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Saturday 31 December 2022

Winemakers turning to glass rather than oak

Winemakers who are keen on preserving terroir and producing wines full of freshness and purity have a new tool at their disposal: glass wine tanks.

Time to forget oak barrels, farewell to concrete tanks and eggs, goodbye to stainless steel, au revoir to clay amphoras, perhaps? 

Maybe not immediately, but "glass allows [winemakers] to protect all the elements in the grape that will create the beauty of a great wine," say manufacturers Wineglobe.

Glass, typically a vessel of choice for home winemakers, is popping up in some of the most experimental and progressive cellars in the world - and even in Bordeaux and Burgundy, France 24 reports.

“Burgundian winemakers noticed that at the end of wine’s batch, the ones they kept in small glass vats, had an exceptional expression, precision, freshness,” says Marie Paetzold, a managing partner at Wineglobe, which started in 2014.

Paetzold says that glass helps the wine tell its story.

“In the Wineglobe, wine tells everything about its terroir, varietal characteristics and the work involved,” she says. “The absolute neutrallness of our glass-made vessel enables full expression of the grapes without any incidence or mask.

"Every single Wineglobe user has commented on the precision, the purity and the clearness. The objective, ultimately, is to create expressive wines with great aging potential.”

Fermentation and aging procedures, Paetzold says, are up to the winemaker.

“Fermentations take place classically, as in any other vessel,” she says.

“The aging process depends on the winemaker’s objectives and technical itinerary, of course."

Renowned French winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt, says wines matured in glass evolve "closer to the original qualities of the grape". Derenoncourt works as a consultant for leading estates across France and the US.

Advantages of glass containers - like the demijohns used in Burgundy in the past - apparently include hygiene, a reduction in the use of sulphur dioxide and the fact that they are usable for generations.

The downside: they are more expensive to buy at €4,000 against €1,000 for an oak barrel of similar size.

Wineglobes are available in sizes varying from 25 litres to 400 litres and the company says it has 500 customers around the world, many no doubt experimenting with a vessel or two 


Friday 30 December 2022

Sydney Opera House turns back the clock

Sydney's famous Opera House will have fish and chips on the menu this summer with the opening of The Harbour, a pop-up eatery on the Opera House’s northern boardwalk.

The eatery will serve sustainably-sourced fresh seafood, chips along with takeaway classics like potato scallops, and one of the best views in Australia's biggest city.

Opening on Wednesday, January 4, The Harbour aims to transport visitors back to the retro 80s as it recreates the original seafood restaurant that operated in the same location from the late 80s to the early 90s.

The new pop-up - open for four weeks only - will pay tribute to the original eatery with chequered tablecloths, picnic tables and historical projections of the original restaurant.

Executive chef Lee Thompson says the menu will feature fish burgers, seafood platters and grilled prawns, while a picnic-ready takeaway menu is perfect for harbourside al fresco dining.

The bad news: the prices will not be those of 50 years ago.

“The Opera House precinct is a buzzing location over summer and we’re excited to introduce a new pop-up experience as part of our 50th anniversary program," says Sydney Opera House Chief Customer Officer Jade McKellar.

"The Harbour is a vibrant new eatery that brings together classic fish and chip fare with the striking harbour views of its northern waterfront location. 

"Along with our summer performances and renowned harbourside dining venues: Portside, Opera Bar, House Canteen and Bennelong, the Opera House is a must-visit summer destination for locals, visitors, theatre-goers and families."

The pop-up will run until February 3, operating Tuesday to Saturday from midday to 8pm.

Bookings are highly recommended, with some space reserved for walk-ins

See to book.


Thursday 29 December 2022

Truffle Kerfuffle back on the menu

Calling all lovers of pungent fungi.

The Truffle Kerfuffle festival has been confirmed for June 23-25, 2023, in the heart of Australian truffle country at Manjimup, Western Australia.

The event was cancelled in 2022 due to uncertainty surrounding public safety during the pandemic.

Manjimup, in WA's Southern Forests, is the most prolific truffle growing region in the southern hemisphere, producing about 85%t of all black truffles grown in Australia and fetching prices of up to $3,000 per kilogram.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism Roger Cook welcomed the return of Truffle Kerfuffle and said it was a key event in the gourmet food calendar.

“This event not only highlights the world-class nature of Manjimup’s own truffles, but also brings thousands of visitors to the region and provides a fantastic base to explore Australia’s South West,” he said."

Truffle Kerfuffle is a celebration of Manjimup’s “black gold”, sought-after by chefs around the globe for their consistent high quality and heady, earthy aromas.

Events on the menu include candle-lit long-table feasts, fireside cooking classes with top chefs, truffle dog demonstrations and truffle hunts, a market selling local produce, wine sessions and spirit tastings and free cooking demonstrations.

Project manager Sophie Zalokar said: “The Southern Forests region’s soils and climate and its successful and hard-working truffle growers produce first-class truffles.

“I’m excited about my new role which includes providing creative direction, curating the talent selection and working collaboratively with chefs, growers and the community.”

For details see

Image: Sarah Hewer

Wednesday 28 December 2022

American Express fails the common sense test


American Express take a bow. 

AmEx joins my list of major corporations that have failed to deliver even basic customer service in 2022. 

You'd think with technology improving in leaps and bounds that these big companies would be improving their offerings. Yet customer service varies from pathetic to non-existent. 

Among the major companies that have completely failed this year are Air Canada (incompetent beyond belief), and Qantas/nib travel insurance (ridiculously slow and deliberately obstructuctive). 

Throw in the Westin Harbor Castle Hotel in Toronto with its lamentable under-staffing and the inability of AirAsia to resolve issues with its absurdly named SuperApp, and I had plenty of issues with big companies during the year. 

But American Express must take the annual award for corporate stupidity. 

My monthly statement arrived today (December 28). And it must be paid by December 30, or I face a financial penalty for late payment. As AmEx puts it: "To minimise further interest charges". Even though I am actually not in arrears. 

But I have two days to pay, which is not only absurd, but you would think is also illegal. 

What a pity their "membership benefits" do not include some common sense. 

All those highly paid operatives and high-tech computer systems and it was beyond these boffins to send out their statements before the Christmas period, or to extend the payment period. 

Or perhaps no one told them that Australia Post takes a few days off during the holiday. 

Or maybe, which I strongly suspect, they simply don't give a shit. What a bunch of arsehats. 


Pushing the boat out in Champagne country

So you feel like a luxury cruise through the vineyards of Champagne? 

There are six of your wanting to sit back and relax on a brand new barge exploring some of the most picturesque waterways in France.

Oh, and money is no object.

Let me introduce you to Coquelicot, a new vessel from Belmond (formerly Orient-Express Hotels) to be launched in May next year.

This ultra-luxe barge is part of the Bateaux Belmond fleet and has just three cabins. It offers a selection of exclusive experiences in the Champagne region.

The Coquelicot is being launched in partnership with the world’s oldest Champagne house - Maison Ruinart - and guests will be treated to a private five-course tasting lunch matched with Champagnes.

They will also enjoy access to the 18th-century Taissy vineyard and learn all about Maison Ruinart.

Fully crewed Coquelicot will have just three glam cabins, all with marble en suite bathrooms. The interiors are designed by rockstar duo Humbert and Poyet.

The newly refurbished craft will also feature an indoor salon, a large deck, and a Champagne bar.

Guests can craft their own itinerary. Perhaps whether they want an art-focused tour of Champagne, an active adventure, or a series of epicurean visits.

And, of course, the boat has its own private chef, as well as a sommelier.

The cost to charter the barge for a week is an eye-watering  82,000 ($129,500). 

See if your numbers come up.   

Tuesday 27 December 2022

Tasmania's celebration of summer underway

Tasmania's annual celebration of summer food and drink opened its doors today - appropriately one of the warmest days of the year.

The Hobart waterfront was abuzz not only for the Taste of Summer festival, but also the imminent arrival of the first of the Sydney-Hobart yacht race fleet.

The Taste of Summer (formerly known as The Taste of Tasmania) celebrates the best of the island's food, drinks and local entertainment.

With 80+ stalls offering food, wines, ciders , spirits and beers, the event continues until January 2.

This is a family-friendly festival with a wide range of live entertainment on offer.

Convenor Jo Cook has struck a good balance between food, wine and spirits outlets - and there is more seating than at previous editions. 

Tickets are available through   

# The writer was a guest of Taste of Tasmania

Meet Tasmania's newest vineyard destination

Tasmania has a new vineyard destination. 

Or rather a vineyard destination with a new name, cellar door and event space. 

The former Overtime vineyard in Bicheno, on the east coast, is now Harvey Vin, which will officially open its doors on December 28. 

Ben Fleming applied for a liquor licence after the vineyard and winery were sold by the Anderson family in 2021. Production is expected to remain tiny.  

The opening event, with live music and pizzas is sold out, but the venue will hold more events in the future. 

The vineyard produced its first vintage of pinot noir in 2013 and has around 750 vines. You can follow the progress with @harveyvin on Instagram or Facebook  

Monday 26 December 2022

Discover Basalt: new luxury escapes in a cherry orchard

The Orange wine region in the central west of New South Wales is about to gain a new luxury accommodation option.

Three studios designed for couples will open on February 1 at Basalt, a local cherry farm.

"We couldn't be happier with how our three beautiful studios have taken shape over the past 12 months and now they are finally complete (albeit lots of cleaning & furniture items still to come)," say the Rollin family, who have farmed here for four decades.

"We felt it was time to diversify and make use of a few acres at the top of hill that no longer supported fruit trees. With Orange now firmly on the map for both tourists and corporate travellers, the concept for planting luxury studios into our Basalt soil was born."

Initially bookings will be open for dates February through May with winter 2023 bookings to be released on the first day of autumn.

Opening rates start from $480 a night with a two-night minimum.

Every booking comes with some surprises - and some optional extras.

The three new studios are named Chaser, Drifter and Yonder, and come with fast wifi, a kitchenette, a a bath with views, king beds with premium sheets, Reverse A/C, internal wood fire and outdoor firepit, Smart TV with bluetooth speaker, a telescope for skygazing, and continental breakfast provisions. 

For details and bookings see

Marriott doubles down on hotel openings in Thailand

Marriott International, one of the biggest guns in the global hotel industry, has announced that it expects to reach 50 hotels in Thailand by mid-2023.

Marriott has unveiled plans for eight hotels in 2023 as well as the debut in the Asian nation of two new brands: Autograph Collection Hotels and Moxy Hotels.

"Our growth in Thailand signifies the trust hotel owners and franchisees have in Marriott International and their overall confidence in Thailand's tourism industry," says Jakob Helgen, area vice president for Marriott International.

"Leveraging Thailand's strong hospitality sector, the Thailand Government's spotlight on the industry and Marriott's commitment to excellence, we remain laser-focused to continue to meet the increasing travel demand with our expansion plan."

Marriott brand already in the Thai market include Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Marriott Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts and Renaissance Hotels.

The company anticipates adding its first Autograph Collection Hotels property in Thailand with Madi Paidi Bangkok, Autograph Collection (sorry, but that's a seriously clumsy name) expected in mid-2023.

The company also expects to expand its extended-stay portfolio with the anticipated opening of three properties under the Marriott Executive Apartments brand in Bangkok's Sukhumvit area: Marriott Executive Apartments Bangkok, Sukhumvit 101; Marriott Executive Apartments Bangkok, Sukhumvit 50; and Marriott Executive Apartments Bangkok Townhall Sukhumvit.

The first Moxy hotel in the country will be Moxy Bangkok Ratchaprasong on Ratchadamri Road, with more than 500 rooms.

"Thailand offers an all-round unique travel experience - from beaches, historical and cultural sites to exquisite dining experiences to a vibrant nightlife," says Helgen.
"Our 2023 expected openings in Thailand reflect the strong demand from both local and international travellers to discover new and different facets of the Thai Kingdom."

Sunday 25 December 2022

Why plastic is far from fantastic at Six Senses

Six Senses resorts are celebrating not only the holiday period, but also a successful year in helping protect the environment.

Six Senses has set a goal towards plastic freedom and says it is committed to weaving long-term positive change into the fabric of every property.

Following its pledge as a founding signatory of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative in 2019, efforts to eliminate single-use plastic are on track, the hotel group says.

This includes eliminating the brand’s “18 Most Unwanted” items, everything from guest amenities to behind-the-scenes material such as coffee pods and fruit packaging. It also means sourcing plastic-free products, arranging packaging take-back and bottling drinking water on property.

By the end of 2022, Six Senses will have:

# Eliminated all unnecessary plastic packaging of bathroom amenities, room amenities, and retail spaces.

# Introduced more reusable solutions in the kitchens to replace cling film and plastic packaging of fresh products.

# Sourced naturally compostable packing and other materials where appropriate by engaging with suppliers.

# Worked with other hotels and industry partners to share best practices, supplier recommendations, and other information to help all stakeholders move away from plastic.

# Eliminated more than 1.5 million plastic bottles each year by bottling its own drinking water in reusable glass bottles.

# Used natural materials to substitute everything from plastic straws to toothbrushes, and also crates, cloth bags, bottles, and containers that can be reused and refilled.

“When the world woke up to plastic straws, we realised we need to go much further to continue to lead on sustainability in the hospitality industry, so back in 2017, we set the audacious goal of eliminating all unnecessary plastics,” says Jeff Smith, VP of Sustainability at Six Senses.

“This journey began with an inventory of all remaining plastics, once straws and bottles had been eliminated, and now continues with supplier engagement, seeking natural materials, and adopting circular solutions. Our solution to plastic waste is to avoid it before it happens.”

Saturday 24 December 2022

McLaren Vale wine business hits the market

Looking for a Christmas present for someone with everything?

How about one of Australia's finest boutique vineyards and wine businesses?

Gemtree Wines in McLaren Vale, South Australia, was this week placed on the market after the major investor - Chinese businessman uangang Song - indicated his desire to sell.

The biodynamic operation on 56.7 hectares of land produces around 40,000 cases of wine a year, and was established by the Buttery family in 1998.

Under the guidance of current custodians Mike and Melissa Brown - who have been in situ for 25 years - Gemtree is a guiding light of sustainable grape growing and winemaking.

The vineyards are planted with grenache, tempranillo, fiano, albarino and shiraz and the sale includes a tasting room with views of McLaren Vale and the coastline; as well as an eco-trail and wetlands with visitor amenities and accommodation.

The winery can process 3,000 tonnes each vintage. winery with 1,000 tonnes of contract winemaking.

"Due to a change of circumstances with the major shareholder the business is being offered for sale as a going concern," says real estate agent Stephen Strachan of Langley & Co.

Expressions of Interest for the entire business or individual components must be lodged by February 28.

You'll find details here:

Wine Business Monthly estimates the price could exceed $10 million. 

Newcastle Food Month set to expand its footprint

Newcastle Food Month will return in April 2023 with plans unveiled to expand the event even further.

The third edition of the festival has been confirmed by organisers Newcastle Events and will again feature posh pop-up picnic Le Diner En Blanc.

“It has been our long-time dream to make Newcastle Food Month the leading regional food event in the country, and it’s with much excitement that we announce this, our third Food Month, putting us well on our way to realising that dream.” says organiser Louise Maher.

The program will include events for food lovers paired with wine, beer or gin, and music.

Venue options will range from hatted restaurants to cafes and pubs and French, Italian, Thai and seafood degustations.

The Roundhouse at Crystalbrook Kingsley, The Flotilla, Harrisons and The Signal Box will all host events during the festival.

Plate Date returns, with over 40 dining establishments offering a brunch, lunch or dinner, including a beverage for only $25.

Maher says: “It’s exciting to see so many early entries into the program, and we are well ahead of where we have been in previous years in planning. There is already something for everyone who likes eating out, and on any budget.

“Over the past two years we have enticed thousands of Novocastrians to dine out in our fabulous restaurants, and this will continue.

"We are committed to expanding our marketing and promotion into the Central Coast and Sydney to draw an increasing number of overnight visitors. In years to come we will turn our attention to the likes of Melbourne and Brisbane, to take advantage of our connections through Newcastle Airport.”

The program launch will take place on February 15. 2023 at which time the full month-long program will be available at

Friday 23 December 2022

Britain prepares for airport chaos over Christmas

Flying into, out of, or within the UK over the Christmas holiday period?

Good luck with that.

Travellers have been officially warned that airports could close due to a UK Border Force strike to begin today.

Officials have told inbound travellers to "expect delays and disruption", Travel Mole reports.

“Passengers should be prepared for longer wait times and check with their travel agents,” the Government said.

Some troops have been brought in to help manage border control functions.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago but, predictably, diddly squat has happened to change things.

Steve Dann, the COO of Border Force, said he could not rule out closures during the strikes but said the organisation "should keep ‘most if not all ports open.’ "

About 1,000 Border Force staff are expected to walk out from Friday.

And the strikes could go on for months. Union official Mark Serwotka says the union has a mandate for industrial action until May.

Prison breaks very much in vogue for 2023

Time spent in jail will be very fashionable when TFE Hotels opens the new Adina Apartment Hotel Pentridge Melbourne in February, 2023.

The historic Pentridge Prison site is poised to become one of Australia’s highest-profile lifestyle destinations.

Developed by the Shayher Group, the 110-apartment hotel is part of a billion-dollar lifestyle precinct in Coburg which also includes residential apartments, shopping, dining outlets and an outdoor cinema.

"Whilst Pentridge was conceived as a place of confinement, it has been creatively transformed into a place of tranquillity," the developers say. "Together, we want to create an environment that people won’t want to leave, as opposed to never being able to leave."

The new-built portion of the Adina Pentridge has been added to a section of the former prison known as ‘Division B’, which has been repurposed into the hotel’s reception, modern glass hotel tower and porte cochere in a nod to the history of the site.

Located 8km from Melbourne CBD, the project sees a function centre located in the prison’s former chapel with beautiful high lead-light windows, making it a possible venue for weddings or business events.

The designers of the project, Cox Architecture, are known for their work on heritage projects including the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa redevelopment near Daylesford in Victoria.

Gourmets and wine lovers can choose between bistro dining at North & Common, or chic wine bar Olivine, with chef Thomas Woods at the helm of both venues. Sommelier Liinaa Berry will be curating the wine lists, so expect a swag of minimal intervention choices.

North & Common diners can expect produce-driven seasonal menus.

“What we’re creating with the restaurant is a lively, welcoming space free of pretention that’s inviting for locals and travellers alike,” says chef Woods, who worked with Jacques Reymond and has operated Woodland House.

“At North & Common, we’re on a mission to deliver an ever-evolving dining experience with a focus on simple food and great techniques that highlight the natural quality of the produce. This will be accompanied and elevated by a thoughtful wine list.”

A typical meal could start with rock oysters served with a classic mignonette; followed by grilled calamari with an egg yolk dressing. Or perhaps grilled rib-eye, smoked bone marrow glaze with a horseradish cream.

“I am excited to work closely with producers that I’ve built a relationship with over the past 15 years to deliver a menu that pays homage to the first-class produce we have available in Victoria,” Woods said.

Adina Apartment Hotel Pentridge Melbourne has lead-in rates from $219 per night with an opening special offering 20% off the best available rate. 

Thursday 22 December 2022

Get off the beaten track to enjoy a slice of the real Japan

Most visitors to Japan zero in on the major cities: Tokyo, Osaka, perhaps Kyoto and Hiroshima, or ski resorts like Niseko.

To enjoy a real slice of Japanese life, however, it is best to head off the beaten track to somewhere like Hida Takayama, a small mountain town in Gifu Prefecture that offers a delightful rural escape.

Hida Takayama boasts beautiful old homes, morning markets, alpine air, a delightful river; and several affordable restaurants where you can match local sakes with the famous Hida beef.

The usual accommodation choices in this region are the traditional ryokan, or Japanese inns, like Hotakaso Yamano-an, where you sleep on a futon on the floor and can bathe in the open air pools with views of the Japanese Alps.

Dinner here is a traditional Kaiseki meal of multiple courses featuring fresh local ingredients, including fish from local streams and sansai (wild mountain vegetables).

Hida Takayama looks at its prettiest in winter, when snowflakes descend and coat the town in white.

There is a magnificent temple downtown. Hida-Kokubunji Temple is the oldest structure in the town and has a three-level pagoda beside a ginko tree that is over 1,200 years old.

For those looking for a more Western style of accommodation, the Accor group this week opened the new Mercure Hida Takayama.

Inspired by local traditions, the property features indoor and outdoor natural hot spring baths.

Situated in the heart of the city just a four-minute walk from JR Takayama Station, Mercure Hida Takayama offers 161 guestrooms and seven room types.

On the first floor, a lobby with a modern wooden chandelier and shelves featuring local artwork creates a warm ambience.

A Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and bar "Hobar" is named after the Japanese word for magnolia leaves, which are traditionally used to cook the regional dishes of Gifu Prefecture.

The indoor and outdoor onsens are located n the top floor of the hotel, while three private onsens are designed for couples and families who prefer privacy as they unwind.

Visitors are advised to visit the many sake breweries in the region and the city is famous for its biannual Takayama Festival.

"As Japan continues to welcome back international travel, we are excited to be opening a Mercure address in such a unique and somewhat untapped destination as Takayama," says Garth Simmons, regional CEO for Accor.

"Mercure Hida Takayama will undoubtedly be one of our flagship Mercure properties in Japan, showcasing locally-inspired design as well as being a breathtaking base to explore the beautiful city of Takayama."

Accor currently operates 19 hotels across eight destinations in Japan. Mercure Hida Takayama is the eighth Mercure hotel in Japan.

For more information and reservations, visit

Images: Winsor Dobbin and Accor 

When punk rockers become museum tour guides

What happens when punk rockers reach retirement age? They become museum tour guides.

The Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas (which has a very American/Los Angeles focus) has unveiled a series of guided tours to be fronted the snarling, spitting anarchists of yesteryear.

Not quite The Clash, the Sex Pistols or X-Ray Spex, but the tours promise guests will revisit music history and hear directly from the "legends of punk rock".

Visitors can look forward to hearing about the first Germs shows from Don Bolles, walk with Roger Miret from Agnostic Front as he tells them about living in a van, and from Noodles (which is not a very punk name) about playing with The Offspring.

Guided tours will be offered multiple times throughout the day and capacity is limited to 20 people per tour.

Some of the other confirmed tour guides include: Louiche Mayorga from Suicidal Tendencies; Stacey Dee from Bad Cop/Bad Cop; Greg Hetson from Circle Jerks/Punk Rock Karaoke and the magnificently named Smelly from NOFX.

The Punk Rock Museum's new opening date will be March 10, 2023 and guided tours will start on April 1, 2023.

The Punk Rock Museum is dedicated to the history, culture and absurdity of rock ‘n’ roll’s bastard stepchild.

It will house artefacts and memorabilia from across the punk scene, including hand-written lyrics, instruments, clothing, photos, flyers and artwork, as well as a bar, tattoo parlour, wedding/wake chapel, punk merch shop and performance space.

Organisers are also planning interactive exhibitions, including one that lets museum-goers mess around with guitars, bass guitars and amps that once belonged to punk rock musicians.

For more information see

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Christmas just got even more materialistic

Christmas is supposed to be a time for caring and sharing but for a whole lot of people - particularly in the UK and US -it is all about the cash.

With the cost of living crisis affecting many, the people at ​did a survey of the most-wanted gifts this Christmas in several different countries.

The key message: Forget your thoughtful presents. Give me money. 

Major findings included:

# 44% of UK and 40% of US respondents reported wanting money as a gift this Christmas.

# Over a third of Polish respondents wanted money or gift vouchers and over two-fifths of Germans said the same.

# The most desired gifts in Italy at 44% are clothing, shoes and accessories.

#Cosmetics, perfume and body care items were the most desired among UK women at 55%.

#33% of US respondents reported gaming consoles to be the hardest gift to find this year.

# Plants (42.4%), beauty items (40%) and liquor (34%) were found to be the least-desired gifts for Christmas this year.

"Clearly, there has been a shift this year from material possessions, with more people placing value on either the independence to buy what they want – or, a need for cash to hand in a world of rising costs across the board,” says Jonathan Merry, CEO of

Australia was not among the nations surveyed. 
Here is the link to the full report should you wish to depress yourself: 

Meet the city that might be the best-kept travel secret in Europe

Ljubljana is difficult to pronounce, but easy to love: the delightful capital of Slovenia is also surprisingly simple to get to.

Slovenia has just been named one of the top 25 destinations in the world for 2023 by National Geographic - and its capital is both charming and easy to get around.

Less than two hours by bus from Venice in Italy, Ljubljana is vibrant and green with a lively bar and restaurant scene, and plenty of cultural offerings.

It is a cliché, but Ljubljana is really one of the best-kept secrets in the world of travel.

Think lovely architecture, great walking, tons of lively bars and cafes along the banks of the Ljubljanica River and very reasonable prices - all within a just few hours of not only Venice, but also Innsbruck, Munich and Zagreb.

My second visit - a few months ago - confirmed that the city remains charming and accessible.

The people are super friendly and all appear to be impressively multi-lingual, perhaps not surprising given the city's storied history.

Ljubljana is the largest city of Slovenia, which became independent in 1991. It has a population of under 300,000 and is reminiscent of Prague before it was discovered by the masses.

Over 2,000 years old, it is the country's cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative centre and is easy to walk around. The Old Quarter is the best base for visitors.

The city is known for its university population and many open spaces, including expansive Tivoli Park and the river, which is lined with outdoor cafes.

For those looking for a small, centrally situated boutique hotel, the Hotel Mrak (below) - located in the heart of the old town and just a short stroll from the river - fits the bill. It is quiet and well equipped with helpful staff

The chic Hotel Vander Urbani is another good option. It has just 20 rooms and a rooftop pool and is tucked away on a cobbled side street.

For those on a grander budget, the Lev Hotel which has hosted world-renowned artists including Luciano Pavarotti, Agatha Christie, and Bob Dylan, recently reopened after a complete refurb. The hotel first opened in 1964, was the first international five-star hotel in Slovenia. It had a spell as an InterContinental.

Budget travellers might want to check out the centrally located AI Apartments at

Gourmets will enjoy the Open Kitchen; a section of the city food market where you can experience the delights of freshly cooked food prepared by different Slovenian chefs right in front of you at their own market stalls.

Every Friday from mid-March to October, the Open Kitchen offers an opportunity to meet Slovenian chefs, taste Slovenian and international dishes, and learn about different methods of food preparation.

The Yummy Market Walk is a recently added tourism option.

Visitors walk around the market, accompanied by a local guide who reveals the most interesting stories and hidden secrets.

Guests get to taste fresh seasonal delicacies produced by local farmers from the vicinity of Ljubljana and finish their visit with a fresh local breakfast.

From the market, hop on the funicular that takes you to Ljubljana Castle for a magnificent view of the Ljubljana basin and the city.

The castle, with elements dating back to the 12th and 15th centuries, towers over the city.

Ljubljana hosts free open-air classical music performances during summer and is easy to get around - and the old city is mercifully quiet with all motor vehicles banned; except for motorised golf carts that transport the old and infirm.

The National Museum of Slovenia was founded in 1821 and is also worth a visit, but Ljubljana, with its mix of Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, is also a city that rewards the casual stroller or cyclists, who can get around on a bike using the Bicikelj bike-sharing system.

Along the banks of the Ljubljanica River admire arts and crafts that local artists sell from makeshift stalls.

One thing is certain: visitors will eat heartily in Ljubljana. The locals are fond of sausages (try them at Klobasarna, a hole-in the-wall takeaway, above), schnitzels and other warming Central European dishes, while breads, cakes, soups and dumplings all play major roles on local menus.

Try the historic restaurant Spajza (eat inside in one of several small rooms, or outside in a delightful garden) for dishes including an appetiser of cheek of young colt (maybe not for everyone but horse is a staple in Slovenia, along with boiled beef tongue and frog legs).

More mainstream choices are smoked trout with horseradish terrine and veal medallions with local mushrooms (another staple). Also make time for some struklji, local dumplings made in over 80 different styles, both sweet and savoury, but typically using cottage cheese or baked apples.

For dessert – or just a sweet treat - make sure to try the icy popsicles from Lučkarnica.

Wine lovers will want to spend time with for an informative and entertaining tasting in the cellar at Dvorni Bar in the city.

Alternatively opt for an informal tasting at wine bars like Suklje, Balthazar and Vinotheka Movia.

For a relaxed experience, you can pick up a boat tour and enjoy a cruise past many of the city’s major sites, including the historic Dragon and Triple bridges, centre points of the old city.

Head to or for up-to-date local info.

Images:  Winsor Dobbin 

This is an edited version of a story that first appeared in Ciao Magazine.   

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Meet the warmer, family friendly Macao


What Beijing wants, Beijing gets.

The Chinese Government is very keen for Macao to diversify away from gambling and attract more family groups as tourists.

This means six gaming firms who secured new licenses for their Macao casino resorts will pay a significant price: pledged to spend billions on non-gaming facilities to keep the authorities happy.

The casino firms will invest about $15 billion in non-gaming as part of new long term contracts, Reuters reported.

The companies are: Sands China, Wynn Macau, Galaxy, MGM China, Melco and SJM Holdings.

The new contracts are effective from January 1, 2023.

The Chinese Government has - over the past few years - made it clear it wants more family friendly options and a cut on reliance on gambling tax revenues.

Macao is the world's biggest gambling hub and home to several of the grandest casino resorts on the planet.

Macao's leader Ho Iat Seng and officials including the city's finance and economy secretary presided over the signing at Macau's Government House together with top executives of the casino companies.

Your chance to dance with Amy Shark on the Cahill Expressway

The ELEVATE Sydney festival literally stops the traffic on the Cahill Expressway from January 3-7.

The Expressway, which overlooks both the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, will be transformed into a stage offering free music and entertainment.

Right above Circular Quay's ferry terminal, Elevate's stage will host four morning events from 10am-12.30pm, with a kids' street party and surprises at every turn.

In the afternoons, ELEVATE Social will feature some of Australia's leading electronic artists from 2.30pm-5pm.

Evenings offer the chance to boogie while enjoying spectacular views.

From 8pm-11pm, partygoers can enjoy performances from the likes of Amy Shark, Becca Hatch, The Veronicas, Betty Who, Client Liaison (DJ), Drax Project, Mallrat and Thelma Plum.

Tickets are free, but you do need to book.

For full details visit:

So you like quirky? This is sounds delightfully quirky

Budapest is a spectacularly beautiful city at any time of the year, but particularly in winter.

One of the Hungarian capital's top hotels has a very quirky tour on offer that allows guests to explore the hidden gems of the city in a delightfully nostalgic VW Samba convertible.

The Anantara New York Palace Budapest's VW Guided City Tour features a customisable itinerary which lasts from two to four hours allowing guests to see exactly what they want to see.

The 59-year-old VW transports guests from fairytale squares and historic bridges to museums and centuries-old churches.

The chauffeur is also a history buff who can fill guests in on the secrets of Vajdahunyad Castle or drop them at the iconic Széchenyi thermal baths, or allow them to simply enjoy panoramic views of the Danube River from both the Buda and Pest hills.

Depending on the weather, the personalised tour can also include a stop at a secret park with a gourmet picnic basket filled with sumptuous bites prepared by executive chef Andras Wolf.

Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel is one of those classic European hotels with antique furnishings and is home to the New York Café where guests can enjoy freshly brewed coffee and pastries that the city’s poets and artists have adored for over a century.

The VW Guided City Tour costs €400 for 4 hours, for a maximum of six persons and needs to be booked 48 hours in advance.

It is one I have added to my bucket list.


Monday 19 December 2022

By the Crate: cleanskin wines make a comeback

Are cleanskin wines about to make a comeback?
The very professional team at Fourth Wave Wines certainly thinks so, having just launched a new range of cleanskins made by Sons of Eden winemaker Corey Ryan that will retail for $10 a bottle.

Crate is being billed as "a sustainable, eco-friendly wine brand that focusses on the wine, not the packaging".

So all the info is on the screw cap and there is no paper at all, no ink, no glue.

The three South Australian wines in the range are available in six packs only - not as individual bottles.

Ryan says: "These are high quality, barrel-matured wines from some of Australia's leading red wine regions.

"Crate offers exceptional value and a zero-waste approach."

The three wines are all presented in environmentally friendly lightweight glass bottes.

They comprise a 2021 Coonawarra Cabernet, and 2021 shirazes from the Barossa and McLaren Vale. 

The news is all good. I’m very happy to recommend all three reds - which are pleasingly varietal and excellent value. 

I think the McLaren Vale shiraz is my favourite - but only by a bee’s dick. 

If you are on a tight budget then this is definitely a range worth sampling. Ideal for burger or barbecue quaffing. 

# UPDATE: I served these wines to friends on Christmas Eve and there was widespread approval - particularly given the price. 

How to avoid doing your dough at Boxing Day sales

Boxing Day sales are just around the corner and shoppers have been warned to be smart, or pay the price, by non-for-profit consumer organisation CHOICE.

A CHOICE survey has found shoppers are likely to be most interested in buying clothes, small kitchen appliances, price-reduced Christmas groceries or decorations, phones and white goods.

“The Boxing Day sales can be a good time to grab a product that you’ve had your eye on for a while at a cheaper price, if you do your research,” says CHOICE editorial director Marg Rafferty (above).

“We found nearly half of shoppers intending to buy at the end of year sales had been delaying the purchase in the hopes of getting a better price. Preparation, however, is still key when it comes to getting a good deal - and to avoid walking away with products you don’t need.” .

Here are CHOICE’s top tips to get the most out of the end of year sales:

1. Do your research

“Before you buy in the sales, make sure you’ve done some research on the product you’re planning to buy - particularly if it’s an expensive one.

“Every year our testing team uncover a range of cheaper products that can outperform more expensive alternatives, so it’s worth taking the time to assess your options.”

2. Compare prices across different stores

“Don’t just buy a particular item at the first store you walk into or visit online. With so many retailers offering discounts, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to buy it cheaper elsewhere.

“Many retailers also offer price matching, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping the sales.”

3. Be wary of extended warranties

“You might be offered an extended warranty with new purchases this Boxing Day, but often these are pretty poor value. Under existing consumer protections, you have rights if something major breaks or goes wrong within a reasonable period.

“Retailers may sometimes try to sell you an extended warranty, claiming it’s necessary for extra protection. Our tip is: 'don’t pay for rights you already have'.”

4. Plan ahead for what you need

“With many of us feeling cost-of-living pressures, it can be tempting to feel the need to grab a good deal while you feel you can. Planning ahead for what you need can help avoid unnecessary purchases. Keep an eye out for high-pressure sales tactics in-store or online.”

5. Be wary of Buy Now, Pay Later deals

“Buy Now, Pay Later might seem a tempting way to fund Boxing Day spending, but we’ve seen first hand how these schemes can be potential debt traps for people who are already struggling financially.

"If you’re struggling with debt or your finances this Christmas, CHOICE recommend calling the National Debt Helpline, which offers free, confidential financial counselling. You can contact them by calling 1800 007 007."

Sunday 18 December 2022

Is this the ultimate Tasmanian gourmet weekend?

Heading for Tasmania over summer?

Stillwater restaurant and Stillwater Seven accommodation has released a new range of packages aimed at discerning gourmets with plenty of disposable income.

One of them sounds perfect for couples wanting to get to know some of the best producers in northern Tasmania   

The Finer Things package is available Wednesday through Sunday and costs $2500 for two guests for two nights.

The deal includes two nights in a deluxe king suite with a guaranteed midday check out and Bloody Marys or Tassie sparkling wine each morning with your a la carte breakfasts.

There is also a private guided tour from Experiential Tasmania with a distillery tour at Turner Stillhouse followed by a tasting and tour at Utzinger Wines.

You are not finished yet. Next up is lunch at highly-rated Timbre Kitchen, followed by a private tasting at Havilah Wines with winemaker Ricky Evans, looking at his Two Tonne Tasmania and Havilah ranges. 

Or, alternatively, you can be dropped at Du Cane Dining and Beer Hall for a tasting of locally brewed beers.

The package also includes dinner at Stillwater Restaurant - consistently among Tasmania's finest - on the first or second evening, including three courses and snacks for two.

But wait. There’s more. There are also gifts to take home, including bottles of Stillwater Memo water; a bottle of Two Tonne Tasmania wine and a gift package from Turners Stillhouse.

For more info see

Major development brewing for Coopers

Construction of Coopers Brewery’s $50 million development is now underway with ground broken on the site earlier this week.

The official sod-turning event marked the start of a construction phase that will see a new world-class visitor centre, microbrewery and whisky distillery unveiled at the home of Australia’s largest independent family-owned brewery in Regency Park, Adelaide.

Coopers has appointed Australian construction company Built to deliver the new development.

Coopers Brewery Managing Director Dr Tim Cooper said there has been an overwhelmingly positive public response to the development since plans were announced in April this year.

“This is an exciting expansion for Coopers, and represents a significant investment for the company, with an emphasis on maximising Australian input throughout the process,” Cooper said.

“As a proud Australian company, we hope to create a welcoming experience for local, national and international visitors, while positioning our brewery for the future.

“The feedback we’ve received from Coopers fans near and far is gratifying and their vote of confidence in this major investment is much appreciated.

“This marks a major milestone and our team is excited to see our vision start to become a reality.

“We look forward to working with Built and all our project partners to deliver a highly unique and immersive facility.”

“This project will help bolster job creation providing in excess of 500 onsite local South Australian jobs during the construction phase and many more in the manufacturing of material prior to site delivery,” Built state general manager Chris Bate said.

“Our highly experienced local team are looking forward to delivering a high-quality result that both the Coopers team and the people of South Australia can be proud of for many years to come.”

The Coopers development will include a restaurant and bar, outdoor plaza dining, a dedicated tasting room, interactive history display, microbrewery, whisky distillery and underground stillage for whisky maturation.

Construction is expected to be completed by May, 2024.

Founded in 1862, Coopers Brewery is a sixth-generation family company.

Saturday 17 December 2022

English sparkling wine takes on the traditional stars

English folk drinking Australian wine? Sure.

Australian consumers choosing English wine? Unthinkable until recent times.

While the UK is a major consumer of wine, it has always been considered a minor producer.

Too cold, too wet, too windy.

But the times they are a changing and leading UK sparkling wine producer Nyetimber is having a serious crack at selling its wines Down Under, having recently linked up with leading distributor Deja Vu.

Wine production in the UK is surging due to warmer summers and new technology, with sparkling wines from southern counties including Sussex, Essex, Kent and Hampshire getting some rave reviews.

Nyetimber is regarded as the leading producer of English sparkling wine - with a growing international presence.

The first Nyetimber sparkling wine, the 1992 Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs, was launched in the mid-1990s.

"Our vineyards share similar characteristics with the best sparkling wine vineyards in the world," says Nyetimber chief executive Eric Heerema, who purchased the business in 2006.

"Greensand and chalk soils allow our vines, in each of our separate sites, to flourish across the south of England. The climate here allows for the slow ripening of our grapes, allowing us to achieve the optimum levels of ripeness and acidity, as well as the complexity and finesse for which our exquisite wines are renowned."

Nyetimber uses only estate-grown fruit and the wines are made by head winemaker Cherie Spriggs, and her winemaker husband Brad Greatrix.

All the wines at Nyetimber are made using the traditional method (as in Champagne and Tasmania), ageing them for extended periods of time to build complexity and flavour.

The first vines were planted in 1988; chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

The estate vines spread across several separate sites in Sussex, Hampshire and Kent and Nyetimber has its own pressing centre and winery.

The non-vintage Nyetimber Classic Cuvee is now on sale across many Australian retail outlets for around $85 per bottle. 

My verdict:. Very pale, very fresh, very clean with a nice mousse and plenty of length. 

Freeze your leftover cheese and wine at Christmas

Are you planning to freeze your leftover wine and cheese at Christmas?

That's just one of the ideas being floated by an English council aiming to avoid unnecessary food waste over the holiday period, the Eastern Daily Press reports.

Officials at Norfolk County Council are recommending that leftovers from bottles of wines are frozen into cubes, which can then be used in sauces and stews.

They also say that cheeses should be frozen and re-used when possible.

It is claimed that by following the advice people can also save money at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is hitting families.

Hard cheeses like parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella are great frozen, says the website

"We recommend you grate them first, pop them in a ziplock or freezer bag and then use them straight from frozen in your cooking," the website says.

"We do not recommend freezing fresh cheeses like ricotta or soft cheeses like brie or blue cheese. Freezing will affect their structure and overall quality. However, if these cheeses are being used in dishes like lasagne or quiches and then the dish is frozen, this will be perfectly fine."

Martina Glason, waste reduction officer at Norfolk County Council, said: "The key to saving at Christmas is to have a plan."

Key tips include:

# Checking the allergies and dietary requirements of any visitors, to avoid wasting food and money by buying the wrong items.

# Plan carefully to avoid overbuying.

# Provide one major dessert, rather than a selection.

# Free up freezer space in the run-up to Christmas, by eating frozen meals in the days before, so there is plenty of room to freeze leftovers.

More tips on cutting food waste, recipes for leftovers and other ways to have a thrifty Christmas are available at

Image: Carlos Predo de Carvalho Pinto, Scopio.

Friday 16 December 2022

Wine industry pioneer dies at age of 95

UPDATE:  The memorial service for winemaking icon d'Arry Osborn will be held at d'Arry's Verandah on at 3.30pm on January 17, 2023, the family has announced.

Due to the high numbers anticipated, the ceremony will also be livestreamed.

Here is the link to RSVP for the memorial:

One of the pioneers of the modern Australian wine industry, d'Arry Osborn of d'Arenberg Wines, has died at the age of 95. 

Francis d'Arenberg Osborn, known throughout the wine industry as d'Arry, completed over 75 vintages at the family winery in McLaren Vale. 

His son, Chester, a fourth-generation family member, now runs the business.

The family said in a statement: "It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Francis d’Arenberg Osborn - better known and loved as d’Arry - at the age of 95.

"d’Arry was much loved by family, friends and wine lovers the world over as a great raconteur, regaling all with humorous stories gathered over a lifetime.

"A true statesman of the wine industry, d’Arry will be greatly missed by all at d’Arenberg.

"Wherever you are in the world, find a bottle with d’Arry’s famous red stripe and join us in raising a glass to a great man and a life well lived."

Born on the family property on December 27, 1926, to Francis Ernest and Helena d’Arenberg Osborn, he was given his mother’s name upon her death.

He started in the family winery at the tender age of 16, at a time when Clydesdale horses did the work of a tractor and kerosene-powered the motors and pumps.

Over his lifetime d’Arry oversaw more than 70 consecutive vintages at d’Arenberg. With the introduction of the famous ‘red stripe’ in 1959, d’Arry took d’Arenberg from bulk flagon production to an internationally recognised wine brand.

The 1968 d'Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon won the Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1969.

d'Arry received multiple honours including the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 1978.

In 1995 he was invested as a Patron of the Australian Wine Industry in “Honour of an outstanding contribution to the affairs of the Australian Wine Industry”.
A Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2004 Queen’s Birthday Honours list followed.

In 2016 he was awarded South Australian Legend of the Vine by Wine Communicators of Australia joining a prestigious group and becoming a life member of WCA.
d’Arry is survived by his two children, Chester and Jacki Osborn, and his three grandchildren Alicia, Ruby and Mia Osborn.