted into a dining space with a pub dining menu. The downstairs area will remain a public bar with a refreshed look and feel.

Paul Waterson, the Australian Venue Co CEO, said the acquisition of the Telegraph was an exciting venue to add to the group’s growing portfolio.

 “The Telegraph Hotel is the first AVC investment in the Tasmanian market and we are excited to bring an iconic Hobart venue into the fold." he said. "With over 160 venues across Australia and New Zealand, it was high time that we invested in a Tasmanian pub.

 

“We’re passionate about bringing beautiful old pubs back to life and continuing their legacy in the local community. We’ve got a great track record for investing significantly in our pubs, updating them for the modern customer while preserving their heritage. The pub will undergo some renovations to refresh the venue before we open doors later this year."


See www.ausvenueco.com.au

Adding some animals and colour to your midweek drinking

You won't miss the new limited-release wine casks from Yalumba-owned Winesmiths on the shelves of your local bottle shop.

Winesmiths has just released a vibrant set of limited-edition two-litre wine packs designed by Australian street artist Mulga.

The partnership with Mulga exhibits his interpretive style and brings excitement to cask wine shelves in liquor stores, Winesmiths says in a press release. That's a bit of a stretch, but the casks do look impressive.

The designs appear on the sauvignon blanc, semillon sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and shiraz packs, each featuring Australian characters such as a cockatoo, parrot, ibis, platypus and seagull.

Mulga (aka Joel Moore) is, apparently, known for his "unique funky animal creations set within a summer infused world of bright colours and joyful times".

“I love summer times and creating funky characters who exhibit that larrikin Australian sensibility, and if my art brings a smile to your dial, I'm happy,” said Mulga.

Winesmiths marketing manager Jacinta Gibson explains: “The Winesmiths Mulga Edition provides a story beyond the wine. It celebrates those that have a unique view of the world.

“Just like an artist, our winemakers put as much love and dedication into each of our cask wines as they do bottled wines. They don’t compromise on quality in any way. It’s about harnessing the greatness of the variety for that vintage.”

The limited-edition designed packs (RRP $16 but look out for them on special) will be in liquor stores over July and August.

“Not only are they visually appealing, but people will appreciate the quality of the wine inside and the convenience that the two-litre pack offers,” Gibson said.

“Our packs can be kept in the fridge and enjoyed over several weeks, so there’s no wastage from not finishing a bottle or feeling compelled to have more than one glass”.

Every sale of the Winesmiths Mulga Edition casks will contribute to the ‘Winesmiths Sacrifice Nothing Grant’, which will award one artist $5000 towards an art project.

Artists are encouraged to register until September 30 online at www.winesmiths.com.au

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Meet the latest ultra-luxe gourmet destination in Australia


The newest ultra-luxe retreat and conference centre in the Barossa Valley may just look a little familiar to those with good memory recall.

Kingsford The Barossa, now completely refurbished, was for many years the homestead Drover's Run on the popular Australian TV series McLeod's Daughters.

Over the past three years, the luxury property that dates back to 1856 and is under an hour from Adelaide Airport, has been transformed by owners Stefan and Leanne Ahrens.

Contrast of the old and new. The original sandstone house with the brand new events section and pool.

The Ahrens family hopes Kingsford The Barossa will quickly become recognised as one of Australia's premier food and wine destinations - with an impressive wine cellar already being stocked with names including Henschke, Penfolds, Yalumba, Rockford, Peter Lehmann.

Ahrens says he anticipates Kingsford The Barossa will appeal to both local and out-of-state visitors as a “new tourism drawcard, corporate retreat, wedding location and special events venue, whether as a space for celebration just for two, or a group looking to use Kingsford as a base to explore the region.

“Leanne and I, along with the Ahrens family, believe we have created something really special,” he said. “Kingsford is a place we really want the region to be proud of and a destination we can all share with the world.

“We’ve taken the heart of the Barossa and embodied that at Kingsford. You come to Kingsford to share all of the Barossa experiences in one place, where you have privacy and exclusivity whilst savouring the best collections of food and wine we can offer."

Guests can choose to stay in the Homestead Suites, View Suites, three-bedroom Meg’s Cottage or the Stonemason’s Cottage.

Just one section of Kingsford's extensive wine collection.

Room features include LCD TVs, complimentary minibar Items, Nespresso coffee machines, pillow menus, wifi. in-suite safes, hairdryer, robe and slippers.

There are 16 rooms and suites in all, all beautifully furnished, as I saw when I took a sneak peek a few weeks ago.

View suite interior. Part of the brand new addition.

On-site attractions include The Orleana Restaurant, which has a focus on local Barossa produce and is overseen by consultant chef Stuart Oldfield, alongside three bars – the 1856 Lodge Bar, the Peppertree Bar and the Kegelbahn, which features a custom-built authentic German indoor bowling alley - something unique and reflective of the Barossa's history.

Owner, Stefan Ahrens and his unique German Kegel (skittles) alley.

There are also an outdoor saltwater pool, picturesque walking trails nearby and the exclusive Kingsford ‘Bush Bath' al fresco bathing experience in a remote spot on the 225-acre property.

Prices range from $895 to $2000 per couple per night, including hosted luxury accommodation with daily housekeeping and country breakfast.

For full details and bookings visit www.kingsfordhomestead.com.au - although be warned the booking system is fiddly and annoying.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

When too much sport is not enough: Birmingham is calling


With the Covid Olympics well underway in Tokyo, there is good news for fans anxious  about their next multi sports fix. 

The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, are just 12 months away. 

Birmingham, for those not familiar with the West Midlands city, is the second-largest conurbation in Britain - ahead of both Glasgow and Manchester.

Sports-wise it is known for under-achieving football teams like Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City, so locals in the Black Country are probably already looking forward to a gold medal or two. 

The multi-million-dollar construction of Alexander Stadium (above) is on track, thanks for the pun Visit Britain, and visitors will get to see first-hand a city that has been transformed from industrial hub to a "futuristic city". 

Locals highlights include  the dramatic Library of Birmingham and gleaming Bullring & Grand Central, which is described as (raising of eyebrows here) as "one of the most stylish shopping centres in the world". 

There is the revamped Grand Hotel (which has hosted everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill), and the restored Roundhouse, with a 19th-century curved building converted into a spectacular tourist destination.

For those so inclined (and I am definitely not) there is something called Bear Grylls Adeventure, an activities venue opened by someone who appears ion TV. Far more appeling is a Cadbury Factory Tour (the chocolate brand was born and bred in Birmingham). 

While Birmingham became famous for a tangled road network nicknamed Spaghetti Junction, the city harbours (another pun from Visit Britain) more kilometres of canals than Venice, with 56 kilometres of waterways. 


You can walk or cycle along the canal paths, or take a narrowboat tour. Or maybe check out some Peaky Blinders locations.

Birmingham has always seemed a little bleak when I've visited, but it does have a remarkable music history. 

Think of bands including The Move, Spencer Davis Group, The Moody Blues, Traffic, ELO, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Steel Pulse, UB40, Duran Duran, Fine Young Cannibals and Joan Armatrading - and half of Led Zeppelin (Plant and Bonham).

Non-musical regional highlights within easy distance from Brum include Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Worcester and more. 

For day trippers, Birmingham is just an hour and a half train ride from London. 

The Cotswolds are just down the road, and Oxford is nearby for those who don't give a jot about sport. 

Rev heads might like the British Motor Museum, the National Motorcycle Museum or a Jaguar factory tour a Castle Bromwich. 

Here is Visit Britain's Guide to 48 hours in Birmingham: www.visitbritain.com/au/en/48-hours-birmingham 


Friday, 23 July 2021

Flying gender bender tries to fool authorities


A Covid-positive Indonesian man tried to fool authorities - and put hundreds of people at risk - by pretending to be a woman.

The man dressed up as his wife - carrying her ID and her negative PCR test result and vaccine card - and boarded a flight from the capital, Jakarta.

The covidiot ruse initially worked as he wore a Muslim niqab full face covering but he made a misjudgement by changing clothes in the bathroom during the flight, Travel Mole reported.

The sudden change of gender was noticed by flight attendants aboard the Citilink plane and the man was arrested when the plane landed in Ternate, Eastern Indonesia.

"He bought the plane ticket with his wife's name and brought the identity card, the PCR test result and the vaccination card with his wife's name," Ternate police chief Aditya Laksimada said.

"All documents are under his wife's name."

Police took the man for a Covid-19 test - which was still positive. But no charges against him have been filed yet, which seems absurd.

Indonesia now requires passengers to have undergone at least one Covid jab to fly domestically and strengthened restrictions during this week's Eid al-Adha holiday to permit only essential travel.


The newest spot for wine lovers to sleep in McLaren Vale

Looking for somewhere to stay in McLaren Vale? 

On the rugged hillside of Kangarilla property Hillenvale, The Coach House is the latest addition to the Fleurieu Peninsula’s collection of boutique accommodation. 

The stone cottage is being managed by the team behind McLaren Vale winery Hither & Yon, who also run the vineyards and grazing land on the site.

“The Coach House is an all-inclusive and exclusive couples retreat, housing a fully equipped country kitchen, cosy lounge, luxurious bedroom, and outdoor drinks deck with beautiful views across the property, while Kuitpo forest is nearby as well,” says Hither & Yon director Malcolm Leask.

“We want our guests to immerse themselves in the beauty of the regions and really unwind. The Coach House is close to everything you want, yet a million miles away from anything you don’t.” 

Located between two wining and dining regions in McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills, and with an array of attractions easy reach, The Coach House is billed as "an idyllic getaway".

The property’s refurbishment has been overseen by Adelaide-based interior and design studio, Fabrikate, along with local builder G-Force, and retains 19th-century sandstone cottage charm. 

“We used a dreamy palette of blues and greens to sit gently against the landscape of rolling hills, while rich deep tones are used as a contemporary nod to the heritage of the house” says Fabrikate designer Kate Harry.

The 100-acre Hillenvale property is home to vineyards which span across the valley to include both McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills regions, with Hither & Yon set to soon release their first pinot noir from the property. 

The Coach House is now open to guests with bookings available directly through the Hillenvale website.

To book a stay at The Coach House, visit www.hillenvale.com

Hillenvale is located at 194 Cut Hill Road, Kangarilla, South Australia. Hither & Yon is a family-run winery with vineyards across McLaren Vale and a cosy cellar door in Willunga.


Thursday, 22 July 2021

Major crackdown on Covid vaccination recalcitrants


France is getting tough on vaccination recalcitrants with a new Covid-19 health pass being rolled out.

From this week, people in France wanting to visit cinemas, museums, sports events and other cultural venues will be required to show proof of vaccination, a negative test, or recent recovery from the virus.

The health pass will be extended in August to cover patrons of restaurants, cafés and shopping centres.

The certification scheme forms part of new measures imposed by President Emmanuel Macron to curtail the transmission of coronavirus.

Macron’s move will also see vaccinations become mandatory for healthcare workers from September 15.

Health Minister Olivier Veran has this week warned the virus is spreading rapidly just as France prepares for its month-long August holidays, which will see many French people travelling south to holiday destinations.

The government’s strong response to the crisis has annoyed some sections of French society, some saying Macron’s plan infringes on the freedom of choice of those who do not want to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Lock 'em up, I say. 

If only New South Wales' alleged premier Gladrags Binchicken (as she is affectionately - or not so affectionately - known) had acted with similar vigour in Australia.

Binchicken is the dithering state leader who until last week allowed her subjects to frequent luxury stores to buy expensive handbags and visit hardware stores to buy tap washers. Both of which she deemed "essential" activities, apparently on the advice of Prime Minister Scott Moribund From Marketing.   

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal has described the Delta variant-driven surge as “stratospheric”; the national week-on-week infection rate has jumped 125% to 86 per 100,000, well above the national alert threshold of 50.

Image: Romeo Ninov - Scopio 

The five best-value wines in the 2021 release of the Penfolds Collection


Most of my wine writing colleagues will today be dissecting in minute detail the new-release 2017 Penfolds Grange - Australia's flagship red wine - which will be released on August 5. 

Today sees the lifting of the embargo on global tastings held last month of the new Penfolds releases. 

With the new Grange very much a special occasion wine at $950 a bottle, I thought you might be more interested in the best value wines among the new releases: wines ordinary folk can enjoy, or cellar, without taking out as second mortgage. 

The Australia Collection 2021 includes 2017 Grange $950.00; 2019 Yattarna Chardonnay $175.00; 2019 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon $650.00; 2019 RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz $200.00; 2019 Magill Estate Shiraz $150.00; 2018 St Henri Shiraz $135.00; 2020 Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay $125.00;  2019 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz $100.00; 2019 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon $110.00; 2019 Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz $100.00; 2019 Bin 28 Shiraz $50.00; 2019 Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz $60.00; 2019 Bin 138 Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache Mataro $60.00; 2020 Bin 23 Pinot Noir $50.00; 2020 Bin 311 Chardonnay $50.00 and 2021 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling $40.00. 

That is a collection spanning five white and red wine vintages.


First of all, some notes about the new releases and some thoughts from Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago (above) on the "house style" that has been a hallmark for 177 years as the flagship Grange celebrates its 70th anniversary (1951 experimental – 2021). 

"Adored for its aromatic complexity, intensely rich fruit and ripe tannins of shiraz, Grange’s style and winemaking techniques have not altered since the first experimental vintages in the early 50s," says Gago. 

"After 70 years of unbroken vintage releases, the South Australian heritage icon is renowned by collector’s the world over for its unique Australian identity, consistency, and proven aging potential. 

“The original aspiration for Grange was to create a red wine ‘capable of staying alive for a minimum of 20 years’. Tell that to sexagenarian vintages such as ’52, ’53, ’55 & ’62! Stunningly drinkable in 2021! In modern parlance - under-promise, over-deliver! Long may it continue … and modern Grange vintages such as ’08, ’10 & ’16 patiently await judgement in 2071!” 

My verdict on the 2017 Grange: Made from 100% shiraz, a wine that combines richness and stylishness; powerful but elegant with layers of soft and smooth flavours ranging from racy to umami to dusty. 97/100. 

Like most Penfolds wines, the new vintage red and white wines will continue to develop and improve for many years after release - how long they should be kept depends on whether you enjoy your wine with some youthfulness or fully matured. 

Adding to this year’s Collection, Penfolds will launch two limited-edition wines made from parcels destined for Penfolds flagships: Superblend 802.A and 802.B Cabernet Shiraz (both $900). 

Essentially siblings raised in different environments, the wines represent two very different interpretations of the classic Australian blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. The price of both is high for me, but they will doubtless be snapped up by collectors.

My top five value wines from the new releases: 

Penfolds 2018 St Henri: Made from 100% shiraz, it's all about the fruit here; dark and delicious and immediately accessible. Soft and supple and seductive. 99 points. $135. 

Penfolds 2021 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling: Perhaps the best-ever Bin 51. High-altitude and cool-climate fruit with finesse and elegance that can be enjoyed now with its bright acidity, lemon sherbet notes and crispness, or be cellared. 97 points. $40. 

Penfolds Bin 407 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon: Beautifully balanced, impeccably composed with berries, cassis and chocolate notes and impressive tannin structure. Drinkable now but with decades to go. 97 points. $125. 

Penfolds Bin 128 2019 Coonawarra Shiraz: A really delicious cool-climate shiraz with dark fruits, pepper and spice notes duelling on your tongue. 12 months in French oak hogshead. 96 points. $60.

Penfolds RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz: The initials RWT stand for ‘Red Winemaking Trial’ but now a stalwart of the range. Made from Barossa Valley fruit selected for aromatic qualities and lush texture. This is bright and vibrant. 96 points. $200.  

For more information visit www.penfolds.com


Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Queensland wine pioneers celebrate shiraz success


Imagine the reaction 50 years ago when Angelo and Mary Puglisi decided they wanted to make fine wine in Queensland. 

The Puglisi family, pioneers of viticulture on the Granite Belt, will celebrate 50 years of making shiraz on July 22 - the second annual Shiraz Wine Day in Australia. 

Ballandean Estate’s single vineyard premium shiraz is sourced from the Opera Block’s oldest vines, planted in 1968 - testament to the pioneering Puglisis. 

“Our cool-climate shiraz is a family jewel," says Angelo Puglisi. "Many shiraz vines in Australia are under 15 years old - and the older the vines, the lower the yield and more luscious the fruit.
    

We’ve come a long way since the sixties, when the naysayers told us the vineyard would fail — because only wogs drink wine in Queensland!

“Our expression of terroir begins in the vineyard, our hands and in our hearts.  We work the soil, we tend the grapes — every bottle tells a story, the people, the place, the passion.

"Fifty years on, these vines are bearing incredible fruit.” 

Queensland’s oldest family-owned and -operated winery future-proofed its reputation for quality shiraz by planting 5000 shiraz plants next to the Opera Block vineyard in early 2021.

Look out for social media posts using the hashtag #shirazwineday 


On the trail of mighty fine molluscs


There are plenty of gourmet trails across Australia; dozens of wine trails, too, but the folks from Destination New South Wales want to lift awareness of their state's oysters trails.

August is apparently the prime time to sample the much-loved mollusc, with Sydney rock and Pacific oysters both at their peak at this time.

Sydney rock oysters are native to Australia and have been cultivated since the late 1800s. They can now be found across the state's coastline.

Pacific oysters, in contrast, are a relative newcomer to Australia's waters, introduced from Japan in the 1940s. They are now the country's most common farmed variety and can be found at Port Stephens, north of Sydney, and Shoalhaven, south of Sydney.

Also native to Australia is the rare Angasi oyster.

The trail: North of Sydney

Around 400km north of Sydney on the state's mid-North Coast, Port Macquarie sits at the mouth of the Hastings River. Start your oyster adventure just to the south in the laid-back town of Laurieton. Savour freshly-shucked oysters overlooking the Camden Haven waters, or from the farm gate at Rockin' Oysters. If you're visiting Port Macquarie in December, be sure to attend Oysters in the Vines at Cassegrain Wines, the event uniting local drops with mountains of oysters.

Just 80 kilometres south of Port Macquarie lies Taree, where Stones Oysters & Seafood is a good place to stock up on fresh oysters, plus prawns, lobsters, crabs and fresh-caught fish. It's another 40km on to Forster, where you can discover these molluscs at Graham Barclay Oysters, the state's largest supplier of Sydney rocks. This is part of the Great Lakes area (which includes Myall Lakes National Park).

Further along the coast, the Soldiers Point peninsula juts from the southern shore of Port Stephens. It's here you'll find family-owned Holberts Oyster Farm, where you can enjoy a dozen or so at a waterside table with a bottle of wine.

The Hawkesbury River is 200km south; the oyster industry here dates back to the 1870s. In the town of Mooney Mooney, the Hawkesbury River Oyster Shed shucks while you wait. Nearby, the Central Coast waterside hamlet of Ettalong Beach hosts the Brisbane Water Oyster Festival every November.

Sydney


There are dozens of places to sample oysters in Sydney, but you can't go past the perennially bustling Sydney Fish Market (above) for a selection of the state's finest (alongside everything else from the sea). Pick up a dozen and head for a bench to enjoy them overlooking the water.

South of Sydney

Shuckers don't get any faster than the owner of Jim Wild's Oysters, occupying a shack at Greenwell Point near Nowra (160km south of Sydney). The estuary of the Crookhaven and Shoalhaven rivers is the breeding ground for Jim's distinctive Greenwell Point rock and Pacific oysters.

Travel south 115km to discover the Oyster Shed and Pearly Oyster Bar on the banks of the Clyde River at Batemans Bay. Order shucked Sydney rocks as well as native Angasi oysters while soaking up the views.

From here south to Tathra (160km) is oyster heaven, the coastline characterised by oyster sheds, wharves, markets and restaurants where you can sample freshly shucked produce. At Tathra Oysters try Sydney rocks grown in the waters of Nelson's Lake in Mimosa Rocks National Park, also known for its sea caves and rock stacks.

It's a 30km drive on to Wheelers seafood restaurant in Pambula, where you can take a guided tour of the oyster factory. If you've ever wanted to learn how to shuck your own oysters (then enjoy with a squeeze of lemon), this is the place.

This part of the NSW Sapphire Coast is home to a number of other oyster farms, including Broadwater Oysters, Hazelgrove Oysters and JJ Oysters, all selling produce from Pambula Lake.

For further details visit www.visitnsw.com 

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Grange fetches record price at auction


A bottle of Penfolds Grange 1951, which was both signed and recorked by winemaker Max Schubert, has gone under the hammer at a Langton’s auction for $142,131, breaking the previous record for an Australian wine of $103,000.

Max Schubert AM (Wikimedia)
The bottle is one of the few rare examples in existence of the first vintage of Penfolds Grange ever made, and went under the hammer at the Langton’s Penfolds Rewards of Patience auction.

The buyer was a Sydney-based wine collector who was not identified.

“This is extraordinary, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a bottle of Australian wine would sell for this much,” said Langton head of auctions Tamara Grischy.

“This, however, is a unicorn of a wine, and one of the finest bottles we’ve ever seen come through at Langton’s.

“The buyer is thrilled to have secured this fine piece of Australian wine history for their collection.”

Penfolds Grange Hermitage Bin 1 Shiraz 1951 is the first vintage ever made of Australia’s most famous wine. Schubert only made three or four barrels of it, and he gave away most bottles to his friends.

This specific bottle of Grange Hermitage Bin 1 Shiraz 1951 was made even more special as it is signed by Schubert, and hand re-corked in August 1988 at Penfolds Magill Estate.

“Incredibly, the 1951 Grange – the first vintage ever created – has sold for a world record price, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of Grange in 2021. This is one to complete a collection,” said Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago.

“After 70 years of unbroken vintage releases, Grange continues to surprise and reward. Much to celebrate.”

There are believed to be around 35 bottles of the first vintage of Penfolds Grange in existence. This includes approximately 15 bottles that are part of complete sets of Penfolds Grange, which include all vintages of Penfolds Grange from 1951 to present day.

The Penfolds Australia Collection 2021, including the latest Grange vintage, 2017, is due to be released on Thursday, August 5.


Americans told to stay away from “dangerous” UK


While Britons celebrated "Freedom Day", Americans were told to stay away from a potentially dangerous destination: the UK. 

The US State Department has raised its travel advisory for the UK to the highest Level 4: "Do Not Travel," Travel Mole reported.

It cites "a very high level" of Covid-19 in the country; the State Department said.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier raised its own advisory.

"There are restrictions in place affecting US citizen entry into the United Kingdom." it said. "Your risk of contracting Covid-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine." 

The UK was previously at Level 3: "Reconsider Travel."

The CDC asks all Americans to avoid Level 4 destinations but if travel is essential, they should be fully vaccinated, it recommends.

"Because of the current situation in the United Kingdom, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants,'' the CDC said.

It comes as UK and US trade groups and airlines have been applying pressure on both governments to take action to restart non-essential travel across the Atlantic.

The UK yesterday surpassed 50,000 new daily cases, the highest tally in six months but the bulk of its population is now vaccinated and many Covid restrictions have been lifted.

The US has had 34 million cases of Covid. 

Monday, 19 July 2021

Cruise industry in Australia growing impatient


Despite the fact that just 20% of Australians have been fully vaccinated against Ciovid-19, the cruise industry in Australia is becoming impatient.

Cruise Lines International Association of Australasia (CLIA) has made a plea to the Federal Government, saying Australia is increasingly isolated as the only major cruise market in the world not taking meaningful action towards a revival of is cruise industry.

The plea came as the Canadian Government cut short its current cruise ban and will allow ships to sail again from November 1, 2021.

"Like Australia, Canada has taken a very conservative and risk-averse approach to cruising, but they've worked hard with industry to develop a detailed pathway towards resumption and economic recovery," said CLIA Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz.

"By contrast, Australia has made no progress towards establishing a framework for future cruise operations, despite the availability of comprehensive new health protocols at the international level."

Katz said the cruise suspension had already cost Australia more than $6 billion since early 2020 and had put more than 18,000 jobs at risk, including travel agents, tour operators, farmers and food suppliers.

"Around 600,000 people have already sailed successfully in countries where cruising has resumed, bringing back economic opportunities for local communities," Katz said.

"With these measures in place - including 100% testing of all passengers and crew before boarding – CLIA has called for Australian and New Zealand governments to agree upon detailed plans for a careful domestic cruising revival.

"This would initially begin within local bubbles, involving domestic-only cruises for local residents only.

“As Canada has recognised, it will take months of careful planning to revive cruise tourism.”

Image: Declan McWhinney, Scopio 

Don't make me travel: Australians adapt to working from home

Many Australians would elect to work from home rather than take a pay rise that would enable them to travel, a survey has found. 

Logitech, one of Australia’s leading suppliers of video collaboration technology, revealed that 42% of Australians would rather work from home than get a pay increase. 

The survey was conducted throughout the country with some surprising results.

 “I think it’s incredible that people would choose to work from home as much as they’d like, rather than take a salary increase," says Sean Byrne, head of B2B ANZ for Logitech. 


"It really demonstrates how Australians have taken to the new challenges of home offices and the importance of flexibility over money."

 

Many people have developed new hobbies during the Covid period and a whopping 40% of  Aussies surveyed have become more active. 


“While lockdowns make people want to leave the house and exercise, it’s fantastic that so many people are walking, running and riding bikes for the first time," Byrne said. 


"Many people are also taking up arts and crafts too, such as photography, learning a new language, drawing and even knitting."

 

More than half of the people surveyed said their company hadn’t invested in technology to make video conferencing more effective at their homes for staff. But 52% of respondents felt they could be more productive with new technology.

 

“It’s far more than just headsets and webcams that can help productivity, but specialised conference room products for small to large teams, that help with inclusivity, increased clarity and ultimately a better video experience”, said Byrne.

 

Most people surveyed (64%) agreed that video conferencing saved travel time for work and client meetings and that allowed for a greater work life balance (44%).

 

Sunday, 18 July 2021

MadFish goes for a whole new milestone look

There are two trains of thought about winery label revamps. 

The first is that a new look revitalises a brand and encourages first-time buyers to take a punt. 

The second is that regular buyers will not recognise the brand in its new livery and opt to buy something different. 

MadFish Wines, part of the Burch family-owned Howard Park group, has decided to mark its 30th year with a complete refresh. 

MadFish Wines has just released its new range complete with a new look. 

The new label artwork designed by local artist Kyle Odgers-Hughes draws inspiration from the rough and wild south west coastline of Western Australia that MadFish Wines calls home.

MadFish has used turtle artwork by local artist Maxine Fumagalli as its signature for three decades. 

"We saw this milestone as an opportunity to refresh our MadFish wine labels with a new look that emulates an authentic evolution of our brand – modern, positive, local, and influenced by our love for the south west coastline and the lifestyle it inspires," the Burch family said. 

Each label pays homage to the grape varietal and the land from which the fruit is grown in Margaret River and the Great Southern. 

The new range comprises MadFish Chardonnay, MadFish Shiraz, MadFish Sauvignon Blanc Semillon and MadFish Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Madfish Rosé and MadFish Moscato 

What are your thoughts?  

 

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Cruise to nowhere until Covid strikes


With most overseas travel out of bounds, cruises to nowhere have been popular with Singapore residents - until this week, anyway.

A Dream Cruises ship returned to Singapore after a passenger tested positive for Covid-19 on board.

It arrived back a few hours earlier than scheduled at Marina Bay Cruise Centre, Travel Mole reported.

The passenger was reportedly fully vaccinated, and had tested negative in an antigen rapid test on the day of departure, Dream Cruises said.

When the positive test was confirmed all passengers were asked to return to their cabins and all activities on board were stopped.

"As part of onboard health protocols, the passenger's three travelling companions were identified and isolated. They have tested negative for Covid-19 and further contact tracing is ongoing," said Singapore Tourism Board director of cruising Annie Chang.

"The passenger was then identified as a close contact of a confirmed case on land, and was immediately isolated."

The World Dream ship operates short 'cruises to nowhere' out of Singapore.

Cruises to nowhere are restricted to Singapore residents only and have been a popular escape for Singaporeans with other travel opportunities very limited.

Friday, 16 July 2021

A toast to the fresh produce of Tasmania

Celebrity chef Massimo Mele and his kitchen team at Grain of the Silos will host a special dinner to salute the quality of Tasmanian fresh produce. 

Mele, Thomas Pirker and new kitchen addition Mika Chae (formerly of Attica in Melbourne) will work with Tasmanian producers to showcase a menu of fine local produce. 

The producers will also be at the dinner to talk about the produce, how it is grown and what makes it so significant. 

The dinner will be held on Thursday, August 5, at Grain of the Silos in the Pepper Silo Hotel in Launceston. 

The cost is $145 per person including welcome drinks on arrival and canapés followed by a shared-style menu curated by food director Mele (above) and executive chef Pirker. 

The dinner is a lead-in to the AgriCultured festival weekend.

“Working with hyper local producers whom we know and have built relationships with is fundamental to the food philosophy at Grain," says Mele. "The quality of produce in northern Tasmania is some to the best in the country and having access to such exceptional local, seasonal ingredients is a pleasure. 

"We know our growers by name, we know and understand just what it takes to get the produce to our door. This understanding allows us to keep working together and allows us to deliver a better dining experience."

Among the menu items will be abalone fritter with smoked oyster and lemon myrtle; hand-rolled macaroni with king brown mushrooms and fresh truffle; king george whiting, cooked over the coals served with stinging nettle butter and Tasmanian lamb shoulder. 

See https://grainofthesilos.com.au/blog/meet-the-producers-dinner


Thursday, 15 July 2021

New dates for Vivid Sydney festival



One of Sydney's major tourism drawcards, the Vivid Sydney festival, has been rescheduled.

The NSW Government says Vivid Sydney will now be held from September 17 to October 9 in the interest of community health and safety.

No surprise really.

The 12th edition of the light, music and ideas festival has originally been scheduled for August 6-28.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said NSW must work together to contain the current Covid-19 outbreak to allow the state to recover.

“We all want to see Sydney shine through the spectacular show of creativity and innovation that is Vivid Sydney in September and October this year,” Ayres said.

“The recent outbreak has presented a new challenge for everyone, and the health and safety of our citizens and entire event community involved in Vivid Sydney is our foremost concern.

“Destination NSW will continue to work with NSW Health and other agencies to deliver a Covid-safe Vivid Sydney later this year, with support from our event partners, artists, sponsors, and suppliers.

“Vivid Sydney will only proceed if it's safe to do so.”

Full details of the revised Vivid Sydney 2021 program will be available online in the coming weeks as venues and event owners finalise logistics.

Ticketholders will be able to transfer their ticket to the new event date or request a refund via the relevant ticket agent.

For further information about the event, go to www.vividsydney.com.