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Tuesday 31 August 2021

South Korea opens its doors to European travellers

South Korea will this week lift entry restrictions for visitors from European Union member states. 

The visa waiver and visa-free entry programs for EU and Schengen Area countries will restart on September 1, Travel Mole reported.

Visits had been suspended since April 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

There is a a reciprocal deal  allowing South Korean nationals to stay up to 90 days when they enter the  EU.

France and Germany had already separately lifted restrictions for arrivals from South Korea, whose capital Seoul is pictured above

Those from EU countries as well as non-EU Schengen Zone countries, such as Norway and Iceland, can also travel to South Korea without visas for up to 90 days. 

They will, however, still be subject to mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

When their purpose of visit is work or employment, they still need to obtain visas, the Korean national news agency Yonhap reported.  

Monday 30 August 2021

Effervesence to sparkle one more time


Tasmania's leading sparkling wine festival returns in November after a brief period on ice. All the events sold out, but due to some interstate cancellations a few last-minute tickets are avalable.  

The finest sparkling houses on the Apple Isle will once again come together to showcase their best cuvées at the Effervescence Tasmania festival from November 5-7.

Now in its seventh year, Effervescence Tasmania offers guests the opportunity to sample over 50 sparkling wines from around Tasmania, poured by the people who grow and make them.

Multi-award-winning wine writer and international authority Tyson Stelzer will host the Tasmanian Sparkling Wine Dinner and sparkling masterclasses at Josef Chromy Wines as part of the 2021 program. A handful of tickets to these two events have just been re-released.

A second sparkling dinner, hosted by Wine Truth’s Loic Le Calvez, will be held at Timbre Kitchen at Velo Wines in Legana.

"Effervescence Tasmania has become a mainstay of the Tasmanian festival calendar, attracting and welcoming visitors from around Tasmania, interstate and, until Covid, from overseas,’ says Shaine de Venny, general manager of Josef Chromy Wines, the event organisers. 

"Although persistent travel restrictions will likely mean that not everyone who wants to attend will be able to, we’re putting everything in place to ensure that festivities will be safe and enjoyable for all. 

"Flexible cancellation policies will also take into account the evolving Covid situation."

Highlights of the 2021 program include The Grand Tasting, a public tasting event at Josef Chromy Wines on Saturday, November 6, showcasing over 50 cuvées from 14 of Tasmania’s best sparkling producers. 

The popular Bubbles and Beats sessions featuring DJ Damien Goundrie will round out the Saturday program.

The cellar doors of the House of Arras, Clover Hill, The Ridge North Lilydale and Josef Chromy Wines will host a program of tours, masterclasses and even a mimosa and yoga session on Sunday, November 7. 
Borders willing, Grapes of Mirth will return to Tasmania for their third showcase as part of Effervescence Tasmania.

"The Effervescence Tasmania festival is even more special in 2021, with demand for Tasmanian sparkling remaining exceptionally high," says de Venny.

"Effervescence Tasmania is a great opportunity to sample wines that may not be available otherwise, and to get insider information on when the next release is available."

Tickets for Effervescence Tasmania are now available through the Effervescence Tasmania

Participating wine producers are Apogee Tasmania, Barringwood, Brook Eden, Brown FWG/Pirie, Clover Hill Wines, Delamere Vineyard, House of Arras, Jansz Tasmania, Josef Chromy Wines, Kreglinger Wine Estates/Pipers Brook, Moores Hill, Moorilla, Spring Vale and  The Ridge North Lilydale. 

Good news for flyers from Britain to Asian destinations

British Airways customers will get added connectivity across south-east Asia when flying into Singapore as Covid-19 lockdowns ease.

BA customers can now connect to multiple destinations in the ASEAN region on Jetstar Asia services from Singapore's Changi Airport, Travel Mole reports.

Eligible British Airways A customers will now be able to connect to Bangkok, Phuket, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Jakarta, Surabaya, Manila, Clark, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City on flights operated by Jetstar Asia.

Baggage can be through checked in to their final destination with boarding passes given to connecting passengers on arrival at Changi Airport.

Customers will then be guided to the Transit Holding Area in the terminal.

"We are delighted to be able to offer new travel options on Jetstar Asia to customers connecting via Singapore," said Noella Ferns, British Airways' head of sales for the Asia Pacific region.

"We welcome this opportunity as it provides our customers great flexibility and options to travel to their favourite destinations in Asia."

British Airways has also introduced a number of measures at airports and onboard to look after the safety of its customers and crew. 

These include social distancing measures, the wearing of face masks (which remain in place) and hand sanitiser stations. 

Before travel, customers will also receive details of how they can prepare for their journey, including information on discounted testing providers.

Australians, of course, are still in an international lockdown thanks to the incompetence of the Morrison Government when it comes to getting people vaccinated.

Sunday 29 August 2021

So you'd like a chance to get into the wine and hospitality industries in Australia

So you've always liked the idea of being involved in the wine industry, maybe running some accommodation on the side?

Pruning vines in the middle of winter doesn't worry you; or you can afford someone to do the grunt work, and vagaries of the seasons are to be welcomed rather than feared. You'd love to deal with the public on a daily basis.

There are two very different wine businesses on sale right now; one for a family, perhaps, the other for a hospitality industry high flyer with money to invest.

The boutique Every Man and His Dog vineyard and cellar door (top) in Tasmania's Coal River Valley - formerly known as Palmyra - just hit the market and might prove a magnet for life style seekers.

The 2.35 hectare property combines house, vineyard, cellar door operation and B&B just a short drive from the hamlet of Richmond and under 20 minutes from Hobart.

It is being sold as offering "a great and enjoyable lifestyle with income from different sources - on-line sales, wholesale, cellar door retail, functions, weddings, merchandise and accommodation".

It is for sale by expressions of interest through Knight Frank Tasmania.

In the Adelaide Hills, meanwhile, a historic Clarendon estate needs to be restored to its former glory.

The Old Clarendon Winery (above) has been listed for sale via expressions of interest by Ray White Port Adelaide.

Spanning 2.27ha overlooking the Onkaparinga River, it includes heritage-listed buildings constructed around 1859 that formed part of the first winery in Clarendon, with 25 apartments that offer additional income.

The winery is no longer operational but the bones are there.

There are three function or dining areas, two gardens for weddings, a terrace and additional outdoor entertainment area for dining, offices, two industrial kitchens and the winery.

The property is being sold “as is” so including all the plant and dining equipment on site, as well as vats and about 180,000 litres of wine.

The expressions of interest campaign closes on September 27.

Late but great Father's Day gift ideas

Whether Dad enjoys sitting back with a glass of wine, a weekend away or clever gadgets, here are some great Father’s Day gift choices that are far better than a dodgy bottle of port, or a pair of socks he'll never wear. 

Nifty Knife

Tiny, trendy, fun and diverse:  I’ve already found several occasions to use my new Classic Colours Collection knife by Victorinox.

With names like Smashed Avocado, Tropical Surf and Cotton Candy, these 30 small pocket knives are both colourful and an easy addition to Dad’s key ring. Just 58mm long, the small pocket knives feature a blade, a nail file, a screwdriver, scissors and a key ring. All Cellidor models also include tweezers and a toothpick.

Both functional and stylish, there are also matching accessories in the form of five different leather pouches or, as a special highlight, five fun silicone cases.

The Classic Colours Collection Cellidor Swiss Army Knife costs $47.95. Available now at

                                                                  The real thing

If Dad likes a good whisky but is also keen on the environment, Glengoyne - with a history dating back to 1833 - are the first whisky producers to announce a 100% recyclable and smart re-usable packaging solution.

With Loch Lomond in the distance, the Glengoyne Distillery is just 25km north of Glasgow and all the new packaging materials have been sourced close to their home base and are sustainability approved.

Glengoyne, available at Dan Murphy's and BSW stores in Australia, boasts it is Scotland's slowest distilled malt whisky. Each whisky is matured for a minimum off six years in custom-made oak casks.

Glengoyne's range includes 10, 12-, 21-, 25- and 30-Year-Olds, plus the highly awarded special releases including Cask Strength and Legacy Series. See

                                                     Oaks Hotels weekends away

How about treating Dad to a weekend away as a special Father’s Day gift?

Oaks Hotels has 55 destinations across Australia and New Zealand and offers e-gift cards for a future getaway or a meal to remember at one of Oaks’ restaurants, cafes or bars.

Destinations close to Sydney range from Oaks Cypress Lakes in the Hunter Valley to Oaks The Entrance Waterfront Suites on the Central Coast or The Oaks Port Stephens Pacific Blue Resort.

Options further afield for post lockdown include Cable Beach in West Australia and Glenelg Beach in South Australia.

Guests can also rest assured that bookings can be cancelled free of charge thanks to a flexible booking policy.

                                                             Coravin Pivot

Coravin is the company that pioneered wine preservation tools and its new slim-line Pivot model promises to keep still wine fresh for up to four weeks.

Unlike other Coravin devices, this innovative tool uses a stopper to seal the bottle and is compatible with all still wine closure types and bottle shapes.

Coravin’s award-winning patented technology replaces poured wine with the same food-grade argon gas used in the bottling process, preventing oxidation and preserving wine quality from the first pour to the last sip.

The Coravin Pivot is easy to use and is priced from $184.95. See

                                                             A special cocktail

If Dad enjoys a gin and tonic after work, then he’ll probably enjoy trying some cocktails inspired by Warner’s Distillery in England.

Perhaps a Breakfast Martini, a twisted negroni, or maybe a rhubarb strudel with a toffee apple kick.

Ingredients: 50ml Warner’s Rhubarb Gin, 50ml cloudy apple juice. 25ml lemon juice, 20ml toffee sauce. Method: Shake all ingredients vigorously in a cocktail shaker with ice to create a foam and then strain into a coupe glass; garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg and a slice of apple.

Warner’s Rhubarb Gin is $79.99 and Warner’s London Dry Gin is $69.99. Both are available exclusively from Dan Murphy’s stores or at  

                                                             Something different

Spoil dad with a roast from The Duke of Clarence, throw in a British grocery treat, bottled cocktails or some unique grooming gifts from The Barber Shop. 

The Duke’s award-winning Sunday roasts include beef, pork, lamb, chicken and even a vegetarian-friendly pumpkin dish, all served in the traditional English style. You can add pigs-in-a-blanket as an extra treat; plus, there’s puddings, wines and beers.

Check out the brand-new British Grocery Store - purveying hard-to-find fresh produce, including gammon steaks, pork pies, pork sausages and even haggis, black pudding and white pudding for more gastronomic fathers.

Bottled cocktails include the Jasmine Tea Punch, a Chocolate Old Fashioned, a classic Negroni, and Irish Coffees, to cater to even the most discerning of drinkers.

 Or how about some home pampering from the venue co-owner’s bespoke range of Enright’s Original Gin-Scented Grooming Products. Check out

                                                 A wine trip

If Dad loves his wines, then how about buying him a special treat with a behind-the-scenes winery experience, masterclass, or gastronomic adventure in one of Australia’s world-class wine regions.

Or treat Dad to an unforgettable weekend away with food foraging to blending experiences at one of the premium wineries within the Ultimate Wineries Australia collection.

New South Wales options for after lockdown include three of the Hunter Valley’s most iconic vineyards, Audrey Wilkinson, Brokenwood and Tyrrell’s as they team up to provide a memorable Hunter wine experience called Icons of the Hunter.

Or in Orange, treat Dad to a discovery of the secrets behind méthode traditionnelle Swift Sparkling at Printhie Wines.

The Sparkling Masterclass includes a private tasting of the Swift Sparkling range where you’ll taste 10-year-old sparkling wines and enjoy a three-course al fresco lunch.

For details see

# This is an edited version of a story originally filed for Ciao Magazine in Sydney  

Saturday 28 August 2021

Take a gin-soaked tour around NSW

Calling tattooed, bearded, dreadlocked craft spirit hipsters - and anyone who enjoys a quiet G+T after work. 

September 1 is apparently designated Australian Craft Gin Day (every product in Australia now has its own designated day, apparently, apart from Anusol). 

Those funky folk at Destination NSW have released a gin lover's itinerary, taking in 12 of the homegrown, award-winning distillers in the state. 

Strap yourself in, grab some tonic and a few slices of fresh lemon and get to know distillers from Sydney to Byron Bay, Wollongong to the Riverina, and even Lord Howe Island.

Discover the spirits of Sydney 

Founded in 2014, Archie Rose Distilling Co. in industrial Rosebery, just north of Sydney Airport, is Australia's most highly-awarded distillery. It produces a range of whiskies, gins, vodkas and rums, and the odd experimental tipple, such as a brandy made from smoke-tainted grapes. Enjoy cocktails at the bar and book in for a distillery tour or blend-your-own-gin class.  

In Sydney's inner Eastern Suburbs, Brix Distillers uses only premium ingredients to create a variety of unique rums. Book in for a tour, rum spicing class or perhaps a Saturday cocktail lunch in its Surry Hills distillery.  

Go north for a nip or two 

Independently owned by herbalist/distiller Philip Moore, Distillery Botanica in Erina on the Central Coast, a short drive north of Sydney (depending on the traffic), grows its own botanicals on-site and incorporates them in award-winning spirits, including Moore's Dry Gin and Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur. Visitors can taste the range, then take a stroll in the distillery's charming garden. 

In the Byron Bay hinterland, Cape Byron Distillery is the home of Brookie's Gin and a favourite of this columnist. It's a spirit made with a variety of botanicals, including those found in the distillery's rainforest setting. Learn more about the rainforest connection on the distillery's tour, which includes, of course, a tasting.  

A family-owned and -operated distillery pioneering paddock-to-bottle virgin cane rum, Husk Distillers at Tumbulgum on the Far North Coast is famous for its indigo-coloured Ink Gin. Drop into the cellar door, which opened in 2019, for a tour or a cocktail on the lawn, which boasts superb views towards Wollumbin (Mount Warning).  

Sip your way south 

With a collective goal to produce handcrafted spirits, four friends founded Wollongong's first distillery in 2015. A Headlands Distilling Co. They produce three different gins in distinctive bottles, including one flavoured with local Illawarra plums.  Sample it on one of the free tours held on Fridays and Sundays.  

As the name suggests, the multi award-winning North of Eden micro distillery is located on a working farm in Stony Creek, a 50-minute drive north of Eden on the far South Coast. All its London dry-style gins are made in 200-bottle batches and feature ingredients grown on the farm or foraged locally. Most of its bar/cellar door seating is outdoors. 

Head west for a tipple 

Founded in 2018, Parrot Distilling Co.'s extensive range of gins pay homage to the fruit and wine that the Orange region, a 3.5-hour drive west of Sydney, is renowned for. Opened in 2020, The Aviary, its cellar door and bar, is the ideal spot to sample them.  

Just 45 minutes east of Orange, Stone Pine Distillery is Bathurst's first micro distillery. Set in a  homestead dating back to the 1840s, the eco-conscious distillery's cellar door is an atmospheric spot to sample its gins, spiced rums, limoncello, and more.  

Take a packed lunch 

Situated between Jindabyne and Thredbo, Wild Brumby Distillery is the highest distillery in Australia and uses alpine water, organically grown fruit and native mountain botanicals for its schnapps, gin, vodka and gluhwein. Its distillery door also doubles as a café.  

Born out of co-owner Mark Burns' quest to connect with his Scottish heritage, Aisling Distillery in Griffith in the Riverina specialises in small batch premium single-malt whisky, rum and gin.   

And on Lord Howe Island, a two-hour flight from Sydney, Lord Howe Island Distilling Co. creates award-winning spirits that use both wild and endemic island botanicals such as wild lemons planted by early settlers. It doesn't have a distillery door (yet) but its Wild Lemon and Hibiscus Gin can be found at various outlets around Lord Howe. 

For more details see 

Beer drinkers: Are you ready to go low-carb ballistic


I've seldom seen beer packaging that says "good time" as much as this new release from Queensland-based Ballistic Beer Co. 

The team behind Hawaiian Haze has just released Low Ha Low Carb Pale, a brew that it hopes will "turn the Australian craft beer world on its frothy head".

Low Ha is described as a bright, easy going, full-flavoured Aussie Pale Ale that is also low carb. 

“Low Ha has been six months in development and testing,” says Lachy Crothers, Ballistic Beer Company’s head brewer. “As a super sessionable beer, it is a bright, hoppy ale (Mozaic & Azacca hops) that we’ve crafted to be full-bodied and full-flavoured - but not so full of carbs.”


Ballistic has a history of making full-flavoured, hoppy pale ales, like Hawaiian Haze (number six in the 2020 GABs Hottest 100 Beers rankings). 


Crothers (below) says Low Ha’s 2.2g carbs per can and 100 calories belies a robust flavour profile.


“If you didn’t know – you wouldn’t know,” he says. “It’s a craft beer connoisseur’s low carb brew. It’s a crisp and beautifully balanced pale ale, full-bodied and full-flavoured, that respectably tickles the scales at 4% abv…while being Keto friendly.”

Low Ha comes in a bright, sunny yellow 375ml can and has made its appearance in all of Queensland’s Dan Murphy stores, liquor stores, on premise and Ballistic’s own venues in Salisbury, Springfield, West End, Bargara and the Whitsundays. 

The plan is to launch it nationally in the coming months - and I'll add tasting notes shortly.  As soon as I've had a session, in fact.   


Ballistic has also made Low Ha available for online ordering across the country.

Friday 27 August 2021

Hobart's newest drinking venue will set the bar high

Hobart's new Tasman Hotel, part of Marriott's Luxury Collection, will be home to a cocktail bar with a difference. 

Mary Mary will be run by cocktail and spirits creatives Proof & Company, with awarded drinks slinger Charlie Ainsbury behind the bar when it opens later this year. 

The name Mary Mary stems from the origin of the building in which it resides, the former St Mary's hospital dating back to the late 1800s, now reimagined as part of The Tasman and Parliament Square, located in the heart of the city. 

Ainsbury (above) will bring over 17 years' experience in some of the top cocktail bars across the world, including This Must Be the Place, Eau de Vie and Bulletin Place in Sydney and The Diamond in Vancouver.

“Hobart's food and drinks culture has long commanded global attention and attracts a discerning customer seeking a compelling experience, which offers us an impressive foundation to build upon,” Ainsbury says. 

“Mary Mary will be a celebration of and dedication to the abundance of exceptional ingredients, spirits and liquors of Tasmania and Australia, with an experience curated for the appreciator of a fine beverage. 

"Most importantly, we want to create a drinking den with a sense of discovery that feels inviting and convivial for our guests.”

Proof & Company is behind a portfolio of some of the top globally acclaimed bars, of which six venues are ranked amongst the World's 50 Best Bars, including their cornerstone venue 28 Hong Kong Street (Singapore), Manhattan Bar (Singapore), ATLAS (Singapore), Pontiac (Hong Kong) and Charles H (Seoul).

“As the first and only representative of The Luxury Collection brand in Australia with the upcoming opening of The Tasman, we are proud to deepen our connection to the unique local character of Hobart with Mary Mary,” says Stephen Morahan, general manager for The Tasman.

“This venue will be a beacon to the world of fine drinking here in Tasmania, joining a collection of the world's most notable hospitabilty experiences. Our vision is for Mary Mary to enchant both locals and travellers in the know, guided by the passion and expertise of Charlie and Proof & Company.”

Enjoy some wine; have a crack at winning a farm stay


The Farm Hand Shiraz is a very nice young red wine; soft and smooth with plenty of flavour. 

It ticks all the hipster boxes being organic, vegan-friendly and made using minimal preservatives. 

Crafted from fruit grown in the Monash Valley region of South Australia's Riverland by the Grigoriou family, fourth-generation grape growers, it can often be found on sale for under $15 a bottle; which makes it a terrific midweek drinking choice.

It is distributed by Fourth Wave Wines, a group known for offering great value. 

Right now, however, there is another reason for buying a bottle or two; the chance to win one of six luxury farm stays around Australia.

There are six packages of two nights' accommodation on offer with breakfast and meals included, a Farm Hand drinks package and local experiences. 

The winners will be able to select from a range of participating farm stays, so the trip can be as luxurious or immersive as you like.

There are also 14 luxe eco hampers worth $150 each on offer, as well as 14 Farm Hand gift packs of two bottles of wine.

Download details using the QR Code on bottle tags, or check out

Thursday 26 August 2021

Accor introduces hotel dining in your own Sydney home

For Sydneysiders in lockdown, Accor hotels across Sydney have stepped up their takeaway and at-home dining menus. 

From quick but nutritious takeaway menus to gourmet DIY meal kits and virtual wine and dine experiences, an assortment of new offerings are now available. 

The options include

Harbour Rocks Hotel Sydney – MGallery virtual wine and dine experience

Harbour Rocks Hotel Sydney – MGallery has launched a series of virtual wine and dine experiences. Each virtual dinner includes a four-course meal from the hotel's Tayim restaurant (delivered to your door), complete with an interactive demonstration by executive chef Leron Ben Avraham, along with wines from either DeBeaurepaire Wines, Vins du Liban or Chateau Tanunda, which have been matched with the modern Mediterranean cuisine. The dinners are priced at $245 per couple ($220 for Accor Plus members), including delivery up to 50km from Sydney CBD. Events are being held every Friday evening during September. See  

Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour launches 'Atelier at Home, by Sofitel'

Dishes from the rather excellent French bistro Atelier by Sofitel can now be enjoyed at home. Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour's new 'Atelier at Home, by Sofitel' menu features an assortment of cook-at-home French dishes, pre-prepared with easy to follow instructions, ready for customers to finish. Choose from dishes such as Marseille rock fish soup served with garlic croutons and homemade aioli, and braised lamb shank polenta cake with broccolini, artichoke and olive, as well as a range of desserts. Available to order with 24 hours' notice, seven days a week, and for collection from Atelier by Sofitel.

Pullman Sydney Olympic Park introduces Bacar Restaurant & Bar dinner boxes

Pullman Sydney Olympic Park's Bacar Restaurant & Bar has a new takeaway menu featuring a selection of pre-prepared takeaway dinner boxes (above), available seven days a week. Sydneysiders can now nourish the whole family with a delicious family dinner box (for four) for $120, including a bottle of wine. There's a premium seafood box featuring Yamba tiger prawns, Balmain bugs and baby octopus; a lamb shoulder roast box featuring a 12-hour slow-roasted lamb shoulder, root vegetables, salad and bread rolls; and a roast chicken and black truffle box with a whole roast chicken with black truffle, roast vegetables with truffle honey, green vegetables, kale slaw, truffle jus, bread rolls and Yorkshire pudding. Cheese, charcuterie and fruit boxes and dessert boxes are also available. All boxes must be ordered by 6pm the day prior and prepaid online

Alitalia grounded for good


Once regarded as one of the world's leading airlines, troubled Italian flag carrier Alitalia will go out of business on October 15.

After decades of financial woes, the airline this week ceased selling tickets for after that date after 75 years in the aviation business.

The government-owned Italia Transporto Aereo, or ITA, will become Italy’s new national carrier.

All Alitalia flights that had been scheduled to fly after October 15 have been cancelled.

The Italian state-owned airline - part of the SkyTeam alliance that includes Delta Air Lines, Air France, and KLM- declared bankruptcy in May 2017. It is known or being the airline that usually flies the Pope on charter flights around the world. 

The global Covid-19 pandemic dealt a final blow to the ailing airline.

Those with ticket booked for after October 15 will be able to change them to a comparable flight, or get a refund.

The new, Italian Government-owned Italia Transporto Aereo (ITA) plans to operate flights to New York from Milan and Rome, and to Tokyo, Boston, and Miami from Rome. 

Other Destinations from Rome and Milan’s Linate airport will include Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Geneva.

ITA plans to operate a fleet of seven wide-body and 45 narrow-body aircraft and will add 26 more planes later this year. 

Alitalia carried 21.3 million passengers in 2019 and currently has 10,000 employees. It is unclear what will happen to those employees or whether the new company will take on some of them. 

Meet a new hotel collection launching in Australia and Thailand

IHG Hotels & Resorts has announced the Vignette Collection as its new luxury and lifestyle brand, with hotels in Australia and Thailand the first to join the collection. 

Vignette Collection becomes the sixth addition to IHG's brand portfolio in the past four years, taking it to 17 brands in total across nearly 6,000 hotels in more than 100 countries. 

IHG's Vignette Collection aims to give owners of world-class independent hotels the opportunity to retain their distinctive identity, while benefitting from a global marketing push. 

The properties will be based in urban and resort locations.

Among the first hotels to join IHG's Vignette Collection will be Hotel X (above) in the centre of Brisbane's Fortitude Valley, Australia.

Daniel Moran, general manager at Hotel X, said: “We could not be more thrilled that Hotel X is one of the first hotels in the world to open under the Vignette Collection brand. 

"We think the brand is a perfect fit for our luxury hotel in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley, with its distinctive design and premium facilities that celebrate this iconic Brisbane neighbourhood through ultra-cool art, Avant Garde lighting and exceptional views of the cityscape."

Thailand's vibrant Pattaya Aquatique hotel will also be one of the first hotels to join the Vignette Collection. 

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Unique whisky release packs a real punch

It was an invitation too good to refuse. A whisky tasting matched with food from Hobart's hip rum bar and hangout Rude Boy. 

Whisky cocktails were on the agenda, along with a new limited-release whisky that packs a wallop like Mike Tyson in his prime.

Westward Whiskey has created a new-limited edition release especially for members of The Whisky Club. 

Westwards Whisky is a trendsetting distillery based in Portland, Oregon, that has built up a global following. 

The new drop is a collaboration between Westward’s distillers and their long-time friends, the Leal family, who founded Casa Magdalena rum distillery in Guatemala. 

The wine drop, Westward American Single Malt Rum Cask, has an ABV of 62.5% and is aged in barrels seasoned with all-natural, cane-to-glass rum. 

The Rum Cask begins with the original, award-winning Westward American Single Malt Whiskey and then is matured in new, lightly charred American oak barrels in small batches. It is then aged in barrels seasoned with Casa Magdalena Rum. 

The Whisky Club members will be the only people in Australia to taste this limited-edition bottle, celebrating the ongoing collaboration between Australia’s biggest whisky club and Westward. 

Casa Magdalena is the first new rum to emerge from Guatemala in an entire generation, and for this reason, we knew they were the perfect partner for this venture, " said lead distiller Miles Munroe. 

"To us, this limited release perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the new world whiskey movement, as we look to leverage natural ingredients and celebrate excellent flavours native to each product’s origin. 

"It's a big, weighty, tropical spirit with deep layers of caramelised sugar, spice and all things nice"

Industry veteran Bertie Cason, co-founder of The Whisky Club adds, “Westward’s limited product runs are always sell-outs amongst Whisky Club members, and we are anticipating nothing different for the Westward American Single Malt Rum Cask release. 

"Every limited-edition bottle Westward produces is rich and robust, and with the sublime rum-cask finish, it’s bound to become a collector’s item you’ll find hard to keep on the shelf.”

The Whisky Club delivers world-class, one-off whisky releases direct to members’ doorsteps. 

The leading retailer of its kind in Australia, The Whisky Club offers members premium, exclusive whisky not available anywhere else in the country, and often the world.

The Whisky Club is free to join and members can opt-out at any time. For more information or to join: visit

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Stone the pros! Meet a new cannabis-infused gourmet menu

The health benefits of cannabis leaves have long been touted by the medical profession and with the Thai Government’s recent decriminalization of most parts of the marijuana plant, they have now ended up on a fine dining menu.

Anantara Chiang Mai’s The Service 1921 Restaurant and Bar resort has launched what it says is "a healthy and nutrition-rich cannabis-infused menu".

Diners can enjoy signature dishes including deep-fried seabass with crispy cannabis leaves and a cannabis tamarind sauce (above); spicy grilled prawns with traditional Thai herbs and cannabis (below); and braised pork spare ribs with a shitake mushroom and cannabis soup.

Although the THC-rich flowers, buds and seeds remain off-limits, other parts of the plant such as the leaves have been removed from the prohibited list in Thailand.

Cannabis leaves are seen as highly nutritious and contain significant levels of essential vitamins and minerals.

The new menu also includes cannabis-based drinks.

The Service 1921 Restaurant and Bar is situated in a colonial house that is the centerpiece of Anantara Chiang Mai Resort.

Opened in 1921 as the British Consulate, the house is celebrating its centennial this year. It was the former home of the consul’s family and included a courtroom, offices, servants’ quarters and stables for elephants.

Anantara has a portfolio of 35 properties in Thailand, the Maldives, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Zambia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Tunisia, Portugal and Spain. See

New hotel and entertainment complex unveiled for Hunter Valley

Plans have been unveiled for a $107 million concert and hospitality venue right in the heart of Hunter Valley wine country.

Winarch Capital’s newly-formed Cedar Mill Group has acquired one of the Hunter Valley wine region’s premium development sites for its second purpose-built outdoor amphitheatre and tourism project, expected to open in 2023.

It follows the previously announced $235 million redevelopment of Morisset Golf Course, to be known as Cedar Mill Lake Macquarie, with plans for a 30,000 person concert venue, cafes and restaurants, accommodation and Australia’s largest aquatic play park.

The new property, in Pokolbin, is on the corner of Broke and McDonalds Roads and sits adjacent to the Roche Estate food and beverage precinct and next to the Hope Estate winery.

There are plans for Cedar Mill Hunter Valley to house a 100-bed hotel, specialist food and beverage outlets, a wine museum, multiple cellar doors and a 22,000 person concert venue to host events featuringt local and international acts touring Australia.

The vision for the site includes the delivery of a venue that is also capable of hosting events, conferences and functions, and attract tourists seeking high-end visitor experiences. This includes local growers and operators providing boutique goods and dining experiences inspired by the local agricultural heritage as well as winemaking, distilling and brewing.

Cedar Mill Group general manager Kyle McKendry described the Pokolbin location as the only remaining premium development site in the Hunter Valley wine region.

“It is 105 acres right in the centre of Hunter Valley wine country and had been held by the previous owners for over 30 years," McKendry said. "It was an amazing opportunity.

“Without doubt, this is a very significant acquisition for the Cedar Mill Group and an exciting step towards our plans to have outdoor venues coupled with exciting tourism concepts in the best locations in Australia and New Zealand.

“Our aim is to provide an unparalleled visitor experience in the heart of the region, offering a gateway for tourists to connect with everything that makes the Hunter Valley a world-class visitor destination and event hub.”

The Hunter Valley has over 150 wineries and high-end eateries.

Development plans for Cedar Mill Hunter Valley will be lodged in the coming months, with the construction phase projected to create over 500 new jobs (215 direct, 285 indirect) and inject $207.5 million through build costs, job creation, supply chain and consumption.

Monday 23 August 2021

Discover a casual new way to enjoy wine


Just last month I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wines in Yalumba's Winesmiths casks. 

Now, in a further move away from bottles and towards alternative packaging, Trentham Estate has unveiled an eye-catching new product - a 1.5-litre wine pouch branded as Three's A Crowd. 

The pouch is being promoted as a way to enjoy wine that offers convenience, sustainability and quality.

The new pouch range initially offers a pinot grigio and pinot noir in eye-catching packaging.

With the increase in outdoor get-togethers becoming the "new norm" and many consumers limiting their alcohol intake, Trentham Estate saw an opportunity. 

The pouches are being pitched as "perfect for outdoor activities such as picnics, camping, beach holidays and even road trips". The wines will last several weeks in a fridge. 

“In this current climate consumers are looking for more affordable alternatives, however they still want great quality wine and Three's A Crowd offers that,” says Anthony Murphy, chief winemaker and managing director.

The compact pouch, which holds the equivalent of two standard bottles of wine, produces 80% less carbon emissions than glass (glass bottles and their transportation being the two biggest contributors to the carbon footprint of wine production).

Designed by Melbourne-based packaging design studio, Design Energy, the colours for each varietal reflect day and night and also the seasonal changes.

The pinot noir is lightish, fresh and lively and could easily be chilled during summet, while the pinot grigio is crisp and refreshing. 

Given both are effectively priced at around $1 per glass, you cannot go wrong. Recommended. 

The pouches are available exclusively from First Choice Liquor Market stores, Australia-wide for $16 each. 

For further information, visit

Sunday 22 August 2021

A cheeky bottle of English bubbles for Father's Day?

English wine used to be considered a joke. Like American intelligence, or Australian compassion for refugees.

No longer.

Global warming has seen the south of England (the warmest part) become an increasingly viable venue for growing cool-climate grape varieties including chardonnay and pinot noir.

At the last official count, the Wine Standards Board reported that there were just over 450 vineyards producing wine throughout England, most of them in Sussex, Kent and Hampshire, but including as far north as Norfolk. 

And while the English wine industry is still in its infancy, it is increasingly attracting attention from serious players, including Champagne House Vranken Pommery.

Louis Pommery England NV is produced from vineyards in Hampshire, where in 2014 Vranken-Pommery first put down roots.

The area contains the same vein of soil with chalk which runs through Champagne, offering the ideal environment to develop grapes for sparkling wine.

I shared a bottle served blind with my wine tasting group earlier this month. It gained almost universal approval with several expressing surprise that it was an English wine.

There is an impressive mousse with bitey citrus and stone fruit flavours to the fore. The wine is made in the traditional way with chardonnay and pinot noir blended with a small proportion of pinot meunier.

The only setback is the RRP of $99, which makes it very much a special occasion choice (Father's Day for any Pom Dads maybe), or the ideal selection for a mystery wine tasting competition like an Options Game. 

Saturday 21 August 2021

A wine gamble that paid off big time


Younger wine lovers may find it hard to believe but just over 30 years ago sauvignon blanc was pretty much a rarity in Australia. 

Before the Marlborough sauvignon blanc boom, basically the only savvy blancs being enjoyed in Australia were imports from Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé or Menetou-Salon in the Loire Valley of France. 

Robert Mondavi in California made a wine labelled Fumé Blanc that was made from sauvignon blanc and enjoyed brief popularity Down Under, but that was about it. 

It was a decision right out of left field then, when Michael Hill-Smith, Australia's first Master of Wine, and his cousin Martin Shaw (a long-time disciple of Brian Croser at Petaluma) decided to launch a new Adelaide Hills label called Shaw+Smith with a first-release sauvignon blanc. 

It was an aromatic variety they felt would be well suited to the cold, wet and high-altitude hills region. Sauvignon Blanc is generally at its most delicate and pretty when grown around 450m above sea level with summer sun.

"The idea of being able to do something new and modern was really appealing," Hill-Smith has said. 

Shaw+Smith was established in 1989 with a first release in 1990 and I remember tasting that first release with Michael Hill-Smith, which makes me feel very old indeed. 

But the wine set off an uncontrollable juggernaut. 

Shaw+Smith has become an Australian icon and Shaw and Hill-Smith now also own and operate Tolpuddle, a Tasmanian label known for stellar pinot noir and chardonay.

The 2021 Shaw+Smith Sauvignon Blanc was just been released - and it remains a market leader with wonderful vibrancy and freshness. Think grapefruit, citrus and guava notes with very brisk acidity.  

This is the 32nd release and it remains a wine to be enjoyed in all its youthful playfulness. And it remains priced at under $30. 

"It truly was a remarkable vintage with winter rains setting up the vines well for the growing season," says David LeMire, a Master of Wine who works in sales and marketing for Shaw+Smith. 

"The spring and summer months were mil, allowing sauvignon blanc fruit to build excellent flavour, intensity and acidity."

The 2021 is long, lean and delicious. Top work again from winemaker Adam Wadewitz. Pair it with a warm goat cheese tart for maximum sensory pleasure!



Wine and nougat prove a winning combination


Wine and nougat may seem like an unlikely gourmet combination but both have proved a success for Bettenay’s in Margaret River. 

The award-winning winery and nougat house is combining the pair with special locals days on Sundays from 1pm-5pm over winter. 

Locals can enjoy Bettenay’s wines by the glass for just $6, Espresso Nougaretto Martinis for $10 and toast nougat on the fire while relaxing to toe-tapping tunes from Radio Margaret River.

Product development manager Danica Bettenay said that for over 30 years Bettenay’s has been a part of the fabric of the Margaret River region.

“It’s the locals and community that makes living in the south west so special and we thought we could acknowledged that with Locals Day every Sunday,” she said. 

“To us, Sundays are the best day in the region – things are a little calmer and it feels more relaxed. 
“We’ve trialled Locals Day the past two Sundays and it’s worked really well. It gives people a chance to enjoy the beautiful surrounds of our cellar door with lake and forest views over drinks with friends, or make new friends around the fire.

“Everyone is welcome, locals and visitors – at the heart of it, it’s about coming together.”

Two months ago, Bettenay’s introduced a new winter experience: Toasty Tastings by the Fire, that includes toasting French-style nougat over their custom-made fire pit along with tastings of four estate wines and a nougat-inspired liqueur.
“When toasted over the fire, our nougat turns golden brown and forms a really delicious crust, while the inside softens and goes gooey – it’s so good,” she said.
Espresso Nougaretto Martini is an espresso martini made with Bettenay’s coffee nougat liqueur. 

If martinis are not your thing, the Nougaretto hot chocolate is a crowd favourite and there is also a non-alcoholic version for designated drivers. 

Family-owned Bettenay’s was established in 1989 . The family began making French-style soft nougat in 2012 with locally sourced south-west honey. 

It now offers 39 flavours that include classics like French vanilla bean, cranberry and pistachio, and honey and toasted almond. 

For more information, visit

Friday 20 August 2021

South Australia gets a new luxury lodge with a view

South Australia has a brand new luxury lodge just a short drive from downtown Adelaide. 

Sequoia, part of the Mount Lofty House property, is the first luxury lodge in Australia to be situated within an hour of an international airport.

The $18 million lodge in the Adelaide Hills aims to treat guests to some of South Australia's best food and wine, wellness experiences, history and nature experiences. 

Sequoia sits on the side of Mount Lofty, high above the Piccadilly Valley, a region currently being considered for UNESCO World Heritage status. It is also home to some of Australia's finest boutique wine producers. 

Comprising fourteen luxury sustainably-designed suites, the lodge has an intimate lounge centred around social connection along with immersive nature-inspired experiences, natural artesian spring-fed stone hot pools, an infinity pool, new day spa and valley rim campfire amphitheatre. 

It is owned and operated by South Australian local David Horbelt and his business partner Malcolm Bean. 

Horbelt said: “Malcolm and I are delighted to be able to build upon our world-famous luxury offering at neighbouring Mount Lofty House. At Sequoia, we have created an entirely new level of opulence, every detail has been carefully planned to take guests on a journey that will touch the senses, connect with the soul and create a pure sense of delight.” 

Led by a team of "experience hosts" (that sounds dreadfully pretentious), there will be activities themed around the pillars of food and wine, wellness, nature and history. 

Think guided nature walks through the bush home of the world’s largest surviving koala population, star gazing, private helicopter tours and private tastings with some of Australia’s leading vintners. 

The décor at Sequoia includes a collection of artisanal pieces and amenities including Nick Mount glass, JamFactory ceramics, Jurlique products, Hahndorf soap and OrganiQ bath salts.

One of the highlight amenities located on the estate is the Gatekeeper’s Day Spa.

Guests can dine at the three-hatted Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, one of Australia’s most acclaimed fine-dining restaurants with a la carte and degustation menus. 

Sequoia can be booked for private use to create an entirely exclusive experience. See