Great Eastern Wine Week - Sponsored Ad Leaderboard

Great Eastern Wine Week - Sponsored Ad Leaderboard
Great Eastern Wine Week, 9-18 September 2022

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Bottle of whisky sells for almost $2 million

A bottle of whisky sold at auction this week for almost $2 million - but it is no ordinary bottle. 
The world's largest bottle of whisky, containing 311 litres of 1989 Macallan single malt, was auctioned in Edinburgh, fetching £1.1million. 

Containing the equivalent to 444 standard-size bottles and standing taller than the average Scotsman, it was among the most expensive bottles ever sold.

The bottle - known as The Intrepid - was certified by Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest. 

The Macallan whisky was matured in two casks at the distillery’s warehouse in Speyside, Scotland.

The bottle was sold to a private international collector, who wishes to remain anonymous. local media reported. 

The bottle is a celebration of 11 explorers, including Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

“For me and the whole team The Intrepid project has always been about more than money," said entrepreneur Daniel Monk. "This was a passion project to celebrate the life of my late father, Captain Stanley Monk, who was himself an explorer and achieved many amazing things during his life.”

The sale will provide money for several charities. A dozen 50cl bottles and sets of miniatures containing the 1989 Macallan were also auctioned off.

Founded in 1884, the Macallan is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. 

Cashed-up travellers ready to splurge post-Covid

Luxury travel is set to boom in the second half of 2022 in the wake of Covid-19 with more travellers looking at private aviation services, large villas and boutique hotels. 

A new report by GlobalData: Luxury Travel Market Trend and Analysis of Traveller Types, Key Destinations, Challenges and Opportunities, 2022 Update reveals that as luxury travellers resume travelling both domestically and abroad they may begin to seek experiences that are more immersive and more exceptional than in previous years.

“With travellers determined to make up for lost time, 2022 could see an increase in holiday budgets for luxury travellers, with an uptick in demand for ‘once in a lifetime’ adventures," says Hannah Free, Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData. 

"According to a GlobalData poll, when respondents were asked if their holiday budgets had changed due to Covid-19, 16% reported that their budgets were ‘a lot higher than pre-Covid-19’, while 12% of respondents stated that their budgets were ‘slightly higher than pre-Covid-19’.”

Despite the demand for luxury travel, there is a growing demographic of socially conscious, high-net-worth consumers who are rejecting overt displays of wealth in favour of inconspicuous and responsible consumption. 

Their approach to luxury is driven by ethical living, artisanship, authenticity and sustainability.

Experiences are the new currency for these holidaymakers, who seek self-fulfillment through greener travel and eco holidays, while wanting to ‘do good’ for people and the planet. 

If luxury travel brands ignore this trend, it could put them at tremendous risk of total disconnect with an audience who are looking for sustainable options, GlobalData says.

“While Covid-19 has changed many aspects of luxury travel, there are still several defining features which sets the sector apart from mass-market tourism," Free says. 

"This includes hyper-personalisation, exclusivity, unique experiences, intuitive service and the ever important ‘human touch’ element.”

GlobalData offers data, expert analysis and innovative solutions in one platform for industries including the healthcare, consumer, retail, financial, technology and professional services sectors.

Friday, 27 May 2022

Airline targeted by cyber criminals

Indian budget airline SpiceJet was this week the victim of a ransomware attack by cyber criminals.

Flight schedules were thrown into chaos by the attack.

SpiceJet said the attack “had a cascading effect on our flights leading to delays.”

The airline says the issue has now been rectified and flights are operating normally.

The disruption left hundreds of passengers stranded across the country with several flights grounded or delayed by several hours.

SpiceJet says it is currently working with cybercrime investigators.

SpiceJet is the second-largest airline in India, operating a fleet of 102 aircraft serving over 60 destinations.

Winter Feast to feature some of the best of Tasmania

Tasmania's Dark Mofo festival is back - and so is the Winter Feast on the Hobart waterfront. 

A huge number of Tasmania's best artisan producers have signed up the June gourmet event. 

“Human beings have been gathering over food to celebrate the end of the winter months for thousands of years,” said new Winter Feast food curator Amanda Vallis.

“One of the things I love about living in Tasmania is the distinct division of seasons, and so I think the Winter Feast is particularly suited to our way of life here.


“We also have an incredibly rich and diverse community who call Tasmania home, so the Winter Feast is a beautiful way to showcase all of the different cuisines that we are lucky to have access to here in Tasmania.


“The last few years have reinforced to me the importance of gathering together for events like Dark Mofo, particularly gathering together over food. It’s something I don’t think any of us will take for granted ever again."


Dark Mofo has announced more than 80 stallholders that will operate at this year’s Winter Feast, including 25 first-time stallholders from across the state like Utizinger Wines from the Tamar Valley, Callington Mill Distillery from Oatlands, La Cantara Artisan Cheeses from Smithton, and Hobart-based OCA Brazilian Inspired Food.


Vallis said the theme for this year’s event was the ancient Roman winter solstice ritual of Saturnalia.


Princes Wharf I's outdoor deck area will be transformed into a roaming Saturnalia-inspired feast, featuring antipasto-style dishes presented by Sirocco South, Roman-inspired honey-spiked desserts by Queens Pastry in collaboration with Tasmanian-based Italian mamma Giuliana White, and the feast’s hero pork dish - handcrafted by guest chef Giovanni Pilu in collaboration with Meat Mistress.

Another "culinary highlight" of this year’s Winter Feast will be the collaboration between palawa kipli project manager Kitana Mansell and guest chef Jo Barrett, with the pair to serve mutton bird grilled over fire with a variety of accompaniments that showcase native Tasmanian ingredients.

Having tasted mutton bird before, I will pass on this "treat". 

The 2022 Winter Feast will also offer a series of special activities for kids, between 4pm and 6pm each night. 

The City of Hobart Dark Mofo Winter Feast will run for five nights, from June 15-19. Ticket prices will be $10 on Wednesday, June 15; $20 on Thursday 16, Friday 17 and Saturday 18 with free entry on Sunday, June 19. See

A uniquely Australian coffee, or complete bunkum?

Fast food people McDonald's are the masters of self-promotion.

And now the people from Maccas are seeking to grab headlines by launching "a uniquely Australian coffee" at their McCafe outlets.

Launched this week, the new drink is called an Australiano and blends coffee with chai and “native wattleseed” in a product advertised as “coffee fit for an Aussie”.

I call nonsense.

No Australians I know add wattleseed to their coffee. And no real coffee lover would go to McDonald's for their caffeine.

Sounds and smells like a publicity stunt to me.

Here's the blurb: "The ‘Australiano’ is Australia’s answer to the Americano, featuring flavours of Australian wattleseed, chai and McCafe coffee".

An Americano, for those not in the know, is what freedom-loving, gun-toting folk call a coffee "made with hot water and espresso". A long black, in other words.

The Australiano is billed as being for a
 "limited time" (probably to see if it tanks or not) .

An ad campaign will reportedly run across TV, radio, digital and social mediums.

McDonald’s group brand manager Lancy Huynh said: “Despite being a nation of coffee connoisseurs, we haven’t had a coffee to call our own. As a champion for Aussie coffee culture, McCafé wanted to right this wrong and craft a blend that Aussies can proudly put their name to.”

OK Lancy. Whatever you say.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Big guns banking on zero-alcohol wines

Let's be brutally honest. Most zero-alcohol and low-alcohol wines are pretty dreadful.

Despite claims to the contrary, many of them simply do not taste like wine.

But industry global big guns Accolade are betting they can do better.

In announcement that got a lot of traction in Britain and South Africa, but flew under the radar in Australia, Accolade has announced it believes it can do better its rivals with a new label called &Then (which, let's be honest, is a dreadful start).

Accolade says &Then is "driven by a desire to elevate the experience of drinking zero-alcohol wines".

It describes the zero-alcohol chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon as "a visionary new collection from South Australia’s cool-climate vineyards" that is "bottled using a revolutionary new de-alcoholising technology".

The result, Accolade says, is "a premium drinking experience and a credible wine alternative that tastes better than any other zero-­alcohol wine on the market".

A pretty confident claim.

Apparently, &Then’s proprietary de-alcoholising technique, The Zero Tech X technology, treats the wine more gently than other de-alcoholising methods.

This, it is claimed, ensures more of the aroma, body and flavour of full-strength wine is retained.

The process also requires fewer sugary additives compared with existing de-alcoholising methods.

The two varietals will be shortly followed by a "Provence-style" rosé, and a Blanc De Blancs sparkling.

The proof, as ever, will be in the tasting.

&Then will be available from June in 750ml format bottles with an RRP of £8 across retail, pubs and bars in the UK.

No news yet on an Australian launch date.

The Tasman links with local drink producers


Full marks to the Tasman Hotel in Hobart for championing and showcasing local Tasmanian products.

The Tasman, a Marriott Luxury Collection Hotel, has just announced exclusive partnership with two of the Apple Isle's high-profile beverage producers: distillers Lark and wine producers Two Tonne Tasmania. 

Hobart-based Lark is home to Tasmania's first single malt whisky and is Australia’s first certified carbon neutral distillery. The Lark team has created The Docks Lark Single Malt Whisky exclusively for the hotel.

“The Lark Single Malt Whisky was matured in ex-port casks, then finished in muscat casks, offering a cosy and heart-warming dram with just a touch of the unexpected," says Jodie Dawe, Lark's senior distiller. 

"The result is akin to running into a charismatic old friend and realising that your night will now be long and filled with whisky and tales, equal parts familiar and fantastic." 

Jodie has a way with words. 

“At the heart of Lark is community, people and place, and the opportunity to share this with The Tasman, just metres away from Lark's first distillery in the heart of Hobart, was the perfect collaboration," says Jason Whalley, Lark's head of marketing. 

"Both partners share a passion for authentic local culture, championing community artisans and unearthing the stories behind the island’s most celebrated talent, spotlighting the importance of the island for both global and domestic luxury travellers."

Lark Distilling also has a personal connection with the legacy of The Tasman site, as Bill and Lyn Lark, co-founders of Lark, used to work in the former Lands Building that now houses The Tasman. 

Ricky Evans, meanwhile, sources fruit from the Tamar Valley, East Coast and southern Tasmania for his Two Tonne ranges. 

He has created a sub-regional pinot noir blend specially curated for The Tasman, drawing on a smaller barrel selection of Tamar Valley fruit. 

"This exciting partnership embodies the very best of a small producer teaming up with a reputable hotel brand, making local Tasmanian wine-making accessible,” Evans says. 

The Docks Lark Single Malt Whisky and Two Tonne Tasman Pinot Noir will each be presented with a unique co-branded design, incorporating The Tasman’s rope graphic – a nod to the hotel’s nautical history. 

Hotel guests will also have exclusive access to both cellar doors - "an extension of the hotel’s commitment to showcasing the epicurean experiences that make Tasmania unique".

This partnerships are the first of many between The Tasman and a network of local Tasmanian producers. 


Why the Yarra Valley wants to warm you up this winter

The winemakers of the Yarra Valley are offering some warming winter experiences with their Fireside Yarra Valley Festival in July. 

The fourth edition of the festival will feature a range of activities for vinophiles and gourmets across a 16-day period from July 9-24.

Events will celebrate the season with the region’s finest wine and food on show against a backdrop of moody skies, crisp (or maybe chilly) nights, and open fires.


This year’s headline events include gourmet collaborations from Bente Grysbaek and Seville Estate and Tom Sarafian and Jayden Ong Wines, as well as the Local Legends Long Lunch,  which brings together some of Yarra Valley’s pioneering wine producers, including Yeringberg, Seville Estate, St Huberts and Yarra Yering at the the new Hubert Estate

“We’re excited to team up our friends from some of the region’s oldest and most awarded wineries for this special event and show off our new home,” says St Huberts business manager Tony Layton.


The itinerary includes winemaker dinners, fireside brunches and wine masterclasses to suit all palates and budgets.


Visit to explore the calendar of events. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Hotel offers put a spotlight on the lure of Laos

Laos is a fascinating-looking Asian nation that has long been on my "to visit" list. 

As Laos reopens to travellers with a lifting of all entry requirements for vaccinated travellers, Avani+ Luang Prabang Hotel (above), has launched a new three-night package for those wanting to stay on the banks of the Mekong River. 

Regular readers will recall I was impressed with recent stays at two Avani+ properties in Thailand.

Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site with French colonial influences from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

It also features a lively night market, temples, pagodas and the climb up Mount Phousi for the best views of the city.  Visitors will also see orange-robed monks walking the streets, collecting donations for their monasteries. 

Avani+ Luang Prabang is constructed around a swimming pool that acts as a resort centrepiece to a  heritage hideaway. 

The reopening package starts from $US110 per night in a deluxe room for two people and includes a minimum of three nights' accommodation with breakfast for two and return airport transfers, one sunset boat cruise with Mekong Kingdoms; one sunrise alms-giving experience and 20% discount on Anantara Spa treatments.  

Accor, meanwhile, is the largest international hotel operator in Laos, with hotels and resorts under the Sofitel, MGallery, Pullman and ibis brands in both Luang Prabang and Vientiane. 

The Sofitel Luang Prabang (above) was originally built as a French Governor's residence in the 1900s, and is a UNESCO-protected boutique hotel with 25 suites, each with an outdoor bathtub or pool in a private garden. 

Nearby, 3 Nagas Luang Prabang – MGallery has just 15 rooms and suites in a restored teak wood building, while Pullman Luang Prabang sprawls over 16 hectares of landscaped gardens with views of the surrounding hills. 

The administrative capital during French rule, Vientiane is the largest city in Laos. Located in the heart of the city next to the Nam Phu Fountain, ibis Vientiane Nam Phu provides a base from which to explore the nearby historical monuments, Mekong Promenade and night market.

Luang Prabang and Vientiane are connected via a high-speed railway, with journeys taking less than two hours.

Accor is offering travellers to Laos a 10% discount and complimentary breakfast. Travelers can book the 'For the Love of Asia' offer for stays at Accor hotels across the country until December 31. 

Wine drinkers do their bit to help save koalas

Winesmiths - one of Australia's best quality cask wine brands - announced today that $25,000 has been raised for the Australian Koala Foundation through the sale of specially marked Winesmiths Dry Rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon packs over the summer. 

One dollar from every specially marked pack sold has been donated. 

"With a focus on sustainability and in the spirit of our ‘Sacrifice Nothing’ ethos, we wanted to prompt consumers to think about their wine choice and their impact on the environment," said Winesmiths senior brand manager Lisa Antoney.

"The Australian Koala Foundation really looks at changing the relationship people have with nature. Conservation efforts not only benefit koalas, but our population as a whole. 

"At Winesmiths, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment. By packing wine into two-litre soft packs instead of glass, we save approximately 1.8 million metric tonnes of emissions each year.

"We recycle 100% of our wastewater for re-use on our vineyards, which equates to around eight Olympic pools of water saved each year."

The chair of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart OAM, said the money raised would go towards the newly announced Koala Kiss Project.

"The project outlines an ultimate vision of the 'Great Koala Trail': approximately 2,543 kilometres of uninterrupted conservation and prime koala habitat from Cairns to Melbourne, connected at 'kiss points'," Tabart says. 

"Kiss points are the points where intact sections of koala habitat come close to each other, but remain separated by divisions of cleared land. 

"If we achieve contiguous habitat, then all creatures great and small could traverse through the bush unthreatened.

"Humans could walk under this trail of gum trees with koalas happily in the branches overhead.

"Funding for projects is always important, but having our message spread to wine lovers around Australia will enable more people to think about the conservation of the koala and some of the bigger issues, like deforestation and water management.”

Winesmiths will unveil their next Sacrifice Nothing project later in 2022, with the objective to continue to bring awareness and much-needed funding to important sustainability causes.


Winesmiths two-litre wine casks are available in most liquor stores. RRP $16.

Fancy owning a cruise ship?

Ever fancied owning and operating your own cruise ship?

Two cruise ships from the failed Crystal Cruises fleet are heading for sale by auction.

Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony (above) are to be offered for sale in a sealed tender process in the Bahamas.

Bidders are required to post a 10% deposit with their bid by June 7, Travel Mole reports.

The Supreme Court Commercial Division in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas published the official notice of sale.

The ships have been impounded in Freeport since February 5, due to the collapse of parent company Genting Hong Kong.

Winning bidders will be informed by June 14 and have seven days to complete the transaction.

Several bidders have reportedly shown interest in the ships, along with Crystal’s polar and river vessels.

Genting recently sold three cruise ships for scrap that were part of its Asia-based Star Cruises brand.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Meet the new [yellow tail]: made in Chile, destined for China

Australia's biggest wine export brand, [yellow tail], has launched a Chilean-made range for the Chinese market to sidestep China’s punishing tariffs on Australian wine, Chinese wine website Vino Joy News reports.

The fruit is understood to have been sourced from one of Chile’s biggest producers, Santa Carolina, and the range will be called [yellow tail] World Series, Vino Joy said.

The move follows the move by another Australian wine giant, Treasury Wine Estates, to bypass tariffs by making Rawson’s Retreat wines in South Africa for the Chinese market.

Penfolds, with previous huge sales in the Chinese market, has revealed plans to launch its Chinese-made Penfolds wines in second half of the year.

The [yellow tail] range for China includes four varietals: cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot and chardonnay.

In an email to Vino Joy News, Libby Nutt, general manager of marketing and export sales, said: “We have a fantastic and loyal consumer base in China, where [yellow tail] wines have been available since 2007.

"We are excited to launch [yellow tail] World Series so we can continue to offer consumers everything they have come to expect from the [yellow tail] brand - great wines full of flavour, from a brand with a fun and vibrant personality.”

[yellow tail] is owned by the Riverina-based Casella family.

The wine will be sold at RMB 53 (US$8) a bottle on China’s leading e-commerce platform, or RMB 318 (US$48) for a case of six.

Toronto gourmets have a cause for celebration

There is much excitement in multicultural Toronto, with local gourmets celebrating the news that the city is the first Canadian destination to get a Michelin Guide

Destination Toronto and Mayor John Tory made the announcement.

Mayor Tory says he hopes the Michelin Guide will help spread the word about Toronto as a culinary destination to travellers around the world. 

"This is an exciting moment for our city as Toronto will become the first Michelin Guide destination in Canada," Tory said. 

"This further bolsters our reputation as a world destination for food and cuisine. Our diverse city, along with the many renowned chefs who call Toronto home, have helped us get to this point and to be able to showcase all of the wonderful restaurants." 

I'll be visiting Toronto soon and hope to check out a couple of the city standouts. 

"For the first time in its history, the Michelin Guide lands in Canada, and our inspectors are excited to experience the impressive culinary landscape of Toronto," said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides.

The inaugural edition of the Michelin Guide Toronto will be released during Canada's autumn 2022, with a selection of restaurants receiving honours.

# Air Canada offers daily direct flights to Vancouver from Sydney. From June 6 to September 5 (Monday, Thursday and Saturday), Air Canada will increase its service to twice daily from Sydney to Vancouver. 

From July 3, Air Canada's Brisbane-Vancouver direct flights will resume four times per week. Direct flights from Sydney to Vancouver are also available on Qantas. 

Internal flights are available throughout Canada from all major cities, in addition to Via Rail train service.

For more details on visiting Canada, see

Prankster punks puzzled passengers

It is an old stunt - but a good one.

Passengers flying into London’s Gatwick are being perplexed by a huge sign near the runway - clearly visible from the air - that says: “Welcome to Luton”. 

The large, white lettering seen in a field is a work by Youtuber Max Fosh, Travel Mole reports. 

Luton is another airport in the London region but it is about 100km away from Gatwick. On the other side of the city.

Reminds me of the in-flight announcement on my Jetstar flight from Melbourne last Friday. 

“Welcome to your flight to Sydney,” passengers were told. Which prompted guffaws as we were heading to Hobart. 

The Gatwick prank is not the first.

A ‘Welcome to Perth’ rooftop sign was once placed near Sydney Airport and a ‘Welcome to Cleveland’ sign was once familiar to those flying into Milwaukee.

Monday, 23 May 2022

Discover a Phuket hideaway retreat with amazing views

Regular visitors to Phuket tend to have a favourite beach area to which they return. 

There is Patong for party lovers, Kata, Karon, Surin or Kamala for those looking for a more chilled vibe. 

I'd like to suggest another alternative for those looking for great views, a relaxed atmosphere and some delightful local experiences. 

Family owned and operated Sunsuri (above) is located at Nai Harn Beach at Promthep Cape, just 10 minutes from Kata but a world away in pace. 

Here you feel like you are in Thailand, rather than a resort enclave.

The resort offers stunning sunset views because it is in the deep south of Phuket Island, on a hillside but just a short stroll to an unspoilt beach and local shops and food stalls. For lovers of nightlife, busier Rawai is just a short tuk tuk ride away.

The hillside location means Sunsuri rooms and villas offer superb vistas of the ocean and the local lake (popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists). 

Nai Harn Beach is recognised as one of the best beaches in Phuket (SeaBreeze is a lovely little cafe) and there are also several massage options. 

Sunsuri's location means it is a little cooler than resorts on the waterfront. It offers modern facilities for couples, honeymooners and families. 

Older guests might need to use shuttle buggies to get around as the resort is spread across a wide area and features a few climbs.

When fully operational (as an independent hotel Sunsuri was badly hut during Covid), the hotel features 128 rooms with eight buildings and 22 pretty sensational pool villas (below) are designed in a contemporary Thai style.

Each of its accommodation units has a wide balcony with views and the rooms are very spacious (starting from 45 sq.m). 

There are two restaurants, two bars, a wine cellar, five swimming pools with a kid’s area, slide and 4-metre diving platform. 

There is free high-speed wifi Internet access throughout the hotel (much faster than in suburban Sydney or Melbourne), a spa, games room, a lounge for early arrivals and late departures, a fitness centre, recreation and sport activities and free bicycles for guests.

There is a talented kitchen team equally adept at Thai, fusion and European cuisine. 

There several local attractions, which include some lovely off-the-beaten track beaches, a lovely local temple, the waterfront Rawai fish market and wildlife adventures. 

For full details on the hotel see: 

# The writer flew with Jetstar, which has resumed regular direct flights from both Melbourne and Sydney direct to Phuket.

Murderously bad taste branding for new beer range

Where else but in the US would a beer brand be launched that celebrates mass murderers?

It looks as if the bad taste product of the year award for 2022 will go to Adroit Theory Brewing, whose website claims the company pushes “beer boundaries”.

The brewer's “Murder Box” contains four beers emblazoned with the names and faces of four of the most notorious criminals of the 20th-century, Drinks Business reports.

There is a craze for books and TV programs about serial killers - but this is surely a step too far, even in a land where people shoot each other on a daily basis.

One beer named “Ramirez” is branded with the face of Richard Ramirez, a serial killer and prolific rapist who targeted adults and children in California from 1984 to 1985.

A Pilsner is named after Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered 17 men and boys, in some cases committing necrophilia and cannibalism.

The other two beers in the box are branded with Edmund Kemper, nicknamed the “Co-ed Killer”, and John Wayne Gacy, who killed at least 33 young men and boys.

Adroit Theory is based in Purcellville, Virginia, apparently a hick town with fewer than 10,000 residents.

At least some of them are clearly American idiots.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

New tequila brand makes immediate impact


Vodka and whisky are the most popular spirits around the globe, but gin and tequila are rapidly closing in. 

In 2021 alone, the sales volume of tequila in the United States amounted to about 27 million cases. Back in 2004 sales were under eight million cases. 

Mexico is exporting more of the agave-based spit than ever before, most of it to the US but in increasing volumes to other nations, including Australia. 

Leading Mexican tequila brand VIVIR recently launched in the Australian market and is available at Coles supermarkets and its liquor outlets including Vintage Cellars and First Choice Liquor. 

VIVIR, which means "to live" in Spanish, has its Blanco, Reposado and Añejo tequilas all now available in Australia. 

The odd fact about VIVIR is that the brand was founded in England by Navindh Grewal and Paul Hayes - in partnership with the fifth-generation family owned Casa Maestri distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, the birthplace of tequila.

The pair was fed up with the lack of quality tequila easily available in the UK, and launched in 2019 after years of development.

"This is an incredibly exciting time for tequila and agave spirits," says Hayes. "As global interest in tequila flourishes, the Australian market is at the forefront of this trend. I'm delighted to be bringing our passion for great tequila to Australia."
VIVIR is produced using 100% Weber Blue Agave and natural volcanic spring water. 

Its aged tequilas, the Reposado and Añejo, are also finished in American oak ex-bourbon barrels. I sampled a glass or two of the Añejo on election night. Smart packaging. Very smooth. Very satisfying. 

VIVIR has launches planned for Africa, the Middle East and the US later this year. 

Whale watching becomes a dangerous pursuit

When you go whale watching one of the last things you'd expect is to be injured by a whale.

Except that has happened twice in the past month, Travel Mole reports.

A humpback whale landed on top of a boat off Ahome, Mexico, this week, badly damaging the craft and injuring four people onboard. One was seriously injured.

Local officials have now warned boat operators carrying tourists to keep their distance from migrating whales off the coast.

“Please do not get too close to the whales: we can enjoy their beauty, but at a distance, prudently,” said the mayor of Ahome, Gerardo Vargas.

The boat’s roof collapsed after it was body slammed by the whale and the vessel had to be towed back to port.

Local media reported that it was being investigated whether those on board were harassing the whale, and whether the attack was deliberate.

The region is noted as a place for whale watching with migrating humpback and blue whales.

A similar incident occurred last month in La Paz, Baja California Sur, when five people were injured.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

How to "deep dive" into the world of wellness travel

Wellness is the buzzword in the travel industry right now, even more so than "luxury", "cocktails" or "plant-predominant". 

No surprise then that Australia is to get its first Wellness Tourism Summit later this year. 

To be held on the Tweed Coast, the event is aimed at showcasing the rapid growth and demand in the wellness sector and the opportunities for tourism businesses across Australia. 

To be held on October 13-14, the Summit is being convened by Katherine Droga, founder of Droga & Co. and chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s (GWI) Wellness Tourism Initiative (sorry, never heard of it). 

The program has been designed to "deep dive" (such hip terminology) into consumer insights and trends and reimagine wellness travel. It will feature a panel of leading international and local wellness experts.

“The Wellness Tourism Summit will be embracing the theme of regeneration this year," Droga said. "Wellness tourism can support the well-being of not only visitors but local communities, culture, and the environment. Given the recent flood devastation in the Tweed region, we can’t think of a better place to host this year’s Summit.” 

Consumer demand is certainly strong with the global wellness tourism sector forecast to grow by 21% annually to 2025. Transformational travel is in. 

The Summit destination partner, the Tweed Tourism Company, will showcase the region's wellness offerings, ranging from coastal to riverside and hinterland settings.

The Wellness Tourism Summit is proudly supported by the Tweed Tourism Company, Destination NSW, Tourism Australia, Well Traveller, Waterlily, HydraFacial, Belgravia Leisure, Spa Vision, Philippines Tourism and Finn Cold Press Juices (phew!).

Early Bird Tickets are on sale now for $495 - which shows there is money in wellness. See

Roads less travelled reveal a different Thailand

Just an hour north from the popular beach resorts of Phuket, visitors can discover a different side of Thailand. 

Think deserted stretches of sand with a hammock to call your own, white-water rafting and award-winning restaurants in which you may well be the only non-Thai in the room. 

For a slice of authentic Thailand that's not too far off the beaten track, Khao Lak delivers plenty of variety. 

Khao Lak is in Phang Nga province and is known for its palm trees, endless golden sand beaches and long winding roads into the hills. 

If you are looking for somewhere stylish to chill out that also offers plenty of activities for younger family members - including a kid's club and a dedicated pool for youngsters - then the recently opened Avani+ Khao Lak Resort delivers.

Opened just a couple of months ago (and still with some work to do on the gardens and signage), the 327-room seafront property on Bangsak Beach offers the chance to stroll almost deserted beaches but also enjoy modern luxuries within the resort - including some superb villas with their own plunge pools and some snortingly good cocktails at sunset.

For more active types, the property is home to an AvaniFit complex offering endurance and resistance training, aerobics and high-intensity interval training. Guests can also sign up for boxing or tennis classes or try their hand at hanging yoga and indoor or outdoor climbing walls. 

Outdoor activities include kayaking, on-property PADI lessons and surfing nearby. But there are no jetskis, noisy motorbikes, or loud ladies offering "massaage".

There are - and more to my taste - several pools, family-friendly amenities and drinking and dining venues with Andaman Sea views. 

A range of room categories features deluxe lagoon pool rooms for couples and solo travellers to spacious and very well equipped family pool suites a separate living room and dining area, king and twin beds and a private balcony. 

The on-site AvaniSpa offers pampering treatments and healing therapies, while the two-storey AvaniKids club, Khao Lak’s largest, is complemented by a splash park and a skate park - both well away from the accomodation. 

Elements is a standard hotel eatery while the beautifully located Beach House (below) is the spot for sundowners and a melange of Thai and European menu options. You can even try a glass of Thai chenin blanc with your dinner.  

It is the many local experiences on offer, however, that set the resort apart. 

Enjoy a cycle trip along the coast to check out nearby Bang Niang market or take an excursion to the Similan Islands, Phang Nga Bay or Koh Phi Phi. 

Maybe take a day trip to the Takuapa Old Town or go rafting on bamboo rafts through a local forest. 

Two of my favourite activities, both arranged through the hotel, were exploring the ‘Little Amazon’ of Khao Lak rafting along the Wang Kiang Ku River, and the authentic southern-Thai Chinese-influenced cuisine at Nai Mueang Restaurant, where I believe I was the only tourist tackling the spicy, tasty food. 

Check those activities out here: 

For bookings, deals and further details see: 

The writer travelled with assistance from Jetstar, which has resumed regular direct flights from both Melbourne and Sydney direct to Phuket. 

Hunter Valley stars recognised

Back in the 1980s - long before I started writing about wine - we regularly made the trip from Sydney to the Hunter Valley to fill our boot with wines to last us through the next few months. 

Among our destinations were Terrace Vale, where Alain le Prince crafted wines with French style, and Wyndham Estate, home of master marketer Brian McGuigan. 

At this week's 2022 Hunter Valley Legends & Wine Industry Awards l was honoured to not only share a table with le Prince and McGuigan, bothy Hunter Legends, but also with one of this year's winners: Neil McGuigan.

The Hunter always knows how to put on a show and the event at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort saw a record number of Hunter Valley wine and tourism businesses recognised for excellence, commitment and quality.

After close to 50 years of active service to the industry, Brian McGuigan AM was announced as Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association Honorary Patron.

And his younger brother Neil was named Hunter Valley Wine Legend for 2022: With Brian's wife Faye McGuigan also a Hunter Legend, the family's decades of service to the wine industry have been deservedly recognised.

The event also saw a poignant tribute from Phil Ryan to recently departed veteran Hunter winemaker Karl Stockhausen.

The winners of the 2022 Legends and Wine Industry Awards are:

Riedel Young Achiever of the Year: Alex Beckett (Briar Ridge Vineyard)
HVWTA Tourism Operator of the Year: Beyond Ballooning
HVWTA Accommodation Operator of the Year: Spicers Guesthouse
Jurds Viticulturist of the Year: Jerome Scarborough (Scarborough Wine Co.)
Wine Selectors Cellar Door of the Year: De Iuliis Wines
First Creek Winemaking Services Winemaker of the Year: Liz Silkman (First Creek Wines & Silkman Wines)
HVWTA Outstanding Contribution of an Individual: Christina Tulloch (Tulloch Wines)
HVWTA Patron: Brian McGuigan AM
Hunter Valley Tourism Legend: Philip Hele OAM (Hunter Valley Resort & The Farm Hunter Valley)
Hunter Valley Wine Legend: Neil McGuigan

Image: from top from left to right, top: Alex Beckett, Philip Hele, Neil McGuigan, Jerome Scarborough, Mike De Iuliis. Bottom: Brian McGuigan AM, Julia Allen (owner of Beyond Ballooning), Liz Silkman, Christina Tulloch and Mark Whitnell (Spicers Group). Picture: Elfes Images.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Hunter legend to reopen with new look

The former Tower Lodge resort in the Hunter Valley will reopen on July 1 after a $10 million renovation project.

The property will now be known as Spicers Tower Lodge.

Tower Estate was the brainchild of late wine expert Len Evans and the exclusive retreat is built in a modern Spanish mission style with views to Brokenback Range.

With an outdoor pool and hidden courtyards, it has serious Spanish vibe.

Spicers Tower Lodge has a stucco tower and terracotta tile plaza and was for many years a major tourism drawcard. It will be the third Spicers property in the wine region.

Leisure pursuits here will include archery, bike riding, golf, reading by the fireplace or enjoying the courtyard pool.

There will be daily wine tastings and garden tours as well as bespoke vineyard experiences in partnership with five local cellar doors and breweries.

The on-site Restaurant Sebastian will be inspired by the Basque region, offering dishes from bite-size delicacies to fresh seafood. Seasonal menus will highlight Hunter Valley produce.

Some different tastes of the Hunter

When you think of the Hunter Valley you probably think about the region’s two star grape varieties: shiraz and semillon. 

The Hunter also makes excellent chardonnay and good verdelho - and now “alternative” varieties are making an impact, albeit in small numbers. 

I tasted several “new” Hunter wine styles on site at Pepper Tree this week. 

Here are a few of my favourites.