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Sunday 31 October 2021

Crisis time in Champagne

Christmas is fast approaching and Champagne producers are in crisis as they try to meet the annual peak domestic demand.

At the time of a huge influx of orders for the festive season, the Champenoise are suffering from a shortage of crucial stock.

“We are short of everything: wire caps, neck labels, boxes, foil caps,” Maxime Toubart, chairman of the Champagne producers’ organisation (SGV) told French industry website Vitisphere.

“Winegrowers had no stocks left because they were afraid of what the future might hold; then they all stocked up at the same time, ” said Julien Lévêque, manager of label printing company Imprim'éclair, based in Épernay, which has 800 clients.

Christophe Mendez, managing director of the Sparflex group, the international leader in capsules which is based in Champagne and Hendaye, said that that demand has sky-rocketed since June-July.

“In two months, we have been overwhelmed by incoming orders, which represent the equivalent of five months of normal orders. With a surge this great, even with highly efficient equipment, you cannot absorb it.”

The crisis is largely a domestic one. Orders for Australia, the US and other overseas markets have already been shipped.

Attention all art-loving Sydney sinophiles

The Jiangsu Art Museum from China has launched an exhibition that will run in Sydney until December.

Lovers of Chinese artworks, calligraphy and oil paintings can view "Taste Life - Exhibition of Artists' Works and Cultural Creative Products from Jiangsu Art Museum" at the China Cultural Centre until December 10.

The name was clearly conjured up by a constipated committee from the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism - but the showing will be a major attraction for sinophiles.

Since ancient times, Jiangsu, a fertile "land of fish and rice", has had a history of cultural heritage.

Exhibitions like this are deigned to boost cultural exchange and co-operation between Jiangsu and Australia and to showcase the talents of Jiangsu to people in Australia.

Jiangsu is an eastern-central coastal province of China with its capital in Nanjing. 

The Jiangsu Art Museum, formerly known as the National Art Exhibition Hall, was built in 1936 and was the first national art museum in China.

Saturday 30 October 2021

Fraudsters, cheats and profanities on Tripadvisor

Who would have thought?

People have been posting fake reviews on Tripadvisor, disparaging opposition businesses and failing to follow posting rules.

The online travel review platform has just published its 2021 Review Transparency Report, revealing in detail the volume of review contributions to the platform in 2020, and the impact of Covid-19 on user-generated travel guidance.

The report says Tripadvisor rejected or removed over two million reviews that did not comply with the platform's community standards.

In total, 3.6% of all review submissions last year were identified as fake, with the majority being rejected before they were posted to the Tripadvisor site.

There are a number of reasons why Tripadvisor rejects or removes reviews, ranging from community standards violations (such as the use of profanity) to fake review activity.

Just 3.6% of all reviews were determined to be fraudulent - but that still totalled nearly 1 million reviews.

In total, Tripadvisor penalized 34,605 properties for fraudulent activity and banned 20,299 members for failing to abide by the platform’s community standards in 2020.

Tripadvisor says it introduced new community standards designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 misinformation and protect businesses that have been keeping customers safe.

As a result, Tripadvisor removed nearly 50,000 reviews that did not adhere to the platform's Covid-19 posting guidelines.

"As we continue the work to earn the trust travellers place in our business, we take the enforcement of our community standards incredibly seriously as we use the best in technology and human moderation practices to fight fraud," said Becky Foley, head of Trust and Safety at Tripadvisor.

A bitter new take on sparkling wine

Chandon, established in 1986, was one of the pioneers of high-quality sparkling wine production in Australia. 

Based in the Yarra Valley but sourcing fruit from several cool-climate wine regions across the country, Chandon is probably best known for its serious approach. 

Dedicated to creating méthode traditionnelle cool-climate sparkling wines, using the three traditional Champenoise grapes of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, Chandon also has a sense of fun. 

Ready to serve, ready to share, Chandon's new Garden Spritz is a blend of sparkling wine and a unique bitters recipe. 

Crafted by chief winemaker Dan Buckle using navel and blood oranges and macerated with dried orange peels, herbs and spices, it offers a new take on summer drinking. 

The good news is that Chandon Garden is 100% natural with no artificial flavors and no artificial colorants. It also has half the sugar of many rival spritzes. 

Primary fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks with a few select parcels fermented in oak vessels for greater complexity. Spices and herbs used include cardamom, ginger and cinnamon. 

A combination of the base wine is blended with reserve wines from previous years while the second fermentation occurs in the bottle. Garden Spritz liqueur is added to Chandon Rosé sparkling wine after disgorging, the final step before popping the cork. 

Chandon Garden Spritz retails for $32 a bottle.

Friday 29 October 2021

Download a free recipe book and help fight world hunger

Would you like some free budget recipes from top-notch chefs?

Do you fancy cooking a meal for a family of four for $14 or under? 

A gastronomic Who’s Who, including Neil Perry and Marco Pierre White, have joined forces with World Vision to create its first famine-fighting cookbook, Hunger Bites, dishing up family feeds on a shoestring.

The aid organisation launched the free eBook today with contributions from 17 chefs and cooks aiming to shine a light on the 41 million people driven to starvation by the pandemic.


From Marco’s spaghetti carbonara to Maggie Beer’s fish and crispy potatoes, Hunger Bites aims to help Australians put affordable meals on their own tables – and at the same time think about putting meals on the tables of others in need. 


Household names such as Luke Mangan, Stephanie Alexander, Ed Halmagyi, Adam D’Sylva, Alice Zaslavsky, Darren Purchese, Iain Hewitson and Luke Nguyen are among the famous pan-handlers to throw their support behind World Vision’s Child Hunger campaign through the Hunger Bites cookbook.


Long-time World Vision child sponsor Maggie Beer AM said she felt moved to join the campaign and help raise awareness of the child hunger crisis.


“We are indeed the lucky country and are blessed with so many fresh, wonderful ingredients in Australia,” she said. 


“It saddens me to know that in some countries, families can’t afford even basic food items such as corn or rice. No child should ever go hungry.”


Fellow World Vision child sponsor and multi award-winning chef Neil Perry AM, who recently set up community meal program Hope Delivery, said he jumped on board as another way to give back.


“We are in an incredibly privileged position to work with the best produce in the country, but there are so many people who struggle day to day just to put food on the table,” said Perry


“I’ve always felt a responsibility to give back. That’s one of the reasons I first sponsored a child with World Vision many years ago.”


He said it was challenging to draw Australians’ attention to global issues during a pandemic, when they were grappling with their own struggles, such as lockdowns and job losses.  


“We've got our own problems in Australia, so it’s more difficult to generate the awareness that there are places in the world that really need a helping hand from countries like ours,” he said.


“We are feeding some people in Australia because they can’t feed themselves with Hope Delivery - but the reality is there are many people here who can afford to do something, whether sponsoring a child, or donating, or talking to others about the reality of famine overseas. 


“I always call for us to be more politically active around the world and set an example, whether it’s on sustainability or climate change or famine. We have an opportunity to be shining lights... and I think we need to shout out to Australians to do what they can.”


World Vision CEO Daniel Wordsworth said he was overwhelmed by the wave of support from such a star-studded line-up, and hoped the book would find a place in kitchens across Australia.


“My heartfelt thanks go to these generous contributors for sharing our vision for a cookbook to support our fellow human beings in a time of great need,” he said.


“When you put Hunger Bites to use, you not only put food on your own table - you help

World Vision put meals on the tables of those who need them most. You make the world a better place.”


He said the cookbook was peppered with digestible facts about the global hunger crisis, and hoped families would use it as a resource to talk about the issue - and be motivated to act. 


A deadly mix of conflict, climate change and Covid-19 are pushing communities towards the biggest hunger crisis in decades, with Afghanistan and East Africa the hardest hit. 

To download a copy of Hunger Bites, and find out how you can support World Vision’s Child Hunger Appeal, go to

Unvaccinated visitors told: stay away from the US of A

If you are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 then you can forget about entering the United States any time soon.

The administration has outlined the entry requirements for foreign travellers visiting the US as it opens to visitors on November 8, Business Traveller reported. 

US President Joe Biden signed a proclamation this week imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign air travellers. 

The new rules replace the 212 (f) restrictions that began at the outset of the pandemic and banned travellers from countries including the UK, Ireland, all Schengen countries, Brazil, South Africa, India, and China.

From early November, travellers must provide proof of double vaccination, as well as a negative Covid-19 test result taken within three days of departure. Both PCR and antigen tests can be used for entry.

Biden’s proclamation states: “It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the Covid-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States.”

Airlines will be required to check travellers’ vaccination status before they can board flights to the US, confirm that the proof of vaccination comes from an “official source” and that it was received at least two weeks before departure.

 The US is currently accepting any vaccines approved by the Federal Drug Administration and World Health Organisation.

Airlines operating flights to the US will also need to collect personal information from passengers for contact tracing purposes. This information will be kept on file for 30 days to allow health officials to get in touch with anyone who may have been exposed to Covid-19.

Travellers under the age of 18 will be exempt from the vaccine requirements, in addition to those with medical conditions, but they must still provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

A serious taste of Italy at Barangaroo

Sydney's waterfront Barangaroo precinct has a new Italian-accented restaurant in Corso Brio.

The new eatery showcases a modern Italian menu and what it claims is "a world-class wine list".

The 120-seat restaurant features a la carte offrings and set menu, as well as a selection of antipasti to share.

The menu features dishes such as: beef carpaccio with wild rocket, shaved parmesan, toasted hazelnuts and dark chocolate; wild-caught New Zealand scampi with coral lettuce, baby cucumbers and extra virgin olive oil; slow-cooked Margra lamb shoulder with smoked sweet potato puree and fig vincotto jus; and citrus crush with buffalo ricotta, candied citrus, Italian meringue and limoncello sponge.

There is also a selection of specialty risottos and hand-made pastas including: spaghetti with Fraser Island crab (below), cherry tomatoes, chilli and charcoal breadcrumb; homemade egg tagliatelle with slow cooked venison ragu, Sardinian pecorino, porcini and coffee dust; and risotto with carnaroli rice, stracciatella, basil oil and olive crumb.

Corso Brio is headed by Italian-born executive chef Massimo De Michele and h
ead chef Alessandro Morabito. 

“Alessandro and I are passionate about our Italian heritage and what we grew up eating around the table," says Di Michele. "The menu is a journey through regional Italian cuisine and we look forward to showcasing the dishes alongside one of the best wine lists in Sydney.” 


Jon Osbeiston, one of Australia’s most respected wine experts, has crafted the 400-bin wine list, which showcases a serious selection of wines from around the world.

“We have a strong focus on the Italian wine regions with an emphasis on aromatic whites and savoury reds," he says. "While acknowledging the great wine regions like Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti, we also have many other regions listed where rare indigenous varieties shine.

“There is also a strong focus on Australian wines. The Hunter Valley features strongly with a large selection of aged semillons. We try to have aged wines on the list so guests can enjoy them at their peak development which adds to the gastronomic experience.”


For details see  

Thursday 28 October 2021

Auckland and the Scenic Rim grab global attention

New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, and the Scenic Rim region of Queensland are the only Australian and New Zealand destinations featured in the newly released Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2022.

The book is the 17th annual collection of the world’s hottest destinations and "must-do" travel experiences for the year ahead, and features lists of the top 10 countries, cities and regions to visit in 2022. 

ChrisZeiher, Lonely PlanetSenior Director Trade Sale and Marketing, said Auckland deserved its place as the No.1 city destination. 


“This is an amazing recognition of Auckland and its surrounding attractions," he said. "Within the city’s boundaries there are 53 volcanoes, more than 50 islands, three wine regions and numerous beaches that make this a truly exciting and vibrant city.


“There is so much to discover or rediscover in Auckland and this recognition, especially now as people start contemplating travel again, places Auckland as the number one city on the map.” 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says: Lonely Planet’s promotion of Auckland as the best city in the world to travel to in 2022 is a fantastic acknowledgement of what Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer. It will give a real boost to Auckland’s tourism and hospitality sectors as they start to recover from the Covid-19 lockdowns and borders reopen.  


“It is also a reminder to Aucklanders and New Zealanders of the treasure trove of places and experiences we have on our doorstep. Seeing Auckland through the eyes of an international traveller is one way to understand how breath-taking, exciting, creative, and full of energy our region is.


“Knowing it is top of the list for travellers around the world, Aucklanders and New Zealanders have the first chance to explore and rediscover everything Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer.”


The book lists top five Auckland highlights including West Coast beaches, Hauraki Gulf Islands, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland Art Gallery and volcanic cone climbs (top image).


Close Kiwi neighbours The Cook Islands - one of the world’s smallest countries – claimed the coveted spot as the No.1 country to seek out in 2022.


The Scenic Rim in South-east Queensland, meanwhile,  was named No.8 region in the world to visit.

Just an hour from Brisbane and 30 minutes from the heart of the Gold Coast, the Scenic Rim stretches from Canungra to The Lost World, Beaudesert to Boonah, Tamborine Mountain to Kalbar. 

It is home to the ancient World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests, historic national parks, charming towns and villages, adventure parks, farm stays, craft breweries, boutique wineries, ecolodges, tantalising gourmet experiences, world- class camping and glamping. 


“After bouncing back from the 2019 Black Summer bushfires with a raft of new attractions and a renewed focus on sustainability, the Scenic Rim in Queensland is primed to become of Australia’s low-impact tourism power players,” says Zeiher. 

“It’s such an untouched and diverse eco-based Australian destination. From the amazing food and wine to the incredible rainforest and bush walks and memorable places to stay, this is an unexpected pocket of Australia that has it all.”


Highlights of the region noted by Lonely Planet include Binna Burra Mountain Lodge and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Australia’s newest Great Walk in The Scenic Rim Trail by Spicers, ecolodges Nightfall Wilderness Camp and Mt Barney Lodge as well as the six national parks.


The lists comprise:

Top 10 Countries: 1. Cook Islands, 2. Norway, 3. Mauritius, 4. Belize, 5. Slovenia, 6. Anguilla, 7. Oman, 8. Nepal, 9. Malawi, 10. Egypt.

Top 10 Regions

1. Westfjords, Iceland, 2. West Virginia, USA,  3. Xishuangbanna, China, 4. Kent Heritage Coast, UK, 5. Puerto Rico, 6. Shikoku, Japan, 7. Atacama Desert, Chile, 8. The Scenic Rim, Australia, 9. Vancouver Island, Canada, 10. Burgundy, France. 

Top 10 cities

Auckland, New Zealand, 2. Taipei, Taiwan, 3. Freiburg, Germany, 4. Atlanta, USA, 5. Lagos, Nigeria, 6. Nicosia/Lefkosia, Cyprus, 7. Dublin, Ireland, 8. Merida, Mexico, 9. Florence, Italy, 10. Gyeongju, South Korea

Thumbs up for Slovenia, Vancouver Island, Burgundy, Dublin and Florence, all among my favourite destinations. Thumbs down for Lagos. Seriously? 

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022: $27.99 is available at all good book shops 

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Thai Airways opens up Phuket for Australians

One travel destination I simply cannot wait to get back to is Thailand.

Beautiful beaches, spicy seafood lunches on the sands, a glass or two of cold beer and maybe a massage or two.

Thai Airways today announced non-stop flights between Sydney and Phuket, Thailand’s premier beach destination, three times each week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from December 8.

Flights will depart Sydney at 9.30am and arrive in time for cocktails at 2.40pm.

Flights have also resumed between Sydney and Bangkok and from November 17: four flights weekly are scheduled.

Flights to/from Melbourne are scheduled to resume in April 2022.

Beyond Thailand, flights have resumed or will soon resume to Europe and Asia, including to destinations like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, Brussels, Zurich, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and many more.

It is terrific to break a trip to Europe with a night or two in Bangkok.

Flights to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will resume in January 2022.

From November 1, Thailand will allow Australian passport holders to travel to Thailand quarantine-free.

Stone the crows! Cannabis treatments are all the rage

Regular readers will recall Anantara Chiang Mai’s resort restaurant launching what it said was "a healthy and nutrition-rich cannabis-infused menu".

Now that same innovative hotel group is promoting a range of healthy spa treatments featuring cannabis products. 

As Thailand is preparing to reopen its borders to international guests, Anantara Spa has unveiled a Thai first addition to its signature treatment menu with the launch of cannabis-infused spa treatments.

Coinciding with the decriminalisation of certain elements of the cannabis plant, Anantara Spa is harnessing the restorative and anti-inflammatory compounds contained in cannabis and bringing the traditional healing properties of cannabis into modern wellness practices.

Rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and pain reducing properties, the medicinal purposes of cannabis have been brought back to the forefront of alternative therapies. 

Cannabis has been utilised across central Asia for centuries. 

Among the offerings are:
  • The perfect antidote to long haul flights, the Restful Slumber Journey including a cannabis-infused aromatherapy massage, cannabis salt-infused foot bath and a relaxing cup of CBD-infused tea.

  • After a day of sightseeing or adventures, the Cannabis Stress-Release Journey unfurls tense muscles knots using a cannabis herbal compress ball, or Luk Pra kob, which has been known in Thailand for centuries.

  • For top-to-bottom pampering, the Head to Toe Calming Journey combines a scalp massage with foot reflexology to melt away tension. 

The treatments are available at Anantara Spas across Thailand including the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort, Anantara Chiang Mai Hotel and Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort (above).

For more information see

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Winemaker does his bit to help homeless youths

Matt Burton from Gundog Estate is one of Australia's most talented young winemakers. 

Not only does he make excellent wines using Hunter Valley and Canberra-region fruit under the Gundog Estate label, he also collaborates with Seville Estate's Dylan McMahon for Yarra Valley wines under the Burton & McMahon brand.

It turns out Burton is also a winemaker of generosity, working with community partner Path 2 Change, an organisation aiming to break the cycle of youth homelessness in the Newcastle region. 

Over 1000 bottles of the 2019 The Lived Experience Shiraz were produced by Burton, who is donating 100% of profits to Path 2 Change. 

"With our usual fundraising and work experience activities disrupted by Covid-19, we needed to get creative," Burton says. 

The wine has a hand-drawn label symbolising the journey of young people from struggles with broken homes and families to support, freedom, and hope for the future.

"We are donating 100% of profits to Path 2 Change who will use these funds to support local disadvantaged and homeless youth," Burton says. 

“The past two years have been tough for us and most others in the region. But through our work with Path 2 Change, we know that disadvantaged and homeless youth are doing it even tougher. 

"Their needs have escalated significantly, and Path 2 Change now has more clients on their books than ever before.” 

Path 2 Change Chief Executive Officer Jennifer O’Sullivan said: "Young people are also experiencing increased mental health challenges and are at a higher risk of suicide due to isolation, in addition to already being disconnected from family and social supports. 

"Our young people are requiring more support than ever during this time.”

Gundog Estate formed a partnership with Path 2 Change back in September 2018, and since then the boutique wine producer has supported the charity's work through fundraising at wine club events and at Gundog’s two cellar doors.

The one-off wine is available for sale at $35 a bottle and in six packs for $210 online or from the Gundog Estate cellar doors. It is a very good wine, savoury and certainly worthy of being cellared for a year or two.


Hawaiian Airlines to return to Australian skies

Hawaiian Airlines will resume its five-times weekly service to Sydney from Honolulu in December, the airline has announced. 

Hawaiian halted the service at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Hawaiian will restart Sydney flights on Tuesdays and Thursday through Sunday starting from December 15, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper reported.

"We are thrilled to reconnect Hawaii and Australia and have been encouraged by the public's response to Australia's national vaccination program," said Andrew Stanbury, regional director for Australia and New Zealand at Hawaiian Airlines. 

Only Australian citizens and permanent residents are currently permitted to enter Australia but Australians able to travel overseas.

“Hawaii is a hugely popular holiday destination for Australians, and we know many people have been keenly waiting to take a Hawaiian vacation,” Stanbury said. 

“We are looking forward to safely welcoming our guests back on board to enjoy the authentic hospitality we know our guests love and have missed.”

This latest restoration of Hawaiian service follows an announcement from Governor David Ige last week that starting November 1, Hawaii would welcome back vaccinated travellers. 
In addition to non-stop flights o Hawaii, the carrier’s extensive US domestic network allowing them to travel to 16 US mainland gateways – including new destinations in Austin, Orlando, and Ontario, California. 

Hawaiian will continue to operate the SYD-HNL route with its 278-seat, wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft. 

Glass House takes out Tasmanian wine list honours

Hobart eatery The Glass House on Brooke Street Pier took out the honours at the second annual Tassie Wine Stars event this week.

The waterfront venue, which describes itself as "a dining bar", was crowned the 2021 Judges' Choice Tasmanian Wine List of the Year at the celebration of all things Tasmanian at Tamar Ridge cellar door in Rosevears.

The Glass House is known for elegant cocktails, Tasmanian-inspired shared plates and 280-degree water views.

The wine list includes sparkling wines from House of Arras and Belbonne; table wines from Stargazer, Kate Hill, Domaine Simha, Stoney Rise, Marco Lubiana and Tolpuddle, as well as benchmark pinots from Two Tonne, Small Island, Hughes & Hughes and Apsley Gorge, as well as a range of interstate and imported standouts.

I was honoured to be one of the judges.

The award event brought together Tasmanian wine producers, local wine trade and hospitality representatives along with visiting interstate wine trade guests.

The Old Bank of Geeveston in the Huon Valley took out the 2021 Tasmanian Wine List of the Year - Regional Venue , while Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory in Sassafras was awarded the 2021 People's Choice Tasmanian Wine List of the Year, as voted by Tasmanian wine lovers.

Wine Tasmania CEO Sheralee Davies commended the 2021 Tasmanian Wine List of the Year winners as well as each of the finalists.

"Tasmanian hospitality operators have experienced a very challenging year," she said. "To have such a strong and diverse list of finalists demonstrating their unwavering support for our local wines is outstanding, and we thank them all.

"These awards are all about recognising and rewarding venues that are doing great things to support local wines - it’s not about having a big wine list or only Tasmanian wines on the list, but about having a focus on Tasmanian wines, appropriate to the individual venue's size, location, style and cuisine."

At the same event, the VinØ ("vin zero") Program Awards recognised the sustainability practices of two wine producers.

As part of Wine Tasmania’s VinØ Program, which helps wine producers measure, improve and report their sustainability and management practices, two awards were announced at the event.

Southwood Wines in Kellevie, east of Sorrell, was announced as the VinØ Program Most Improved Producer while Waterton Hall in the Tamar Valley is the VinØ Program Champion of 2021.

The VinØ Program is a comprehensive, user-friendly resource, focused on key areas of vineyard and winery management including soil health, biodiversity, waste and water management, biosecurity and emissions reduction.

Nelson Mandela’s former home now a luxury boutique hotel

Want to stay somewhere special when you visit Johannesburg? How about sleeping in the former home of one of the greatest men of our generation: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela? 

Before his death, the anti-apatheid icon and South Africa’s first black president owned three home: one in Qunu, the village where he was raised; the second in Soweto and the third in he leafy Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, where he lived until his death in 2013. 

The Nelson Mandela Foundation in conjunction with the Motsamayi Tourism Group has converted his last home into a luxury boutique hotel that is dotted with Madiba memorabilia.

It was here that the great leader - an inspiration to millions - hosted the likes of Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton. It later became the headquarters of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. 

Sanctuary Mandela offers guests nine rooms capable of hosting up to 18 people and offers retreat spaces for reflection and healing. 

Sally-Anne Grinter, the hotel’s operations manager, describes the experience in these three words: reflection, peace and freedom.

Officially opened last month, Sanctuary Mandela rooms start at around $AU400 a night. 

The presidential suite was Mandela’s old bedroom and there are two meeting rooms, a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and a lovely garden. 

The bar and restaurant are open to the public. 

Grinter says the Nelson Mandela Foundation wanted the property to be self-sustainable instead of standing vacant. 

Accoutrements include replicas of letters Mandela wrote during his lifetime, historic photographs and artworks. 

The green chair at the entrance is the original chair he sat on while reading his daily newspaper under a tree.

Some of Madiba’s favourite dishes, including oxtail - which he ate a boy - are on the menu. Other dishes are traditional to South Africa, like the Nguni sirloin steak and Cape Malay-style fish. 

Cook Xoliswa Ndoyiya, who prepared meals for Mandela and his family for over 22 years, is part of the team that cooks in the restaurant. 

My favourite Johannesburg hotels are the grand The Saxon, coincidentally where Mandela wrote his autobiography, and the delightful boutique Ten Bompas. The Maslow Hotel and the Radisson Blue Gautrain in Sandton are other good options, but Sanctuary Mandela sounds special. 

Bookings are required before visiting the restaurant or bar. For accommodation bookings or more information visit the website.

Would you pay $78,000 for this special bottle of whisky?

You'd need to be a very keen whisky fan - and probably the holder of a black American Express card - to be tempted by a new release from The House of Suntory.

The Japanese distiller has just introduced a tiny quantity of limited-edition Yamazaki 55 whisky to Global Travel Retail, available at a recommended retail price of $US60,000 - tfat’s $78,000 for Australians. 

Bottled in 2020, Yamazaki 55 is the House of Suntory's oldest release in its history and pays tribute to the founding family of Japanese whisky.

Yamazaki 55 will be available to select Global Travel Retail outlets with bottles to be found in London, Paris, Hainan, Hong Kong, Taipei, Amsterdam, Seoul, Delhi, Istanbul, Dubai and Singapore.

Beam Suntory will donate $5,000 for every bottle released in this year's 100-bottle collection to The White Oak Initiative, a group committed to the long-term sustainability of America's white oak forests.

Yamazaki 55 is a blend of single malts, featuring components distilled in 1960 under the supervision of Suntory's founder Shinjiro Torii and then aged in Mizunara casks; and in 1964 under the direction of Suntory's second Master Blender Keizo Saji and then aged in White Oak casks.

Suntory's fifth-generation chief blender Shinji Fukuyo worked closely with third-generation Master Blender Shingo Torii to create Yamazaki 55.

The resulting liquid "features a deep amber colour; robust aroma redolent of sandal wood and well-ripened fruit; sweet, slightly bitter and woody palate; and slightly bitter yet sweet and rich finish" - says the press release. My sample obviously got lost in the post.

Manuel González, marketing director Beam Suntory, said: "We are extremely proud to have the opportunity to offer travellers something as unique and exclusive as Yamazaki 55, the oldest-aged expression from the House of Suntory.

"This highly limited-edition product will be showcased in some of our best House of Suntory locations, and it will be amplified by an integrated activation campaign. We are committed to growing Global Travel Retail by reinforcing our innovative offering and bringing the best premium shopper experience to life for our customers."

'Yamazaki' is engraved in calligraphy on each crystal bottle, while the age marking is accentuated with gold dust and protected with lacquer. The bottle's opening is wrapped in handmade Echizen washi paper and bound by with a Kyo-kumihimo plaited cord, a traditional craft from Kyoto.

Each bottle is enclosed in a bespoke box made from Japanese Mizunara wood and coated with Suruga lacquer.

Monday 25 October 2021

Walking, or running, in Sydney sunshine


I no longer run very much. Unless someone is chasing me. 

Which doesn't happen very often. 

But I do remember from my days living in Sydney that the city is a runner’s and walker's paradise. 

From the Bay Run and the Bondi to Coogee Walk to the Pool to Pool Run that takes you past some of the city’s most renowned sights, here are some suggestions from Destination NSW. 

The Bay Run

Just a 10-minute drive from the city centre in the inner western suburbs, this 7km loop around the shores of Iron Cove Bay links the suburbs of Drummoyne, Russell Lea, Rodd Point, Haberfield, Leichhardt, Rozelle and Balmain. It’s one of the most popular harbourside running tracks in Sydney, traversing the natural course of the cove and never more than 20 metres away from the water. The predominantly flat, well-maintained track is a local favourite, regularly frequented by cyclists, dog walkers and pram pushers. A recently added 500-metre extension for cyclists and pedestrians has just been opened to offer more space for everyone.

The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

One of Sydney’s most iconic tracks (above), this 6km run starts at the southern end of Bondi Beach and follows the coastline to Coogee via Tamarama and Bronte. Though the course is not particularly long, you’ll encounter stairs, hills and narrow parts along the path, as well as plenty of locals who take a more leisurely pace, taking two hours or so to complete their walk. You can choose to tackle portions of the track, then reward yourself with a dip in the water at one of the beaches and pools along the way including Clovelly, Gordons Bay, McIvers Baths, Wylies Baths and Giles Baths. For those looking for a further challenge, continue onwards from Coogee to Maroubra, another 5km stretch. 

The Manly to North Head Walk

On the Northern Beaches, a string of sandy beaches stretching north from Sydney, start this 10km stroll at the lagoon near Queenscliff, then head towards Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, admiring the cliff faces. From the path at the Shelly Beach carpark, you can begin your ascent to North Head - this run is a little more challenging due to the steep incline. Reach the Fairfax Walk at North Head for spectacular views across Sydney Harbour Heads. This paved track, ideal for a run, starts at the end of the North Head Scenic Drive and circles around the top of North Head, encompassing three lookouts. 

The Pool to Pool Run 

A perfect way to start a Sydney summer’s day, this invigorating run will have you sweating then swimming to cool right off. You’ll also pass some of the city’s most beloved spots. Starting at the pretty-as-a-picture North Sydney Olympic Pool at Milsons Point, this run will take you over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, along the Cahill Expressway passing Circular Quay. You can jog past the Sydney Opera House and then sprint into Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, finishing at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and Andrew Boy Charlton Pool in a pocket alongside the garden for a recovery splash in the striking outdoor pool. 

Ch-Ch-Changes work out well for Oakridge Wines


Wine lovers are often concerned when one of their favourite producers is sold. 

More so when an independent winery is snapped up by a business conglomerate. 

What will change? Will corporate toe-cutters strike?  

There were certainly fears for the future direction of Yarra Valley icon Oakridge Estate when, at the start of the year, it was sold to Endeavour Drinks which was then part of Woolworths.

Endeavour has since demerged from Woolworths, prompting further questions. 

Winemaker David Bicknell (above) describes it as "a tumultuous year" - but reports all is well aboard the good ship Oakridge. 

"Importantly, the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same," Bicknell says in a media release. 

"We have been granted the autonomy and given the backing to get on with making Oakridge what it should always have been - wine focused and appropriately resourced. 

"Winemaking technique is unchanged, the team is intact and the will and spirit to make good wines are stronger than ever." 

For details see     

An experiment: Will fine spirits age better when stored on the water?

Will fine spirits age better when stored on the water?

French company Maison Ferrand's newly operational Barge 166 will be used to conduct "dynamic aging" experiments on spirits.

Maison Ferrand has the world’s first floating ageing cellar, BARGE 166, on the banks of the Seine just outside Paris. The vessel will house premium rum, whisky and Cognac.

A 73-year-old river barge is the new home to around 1500 barrels of fine spirits.

The canal boat is located on the river bank in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineux.

It is the culmination of two years of research and development by the Cognac-based fine spirits producer, Drinks Business reported.

The project involved a complete structural rebuild of the vessel in order to make room for the barrels. The boat’s engine had to be removed.

As well as Maison Ferrand’s own cognac and rum, Barge 166 will age collaborations with select spirits partners including Mackmyra Swedish Whisky.

The barrels will be studied closely to analyse the impact of dynamic ageing in the boat’s very humid cellar, which is expected to see significant temperature variations. Consumers will also be able to buy and personalise a barrel.

The Freycinet-style barge has been designed to house approximately 1,500 custom-made 30-litre barrels.

Sunday 24 October 2021

Meet the world's largest observation wheel

Ain Dubai, the world's largest and tallest observation wheel, was finally set in motion this week.

Located on Bluewaters Island, it is one of the most anticipated attractions in the United Arab Emirates and has been planned since 2013, the Khaleej Times reported.

Passengers can board one of 48 luxurious cabins, each able to carry up to 40 guests. At any one time there can be up to 1,750 people on the wheel.

One complete rotation of the wheel takes 38 minutes and locals says it is "steady as a rock".

At 250 metres, the Ain Dubai is almost twice the height of the London Eye.

The previous tallest wheel - the Las Vegas High Roller - stands at a height of 167.5 metres.

Workers from over 10 countries came together to create Ain Dubai, with the steel wheel structure produced across the UAE, South Korea and Germany.

The UK, France and Netherlands provided key engineering and project management expertise and Ain Dubai was built using the two largest cranes in the world.

The observation cabins provide 360-degree views of Dubai and over the waters of the Arabian Gulf and landmarks such as Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa. 

Construction began in May 2015 but the opening was delayed by the Covis-19 pandemic.

Cool-climate, elegant and affordable: a rare wine trifecta

The phrase "cool-climate" and the word "elegant" combined are often wine industry code for "expensive". 

Not so with the new Quilty & Gransden range of wines from Cumulus Vineyards in Orange - a region that is just about as cool climate as it gets in New South Wales. 

The Quilty & Gransden range - five varietals in all - is promoted as "premium quality, affordable wines". It is certainly rare to find wines from Orange which retail for just $15 a bottle. 

The single varietals comprise a 2020 sauvignon blanc, a 2019 chardonnay, and a 2018 merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon using estate-grown fruit managed by Orange region vigneron of the year Russell Quilty and Nuffield Scholarship recipient Martin Gransden.

“Our purpose is simple; we want to get as many people drinking the great wines from Orange as we can," says Cumulus Vineyards CEO Tim Jones. 

"Quilty & Gransden wines are an affordable entry point for people to enjoy the elegant wines that Orange is becoming famous for."

Vineyard manager Quilty says: “The wines from Orange are outstanding, but they should also be affordable.”

All the grapes for these wines are sourced from 25-year-old vines that sit at a cool 600 metres above sea-level where the fruit enjoys intense, high-elevation sunshine, resulting in flavourful medium-bodied wines. 

Viticulturist Gransden says: “We are not interested in making big, heavy alcohol wines, we want to make elegant, food-friendly, savoury wines.” 

At $15 a bottle all represent reasonable value but it was the cabernet sauvignon, pleasingly medium-bodied and varietal with blackcurrant flavours and subtle oak, and the crisp, tropical and refreshing sauvignon blanc that stood out for me. 

“Shiraz, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot are the varieties that people like to drink here,” says Gransden. 

“We think that our core offering coupled with Orange’s reputation for producing quality wine will really be appealing to consumers.” 

It's certainly nice to see a wine range named after those who grew the fruit rather than the name of a vineyard or a winemaker. 

“We decided to name this range after Russ and Marty,” says Jones. “They are two of the most talented vignerons in New South Wales and have spend a combined 30 years looking after our magnificent vineyard.

“Orange is one of Australia’s most exciting wine regions, but the majority of wines from here are too expensive for everyday consumers.”

See for details. 

Saturday 23 October 2021

Perth's Murdoch precinct to gain an international hotel

The fast-expanding Murdoch Health and Knowledge precinct in Perth will be home to a new-build Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

Marriott International has signed an agreement with local developers Hesperia to introduce the Courtyard by Marriott brand to one of Western Australia’s fastest growing commercial and residential catchments.

"We are thrilled to be working with Hesperia to bring the Courtyard by Marriott brand to Perth," said Richard Crawford, vice president for hotel development, Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific.

"Murdoch is a large-scale health and knowledge precinct and the signing of Courtyard by Marriott Perth, Murdoch further underscores Marriott International's continued effort in expanding into urban growth corridors outside of Australia's capital cities."

Located 10 minutes from Perth CBD and 25 minutes from Perth Airport, Courtyard by Marriott Perth Murdoch will offer proximity to existing institutional and corporate demand generators including Western Australia's largest tertiary hospitals, Murdoch University, the South Metro TAFE Campus and one of Perth's fastest growing districts.

"With two Courtyard by Marriott hotels already open in Australia, and five more in our pipeline, it is very satisfying to see the Courtyard brand gaining such momentum here," Crawford said.

Hesperia director Kyle Jeavons said the hotel will be a perfect alignment with the precinct.

"The Courtyard by Marriott will deliver an inviting experience that is suitable for the precinct and the broad range of users it will attract," Jeavons said. 

"When selecting the right mix of partners for a complex mixed-use project such as this, it is essential to align with groups that share our philosophy in customer service and hospitality and we're pleased to be bringing the Courtyard by Marriott brand to Perth."

The hotel is slated to feature 150 guest rooms, feature an all-day dining restaurant with a semi-open kitchen concept, a café and bar. Additional plans call for a well-equipped fitness centre and one meeting room, which will be equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and wireless internet.

Marriott International currently operates 35 hotels across Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific, with 26 hotels in Australia, and several expected to open by the end of 2021, including Melbourne Marriott Hotel Docklands and The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hobart.

Facial recognition technology may remove the need for passport checks

European rail operator Eurostar is set to begin trials of a new biometric identity verification technology that promises seamless travel across national borders.

Created by identity, payments and data protection developer Entrust, the new system will allow travellers to register their face and passport ahead of travel for a touch-free journey through border checks, Travelmole reports.

No more passport scans. The way of the future?

Passengers embarking at London’s St Pancras International will use only their face to check in for their train, having registered their passport and facial image before travel. 

Using the Entrust Seamless Travel Solution, passport data will be automatically sent to UK Border Force to check.

The initiative is the first move into travel for Entrust, which said its technology meant travellers could also dispense with boarding passes and the need to show documents multiple times at different checkpoints.

It said: “The Seamless Travel Solution follows all regulations, does not retain personally identifiable information and encrypts all data in transit and at rest for maximum user security.

“Each traveller using the service can receive the option to store their digital travel credential on their personal mobile device, but this is not required.”

Gordon Wilson, Entrust’s vice-president identity verification, added: “As citizens of the world begin to travel again, now is the perfect time to bring this solution to the market.

“We are confident that the Seamless Travel Solution will help launch the world into a new era of travel, allowing travellers to feel safer and experience less hassle, while also enabling operational efficiency to both border agencies and the entire travel industry through digital transformation.”

High-speed Eurostar serves London, Paris, Brussels, Lille, the South of France and many more European destinations.