Book, stay, enjoy. That's

Saturday, 23 September 2023

Something different for wine lovers and collectors

Looking for something to jazz up your cellar or bar at home? 

Long-time wine industry professional Philip Meyer has just the thing. 

Meyer has collected some "wine bling" during his career, including many panel boards from wooden crates that contained highly collectible wines, including from from Bordeaux and Burgundy. 

So think Chateau Margaux, or maybe Bonneau Du Martray.

The range also includes box ends from leading wineries in Italy and Spain and prices start from $30.  
Meyer describes the wine box ends from around the world as "a little semi-retirement project".

Wine box ends are the original wine panels from wine crates made by high-end vineyards. They are also known as wine crate sides or wine face plates.

The ends are engraved with the winery’s logo and/or artwork and sometimes include the vintage year of the wine they housed.

Meyer says they are "perfect gifts for wine lovers, as art work, drawer fronts, a table top or wall hangings". 

Perfect, too, for anyone opening a wine bar. 

Friday, 22 September 2023

Dark Mofo blow for Tasmanian tourism

The organisers of Hobart winter festival Dark Mofo have announced that the event will pause in 2024 “for a period of renewal”.

Dark Mofo intends to reshape a more sustainable model for a full return in 2025, and set the foundation for the next 10 years.

Despite achieving record attendances and box office results this year, organisers said a reset was essential due to rising costs and changing circumstances.

An agreement has, however, been reached with the Tasmanian Government to hold two aspects of the festival in 2024 - the Winter Feast and the Nude Solstice Swim.

These two key events will also coincide with the opening of a new major exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona).

Dark Mofo artistic director Chris Twite said that the State Government had been proactive in offering solutions to proceed with the festival in 2024. But ultimately the organisers opted for a reduced scope that would honour Dark Mofo’s commitment to local community and small businesses, and give the organisation the time and space for planning for the future. 

“We are thankful for the support and assistance that the State Government has shown in response to our need to reshape for the future,” Twite said.

“Dark Mofo has always been dedicated to enriching and transforming lives through ambitious art and ideas. We want to make sure that we have a festival that continues to deliver incredible art and artists, that continues to expand its artistic boundaries and remains a beacon of creativity, innovation, and cultural significance.

“While this was a tough decision, it ensures we move forward in a viable manner. The fallow year will enable us to secure the future of Dark Mofo and its return at full force in 2025.

“We are excited that in June 2024 - amidst the rebirth and renewal of Dark Mofo - that Tasmanians and visitors alike will still be able to meet and commune around the fires of Winter Feast and cast off the weight of another year at the Nude Solstice Swim once more.” 

Dates for the 2024 Winter Feast and Nude Solstice Swim will be announced soon. 

Tourism Tasmania CEO Sarah Clark says that organisation will respond to changes in the festival programming and ensure Tasmania stays "top of mind" for Australians next winter.

Tourism Tasmania will Increase investment in its Off Season program; pursue a new strategic airline partnership to drive bookings to the state across the entire winter and deliver a one-off industry content program helping support the promotion of Off Season offers.

We shall see.

Take a trip back in time for one weekend only

Take a journey back in time when Sydney’s Central Station is briefly transformed to a bygone era. 

The return of the annual Transport Heritage Expo this October long weekend (September 30-October 2) will give visitors the chance to enjoy heritage train, bus and steam boat rides across the city. 

There will also be unique experiences at Central station, including tours of the clock tower and tea on board a 1960s dining carriage.

“The Transport Heritage Expo is a rare and exciting opportunity for people to journey back in time and immerse themselves in our state’s rich transport history,” said Transport Heritage NSW CEO, Andrew Moritz.

“This year, we’re fortunate to display some incredible pieces from the state collection, including three rarely seen passenger carriages, which were first introduced to the NSW Government Railways in the 1890s.”

Highlights of the Transport Heritage Expo will be a one-hour steam train ride to Hurstville and return, a trip on a vintage electric train and a ride on a timber-bodied railmotor on a tour of the Botany freight line.

Vintage bus rides will include "a 29-minute round trip of the Sydney CBD aboard a lovingly restored vintage double-decker bus from the Sydney Bus Museum". That's a pretty precise time frame given Sydney traffic! 

There will also be 45-minute harbour cruise on a choice of the Waratah or Lady Hopetoun – two 120-year-old veterans of Sydney Harbour.

Tickets are on sale now at or by calling 1300 115599.

Images: Steve Burrows

Thursday, 21 September 2023

Adelaide Hills set to sparkle


The Adelaide Hills wine region will turn on its sparkling style next month  

The annual Sparkling Springtm festival will run from Friday October 20 to Sunday October 22 for its second edition after a successful start last year. 

The festival will feature tasting events, bites, degustation lunches and live music. 

Participating wineries will include leading sparkling producers including DAOSA, Deviation Road, Lobethal Road, Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyard, Golding, Croser, Howard Vineyard, Sidewood, Bird in Hand, The Lane and Nepenthe. 

Alex Trescowthick, president of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region said the event “shines a light on the amazing sparkling wines being made here in the Adelaide Hills.

“Sparkling wine is one of the hidden gems of the Adelaide Hills wine region. Our cool climate provides the perfect growing conditions for sparkling varieties, chardonnay and Pinot noir. The talented Hills’ winemakers use traditional methods to craft some of the country’s most outstanding sparkling wines.

“October is great time to visit the Adelaide Hills. Expect warm sunny weather and picturesque vineyards with swathes of new leaves to signify the start of the growing season. It’s a great time to discover your favourite sparkling to enjoy over the coming festive season.”

Full details at 

Tasting with some of Tasmania's best wine producers

Here is the perfect excuse for any interstate wine lovers who have been thinking about visiting Tasmania and popping by some cellar doors.

Wine South will host the annual Spring in the Vines Festival over the weekend of November 3-5.

Producers throughout the Coal River Valley, Derwent Valley, Tasmania Peninsula and Huon Valley/d'Entrecasteaux Channel will be opening up for tastings of new releases, older vintages, food and fun.

Spring in the Vines began in 2020 to showcase Southern Tasmania’s cool-climate wines and scenic vineyards.Producers large and small - some who do not usually open to the public - will open up to visitors, allowing wine lovers to chat directly with producers.

With more than 5000 visitors anticipated for the 2023 event, the festival provides a significant economic boost to the southern wine region.

“Spring in the Vines is a unique and inclusive festival, bringing together vineyards, wineries, winemakers, and negociants, to showcase southern Tasmania as a premium wine destination,” says Nathalie Urbain from Wine South, the producer collective that organises the event.

Wine South president Mark McNamara says Spring in the Vines is “an event not to be missed by all Tasmanians and visitors to our beautiful state, showcasing the season’s newly released wines.”

Many wineries- over 40 are expected to participate -  will be partnering with local musicians and food producers.

“Spring in the Vines is the perfect chance to emerge from your winter hibernation with friends and family and experience everything that is unique about southern Tasmanian wine, our vineyards and producers, and take home some the best of the new season wines,” McNamara says.

Details at and further updates will be posted closer to the date.

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Global recognition for Brisbane hotel

 A boutique Brisbane hotel has upstaged properties in Sydney and Melbourne and been named No.12 in a list of The World’s Best 50 Hotels 

The Calile Hotel was also named best in Oceania in the inaugural The World’s 50 Best Hotelawards announced in London today. 


The invitation-only event, attended by representatives from the 50 nominated hotels, was held in the historic Guildhall. 

In attendance for the ceremony, The Calile Hotel co-owner Catherine Malouf said she was extremely proud to be representing the Malouf family (owners) and employees from The Calile at such a significant celebration.


"This is a win for our team, our collaborators, our loyal guests and a win for Brisbane as a destination, and we are humbled to represent the Australian hotel industry on the world stage,” she said. 


"There is no doubt The Calile Hotel has carved a name for itself and sparked a trend in ‘urban resorts’ with its bold architectural commitment, sustainable practises and by embracing its local and sub-tropic climate within an urban setting." 


There are, of course, several of these lists, but it is nonetheless noteworthy recognition. 


 Speaking at the opening of the awards event, the managing director of World’s 50 Best Group Tim Brooke-Webb said: “The 50 Best Hotels has redefined hospitality - setting new standards and pushing boundaries to create unique moments for your guests.” 

So plenty of hype there. 


Hotel general manager Rob Unson said: “Being named 12 in the world was a fitting fifth birthday present for the 175-room boutique hotel and a great win for Australian tourism.


"It takes an outstanding team to deliver outstanding guest experiences, and I want to take a moment to thank the hotel team – from our housekeepers to our pool attendants, maintenance and kitchen teams and our front of house guest service attendants who go above and beyond to welcome our guests back through the arches time and time again.”


Voting criteria was based on selecting seven best hotel experiences during the voting period. Voters were asked to consider every element of the hotel’s operation from first contact pointto room comfort, quality of food and beverage, on-site facilities and check out. 

Making classic cocktails at home just got a lot easier

Ever get the feeling that you would love a cocktail but can't be bothered getting dressed up and heading to a cocktail bar?

Fever-Tree is shaking things up with the recent launch of two new cocktail mixers.

Choose between the Classic Margarita Mixer and Sparkling Mojito Mixer, which are are an addition to Fever-Tree’s current offerings of tonics, sodas and ginger ales, all of which are popular solo, or mixed with different spirits.

All you need is a glass, some ice and rum or tequila - and away you go at home. Salt, garnishes and straws are optional.

Each bottle contains multiple serves with no extra liqueurs or syrups needed; no squeezing or aggressive shaking required.

Fever-Tree is promoted as Australia’s #1 luxury mixer brand with 90% share in the premium mixer market.

Both bottles are without artificial flavourings, sweeteners, or preservatives, and they boast a total sugar content that is lower than competitor brands.

The Classic Margarita Mix is a blend of Mexican limes, Italian blood oranges and a pinch of Scottish sea salt, while the Classic Mojito Mixer is also made from Mexican limes, as well as Moroccan spearmint.

“This is just the beginning of growth and innovation in the cocktail mixer category for Fever-Tree," says MD Andy Gaunt.

"As was the case with carbonated mixers, the non-carbonated category is ripe with opportunity, and bound for tremendous growth. It’s the perfect time for Fever-Tree to be making their grand entrance."

The Mixers are available for $19.50 a bottle - enough for four or five cocktails - at Dan Murphy’s stores.

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Sydney in 15 minutes - from the water

Here is one for anyone planning on visiting Sydney. 

Take a 15-minute Sydney Harbour ferry trip from Circular Quay to Barangaroo for a tour of many of the city’s highlights from the water - at public transport prices. 

Here’s few shots I took today. Please enjoy.

For more info please see 

Meet the couple changing the perceptions of Queensland wines


Queensland wine is still struggling for widespread acceptance.

While there have always been some talented artisans working in the Granite Belt region, consistency of quality has long been a problem.

Meet Ray and Jenny Costanzo, who are among a new wave lifting the profile of the Granite Belt and Queensland as a whole.

Ray is a third generation winemaker, having completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (winemaking) at Charles Sturt University and honing his skills doing vintages in various parts of Australia and the USA, before returning home to Stanthorpe to follow in his father and grandfathers footsteps as winemaker at Golden Grove Estate.

But the Costanzos also have their own little side project: Storm King Wines with wines that are handcrafted and made in tiny quantities.

Across two vintages, they are producing some of the most exciting wine styles Queensland has to offer with the new releases from the 2022 vintage full of vivacity and nuance.

Founded two years ago, Storm King is named for the area where the couple lives and reflect "a passion for wines that are just a little left of centre result and worth savouring".

The savoury, textural 2022 Vermentino ($40) raw-boned 2022 Shiraz Malbec ($45) and 2022 Tempranillo ($45) - an absolute standout - are made with extended contact with skins, natural ferments, hand plunging, basket pressing and minimal filtrations. 

The tempranillo (above) will change whatever preconceptions you may have about Queensland wine, but be quick: only 660 bottles were produced. 

Sustainability, too, is paramount with recycled grape waste and compostable inks used for the labels, and the use of a more environmentally friendly cork producer. 

Monday, 18 September 2023

Dirty deeds in the world of wine

Vintage Crime is not the book for you if are looking for a comprehensive list of the various grape varieties of Italy, or the top cellar doors to visit in Stellenbosch.

But if you are looking for some human interest stories about the world of wine, its history and some notorious dodgers and divers then you'll have some fun.

Wine journalist and Master of Wine Rebecca Gibb says her book is all about wine "amelioration, adulteration, and deception" told chronologically through 10 wine frauds.

She covers some of the most high-profile wine scams and some of the lesser-known devious activities over the years.

The book spans ancient times, in bawdy Imperial Rome no less, to the 21st century and how mega fraudster Rudy Kurniawan rose from obscurity to global notoriety.

There is a focus on human stories: wine producers, merchants, collectors, and drinkers rather than on the bottles of wine themselves. 

A fun and engaging book choice when you want to take in a chapter here and a chapter there, rather than binge reading. Enjoy at your own pace. 

Vintage Crime: A Short History of Wine Fraud is to be published by University of California Press.

Meet the drink vending machine that offers more choice - and helps the environment

Ever wished you could craft your own drink - and help save the planet from single-use plastic bottles?

Meet Refilled, a Sydney-based start-up that hopes to eventually end the sale of beverages sold in single-use plastic bottles in vending machines.

Starting at sites including Google HQ Sydney, UTS and the University of Sydney, its Refillers are plastic-free vending machine that can be used by anyone with a reusable bottle.

The company hopes to install 100 units around Australia by 2024, aiming to capitalise on the trend of reusable bottles and by giving people more flavour variety and nutritional options than just plain water on tap.

The Refillers are described as "a cross between a fridge and a giant soda stream" and offer chilled still and sparkling drinks in a range of flavours with the ability to add optional boosters such as caffeine, vitamins, and nootropics.

The founders say over 891 billion single-use plastic bottles are produced worldwide every year and fewer than 20% are ever recycled, which makes vending machines a major source of plastic pollution.

A single Refiller can stock 10x more beverages than a typical vending machine so it can also reduce waste and delivery emissions.

Refilled is tracking the number of bottles is has saved in real time, and has created reusable bottles with QR codes that can be scanned at the Refiller and used to pay for drinks – no card, phone or cash required.

To date, Refilled has raised $600k through angel investors and Melt Ventures, an impact VC Fund. It is seeking an additional $1.5 million in its next funding round.

“Refilled is transforming the ordinary, everyday act of drinking water into climate action," says co-founder and CEO Ryan Nelson.

"Most people have good intentions and want to do good for the planet, but not everyone can afford to buy an electric vehicle or install solar panels.

"Armed with just a reusable bottle and a couple of bucks, our Refillers offer an affordable, achievable way to eliminate plastic pollution. If we can replace even a fraction of drinks vending machines, which are an outrageous source of plastic waste, we will stop millions of plastic bottles going to landfill.”

For more info see

Sunday, 17 September 2023

Venice to impose tourism charge on visitors

And so it begins.

Venice is set to charge €5 ($8.30) for day trippers entering the city in its latest move to combat the ever-increasing problem of overtourism.

Initially to be introduced as a trail period during peak days, day visitors over the age of 14 will have to pay the tourist fee by booking in advance from next season.

“Venice is among the most visited European cities and suffers the most from excess tourism,” said Simone Venturini, the city council member for tourism.

The city measures just a few square miles but attracts around 13 million visitors annually.

The aim is to get visitors to come on off-peak days, Venturini said. Good luck with that. 

UNESCO has suggested putting the Italian city of Venice on the list of World Heritage sites at risk. 

Venice has been struggling with the negative impacts of mass tourism for years, Travel Mole reports.

City officials have already taken measures to keep large cruise ships away from the city's canals.

Beer pong: Get behind the scenes at Hobart's new micro brewery

So you are visiting Hobart/nipaluna and have already ticked off de rigueur destinations like MONA and kunanyi/Mt Wellington.

How about a craft brewery tour and tasting at Moo Brew's recently arrived Salamanca mini bar Manky Sally's.

The team at Manky Sally's are now offering a behind-the-scenes peek at the life cycle of a Sally’s brew.

Managing director Lauren Sheppard and head brewer Jack Viney say visitors have been thirsty to know more about Sally’s award-winning brews and how they’re made.

The new tours include a tasting paddle served on a table tennis bat - an homage to Moo Brew founder David Walsh, a lifelong player of ping pong.

‘The crew at Moo are an inventive bunch," says Viney. "And with almost 18 years of beer ideas to work through, the smaller tanks at Sally’s allow us to take risks on brews with unexpected flavour combinations such as Black Forest Stout, Pineapple Guava Sour and Yuzu Green Chilli Gose.

"We’re excited to offer an inside look. Letting people get up close is the next step in Sally’s evolution. We might even crowd-source some ideas."

MD Shepherd chips in: "A motivator for Moo was to create a brew space and drinking experience unlike anything you’d seen before. Rifling through our museum’s warehouses for the fit out, designing a menu offering that complements the beers, and experimenting with the different Sally’s brews, we’ve created a unique destination that celebrates the very best of Moo Brew and MONA."

Tour tickets are $30 per person for a 30 minute tour + tasting paddle of four beers and run from Thursday to Monday, 2:30pm and 4:45pm.

Manky Sally’s is at Salamanca Place, Hobart. See

Saturday, 16 September 2023

Celebrating 70 years of an importer who helped give Australia an Italian accent

At a time when Italian restaurants owned by culinary "superstars" open and close over a period of just a couple of years, it is nice to pay tribute to a Melbourne institution that is this year celebrating 70 years run by the same family. 

Enoteca Sileno is a Melbourne business that has helped shape the food and wine culture of Australia, with founder Gino Di Santo a pioneer of introducing authentic, regional flavours of Italy to Australians. 

The business is still run by the third generation of the family in 2023. 

At the Enoteca Sileno store in Carlton, the Portelli family is extending its retail hours and hosting a swag of events every Saturday in the lead-up to Christmas. 

Visitors can see a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano being cut in the traditional way, or sample some panettone in the lead-up to Christmas. 

The Enoteca Sileno story began in the town of Termoli in the region of Molise, Italy. where Luigi ‘Gino’ Di Santo was a young man who wanted to prove he could make it on his own post World War II. 

After arriving in Australia at Bonegilla Migrant Reception Center outside Wodonga in north-east Victoria, he saw a gap in the market for imported Italian food and beverage products in Melbourne.

He returned to Italy to secure the rights for La Cimbali espresso machines, and in 1954 he installed the first machine in Cafè Lexington on Exhibition Street. 

Enoteca Sileno’s role as an importer of Italian foods began with Plasmon, Italy’s most famous brand of baby food, which was in much demand by the young migrant Italian mothers.

In the following years Gino would introduce Australian cafes and restaurants to Italian mineral water, gelati-making machines, La Minerva cheese graters and coffee grinders for delicatessens and cafés, along with preserved vegetables such as artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegars and Italian liqueurs such as Amaro Ramazzotti and Amaretto di Saronno.

But Gino also play an important role as an ambassador for Australian products in Italy. He exhibited at Italian international food fairs, giving Italians their first taste of Carlton Draught and Swan Lager beers, as well as Australian tinned fruit. 

He was also responsible for what was possibly the earliest exhibit of Indigenous Australian artefacts in Italy, with a display that included bark paintings, wood carvings, and tools.

In 1982, Gino opened the Enoteca Sileno retail store in Carlton, selling direct to the public rather than to restaurants and cafès. 

After relocating to Lygon Street in 2004, Enoteca Sileno is now under the guardianship of Gino’s daughter Rosemary Portelli-  a former teacher and sommelier - and her husband John Portelli, along with their son Daniel. 

Gino died in 2010, but today, the company portfolio extends across thousands of products from classic biscotti, polenta from the Italian Alps and dozens of condiments, sauces and spreads, as well as Italian craft beers and liquors. 

“Times change, and we want to go with it - but we’ve got the classics everyone Italian knows and loves, and the funny thing is some of the products we’ve had from Gino’s early days are still our biggest sellers," says Rosemary Portelli. 

New look for one of Auckland's top hotels

One of Auckland's top city centre hotels - Pullman Hotel Auckland - has a new look after a major refurb.

Known for its prime location with views of both Waitemata Harbour and Albert Park, the hotel has seen its forecourt and reception area transformed with the lobby area (top) featuring natural textures and elements of brass and copper. It offers direct access to the executive club lounge.

Pullman Hotel Auckland is operated by leading hospitality group Accor and has 276 rooms and suites in the hotel tower, with new beds, pillows, and bedding.

The addition of Nespresso machines adds a touch of convenience to all room types. The soft refurbishment of all rooms includes updated furniture, amenities, and new carpets in both the rooms and hotel corridors.

Tapestry Bar & Grill on the lobby level sees executive chef Johnny Roullier specialising in dry-aged beef and grilled meats. There’s also a signature breakfast offering, while r those looking for an al fresco experience, the Tapestry courtyard is open for dining or meeting friends for cocktails.

Luxe Spa provides personalised spa treatments, while the hotel also has a 25-metre heated indoor lap pool (above), sauna, steam room, spa pool, and fitness equipment.

"We are thrilled to unveil the exciting refurbishment of Pullman Hotel Auckland, as we continue to elevate our guest experience to new heights," said Accor Pacific CEO Sarah Derry.

"The renovations focus on creating an environment that reflects the individuality of Auckland, providing a spectacular personalised experience and transforming the hotel into a destination for guests and locals."

Rooms are priced from NZD$229 per night. To book, visit

Friday, 15 September 2023

Why so many awards are a crock of poo

I was once on the judging panel of a major regional tourism award.

The entrants all had compiled highly impressive declarations of their worthiness.

The only problem was that I knew from my own experience - of actually visiting these applicants - that some of those entries were bunkum.

But the panel chair said firmly that "personal experience should not come into it". We had to judge solely on the applications in front of us. Even if we knew they were dishonest.

I stood down from that panel asap.

My point is that there are so many awards nowadays that it seems just about everyone can win a prize if they are smart enough to pay a professional to craft their nomination.

Two press releases crossed my deck this week that raised my hackles.

One was about top tourism towns.

One of the big winners was a town that is surrounded by ugliness and has very little, in my eyes, to commend it.

The win will probably boost regional tourism and garner some headlines. But I fear a lot of visitors will be disappointed with what they find.

The next press release told me that the state of Victoria has been nominated as a finalist for the 2023 Wine Region of the Year at the 24th annual Wine Star Awards.

Now Victoria produces some very fine wines. But it is not a wine region. It is a state.

In fact, the press release pointed out that Victoria "is recognised as having a diverse range of climates and winemaking styles across its 21 regions".

Victoria is the same size or bigger than many entire European countries, so the judges are being asked to compare apples with onions. It is 370km from the Mornington to Rutherglen for heaven's sake. That's some region. 
The other nominees for 2023 Wine Enthusiast Region of the Year are Lambrusco in Italy; Provence in France; Charlottesville in Virginia in the US; and Swartland in South Africa. 

All of which actually are wine regions. 

If a Victorian region were competing against them it should be the Yarra Valley, the Mornington Peninsula. Heathcote or Rutherglen. Not the whole flipping state. 

Swartland, for instance, covers 3,707 square kilometres, while Victoria, around the same size as the British Isles, is 227,600 square kilometres.

If Victoria as a whole is a contender the it should be up against the likes of the Western Cape, Oregon, Umbria etc. 

So when you read about some great wine or travel triumph in your local media, be sceptical, and take a look at the judging parameters. 

All may not be as it seems.

Revamped Sunshine Coast accommodation banks on sustainability

Set to open at the end of November, Motel Caloundra aims to be the Sunshine Coast’s first net-zero energy hotel.

The property is described as "hip new accommodation to be launched in the heart of Caloundra’s arts and culture precinct".

The motel is the latest project from hotel developers and designers Andrew and Lucy Pink, who have crafted "a haven of style and tranquillity" opposite The Events Centre and the site of the future Sunshine Coast Regional Gallery.

The Pinks previously introduced Loea Boutique Hotel and Maleny Lodge - both also on the Sunshine Coast - after complete transformations of other former motels.

Motel Caloundra aims to be totally energy self-sufficient with an array of solar panels and storage batteries installed.

It will offer nine rooms, including a two-bedroom family suite and a fully-equipped two-bedroom apartment.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stoeckel welcomed the imminent launch of the revamped motel and its investment in sustainability technology.

“Caloundra is fortunate to have some of the Sunshine Coast’s most attractive beaches as well as having the Glass House Mountains nearby, and this commitment to sustainability highlights our tourism operators’ support for our natural environment,” Stoeckel said.

The revamped former Caloundra City Centre Motel's entry-level standard king room will start from $180 and will feature deluxe king beds with organic cotton sheets, en suite bathrooms, smart TVs with free Netflix, minibars, tea and coffee making facilities, hair dryers, complimentary high-speed wifi, air conditioning, organic shampoo, conditioner and soap and daily housekeeping.

Thursday, 14 September 2023

Why wine lovers should give grenache a fair go

The grenache grape - sometimes called garnacha, or grenache noir - can be found all lover the world of wine, but flourishes in warm, dry conditions.

Every year on the third Friday in September, International Grenache Day aims to create awareness of one of the most widely planted grape varieties.

In Australia, grenache naturally thrives in regions like the Barossa and McLaren Vale, and was once the backbone of the fortified wine industry.

It stars in southern France, in Spain, where the grape is believed to have originated, in Sardinia, and in warmer regions of California.

Often red fruited and best when made with moderate alcohol levels, grenache can be made in a range of styles, as was evident at a recent Hill Smith Family  Estates tasting of several of that producer's grenache wines.

The growing of grenache in Australia dates back to 1832, when it was one of the original varieties brought into the country by industry pioneer James Busby.

It was hugely popular in Australia from the 1920s to the late 1960s, when the bulk of wine production was of the fortified wines that used to dominate the industry.

Now just over 1% of all vines in Australia are grenache, with many having been pulled out in the 1980s.

Many of those that survived are untrellised bush vines (below) and the variety is now enjoying increased popularity and renewed enthusiasm.

Hill Smith Family Estates and Yalumba senior winemaker Sam Wigan says the grenache grape is among the most versatile.and has a log history in South Australia, with plantings in McLaren Vale in the late 1830s and the Barossa in the early 1840s.

"Grenache continues to thrive today, producing vibrant and aromatic wines which are ideal with food," Wigan says.

"Grenache is so nimble and versatile and can even be served chilled on warmer days. These days winemaking can play an even bigger role than where the grapes were grown."

The wines we tasted were:

Yalumba The Tri-Centenary Grenache 2021 $65

Yalumba Vine Vale Grenache 2022 $40

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2021 $28

Running with Bulls Barossa Garnacha 2021 $25

Rogers & Rufus Grenache Rosé 2022 $27

While the appeal of the bigger wines was obvious, my preference was for the pale, dry delicate and fresh appeal of the rosé, and the bright, vibrancy and food friendliness of the Spanish-style Running with Bulls and the lighter-framed Bush Vine example.

The bigger, gruntier Vine Vale wine needs to be matched with red meat dishes to be seen at its best, while the deeper, darker Tri-Centenary was a bold wine that mellowed after being open for 24 hours. Some of the grapes in this wine come from bush vines that are over 130 years old.

For anyone who hasn't tried the variety for a while, buy a bottle of Friday and give grenache a go. 

It remains a relatively affordable treat. 

Calling hospitality businesses in Tasmania

Hospitality venues in Tasmania are being encouraged to support the local wine industry and enter the 2023 Tasmanian Wine List of the Year Program.

Now in its sixth year, the Wine List of the Year program was initiated to recognise the contribution by the island’s restaurants, bars, cafes, pubs and wine retailers in promoting local wines and their producers.

"While our island’s wine is overwhelmingly supported by locals, wine is deeply intertwined with the visitor experience too," said Wine Tasmania CEO Sheralee Davies.

"During the 12 months to March 2023, 24% of all visitors to Tasmania called into a cellar door during their stay, reflecting the importance of our wine to the overall visitor offering."

Submissions for the 2023 awards program are now open, with the key requirement being that venues stock and promote local Tasmanian wine as a part of their overall offering.

Four key award categories recognise venues in Launceston, Hobart and regional areas, in addition to a category focused on small but high-quality wine lists.

The overall Judges’ Choice award is then chosen from these four winners, while the People’s Choice award will invite the public to vote for their favourite venue from a list of finalists.

"Through the Wine List of the Year program, Wine Tasmania seeks to celebrate those venues that go the extra mile to share what it is that makes Tassie and its wine so awesome," said Davies.

"Our many small Tasmanian wine producers value the support of their friends in local hospitality and retail businesses and we look forward to promoting the finalists and award winners in 2023."

The overall winner will also gain direct free entry into the Australia-wide Wine List of the Year awards.

Tasmanian on-premise and off-premise licensed venues - regardless of size - are encouraged to nominate at by October 2, 2023.

Finalists will be announced and the People’s Choice voting campaign will commence from October 9, with the winners scheduled to be announced on November 13.

# The writer is a member of the judging panel for these awards.

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

New direction for Kiwi luxury lodges

Three of New Zealand's highest-profile luxury lodges are to be managed by global giant Rosewood from later this year.

The Robertson family - owners of Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers (above) and Matakauri (below) - announced today that Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will operate the three Robertson Lodges properties from December 1.

Rosewood manages a global collection of 31 luxury hotels, resorts, and residences in 18 countries including The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel in New York, Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, and the iconic Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris.

The three New Zealand properties will now be known as Rosewood Kauri Cliffs, Rosewood Cape Kidnappers and Rosewood Matakauri.

"Rosewood’s proven commitment to championing storied properties in remarkable destinations around the world is proven," said Jay Robertson.

"With our shared values of exceptional hospitality and staying true to "a sense of place", we are enthusiastic about this next chapter together. Our family’s love of New Zealand runs deep, and we will retain ownership of the three spectacular lodges that our parents created. Rest assured the passion and dedication for these special properties will not change.

"As part of the brand's thoughtful growth strategy, Rosewood has been entrusted with the management of three iconic properties that showcase the diversity of New Zealand.

"With rich landscapes, a multi-layered cultural heritage, and untouched wilderness, New Zealand has captured the imagination of some of the world's most creative minds."

The properties will mark Rosewood's first entry into the Oceania region.

I've stayed in all three over the years. And they were all excellent.    

“New Zealand's inspiring natural beauty and warm hospitality have truly captivated us, and we are thrilled to embark on this remarkable journey with Robertson Lodges," said Sonia Cheng, CEO of Rosewood Hotel Group.

“It is with great respect and admiration that we seek to honour the Robertson family's original vision by further elevating the guest experience offered at each resort with Rosewood's singular approach to ultra-luxury hospitality.”

For more information see

Veteran winemaker shows he has some new tricks


David Lowe has been making wine for some time. Back in the 1980s, I drink shedloads of the delicious wines he made at the late lamented Rothbury Estate in the Hunter Valley.

But Lowe is also a winemaker who keeps abreast with consumer trends, hence the release of his Bio-Logical range of wines that very much capture the zietgeist.

For the past couple of decades Lowe has been based in Mudgee, sourcing fruit from the across the various regions of the Central West of New South Wales, but mainly from his own organic and biodynamic vineyards. 

The Lowe Family Vineyards Bio-Logical wines, which retail for $45 a bottle, and are preservative free, vegan friendly and, except for the white, certified organic.. 

The range comprises a very crunchy and vibrant 2023 Bio-Logical Red, made from shiraz, a dashingly youthful and very drinkable 2023 Rosé, also crafted from shiraz, and a 2023 White made using fruit from the Murray Darling region in Victoria. 

The red is unoaked, just grape juice and wild yeast. It doesn't even see oak and is probably best enjoyed in its youth, well chilled. All three wines share a wild spirit; a sense of "otherness".

Interestingly, the white is made from what Lowe calls ansonica, a white variety from Sicily that is probably better known as inzolia and is still rare in Australia. 

If you are heading to Mudgee, a tasting at the Cellar Door and lunch at the Zin House eatery operated by Lowe's partner Kim Currie is de rigueur. See 


Tuesday, 12 September 2023

A taste of Italy that won't break the bank

Well-made Italian wines that are age worthy, but ready to drink now?

If that is your desire, then the wines under the Astrale label - imported into Australia by Single Vineyard Sellers - are well worth a look.

Unlike many Italian producers, Astrale does not have a pedigree dating back centuries.

The business was founded in 2011 as a negociant-style operation, making wines using fruit from several different regions.

Winemaker Peppe Randazzo (below) is originally from Avola in Sicily and has 20+ years of experience. 

He and his team travelled across different Italian wine regions to meet with local grape growers, sourcing fruit from the best vintages, while maintaining a Tuscan focus from a base in Castellina in Chianti.

Currently available in Australia are three red wines where I found it difficult to find a definitive favourite.

The 2022 Astrale Chianti DOCG is a smooth, food-friendly wine with classic sangiovese red fruit characters to the fore, and a steal at $20.

The unusual NV Astrale Rosso ($40) - a blend of primitivo, sangiovese, montepulciano and Nero d’Avola across several regions - is more savoury and herbal but has plenty of depth and freshness and would pair well with dishes like rabbit ragu.

Probably the pick, though, is the 2019 Astrale Chianti Riserva ($40), with its layers of darker sangiovese fruit flavours, earthiness, well-integrated oak and soft tannins. Lovely stuff. 

The appeal of Randazzo's wines to an Australia audience should not be as surprise. His CV includes vintage stints at Leasingham and Chalk Hill, as well as at Nobilo in New Zealand 

South Africans get their knickers in a knot over Noah

Humourist Trevor Noah would seem the perfect choice to promote tourism to South Africa around the world.

He's South African. He's funny, and he has a global profile.

The comedian and former The Daily Show host recently agreed a US$1.7 million deal with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) to film an advert to boost travel to South Africa.

But the news sparked anger in Noah's native country, where the phrase "you have to spend money to make money" is clearly not well known.

Public criticism centred on the cost, at a time when power cuts are a major issue in cities and many people are struggling with rising food and fuel costs.

Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille said that "the Trevor Noah advert for SA does not involve public funds'".

TBCSA, a private umbrella tourism organisation, said the proposed deal would be "wholly funded" by the body "if and when the parties ultimately agree on a common strategy".

The former The Daily Show and Grammy Awards host is currently on a tour in South Africa that will also take him to the United States, India and Britain - and he is known worldwide for his TV appearances. He has a Netflix special launching around the globe in November.

Noah documented his upbringing in apartheid-era South Africa as the son of a black South African mother and a white Swiss-German father in his book Born a Crime.

Maybe those opposing his deal should check how much it would cost to sign up South Africa's only other true global star: actress Charlize Theron. 

Monday, 11 September 2023

Fish chef spreads his wings

Renowned Australian whizz kind chef and author Josh Niland is spreading his wings with his first overseas gig unveiled for Singapore.

EDITION Hotels today announced a partnership with Niland - known for his skills with seafood and focus on sustainability - to helm the signature restaurant at the Singapore EDITION.

The ethically-sourced seafood concept will be Niland's first restaurant outside of Australia, and is described as a "sustainable, modern-age, seafood-focused steakhouse".

Niland, 34, worked at some of Sydney's top restaurants, as well as The Fat Duck in the UK, before opening Saint Peter, his first restaurant in Sydney with his wife and business partner Julie Niland in 2016.

The Fish Butchery, a retail market concept selling sustainable fish species, was introduced in 2018. Charcoal Fish, a beachside takeaway, and a second Fish Butchery both followed in 2019.

Earlier this year, the busy couple opened a second restaurant, Petermen.

Niland is the author of award-winning The Whole Fish Cookbook and Take One Fish and has just released his third book, Fish Butchery.

EDITION manages 16 hotels worldwide and the 204-room Singapore property in the upper Orchard Road shopping district will have five restaurant and bar venues, a rooftop pool, spa, and fitness centre, as well as indoor and outdoor meeting spaces.

Image: Allan Benson

Meet a new wine with direct appeal for younger drinkers

Chill Bill
As a pinot noir sipping dilettante, I am clearly not the target market for De Bortoli's new wine release Chill Bill.

If you are just starting your wine journey, perhaps transitioning from canned mixed drinks, then you are certainly a potential consumer.

The De Bortoli marketing team describe it as a "new deliciously chilled and spritzy red wine that brings an adventurous attitude to the wine world".

I showed it to a couple of younger drinkers and the responses were "perfect for a party in the park" and "tastes like sparkling Ribena".

The wine - with a funky label aimed at a younger crowd - is a direct response to surveys that show traditional wine might not be the first choice for today's younger crowd, with trends indicating that wine is losing its appeal among Millennials and Gen-Z drinkers.

Chill Bill, made for serving, you guessed it, chilled, ticks a whole lot of boxes for the younger drinker. It is relatively low in alcohol at 9.5% - many reds are 14.5% or more - and is vegan friendly.

It is fresh and vibrant and reminded me of an alcoholic cherry cola. You'll find it for under $20.

Chill Bill a blend of fruit from two warmer regions: the Riverina and Rutherglen, and is a blend of tyrian (a newish red grape developed by the CSIRO), shiraz and other unspecified varieties and has been fermented on skins for seven days at 23-27°C.

It is deep purple in colour, defiantly fruity and fizzy. You could pair it with pork ribs slathered in barbecue sauce, or maybe with a meaty pizza.

The PR is gushing: "Chill Bill is more than just a name; it's a lifestyle. We're talking about a red wine that's chill by nature, a symbol of relaxation. Embracing the youthful spirit of exploration, Chill Bill is a fruit forward, lighter style of wine with vibrant flavours that are bursting with the juiciness of cherries and an explosion of fruitiness."

Sunday, 10 September 2023

Great news for lovers of Champagne

Good news for lovers of Champagne. 

While several parts of Europe have been hit by fierce weather, Champagne is predicting a high-quality 2023 vintage. 

The first grapes were picked in the region last weekend and many other producers have begun, or are about to begin, their harvest. 

The fully manual harvest will cover 34,000 hectares of Champagne vineyards and there are media reports that grapes are "some of the biggest and juiciest" since 2005.

From the beginning of the year to the end of July, the season was particularly calm, with very few bouts of  frost, hail, mildew and powdery mildew." said Maxime Toubart, president of the winegrowers and co-president of the Comité Champagne. 

"Fortunately, the climate has also favoured the exceptional weight of the bunches, more than 220 grams on average, which has never been seen before in Champagne. These numerous and generous bunches will make it possible to select only those in perfect sanitary state."

The enthusiasm seems universal across the region. 

“The Champagne growers and houses will organise their picking circuits in order to harvest high-quality grapes," said David Chatillon, president of the Champagne houses and co-president of the Comité Champagne. 

"Thanks to the numerous grapes, even after sorting to retain only the best, all professionals should easily reach the available yield set at 11,400 kg/ha."

The Comité Champagne is the trade association that represents the interests of independent Champagne producers (vignerons) and Champagne Houses. 

Image: AI by Craiyon

Adelaide Hills distillery has a chilling history


The proliferation of distilleries throughout the Adelaide Hills continues.

On a recent road trip, guest poster Roderick Eime stumbled upon The Robbers Dog, situated in the former Bank SA building in the leafy town of Mt Pleasant.

Proprietor and distiller Rob Davies came from the West Australian mining industry and moved to South Australia before the pandemic to be near his wife’s family, who hail from the Hills.

Unfortunately, as I was in charge of a vehicle, and spitting spirits is not terribly classy, my tasting was limited to a teaspoon of Rob's famous Moonshine which, despite its clandestine moniker, is a quality whiskey to rival the big names. 

Curiously, the old bank building was robbed three times by the infamous bicycle bandit who raided banks across the Adelaide Hills over a period of 10 years. The bandit is still at large and a $100,000 reward for his capture remains unclaimed. 

I wonder if he will be tempted again?