Book, stay, enjoy. That's

Wednesday 31 August 2022

Some like it hot - even whiskey drinkers

The spirits business is alive with innovative new flavours - and for those who like it hot Dubliner Liberties Distillery has launched a new sweet and spicy product in Australia - Dubliner Fiery Irish.

Distilled in the heart of Dublin, Fiery Irish is a new cinnamon and chilli-flavoured whiskey liqueur.

Nicole Moore, marketing manager for GAP Drinks, the distributors of Dubliner Whiskey in Australia, says: “Dubliner Fiery Irish is for Australians seeking a beverage that is bold, accessible and downright delicious.

"With a lower ABV [30%] and unique combination of sweet and spicy flavours, it allows us to broaden the appeal to consumers who may be new to Irish whiskey, or for those just simply looking for an approachable new whiskey option.

"What sets it apart from other cinnamon-flavoured whiskies or liqueurs on the market, however, is that final warming finish of chilli on the senses which leaves you with a satisfying finish.”

Fiery Irish pays homage to its country of origin, with the Irish known for their passionate approach to life.

“We love the name Fiery Irish as it is a playful nod to our home right in the heart of Dublin, and allows consumers to understand our key point of difference, our spice and fiery flavour," Moore says.

Fiery Irish is the third varietal to join the Dubliner family, alongside the Dubliner Bourbon Cask Aged Irish Whiskey and the Dubliner Whiskey & Honeycomb Liqueur.

It is recommended to serve it as a neat shot, as an after dinner drink, or with a mixer.

Dubliner Fiery Irish is available at Dan Murphy’s and BWS stores from $49.99 per 700mL bottle.

# I asked for a sample to taste but apparently no bottles were available, so I cannot speak for the quality of this product.

Celebrating the art of five-star living

Hotel standards have dipped dramatically during the Covid pandemic, largely due to staffing issues.

What a pleasure, then, to stay recently in the Sofitel Adelaide - opened late last year in difficult times - but a true five-star property with staff to match.

With several of Adelaide's benchmark hotels needing a serious zhoojing, the arrival of the Sofitel Adelaide was perfectly timed.

The City of Churches now has a internationally-recognised five-star luxury hotel with a delightful French accent.

The Sofitel is a serious breath of fresh air with its relaxed vibe allied to serious hospitality.

I'm a hard marker when it comes to hotels - with a definite preference for boutique properties - but this Sofitel ticks a whole lot of boxes for gourmets and lovers of luxe pampering.

The $150 million project is locally owned and incorporates South Australian heritage with French savoir faire.

The hotel is centrally located on Currie Street in the Adelaide CBD - a short stroll from just about anywhere you'd want to go.

It was Adelaide’s first internationally recognised five-star address to be built in 30 years.

The $150 million property offers a choice of 251 luxurious guest rooms and suites (even the entry-level rooms are spacious) with a choice of city and Adelaide Hills views. All rooms have plenty of plugs and USB ports - and the wifi is fast and reliable.

The pièce de resistance is an impressive Presidential Suite with its own dining room and open living room concept, a walk-in wardrobe, private study and a grand bedroom with an additional en suite bathroom.

It's lovely, but I'd rather spend my money in the excellent Garcon Bleu restaurant (that's if I actually had any money).

All Luxury Club rooms and suites at Sofitel Adelaide provide guests with access to additional complimentary facilities and services at Club Millésime, situated on level 10.

Think afternoon tea and pre-dinner evening drinks and canapés, as well as personalised check in and check out.

The hotel also has an impressive indoor heated pool and gym.

GM Rachael Harman says the stylish marble used throughout the Sofitel was sourced personally by the hotel owner, Daniel Palumbo, and his family direct from Carrara in Italy.

“Most of the features in this hotel, from the art and furnishings to the flooring, have been selected and overseen by members of the Palumbo family,” Harman said.

Art also plays an important role with the hotel displaying work from around a dozen local and international artists.

 An original piece by Newcastle-based fine-art photographer, Alexia Sinclair, titled Field of Dreams (above), forms the centrepiece of the hotel lobby.

Garçon Bleu, the excellent French-inspired restaurant, has already been reviewed in these pages (although I must say my breakfast experience was underwhelming given how good the rest of the hotel is).

There is also a street-level Champagne bar, Déjà Vu, with a selection of beverages, lighter meals and casual eats seven days a week.

The Sofitel brand has a theme of art de vivre (the art of living) - which is very much delivered here.

Rates start from $320 per room per night ranging to $5,000 per night for the Presidential Suite.

See or call 08 8432 1900.

# The writer was a guest of Sofitel Adelaide

Tuesday 30 August 2022

Some bottomless breakfast fun in the Yarra Valley

Fancy a weekend trip to the Yarra Valley to enjoy a bottomless bubbly breakfast?

Rochford Wines’ Italian restaurant, Il Vigneto, has just launched Bottomless Breakie.

The offering, weighing in at $35 per person, includes a basket of pastries (to share between two), a choice of main course, and bottomless bubbles, mimosas, coffee, tea, and juices!

Among the breakfast pizza dishes are: San Marzano tomato, ricotta, blistered tomato, rosemary pesto, rocket; pork and fennel sausage, provolone, hash brown, egg and prosciutto; and smoked salmon, ricotta, rocket and hollandaise.
The menu can be adapted to suit dietary needs.

The funs starts from 9am every Saturday and 10am every Sunday with bookings essential. Book here (minimum two adults):

A whale of a time in Margaret River

If limited-edition beers are your bag, Shelter Brewing Co has produced 10,000 special edition cans of Pale Ale featuring artwork commissioned from local artist Ian Daniell. 

The Margaret River-based artist recently painted “Humpback” at Shelter, a 200sq metre wall mural of a breaching humpback whale.

Now the special edition cans known as Whale Ale are available at Shelter in Busselton, at Margaret River Region Open Studios events and at select bottle shops.

Daniell is Shelter’s artist-in-residence during the Margaret River Region Open Studios event, to be held from September 10-25, a time when the annual whale migration is in full swing.

The event will showcase of Daniell’s Life-Size Ocean Art, inspired by the vast array of marine life found off the Western Australian coast.

To celebrate Daniell’s artist-in-residence stint, Shelter is hosting a free opening party on Friday, September 9.

During the event, Daniell will run a series of events for adults and children, while Sundays at Shelter will include talks with whale researchers and marine biologists, as well as creative workshops.

The artist said that he was thrilled to collaborate with Shelter, a brewery that overlooks Geographe Bay, and pay homage to the humpback whale.

“Shelter is a perfect location to have painted the iconic humpback whale and signal to people that they’re out there in the bay,” said the British-born Daniell.

“Despite their gigantic size, humpback whales are famously acrobatic - look out for their spectacular full body breaches.

“The Whale Ale cans look great - I’m thrilled to have my artwork featured - we hope it leaps out and draws attention to Margaret River Region Open Studios."

The event is free and sees artists open their usually-private studios, welcoming in art lovers to chat about art, see their work, and see them at work.

“Both the mural, a legacy of our first year partnering with Margaret River Region Open Studios, and the Whale Ale cans look amazing, we couldn’t be happier,” said Paul Maley, general manager of Shelter.

For more information and bookings, visit

Image: Chad Jackson

Monday 29 August 2022

Is this man the most pretentious winemaker in the world?

There are a lot of pretentious people in the wine industry but Tullio Masoni might just be the king of the castle.

Masoni sells bottles of his sangiovese wines for €5000 ($7230) each - but doesn't want customers to drink them.

He says his wines are made from the "smallest vineyard in the world" and the grapes are fed on "eggs, bananas, seaweed and nightingale droppings'.

The trelisses in his vineyard - which is actually the 20sq metre rooftop of a historic building - are artworks by a local sculptor and you can't buy his wines in a shop, or a cellar door, but in an art gallery.

Masoni is a former investment banker (I said banker), who recently attracted the attention of CNN.

They described his bottles as "some of the most exclusive wine in the world".

The rooftop vineyard - Via Mari 10 - sits above a 16th-century palazzo in Reggio Emilia.

Masoni did once inherit a real vineyard but considered the hard work and the expense and sold it.

Via Mari 10 apparently yields only 30 bottles of red wine a year, which are sold in nearby art gallery Bonioni Arte.

"My wine is a form of artistic expression, a philosophical provocation, something to keep in your living room so you can chat about it with your friends and tell them about the lunatic who put a vineyard on his rooftop," Masoni told CNN.

"My grapes grapple art as soon as they're born."

The wine is aged in oak barrels that are also sculptures by another local artist.

"I'm the only wine producer in the world who says you shouldn't drink his wine," Masoni said.

If that is not silly enough, Masoni offered CNN some tasting notes: "At the first sip you get a lot of perplexity, but after a few seconds something comes alive in your palate that opens up your mind to a new dimension," he said.

The website says: "The ViaMari10 has no contamination with other wines of normal production, it is a seducer that tries to attract seduce with the eddies that form in the glass when it is poured. It is a vehicle of seduction in the noble sense of the word."

Rightie ho.

If you want to know more, or are tempted to buy an "artwork", visit

Major move for third-generation winemaker Dolan

Rising winemaking star Tim Dolan has made a move across the Barossa from Peter Lehmann Wines, joining Dural Wines, which owns the Kaesler and Saint and Scholar brands. 

The third-generation winemaker is the son of Nigel Dolan and grandson of Bryan Dolan, who are regarded as two of the most influential Australian winemakers of their respective eras. 

Tim Dolan was awarded Dux of the Len Evans Tutorial in 2018, and has a degree in oenology from the University of Adelaide as well as being a show judge. 

Dural Wines CEO Catherine Turnadge said, “we are excited to have Tim on the team, making the wines his own, and taking them to the next generation”.

Dolan spent 10 years as the senior winemaker at Peter Lehmann - initally working under the legendary Andrew Wigan - and has done vintages in different regions across the US, Italy, Canada and Australia. 

“I am looking forward to working with the vineyard assets at Kaesler and making not only the shiraz that it’s famous for but also my favourite red variety, grenache." he said. 

"In addition, it will be exciting to be a part of building Saint and Scholar with Stephen Dew, through crafting exceptional wines from the unique Gumeracha estate in the Adelaide Hills.”

Dolan commences chief winemaker on September 19, joining senior winemaker Dew.

The creator of Kaesler’s famous The Bogan Shiraz; Reid Bosward, will be handing over the reins to Dolan to concentrate on other agricultural pursuits with Duxton Bees and in regenerative farming. 

He will remain a part of the business, passing his passion and knowledge to the next generation of Kaesler custodians.

See and 

Tasmanian campaign aims to entice more tourists

Tasmania was a real tourism hotspot prior to Covid and now local tourism authorities have launched a campaign to entice visitors back post pandemic.

A new immersive digital experience under the Discover Tasmania banner will allow users to outline a trip that’s best suited to their personal preferences.

Australians will be encouraged to plan and book a holiday in Tasmania, as part of a campaign promoting the island state as the ideal location for a road trip this spring.

The road trip- and agritourism-focused campaign will be launched today and will run until mid-October.

Federal Tourism Minister Don Farrell says the campaign forms part of the Government’s Recovery for Regional Tourism program to help the industry rebound.

“Tasmania has so much to offer as a quality travel destination and spring is a wonderful time to visit,” Farrell said.

“Whether it be a wine tasting experience in the Tamar Valley, feasting on famously good produce or exploring some of the most spectacular scenery, Tasmania has so many unique tourism experiences.

“I hope the campaign prompts Australians dreaming of a Tassie getaway to make a booking and get travelling.

“There are still challenges to overcome, but we’re getting on with the job and supporting an industry that’s vital to Australia’s economic recovery.”

On ya Don.

The campaign, supported by a $1.2m Austrade grant, will launch on Monday and run until mid-October.

For more information, visit

Image: The Huon Valley. Pic: Winsor Dobbin 

Sunday 28 August 2022

Stone the crows: meet the hotel with its own cannabis consumption lounge

Cannabis tourism is becoming all the rage.

The 420 Hotels Inc. will start work next month on the first licensed cannabis consumption lounge in a hotel in the US.

The cannabis club will offer a safe space for hotel guests and club members to consume marijuana in the historic Patterson Inn carriage house.

The 420 Hotels - a company only founded in 2021 - launched an equity crowdfunding campaign earlier this year to raise money for the project.

A National Landmark built in the 1890s, the Victorian-style boutique hotel is located in Denver’s Capital Hill neighbourhood.

Merchant and experimental plant breeder Thomas Croke, who later served as a state senator, commissioned the building of the Patterson Inn, where he lived until 1893 when he sold the property to Thomas Patterson.

The 420 Hotels group says it intends to expand to multiple locations over the next several years as more municipalities and states across the US pass laws that allow for onsite consumption of cannabis in commercial establishments.

It says it will offer "on-site guest service representatives who can provide advice and safe practices especially to first-time or novice consumers".

Stone me! 

# April 20 (abbreviated to 4/20 in the US) is considered as an occasion for smoking or celebrating the smoking of cannabis  

Saturday 27 August 2022

All the pretty houses in one of the most remote cities on the planet

Cape Town's brightly coloured houses in Bo-Kaap were painted by former slaves as an expression of their freedom - and are now world famous.
But they are rivalled by the "jellybean houses" in St John's, Newfoundland, in Canada, 
The colourful terraced houses, or row houses as the locals call them, of Jellybean Row in St John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador, are a magnet for photographers. 

St John's is a wonderfully quirky city full of characters and there is a story, perhaps true, perhaps not, about how the vibrant streets were created. 
It is said that homesick sailors of yesteryear would look to the shore to see the welcoming sight of their homes in the distance. 

It was necessary to paint their houses in bright hues to make them shine through the veil of fog that would often blanket the city.  St John's is so foggy that it once had an ice hockey team called the St John's Fog Devils - owned by a distant relative of mine, I believe. 

Now tourists can enjoy the colourful streets of downtown on a two-hour photography tour - and learn tips and tricks of photographing the houses in the oldest city in North America. 

Friday 26 August 2022

Own goal as Beckham accepts Qatari cash

David Beckham was a pretty decent footballer.

But post-football the former England international has become something of a publicity-seeking show pony.

His latest money-making stunt hits new lows.

Ahead of the World Cup in Qatar - a country slammed for its human rights abuses - Beckham is shamelessly spruiking the Middle East destination as a great place for a holiday.

Perhaps the reason he is so keen on Qatar is the fact that he signed a reported £150 million 10-year deal to become a tourism ambassador. That's an eye-watering $255 million in Aussie dollars.

Amnesty International says: "In the decade since Qatar was awarded the right to host the World Cup, exploitation and abuse of migrant workers has been rampant, with workers exposed to forced labour, unpaid wages and excessive working hours."

Human Rights Watch and the International Trade Union Confederation allege that the Kafala system leaves all migrant workers vulnerable to systematic abuse.

And, of course, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and Amnesty says women and LGBTQ+ people "continue to face discrimination in law and practice".

But none of that worries David.

"From exploring the winding spice markets of Souq Waqif, soaking up local street art, cooking tacos [tacos?], camping in the desert, and sightseeing around Doha by motorbike, Beckham accompanies local personalities to discover a country of countless surprises," says Qatar's PR spiel.

Apparently, over 80% of the world’s population live within a six-hour flight from Qatar and Qatar Tourism is seeking to raise awareness of "the world’s best value stopover packages" through Qatar Airways.

The chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker, said: “It has been a pleasure to welcome David to Qatar, where he has immersed himself in the culture and experienced first-hand the warm hospitality of the people".

A pity that stadium workers were not given such a great welcome. The Guardian reported that
6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since it was awarded World Cup hosting rights. 

Shameless Beckham says: “Qatar has surprised me with a wide range of great experiences you can have in just 48 hours. The people are warm and welcoming, and it is a great place to spend a few days.”

I think I'll pass.

Thursday 25 August 2022

Japan makes entry easier for vaccinated tourists

Japan, which has been among the most cautious countries in opening up after Covid, is lifting pre-entry Covid-19 testing for fully vaccinated travellers with at least one booster shot.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that the change will be effective from September 7, Travel Mole reported.

“We plan to gradually ease border controls to allow entry procedures to be as smooth as those of other countries,” Kishida said.

“We will speed up our efforts while balancing infection measures and social and economic activities.”

Japan is one of the last major countries to drop pre-travel testing, although neighbours China and South Korea still require it.

The isolation period for people who test positive will also be reduced but Japan will continue to insist on a cap of 20,000 inbound daily visitors. Tourists are currently only allowed as part of a tour group.  

Inbound tourism so far has been sluggish with just 387,000 visitors this year, the Japan National Tourism Organisation reported.

Before the pandemic, Japan had around 32 million foreign visitors in 2019 but the number plunged to around 246,000 in 2021.

A new way to travel from Sydney to New York unveiled


Qantas has unveiled a new way to fly from Sydney to New York - via Auckland. 

The new Sydney-Auckland-New York route is set for take-off in June 2023.

And good news for frequent flyers: there will be two Sydney-Auckland-New York Points Planes in the first week of flying.

Qantas announced today that it will recommence flights to New York's JFK Airport via Auckland from June 14 next year. 

The launch of QF3 and QF4 will see the flying kangaroo return to New York three days a week initially, after a three-year Covid-induced hiatus. 

Flights will be operated using Boeing 787 Dreamliners, with three new aircraft scheduled for delivery next year.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said flying via Auckland would provide better connectivity from more destinations in Australia, before an uninterrupted 16-hour flight to New York.

“We’re back flying to most of our pre-Covid destinations, which is a fantastic achievement by our teams and so important for Australians reconnecting with the rest of the world." he said.

“We can’t wait to return to New York and it’s made possible by the delivery of new aircraft, which have been caught up in delays that have impacted lots of airlines.

“Customer feedback on our direct London and Rome services show how well suited our Dreamliner cabins are to longer international flights like these, which is helped by the fact we designed them with more room and fewer seats than most of our competitors.

“We think this route will be very popular with Australians given the opportunity to connect via Auckland and it also gives New Zealanders more choice.”

Sydney-Auckland-New York flights are on sale from today. 

Qantas currently operates six daily services to Auckland from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, which will increase to 11 daily services when the new flight to New York launches.

Qantas said seats across every cabin will be available as a Classic Reward flight on QF3 and QF4 in the first week. 

Wednesday 24 August 2022

A company you might want to avoid when you travel

Travelling to Europe? P&O Ferries is a company that you might want to avoid.

You might recall P&O Ferries attracting widespread opprobrium for abruptly sacking 800 union workers earlier this year.

The company laid off the workers without notice and replaced them with low-wage agency staff. The move caused outrage from British trade unions and the public.

But this being chaotic post-Brexit Britain, no action will be taken against the company even though it admitted it had broken labour laws.

After being ordered to investigate, the Insolvency Service now says there is "no realistic prospect of a conviction", Travel Mole reported.

The news comes as P&O Ferries’ parent DP World - an Emirati multinational logistics company based in Dubai - posted record profits.

The decision outraged union Nautilus International.

“This is a deeply disappointing decision and will be met with frustration and anger by the seafarers and their families who were so cruelly discarded by P&O Ferries,” general secretary Mark Dickinson said.

“Only one day after P&O Ferries parent company announced record profits, we are further let down by a system that fails to punish apparent criminal corporatism.

“The message is clear, P&O Ferries must be held properly accountable for their disgraceful behaviour.”

P&O operates ferry routes including Dover to Calais, Hull to Rotterdam and Liverpool to Dublin. 

Some travellers might think it worth finding alternatives.

Wine bar gives female musicians a lift

A female-owned wine bar in suburban Melbourne is giving a helping hand to local female musicians.

Ericka Argiris from Murrumbeena Wine Bar has recruited a line-up of young female musicians who match the bar’s mood, giving them a spotlight and an audience that will hopefully help kickstart their careers.

Argiris says she wants to emphasize the importance of giving local female artists the spotlight.

She says she often scouts local talent from the the Melbourne Musicians Facebook page if she believes they would complement her venue.

One of her long-standing favourites is Abbey Williams, who performs jazz songs with her 50s-style microphone every Sunday afternoon.

Mia Pisano is a local acoustic folk singer who performs a mixture of her own songs and popular covers while Ruby Mae was one of Murrumbeena Wine Bar’s first artists and occasionally makes a reappearance with her blend of rock, folk and punk.

Music is something that Argiris has wanted to incorporate into her venue since it opened in 2019.

“Each of our artists has their unique sound, even when they play covers, and I encourage them to play their own music too,” she says.

The wine list features a number of smaller wineries including West Cape Howe, Kate Hill, Stargazer and Atze's Corner available by the glass - along with some imports and a small list of "natural" wines.

The bar's caters to a wide range of tastes including offering grazing platters (with a Vegan alternative), and small plates like salt and pepper calamari, and jalapeno poppers. Hand-made Wagyu cheeseburger spring rolls sound intriguing.

There is also a broad list of cocktails, ciders and spirits.

For more info about the wine bar and its weekly schedule of live performances, see

Tuesday 23 August 2022

We don't want your kind of tourist

Despite a hugely competitive global tourism market, some countries are becoming increasingly picky about who they welcome.

A couple of weeks ago New Zealand hit the headlines when its tourism minister said Kiwis wants "disecerning tourists" not "backpackers eating two-minute noodles".

And now Thailand, which has decriminalised cannabis, doesn't want visitors who come to smoke weed.

“We don’t welcome those kinds of tourists,” Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told local media last week.

Thailand became the first country in south-east Asian to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes and hasn’t outlawed recreational use with pot cafés and marijuana trucks (above) popping up all over the country.

Big fines or prison time remain a possibility for anyone lighting up a joint in public.

Anutin said the government’s cannabis policy is geared solely towards medical and health benefits including medical tourism.

But a recreational cannabis policy "might come in the near future," he said.

A classic fiver each way, then.

Meanwhile, Thailand's cannabis policy has drawn interest from regional neighbours like Malaysia, which is studying the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

In Tasmania, the capital city of Hobart does not want mega cruise ships docking.

Tasmania’s peak tourism body is pushing for a five-year ban on big cruise ships anchoring at Tasmanian ports.

The large cruise ships often carry up to 5,000 passengers who regularly disembark at Tasmanian ports.

The Tourism Industry Council has also passed a resolution which seeks to put a restriction on the number of people arriving on cruise ships per day.

Dogs make travel more difficult - but we love them anyway

We certainly love our dogs - but they can make travel very difficult.

Only a handful or hotels and B&Bs welcome furry friends and taking them on public transport is often a no no. 

Some pets are not happy in doggy accommodation, which means employing a dog/house-sitter. If you can find one 

Respondents to a recent survey cited the biggest difficulty of dog ownership as finding a dog-sitter when going away (37%), and 83% said their dogs make it harder for them to go holiday.

Two in three dog owners surveyed (66%) would like the opportunity to be able to take their dog on an overseas holiday with them - completely impractical in my opinion - while 95% of owners would pay the costs to move their furry friends overseas with them should they move abroad.

The majority (76%) of dog owners believe the time has come for dogs to be allowed on planes (40% unmuzzled/uncaged; 36% with a muzzle and/or cage). Again, hugely impractical in most cases. 

Aussies want their dogs to play a part in their social lives, too. 

A total of 71% of respondents are in favour of dogs being allowed inside cafes and pubs, and 66% of dogs have dog friends they go to visit.

The 2022 Great Australian Dog Survey was conducted by Scratch, an Australian dog food company. It surveyed the owners of over 12,700 Aussie dogs. 

Here are the details:

Image: Scratch co-founder Mike Halligan with a furry friend. Supplied.    

Cruise bargains - but you'll need to book early

Cruising is back - but you'll need to move quickly if you want to snaffle a bargain for the 2023 summer season in Europe.

MSC Cruises - with whom I travelled with a few years ago - is offering up to 50% off per person valid on selected sailings departing April 2023 to November 2023.

The offer includes sailings in the Mediterranean and northern Europe, depending on your preference.

Itineraries include voyages on the MSC Preziosa, departing Hamburg, Germany and calling at Rotterdam in the Netherlands; Zeebrugge for Bruges and Brussels in Belgium; Le Havre, France and Southampton in the UK.

A seven-night cruise is priced from $654 per person, twin share on September 24.

In northern Europe, the flagship MSC Euribia departs from Copenhagen on June 18 for a seven-night cruise calling at Alesund, Hellesylt/Geiranger & Flaam in Norway and Kiel in Germany.

This costs from $1,154 per person, twin share.

MSC Group is a Swiss-based shipping and logistics conglomerate with over 300 years of maritime heritage, is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

MSC Cruises is the world’s third largest cruise brand. Its fleet comprises 19 modern vessels and is projected to grow to 23 cruise ships by 2025.

Call 1300 028 502 in Australia, or visit or

Monday 22 August 2022

Father's Day treats for wine-loving Dads

If your Dad loves his wines and you haven't come up with a plan for Father's Day yet, the team at Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia collective have some ideas.


Treat Dad to a family night out at Burning of the Vines at Sirromet on Father's Day. Enjoy a specially curated three-course paddock to plate style menu, paired wines and live music on the Terrace and create treasured family memories around the fire, listening to outstanding live music.

Return another day for the Best of Queensland experience, including a tutored premium tasting followed by a five-course Tuscan-inspired degustation with matching wines at Sirromet's Tuscan Terrace.


Experience three of the Hunter Valley's iconic vineyards - Audrey Wilkinson, Brokenwood and Tyrrell's - as they team up for Icons of the Hunter.

Dad will be treated to signature wine experiences. Click here to discover more and read the full itinerary.

In the picturesque wine region of Orange, Dad might enjoy a five-course degustation lunch at the newly opened Printhie Dining, at Printhie Wines, perched on the slopes of Mt Canobolas. Chef Jack Brown crafts seasonal dishes using regional prioduce.


Dad can learn the art of wine blending at Tahbilk during a Winemaker's Secret Art experience - and take his own blend home.

In the Yarra Valley, he can enjoy a tasting at De Bortoli Cellar Door with a Gourmet Food and Wine Experience. This privately hosted experience explores the iconic wine varietals from the Yarra Valley region and beyond, matched with delicious nibbles. Or try a three-course Italian-inspired lunch at Locale Restaurant with matched wines.


Dad can dabble in the art of fly fishing with RiverFly Tasmania and Josef Chromy Wines just outside of Launceston. Learning the basics of casting on the lake is followed by a complementary tasting at the Cellar Door and a two-course lunch matched with Chromy wines. Find out more HERE.

At nearby House of Arras, Dad can become a Sparkling Scholar and discover the history of Tasmania's diverse grape-growing terroirs


The Ultimate Penfolds Experience tour starts with a visit to the Grange Cottage, the original home of Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold, before viewing the Magill Estate winery, vintage cellar and underground drives, and concluding with an intimate tasting of Penfolds' wines, including a vintage of Grange.

At Hardys Tintara in McLaren Vale the fun and interactive Tasting in the Dark experience is enjoyed as your host guides you through the wine tasting process.

In the Barossa Valley, at the Seppeltsfield Centennial Cellar, Dad can taste Tawny made in his birth year directly from the barrel. This is a fascinating insight into the aging process of premium fortified wine, with Seppeltsfield the only winery in the world to release a 100-year-old single vintage wine each year.


Spend time in Margaret River visiting three of the region's acclaimed wineries, Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate and Vasse Felix. The Leeuwin Immersion Experience includes a tutored tasting and tour the Leeuwin Art Gallery, filled with contemporary Australian artworks that feature on the labels of the iconic 'Art Series' wines.

Explore Australia's largest underground barrel cellar at Voyager Estate before indulging in a true degustation. This seven-course wine-paired lunch celebrates pristine local produce.

At Vasse Felix, Margaret River's founding wine estate, book The Cellar Experience for a private tasting of historic wines in the exclusive Vault, followed by a three-course meal from the a la carte menu.

Mandoon Estate, just outside Peth in the Swan Valley (above), features the Ultimate Experience, including a tasting and guided tour of the estate, featuring the underground cellar, historic vineyard, the original Roe Family Homestead, Surveyor's Room and estate kitchen. The evening can be spent at The Colony, where rooms enjoy views of the Swan River.

A seriously fun Clare gourmet experience

Just about every town in regional Australia would like to have a “local” like the Watervale Hotel.

The up-market pub in a Clare Valley hamlet offers a wide range of drinks, several special spaces, gourmet food offerings and a lovely beer garden.

The hotel is part of a culinary project for Nicola Palmer (below), whose family used to own Skillogalee Wines, and former wine industry entrepreneur Warrick Duthy.

The couple purchased the local pub in 2017 and have subsequently renovated and extended it into a regional showcase.

The hotel’s premium experience is the Six Senses Penobscot Farm Tour followed by a six-course degustation dinner. Each course can be matched to Clare Valley wines or farm produce mocktails.

The couple recommends shared-plate feasts for group bookings.

The Farm Feast highlights organic vegetables from Penobscot Farm - owned by Palmer and Duthy - lamb from Martindale Farm and Greenslade’s free-range chicken, while the Gourmet Feast is a step up to dishes such as ceviche, carpaccio, and tomahawk steak.

Alternatively, there is an a la carte menu, along with a beverage list that promotes Clare Valley products with pub grub like meatballs and empanadas.

The menu is a constantly changing feast, but perhaps think dishes along the lines of wood-fired Spencer Gulf sardines and fresh baby fennel with blood orange, or perhaps seared duck breast with red and golden beetroot (below) paired with roast purple congo potatoes.   

A wine flight experience can be booked between 5-7pm for $40 that includes stuffed olives. This features four wines selected to celebrate the diversity of Clare Valley terroir.

The wine list showcases a range of Watervale rieslings and no fewer than 25 different grape varieties grown in the region.

The Watervale Hotel also has its own six-bedroom guesthouse next door that can sleep up to six couples. Farm tours, in-house chefs or dining packages can be added.

I revisited last week for a dinner hosted by Grosset Wines and Mount Horrocks and was again blown away by the professionalism of the team - and the sheer range of gourmet activities offered by these "ethical epicureans".

This is a local drinking haunt, restaurant and functions space in one. Well worth a trip.    


Sunday 21 August 2022

Qantas apologises for recent failings

A few weeks ago Qantas boss Alan Joyce accused flyers of not being “match fit” and partially responsible for Australian airport chaos.

Now the leprechaun has changed his tune, reaching out to frequent flyers and issuing a fulsome apology for the airline’s failures.

Qantas will on Monday contact millions of its customers to formally apologise for recent operational challenges and thank them for their patience as the national carrier works to lift its game after Covid.

The airline is rolling out a range of initiatives to improve mishandled bags and on-time performance as it also deals with high levels of sick leave and a labour shortage after it sacked a swag of union members.

Qantas says it has hired 1,500 new people since April with more to come, adjusted flight schedules and invested $15 million in new technology at key airports to help smooth the travel experience.

Speaking via an email and video message being sent on Monday, Qantas Group CEO Joyce acknowledged while it was great to see people back on-board after so long on the ground, the return to flying hasn’t all gone well.

“Over the past few months, too many of you have had flights delayed, flights cancelled and bags misplaced,” he said. “There are good reasons why, but when it comes to what you expect from Qantas, it’s not good enough.

“On behalf of the national carrier, I want to apologise and assure you that we’re working hard to get back to our best.

“We’re already seeing a sustained improvement in baggage handling and on-time performance, and while factors out of our control like weather can have an impact on our schedule, we expect things to keep improving each week.

“As well as saying sorry, we also want to say thank you. We’re investing in a range of initiatives including status extensions for Frequent Flyers Silver and above, thousands of Qantas Points and lounge passes.

“All our Frequent Flyers in Australia and New Zealand will be offered $50 towards a return Qantas flight, which equates to many millions in discounts.”

Qantas will also boost Classic Reward seat availability for bookings made with points.

Are Australian travellers ready to embrace Tonga?

Can Tonga be the new Bali or Fiji?

Qantas hopes so.

The Australian flag carrier is expanding its South Pacific presence with the addition of Tonga to its network, offering a new tropical island destination for Australian travellers to explore.

Following the recent reopening of Tonga’s borders, Qantas will fly weekly between Sydney and Nuku’alofa’s Fua’amotu Airport. The four and a half hour flights will be the only direct services between Australia and Tonga.

Qantas has been operating services since December 2020, supported by the Australian Government’s Pacific Flights Program.

These flights have maintained critical passenger and freight links while international borders were closed. As of now, passengers can book a flight directly on with services operating every Thursday to Tonga.

The inclusion of Tonga to the international network follows the recent commitment of weekly services to Samoa as Qantas grows its presence in the South Pacific Islands off the back of strong holiday travel demand.

Qantas will initially operate one flight a week with a A330 aircraft between Tonga and Sydney alongside the Samoa service.

Flights to Tonga start from $866 return.

“Since the opening of Australia’s border, we have seen strong demand across our Qantas operated South Pacific services” said a Qantas spokesperson

“Fiji is 50% higher than pre-Covid demand, Noumea is 13% higher and flights to Samoa are performing ahead of expectations.

“These flights will help Australian-based South Pacific Islanders visit family and friends back home, as well as providing travel hungry Australians a choice of Pacific neighbours to explore.”

French producers turn to gluggable chilled red wines

French winemakers and merchants are turning to chilled red wines - unusual in France - as a way to increase revenues. 

Despite many French drinkers being very traditional in their approach, a new wave of French reds is designed to be enjoyed as young and at the same temperature as rosés, wine industry newsletter Vitisphere reported this week. 

New ways of presenting wines can result in new customers, says Jerome Busato, who served his red wine served at 10°C in a bucket filled with ice at Inter Rhône wine bar in Avignon. 

"It's the wine that I sold the most during this evening when I presented my range of Côtes du Rhône wines," says the owner of organic producer Château Cohola in the delightful village of Sablet. 

This cuvée is called Fruit and is vinified to be drunk chilled.

“In summer, tourists are more likely to choose rosés and whites than reds, which nevertheless constitute the heart of our production," says Busato. 

"So, two years ago, with my wife, we decided to offer them a cuvée to drink during their holidays. It was a real success. 

"Customers who buy a bottle come back to take a box. The return rate is truly amazing!"

And at €11 a bottle there is money to be made in chilled reds. 

Maison Laurent Brotte in Châteauneuf-du-Pape has just launched its Rouge Frigo, a Côtes-du-Rhône rouge with an alcohol content of 12.5°, designed to be drunk chilled as its name proclaims. See 

“We want to find the moments of consumption such as the aperitif, the grills, the unstructured meals”, says winery commercial director Thibault Brotte. 

Rouge Frigo sells for €5.95. 

"We have never had so much interest in a product launch," says Brotte. 

In Bordeaux, too, the machine is in motion. 

The Larraqué Vins International group has created a red called Hors-Piste (off the track), a cabernet franc with an alcohol content of 12.5°. 

“Rosés are doing well and now almost all year round,” says observes Grégoire Delangre, the company's communications manager. "We think there's a place for fresh drinking reds." 

Main [hoto by Marie Dashkova on Scopio

Saturday 20 August 2022

French culinary delights in downtown Adelaide

There is something about a beautifully cooked French meal that instantly nourishes the soul.

The arrival earlier this year in Adelaide of Garcon Bleu means the City of Churches now has its own little gourmet slice of France.

Garcon Bleu, on level nine of the Sofitel in Currie Street, is a restaurant that happens to be in a hotel, rather than a hotel restaurant - and it was buzzing on a Wednesday night.

The $150 million new-build hotel offers guests a selection of 251 rooms and suites with a choice of city and Adelaide Hills views - a full review will follow - but the quality of the restaurant makes it a stand-alone destination. 

Think a casual ambience but a serious approach to classic French dishes using local produce. 

Garçon Bleu’s has a 90-seat dining room with an open kitchen, wine wall, and an oyster and raw seafood bar.

The wine list offers an excellent selection of French (lots of serious Burgundy temptations) and Australian labels, from favourites like Cullen and Henschke to micro producers like Ministry of Clouds and Stargazer.

Wines by the glass include labels like Shaw+Smith, Yangarra and John Duval.

It is the menu, however, that captivates.

Who could resist a light-as-air cheese souffle with bechamel sauce, mushroom velouté and pickled shimeji (above). 

This dish is an instant trip back to one the bouchons in Lyon. Tempting scallops and the terrine will have to wait until next time.

For main course, what else but classic steak frites? 

A 250-gram grass-fed Scotch fillet (below), with a spot-on béarnaise sauce and deliciously crunchy pommes frites. The side salad, was, sadly, a little dull - but who cares when a meat dish is this tasty. And it comes with some sparky little vine tomatoes bursting with flavour.

Dessert choices include a tarte tatin with crème fraîche ice cream and caramel sauce, or a creme brulee, but I opted for chocolat fondant with orange segments, cocoa nibs and chocolate mousse. The right choice, I think.

The service here is spot on and you can enjoy a three-course dinner for around $100 per head, which is great value these days given the quality of food and service.

If I lived in Adelaide I would be eating here a couple of times a month.

Garcon Bleu is open Wednesday to Friday for lunch from noon and Wednesday to Sunday for dinner from 6pm. Reservations are recommended on (08) 8432 1999. See

# The writer was a guest of Sofitel Adelaide

Tasmania gets a new wine producer using only one grape variety

Tasmania is about to get a new cellar door - but one of the couple behind it has along wine industry history.

Westella Vineyard is Will and Jacquie Adkins' family vineyard located in the cool-climate location of Rowella in the Tamar Valley.

Adkins is well known as the general manager of leading Tasmanian wine brand Tamar Ridge, owned by Brown Brothers.

He and his wife are also "wine-growers dedicated to crafting a full range of wines grown only from pinot noir grapes".

"Our region excels at pinot noir so that is all that we grow," the couple say.  

Using four different pinot clones they will produce a selection of wines including a classic traditional method sparkling blanc de noir and a sparkling vintage rosé, as well as table wines the Westella and the Tippogoree.

"From September 2022, we will host visitors to our small vineyard in our Westella Vineyard cellar," the couple says.

"Visitors will be able to sample and purchase our pinot noir and enjoy a small menu of Tasmanian food to accompany tastings. We invite you to visit and enjoy the scenic trip along kanamaluka (the Tamar) to our peaceful and picturesque garden of vines".

Friday 19 August 2022

Airport security fails commonsense test

Any regular traveller will be familiar with the many frustrations of going through airport security checks and x-ray machines. 

At one airport you must take off your shoes and belt. At others you sail through wearing both.

Some airports insist you remove your laptop and place it in a separate bin to go through the x-ray machine. At others you are instructed to leave your laptop in your hand luggage. 

Aerosols? Nail clippers? The list of inconsistencies goes on and on. 

My latest brush with security nazis was at Adelaide Airport earlier this week. It's generally a nice, spacious, modern, well-run facility. 

My crime on this occasion? I was in possession of a handy little wine opening tool with a small corkscrew, tiny foil cutter and beer bottle opener. 

It had been inspected at Hobart Airport by a supervisor two days earlier. The corkscrew portion was no problem and the foil cutter passed muster as it was serrated and not sharp. Off you go.

So I carried the tool on flights from Hobart to Melbourne and Melbourne to Adelaide. No problem. 

Then, at Adelaide Airport it attracted attention when scanned. It was deemed "dangerous". 

I protested that it had been declared "safe" two days earlier. With time to waste, I asked for a supervisor. He was happy with the corkscrew element but deemed the foil-cutter to be a couple of centimetres too long. 

Someone on the security crew was about to gain a nifty little tool - so I asked to be given the device so I could destroy it myself and ruin their fun. 

"Not allowed". Why? It was already in the bin.  

When I asked why it was dangerous at one airport but not at another, I was told "all airports are different". 

But why? Surely uniform rules across the board would make life easier for both travellers and security staff? 

Apparently not. 

So we continue on our stupid way with our watches setting off the x-ray machines at one airport, but not the next. 

All in an attempt to make travellers feel "safe". 

We know that is a complete furphy. Remember pre-Covid when every third or fourth flyer underwent an "explosives test". 

Now there are not enough airport staff, those tests appear to have fallen away. I haven't been tested once in around a dozen domestic flights this year. 

Do we feel any less safe? Of course not. 

It is all a bit of a charade - but it would be good if it was, at least, a consistent charade.              

Why Italians gave Domino's the boot

It was a fast food gamble that failed: spectacularly and quite predictably.

Who could possibly have predicted that pizza loving Italians would not be captivated by American-accented offerings from global chain Domino's.

Quite a few people, I suspect.

Domino’s Italian franchisee, EPizza, filed for bankruptcy last month, effectively ending the company’s bid to expand its presence in the country.

Domino's is an American multinational chain founded in 1960 with stores in over 83 countries. It once had plans to open as many as 880 stores in Italy by 2030.

But just as many Australian coffee lovers rejected Starbucks - the chain closed 75% of its stores Down Under in 2008 - Italians shunned Domino's and creations like its cheeseburger pizza.

GlobalData noted that despite a sizeable investment to localise its menu, Domino’s failed to recognise its inability to compete with smaller Mom and Pop businesses, which accounted for 72.6% of the quick-service restaurants (QSR) channel in Italy in 2021 and boast low-priced, high-quality menu items.

The data and analytics company noted that the company’s growth was slower than expected since it entered the Italian market in 2015 and peaked at over 100 branches, but by 2022 was left with only 29, partially due to the pandemic, but its long-term localisation strategy was the ultimate flaw.

Ramsey Baghdadi, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, said: “The company’s strategy lacked affordable pricing to match the local businesses, and the ability to adapt quickly to changing consumer behaviour.

"This clearly shows a flaw in its plan to localise its menu to meet demands from Italian consumers.”

According to GlobalData’s latest survey, almost half (45%) of Italian consumers prefer local cuisine.

Therefore, consumers in Italy are more likely to try menu items that have locally sourced ingredients and local flavours, instead of American-inspired creations such as the Hawaiian.

This proves further that authenticity and connoisseurship play a big part in where Italian consumers decide to eat, GlobalData says.

Affordability was also a driving factor in consumer decision making, not just product quality. GlobalData’s survey also revealed that over half (55%) of Italian consumers are extremely or somewhat concerned about their financial situation due to Covid-19.

“Fellow international businesses originating in the US such as McDonald’s took a long time to make an impression in Italy," says Baghdadi.

"Foodservice providers that specialise in regional favourites such as Starbucks coffee have yet to make a demanding presence. It is clear that this falls down to the failure to develop a value proposition that beats local independent businesses in both quality and value.”

Basically, I think Italians probably prefer to enjoy their pizza in a friendly ambience with a glass of wine. And they've made that preference known.   

Thursday 18 August 2022

Sri Lanka aiming to lure back tourists

Sri Lanka has unveiled plans to issue longer visas to help revive its tourism sector.

The Tourism Ministry will extend visas from 30 days to over six months when visitors apply via Electronic Travel Authorisation, Travel Mole reports.

To be honest, I'm not sure how much that will help. 

Very few Australian tourists would want to visit for over a month - and the country's image has taken a recent battering.

The tourism industry in Sri Lanka has been struggling due to the both the Covid-19 pandemic and an ongoing economic crisis.

The Tourism Ministry said those on certain single entry visas can now stay up to 270 days, and multiple entry visas could potentially be extended for up to a year.

Sri Lanka, however, has been hit hard by political unrest with ongoing protests, curfews and blackouts.

Several countries have advised against non-essential travel to the island nation due to shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

The Sri Lankan government has also been heavily criticised by foreign diplomats and human rights organizations for its brutal crackdown on political protests.

Image: Nick Arundel,

New owner gives Skillogalee a new look


The new owner of Skillogalee Wines in the Clare Valley has unveiled a new look for the launch of the winery’s 2022 vintage releases. 

Skillogalee’s future releases will feature a new brand identity and packaging.

The 2022 Riesling features a design that reinterprets the contours of the vineyards. 

South Australian-raised owner Simon Clausen, who purchased Skillogalee from the Palmer family in 2021, says the design honours Skillogalee’s rich history of achievement and passion while embracing a new era.

The Clausen family took over the custodianship of Skillogalee in July 2021 from Dave and Diana Palmer.

“We know how much people love Skillogalee and we really treasure that,” Clausen says. “Everyone has a Skillogalee story and this redesign is the next step as Skillogalee continues to evolve and grow.”

The 2022 Riesling is also the first with Skillogalee’s consultant winemaker and Clare Valley icon Kerri (KT) Thompson, at the official helm of the winemaking.

“Skillogalee is a special place to many of us and how lovely it is to be a part of its continued celebration,” she says.

“Our small, dedicated team remain committed to creating delicious wines expressing Skillogalee’s spirit and story and this new release from a cracker vintage is a great place to start.”

The verdict: Floral and citrus aromas lead to tangy grapefruit on the palate, flinty minerality and some zingy acid, along with impressive structure. A winner.   

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Walks on the mild side in Tasmania

Winter in Tasmania can be long and cold, but spring is just around the corner. 

The Tasmanian Walking Company has just unveiled its 2022/23 Walk+ Collection in collaboration with some of the island state’s tourism innovators and designed for adventurous walkers looking for experiences in nature. 

Heath Garratt, general manager of the Tasmanian Walking Company, says: “Our walks consistently attract global interest from guests looking to make their next adventure truly extraordinary. 

“Our new Walk+ collection is a unique approach to experiencing Tasmania’s hidden gems and the current demand exhibited for our walks gives us great confidence in these new and unique itineraries.”

Among the new experiences: 

Bruny Island Long Weekend and Fat Pig Farm Feast

This farm to table experience is designed for adventurous foodies seeking a journey into Tassie’s local produce. The Bruny Island Long Weekend and Fat Pig Farm Feast combines a three-day island walk with a Farm Feast at Matthew Evans and Sadie Chrestman's Fat Pig Farm in the Huon Valley. Walkers will enjoy coastal walks, forest glamping and local culinary delights from a gourmet long lunch at the farm to fresh oyster shucking.

Sacred Geography with Sarah Bachelard

A chance to experience one of Australia’s most beautiful tracks in a spirit of pilgrimage with theologian and spiritual director Sarah Bachelard. 

This journey on thevoverland track is described as an “opportunity to reconnect body, soul and spirit deepened by the lived experience of sacred geography and listening to the land”.

The Cradle Mountain Huts Walk is a six-day walk along the Overland Track, retreating each evening to the comfort of private accommodation along the trail.

Live Music Walks with Emily Sanzaro

Walk the Bay of Fires and experience a cliff top dinner party complete with an interactive live performance by avant-garde Tasmanian harpist, Emily Sanzaro. 

The Bay of Fires Lodge Walk is an all-inclusive four-day walk along the pristine east coast of Tasmania and staying at award winning Bay of Fires Lodge.

For bookings and further information on the Walk+ experiences see


Tuesday 16 August 2022

Tasting with masters of the craft

It is an invitation any wine lover would be crazy to turn down. 

Taste through decades of wines from Clare Valley style setters Grosset and Mount Horrocks, two of Australia’s leading producers of fine rieslings.  

Grosset has been owned and operated by Jeffrey Grosset for 42 years. Mount Horrocks is operated by his partner Stephanie Toole and has a 30-year history.  

Both operations are certified organic and biodynamic and are leaders in promoting those styles of sustainable winemaking. 

Our group; two distributors, leading wine writers Huon Hooke, Jeni Port, Nick Ryan, Max Allen and myself got the chance to look through stylistic changes and back vintages right through to the new-release 2022 wines. 

“The 2022 wines should reflect one of the great years,” Grosset says. “The purity of fruit was remarkable, particularly following the amazing 2021 vintage.” 

Both labels began buying fruit from growers but then purchased land and planted their own preferred selection of clones.  From the start they cut out all chemicals.  

For those interested in how these tastings work, here are a couple of images. 

And there is more to come. Lucky us.