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Tuesday 28 February 2023

Sustainability message a driver of wine sales

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a driver of wine sales, a new report reveals.

Sustainable Winegrowing Australia has released its Impact Report for the 2021–22 financial year, revealing record growth in membership by Australian grape growers and winemakers.

The report shows 48% growth in membership in financial year 22, with over 1,150 vineyards, wineries and wine businesses involved with 45% certified.

It says 75% of Australia's wine and grape growing regions are now committed to implementing sustainability practices and the program now represents 40% of total wine production in Australia - a 90% increase on the previous financial year.

Sustainable Winegrowing Australia is governed by the Australian Wine Research Institute, Australian Grape & Wine and Wine Australia.

The program supports grape growers and winemakers in measuring, reporting, and encouraging best practices in vineyards and wineries, amid rising consumer and retailer demands for sustainable products.

Wine Australia’s head of ESG and Market Access Rachel Triggs says: “It’s been another really challenging year for the industry facing extreme weather events and inflation pressures, and yet the growth in membership demonstrates that sustainability is a major priority for producers.

"United, we're making headway on the industry’s 2050 emissions and waste targets and looking ahead we are excited to be evolving with greater focus on the social and economic metrics of the program.

“Wine-drinkers and retailers around the world are increasingly seeking out brands that meet their sustainability standards, with 65% of Australian wine drinkers preferring sustainably made wine and 54% of global wine drinkers only trusting sustainable wine that is officially certified.

"Sustainable practices and the benchmarking provided by the program are essential to ensuring the Australian wine industry remains competitive while protecting the distinctive land, robust vines and quality wines Australia is known for globally.” 

The report highlights the progress vineyards and wineries, ranging from small independents to large brands, are making across environmental benchmarks.

“Successful sustainability is never done in isolation and it’s exciting to see the impact of the program not only with emissions reduction and waste but also in the reshaping of our business culture, making this a really great place to be, to work and to communicate," says Voyager Estate vineyard manager Glen Ryan.

Find out more about Sustainable Winegrowing Australia and download the report HERE.

Inner city Sydney gets a hip new hotel address

Surry Hills is one of Sydney's funkiest inner city neighbourhoods: full of bars, restaurants and pubs.

Now a designer boutique hotel has landed in the heart of the suburb.

202 Elizabeth is billed as stylish, designer boutique hotel that sounds very much in keeping with the local feel.

The name 202 Elizabeth is a nod to the hotel’s physical address and tagline.

The hotel accommodation is spread over six levels and features 38 "sophisticated yet playful" guest rooms, many with balconies. No two rooms are the same.

The boutique vibe sees arriving guests treated to a seasonal welcome drink.

Each room features amenities by Hunter Lab as well as robes by Australian designer Piyama, and the mini bar, which will be stocked daily with organic sodas and sweet and savoury treats, is complimentary.

To maintain the adult vibe, 202 Elizabeth is an adults only property.

Owner Diana Ren, has a passion for organic products and textures and the hotel is both eco-conscious hotel and showcases Australian artists and designers.

The hotel boasts a rooftop space (below) which overlooks Surry Hills and Central rail tracks below,

It also has a ground floor outdoor courtyard and a soon-to-open Handpicked Wines tasting room which will double as an area for guests to work from.

The property is pet friendly with general manager Adam Males’ French bulldog Sochi acting as the hotel’s director of pet relations.

To find out more check out

# An opening offer sees a discount of 15% off Best Available Rate, which includes overnight accommodation (free upgrade on availability) a bottle of wine on arrival, discounted car parking and free mini bar. Available until March 31, prices start from $350 per night. Be quick.

New liqueur range a nod to the old, and the new

Experienced wine industry figure John Retsas has released six new liqueurs onto the Australian market through his Spirito Santo brand. 

Retsas has over 25 years of experience in the drinks industry, including senior management roles at Chain of Ponds, St Hallett and Schild Estate. He also founded First Drop Wines in 2004.

The Spirito Santo brand merges a grungy modern look with ancient recipes. 

Retsas says it is "born from European heritage, with liqueurs inspired by ancient remedies and elixirs made by healers of the day, monks, and witch doctors throughout Asia, Arabia, Europe and Africa."

The range includes Climax Limoncello, Siropo Amaro, Bomba Grappa, Radical Roza Pink Limoncello, Roman aromatic bitters and and Ruby Rosso aperitif bitters.

Each is hand-made using local, fresh ingredients, "bringing Barossa relevance to European recipes".

Retsas says the brand is a nod to old-school Europeans who drank liquors for medicinal reasons but "is firmly designed for the third generation who enjoy life more underground".

“We have deliberately positioned Spirito Santo as a secretive, ancient, and mysterious elixir with a grungy and modern edge," he says. 

"I love that there is something holy and spiritual around these spirits, and they are part of many diverse cultures.

"I have been making these spirits for many years, learning as a kid from my grandparents in Greece and now, more recently, at home in Australia. I love that these recipes are secret and handed down to trusted family members, from generation to generation.”


Monday 27 February 2023

Popular Hobart eatery adds to its widespread appeal

Amici is billed as a "a family friendly pizza and pasta restaurant".

That is true, but it is also much more than that. 

On our Wednesday visit there were plenty of family groups enjoying an affordable and convivial night out thanks to the hospitable young staff - and several others popping in for takeaways. 

The long-time North Hobart favourite changed hands a while back with new operator Jared Dickason - a man with massive hospitality knowledge - gradually elevating the food and wine experience while at the same time keeping the regulars happy.

Dickason has added several excellent Italian wines to the list - with very reasonable mark ups, while also allowing BYO for just $7.50 a bottle. 

There are plenty of $20-25 pizza/pasta and other traditional offerings, including hearty veal and pork meatballs with doughy bread rolls (six for $18), small pizzas (enough for two to share) starting from $21.50 and the likes of spaghetti bolognaise and fettucine carbonara for $23.50.

There are also a range of risottos, as well as vegan and vegetarian options. Takeaways are cheaper and are made fresh.

For the hungriest customers, the grazing menu ($60pp minimum of two people) features five courses of food, while the grazing and drinking deal is $90pp including wines. 

But it is the specials menu - with a focus on Tasmanian ingredients - where the excitement lies. And these are the dishes that are drawing in a new audience at Amici - which means "friends" in Italian. 

Try, perhaps, the pan-seared Tasmanian scallops served in their shell with a cannelini bean puree, mint and salsa verdé topped with a prosciutto gremolata ($17 for four, above). 

My wife enjoyed oysters served three ways ($4 per oyster). 

There are also offerings like local venison ravioli, Tasmanian eye fillet carpaccio (delicious but a little too fussy for my taste), and Tasmanian lamb cutlets. You might even get to try some Tasmanian truffles when they are in season.

The star of the show for me was the seriously spectacular Tasmanian crayfish linguine ($32, pictured top), served with garlic, fresh chilli, sun-dried tomatoes and spring onions. An intricate dish that packs a serious flavour punch. 

For dessert. a "deconstructed" cassata is quenelles of Tasmanian Valhalla cassata ice cream filled with pieces of Dutch chocolate, glazed fruits and almonds served on wild berry coulis topped with biscuit crumble $9.50). It is as delicious - and OTT - as it sounds.

Amici is at 310 Elizabeth St, North Hobart and is open seven nights from 5pm. See 

Well worth checking out.

# The writer was hosted by Amici



Drones a new weapon for wine grape growers

Drones could be set to become an important new tool for the wine industry.

Used for vineyard inspections and spraying, drones are being promoted as "changing vineyard management to make it safer, easier, and more efficient".

In Hawke's Bay in New Zealand, the XAG P100 Agricultural Drone - which has a large payload for spraying - is being used to help wine growers control fungal diseases with less water usage and reduced manual labour.

Powdery mildew is a key challenge to grape frowers and fungal spores are more rampant after excessive rainfalls, putting more pressure on growers.

Warren Gibson, manager of Bilancia Vineyard in Hawke's Bay, had trouble with how to spray safely and efficiently, and used drones from XAG.

Bilancia is located on a steep hillside block, where Gibson and his colleagues used to spray using a quad bike.

"On such sloped terrain, the previous way the job was done was getting too dangerous for us," Gibson said.

"And we would easily get covered in chemicals, risking our health. Efficiency was another problem with the two-hectare vineyard taking about three hours to cover using the quad bike."

Airborne Solutions, XAG's partner in New Zealand, initiated a drone spraying trial, creating a 3D topographic map with an XAG M500 Remote Sensing Drone, then using the XAG P100 Agricultural Drone to spray precisely according to the terrain.

The vineyard was sprayed with an hour.

"The P100 has a 40kg payload, so it is heavy enough to generate a strong downdraft when flown slowly and penetrate the vines," said drone pilot Scott Horgan. 

"With grape spraying, you need to cover every single piece of the plants, or else the vine will still get diseases." 

Sunday 26 February 2023

Once-a-year opportunity to visit some of Tasmania's tiniest wine producers

Many of Tasmania's wine producers are tiny. Some sell all they make within a few months, and many do not have a cellar door to offer tastings.

For one weekend each year - the Southern Open Vineyards weekend - these producers offer special pop-up experiences to enable wine lovers to get up close and personal with their vines and wines.

Some bigger producers pull out vintages from their cellars for tastings, or offer special deals for the three days of the event.

This year's Southern Open Vineyards event runs from March 3-5 - that's this weekend.

The wineries involved stretch right across the Coal River Valley, Derwent Valley and Huon Valley/Channel.

You can head over to the Southern Open Vineyards website to check out the 40 producers aiming to make this a special one, including Paul and Gilli Lispcombe from Sailor Seeks Horse (pictured top), who will be offering tastings in their vineyard.

If tastings are your thing, you can head to Derwent Estate for a rare opportunity to look at seven  vintages of their award-winning chardonnay.

Viridian Wines, meanwhile, will be opening back vintages of their chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir, offering the chance to taste wines from 2008-2020.

At Kate Hill Wines in the Huon Valley (below), there is the opportunity to taste - and buy - some of the final remaining cases of the 2014 Aged Riesling, along with a 10% discount for anyone buying a mixed dozen wines or more, and taking them with them on the day. 

At Roslyn 1823 in the Coal River Valley, they are celebrating the 200th anniversary of their farm with wines matched to French-inspired cuisine.

Laurel Bank in the Derwent Valley only opens once a year - and owner Kerry Carland will be doubling up with his daughter Greer's Quiet Mutiny wines for tastings. 

Invercarron is opening up its gates to the public for the very first time with chef Sabina Newton serving country-style food featuring Invercarron lamb, raised on the property. 

Other wine producers many wine lovers will never have visited include Trial Bay Estate, Altaness, Resolution Vineyard and Cross Rivulet, while tiny high-quality sparkling producer Henskens Rankin will be doing a pop up at Mewstone Vineyard. 

For full details of times and what is one offer see

Here we go again: more French strikes planned

Good luck to anyone visiting France in early March.

More travel disruption is expected with another nationwide strike being planned.

More pension protests are set to cause domestic travel chaos on Tuesday, March 7, Travel Mole reports.

The UK Foreign Office has warned to prepare for disruption at airports the day before and the day after strike.

“Industrial action may start the evening before and run until the morning after," it said.

“Localised or sector-specific strikes could also occur outside these dates.”

It advises all travellers to check the latest advice with operators before travelling as buses, trains and airports are all likely to be affected.

Unions said the strike on March 7 could become a weekly occurrence as union's up their action against proposed pension reforms.

France’s public transport will likely be a major focus for walkouts.

Unions told French media the action will "bring France to a standstill". 

Indigenous culture on display in Wagga Wagga

There is a new reason to visit the Museum of the Riverina in Wagga Wagga with the opening of the new Wiradyuri Gallery at the Botanic Gardens site.

Seven significant cultural objects from the Australian Museum's First Nations collection will be on display as a highlight of the gallery's offering.

The seven objects, a parrying shield, a shovel and five clubs, have a deep connection to the area as they were all collected around the 1860s on Ganmain Station on Wiradjuri/Wiradyuri Country.

The selection of the long-term loan objects was undertaken in consultation with the Wagga Wagga-based Indigenous Reference Group Mawang Gaway, chaired by Aunty Isabel Reid.

Wiradjuri/Wiradyuri Elder Aunty Cheryl Penrith said: “I am honoured to be a part of the return of these significant cultural objects from the Ganmain collection held at the Australian Museum back to the Museum of the Riverina on Wiradjuri/Wiradyuri Country.

“I acknowledge and pay respect Yindyamarra to our ancestors. The Elders involved in the process are extremely proud and excited these significant objects will be on display and home on Wiradjuri/Wiradyuri Country. Thank you Yindyamarra.”

The redeveloped Museum of the Riverina opens to the public at the end of the month.

Laura McBride, director, First Nations, Australian Museum, a Wailwan and Kooma woman, said these objects travelling back to Country is part of the Australian Museum’s commitment to facilitating long-term loans to communities and regional museums to increase accessibility for Aboriginal peoples to their cultural objects.

"Undertaking long-term loans is a way in which we can return objects back on Country, so they are more easily accessible to their communities,” McBride said.

“When museums loan objects, they also support the conservation, display and research of the objects. Through the loan of objects, museums also help regional museums that might not have the resources of the major cultural institutions.

“It’s so special these objects are going home; I look forward to seeing them displayed on their own Country and interpreted by their own peoples when the new gallery opens.”


Saturday 25 February 2023

Dutch chefs promote food sustainability in Thailand

Dutch cuisine is not something to shout about.

With the exception of Indonesian-influenced dishes, the Netherlands does not have a lot to entice gastronomes. Look up AVG.

Dishes like stamppot, oliebollen and erwtensoep are unlikely to excite non natives.

That said, two Dutch chefs - Jimmy Ophorst and Rick Dingen - are setting benchmarks for sustainable fine dining. Not in the Netherlands, but on the Thai island of Phuket.

Ophorst (top) runs the kitchen at PRU, the signature dining venue at Trisara, one of Phuket’s most exclusive resorts.

Dingen (below), meanwhile, oversees the food at Jampa, which follows a philosophy of "local ingredients, live fire, and zero waste cuisine” at Tri Vananda, a high-end wellness community taking shape in the forests of northern Phuket.

The pair not only share a nationality - but also the desire to promote a seasonal, sustainable food ecosystem.

Both were recognized in the Michelin Guide Thailand Star Revelation list 2023 at the end of last year, with PRU retaining its Michelin star and Jampa earning a Michelin green star for its zero-waste, plant-based food.

"Sustainability is the heart of our business," says Ophorst who steers the only venue in Phuket with a Michelin star. "It's integral to our restaurants and our lives."

Both Trisara and Tri Vananda are owned by Montara Hospitality Group, a company that has earned a reputation for prioritising sustainability at Trisara and through its 16,000 sqm Pru Jampa organic farm, located within the Tri Vananda property.

At PRU, Thai ingredients are shaped using inspiration from both east and west. The venue's name is an acronym for Plant. Raise. Understand. Ingredients are 100% sourced from within Thailand, with much of the organic produce grown at the Pru Jampa farm.

“There’s a huge interest among the public in dining experiences that support local communities and showcase amazing Thai produce,” Uphorst said.

“I look forward to furthering our commitment to sustainable cooking and sourcing and delighting guests through innovation.”

Dingen says: "I aim to showcase locally sourced, seasonal ingredients in the best way possible."

He is known for his commitment to zero waste and aims to make Jampa the first venue in Phuket to achieve a zero-waste-to-landfill ratio.

"We want to exert the absolute minimal impact upon the earth and our aim is to break down our kitchen waste to ensure nothing goes to landfill," he said.

A couple of venues added to my list for my next visit.

Grossi expands restaurant empire to Brisbane

Star chef Guy Grossi now has a Brisbane outpost with the opening of his Settimo restaurant at the Westin Brisbane.

The Melbourne chef says Settimo is inspired by the Amalfi Coast and joins his stable of restaurants in Melbourne and Perth.

The 150-seat restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The menu celebrates both Italian and Australian food culture, drawing on both local produce and international hero ingredients.

Menu highlights include pasta al limone, scialatielli all' Amalfitana, mozzarella di bufala, gnocchi alla Sorrentina, spaghetti alla N'erano, Amalfi lemon chicken, Guy's Papa's Lamb and peperoni imbottiti.

Guy Grossi's empire spans multiple restaurants including the two-hatted Grossi Florentino, as well as Ombra and Arlechin in Melbourne and Garum at The Westin Perth.

He is also a high-profile media personality appearing regularly on My Kitchen Rules and SBS's Food Safari and a bestselling author. He's also a really nice guy.

“I am truly delighted to be bringing a new Grossi restaurant to what is already such an exciting market for hospitality in Brisbane," he said.

"We have developed a new dining concept in partnership with The Westin Brisbane and I am thrilled to bring my vision for Settimo to life.

"Settimo brings a light, fun and breezy new vibe to the well-established food scene in Brisbane. We have created a journey for diners that is inspired by one of the world's most aspirational destinations, the Amalfi Coast, coupled with the urban energy and sunny coastal atmosphere of the city.

"We've assembled a team of passionate and highly skilled experts who are ready and waiting to welcome diners to the venue.”

Alessandro Pizzolato will be head chef with Anthony Folio managing the floor and sommelier Deniz Hardman in charge of an international and domestic wine list.

For information, opening hours, menus and bookings see

Friday 24 February 2023

Molto makes a big impact in Hobart

A question I get asked a lot: How good is Molton?

Offering serious wines in a casual setting, Molto is a relatively new wine bar and wine shop on the fringe of the Hobart CBD.

Molto, which means many, or plenty, in Italian is the latest venture for the perpetual motion Lubiana family, fifth-generation winemaker Steve Lubiana, his wife Monique and their sixth-generation winemaker son Marco.

Molto’s wine selection is based on the family’s own passion for organic, biodynamic and artisan wines from around the world.

In the second half of 2020 they acquired this space on the fringe of the Hobart CBD, but their opening was repeatedly delayed by Covid and other issues.

Their heritage sandstone and red brick house on Melville Street was chosen partially because it faces south, reducing light and warmth - the enemies of wine in storage.

 The Lubianas describe Molto as a “hybrid wine shop” where customers can pair small bites of food along with a glass or bottle of wine from one of Tasmania’s most intriguing wine lists, featuring small producers and rare imports.

Perhaps a grenache blanc or pinotage from South Africa; or an aged small-batch 1er Cru Chablis. 

The vibe is centred on sustainability and quality. 

When I popped in midweek this week it was buzzing - and the staff were cheerful and knowledgeable. 

Think after-work drinks, or a pre-dinner tipple from local stars including Freycinet Vineyard, Tolpuddle, Stargazer, Mewstone or Anim, or a mainland classic from Cullen or Castagna.

This week, back vintage stars from By Farr were on offer by the glass. As was the rare 2011 Domaine A Cabernet. 

Serious vinophiles beware, it is easy to spend big here - but you can also just a enjoy a pre-dinner glass, or share a platter.

Molto is at 135 Melville St, Hobart.

Tulips get the flick as Jansz and Riedel search for the perfect glass

Tasmanian sparkling wine has become a standout sector of the Australian wine industry over the past two decades - with the top brands offering quality that has impressed even Champenoise producers. 

Now leading Tasmanian Sparkling winemaker Jansz Tasmania has partnered with internationally renowned glassmaker Riedel to select the ideal glass to enhance enjoyment of Tasmanian Sparkling wine.

It was my great pleasure a few years back to visit the hand-blown Ridel glass factory in Kufstein, Austria, and to dine with family patriarch Georg Riedel and his wife Eva. 

Such a treat as Riedel is recognised worldwide for designing and producing the highest quality glasses and decanters for wine and spirit enjoyment, with an emphasis on varietal-specific glassware.

Jansz Tasmania winemaker Jennifer Doyle (below right) and 11th generation Austrian glassmaker Maximilian Riedel (left) recently were joined by a panel of wine experts to taste the Jansz Tasmania Vintage Collection in a variety of Riedel glassware. The panel also included Reidel's Mark Baulderstone and Jessica Hill-Smith, whose family owns Jansz.

Riedel presented the Jansz Cuvées and Rosés in 12 different glasses, where each member of the panel was asked to make their individual assessments of wine aroma, taste and appearance, as well as the weight and feel of each glass, finally listing in order of preference.

“It was important to us to consider every feature in finding the perfect glass, so having our panel of specialists in varying fields – from winemakers and writers to sommeliers, proprietors and marketers – gave us broad research through personal knowledge and experience,” Doyle said.

“For winemakers, it was important to see the aromas and flavours in a wine, remaining true to region and variety. 

"First and foremost, we want to amplify those unique Tasmanian sparkling characteristics - the elegance and vibrancy, the crisp, pristine acidity, delicate lemon citrus and sea spray notes in our chardonnays and the softer Turkish Delight flavours in our pinot noir.

“For sommeliers, it's also about the theatre of the bead, coupled with practicality of service. 

“While Tasmania shares similar traits to Champagne in France, the unique terroir brings a new dimension to our wines which allows the fruit flavours to shine.

“Most people are familiar with the Champagne flute, and some may even be familiar with the coupe and tulip glasses. We felt the flute compressed the wine, not allowing the beautiful aromatics and expressive qualities of Tasmanian sparkling to really shine in the glass.

 Our vintage sparklings, and particularly our aged wines, are extremely complex in aroma and flavour and demanded a glass that allowed those characters to emanate.” 

By the end of the masterclass, the panel had narrowed the selection to three strong contenders, which will undergo final assessment before the quintessential Tasmanian sparkling glass is revealed.

Thursday 23 February 2023

Major milestone for Bistro Moncur

Sydney restaurants come and go like the seasons, but much-loved Bistro Moncur is celebrating its 30th birthday this year.

The venue has delivered sophisticated French-accented cuisine since opening in 1993 and as part of the celebrations, head chef Tom Deadman has created a series of new dishes to join the signature classics.

The restaurant is also hosting a series of events celebrating the milestone.

The line-up of events will kick off with a ‘Celebration of the Bistro Moncur Menu’ on Wednesday, April 26.

The line-up of chefs cooking as part of the event include Damien Pignolet (co-founder and original executive chef 1993-2011), Jason Roberts (head chef 1998-2002), Tom Walton (head chef 2008-2011) and current head chef Deadman.

The quartet will offer a nostalgic four-course dinner with matched wines from the restaurant’s award-winning wine list ($350pp).

On Thursday, June 22, Bistro Moncur will host a ‘French Winter Feast’ with matching wines ($350pp). In a nod to the restaurant’s intended direction for the next 30 years, Deadman will prepare a menu utilising truffle, preserved summer fruits and premium locally sourced ingredients.

The third and final event will take place in October, with further details to be announced soon.

Bistro Moncur co-owner Alister Campbell said: “We’re so grateful for our chefs and employees, past and present, who are custodians of the Bistro Moncur legacy. 

"Their service and professionalism are paramount to customers returning over the years and we look forward to welcoming them for our 30th birthday celebrations.”


Bistro Moncur is open for lunch on Thursday to Sunday from 12pm and dinner on Tuesday to Sunday from 5:30pm. 

Champagne sets a course for the next decade

Champagne makers and growers have revealed a major investment plan for the next decade, and set the course for the future of the world's most famous sparkling wine region.

The Comité Champagne recently unveiled a plan to "ensure that Champagne is always available, always desirable and always exemplary".

The Comité Champagne will increase its annual budget by an additional €10 million, which will be invested in particular in research and development along with sustainability and strengthening its foundational missions.

The announcement followed the revelation that Champagne shipped 326 million bottles in 2022 (+ 1.6% compared to 2021).

Champagne is also experimenting with new grape varieties, researching ways to combat the various forms of vineyard decline, defining new soil maintenance methods and new oenological strategies.

"It is not just a question of responding to the changing demands of consumers; it is a question of ensuring the productivity and sustainability of the Champagne vineyard; of designing and promoting a viticulture that is in balance with the ecosystem, to produce a sufficient quantity of quality grapes," says Maxime Toubart, president of syndicat général des vignerons and co-president of the Comité Champagne.

"This is what we aim to achieve, and the course we have set for ourselves."

David Chatillon, president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne and co-president of the Comité Champagne, added: "The investment we make embodies the social responsibility of our sector.

"It is an absolute priority to ensure that Champagne continues to be recognised as an exceptional wine, supported by a united, responsible and committed industry.

"Our plan gives new impetus for new ambitions, for our appellation and our terroir."

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Grande old Ballarat dame now a culinary hotspot

Pete Dillon used to be a marketing and communications specialist. Now he's sending out press releases about his own hotel and restaurants.

Dillon and his brother Paul took over the Hotel Canberra in Ballarat late last year and have gradually transformed the food offering with three different eateries on site.


Bobby's, a contemporary bar, showcasing 100% artisan, craft and small-batch beverages from across Victoria, along with grazing boards and nibbles, opened in late October. The Stables Café and Bar threw open its doors in November and now Vesta x Jigs restaurant is open.

The Stables is a seven-day licensed café incorporating 100-year-old heritage-listed stables, while Vesta x Jigs celebrates the growers, producers and artisans from all corners of Victoria, and sees chef Jigs Lawanag (ex Rockpool Melbourne) deliver a six-course degustation menu ($100pp) made up of 100% Victorian produce from Wednesday to Saturday.

"Our café is about 90% Victorian, but both Vesta x Jigs and Bobby's are 100% focused on food and beverage from every corner of Victoria," said chef Jigs.

"We have many friends on whose doors we have knocked, from the north east to the south west. Pete (GM Pete Dillon) has developed these relationships over decades and its so lovely to be able to call on these suppliers to grow our brand story."

Beverage pairings are offered alongside the constantly changing menu, that has influenced by cuisine from the chef's home country in the Philippines, as a well as Japan and Nordic cuisines.

“We have taken some time to build the offer for each part of the hotel as we go along,” says co-owner Paul Dillon. 

“We want to continue to evolve and are doing some work on the outside and al fresco dining as well as some plans for minor renovations in our accommodation space.

Each addition adds another layer to this grand old dame and will continue that evolution with new additions later this year.” he said.

Bookings are open at Vesta x Jigs but space is limited. Find out more at

Recognition for veteran Coonawarra winemaker

Veteran winemaker Greg Clayfield has been honoured by the Coonawarra Vignerons Association.

Clayfield - a long-time Coonawarra winemaker and resident - is the latest Coonawarra Patron, recognised for outstanding contributions to the organisation, his promotion of cabernet and the Coonawarra wine region.

“Greg is truly worthy of this accolade," said outgoing Coonawarra Vignerons predident Peter Balnaves. "He epitomizes a 'can do' attitude with little fuss and fanfare, demonstrating plenty of professionalism and an enthusiasm for the Coonawarra wine region.

Clayfield first worked in Coonawarra in the 1970s for Lindemans, where he enjoyed a long career. Between 1991 and 2005 he managed the Rouge Homme and Wynns wineries

He has held many positions within the Coonawarra Vignerons Association over the years, including the role of chairman.

He joins a list of patrons that includes Eric Brand(dec) , Ken Ward (dec), Colin Ross-Smith (dec) , Colin Kidd (dec), and current patrons Doug Balnaves, Doug Bowen, Wendy Hollick, Bruce Redman and Michelle Stehbens.

Clayfield twice won the Jimmy Watson Trophy, an award given for the best one- or two-year-old red wine in Australia in 1981 and 1986, and was International Wine and Spirit Competition Winemaker of the year in 1988.

He joined Zema Estate as chief winemaker in the mid 2000s, retiring in 2017 and after 43 vintages in the region.

“Greg was the best Coonawarra winemaker of our time as the accolades and recognition he received certainly prove," said Nick Zema.


Qantas to splash out on new and upgraded lounges

There is some good news for business class travellers and Qantas frequent flyers.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce this week announced a program of new and refurbished Qantas lounges across the globe, proclaiming it as the biggest investment in the airline's lounge network in over a decade.

Joyce said the work had been enabled by the faster-than-expected recovery in travel demand, with the project including a new First Lounge at London Heathrow Airport.

Also on the agenda is a refreshed Hong Kong International Lounge, upgrades for the International Business lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, a new Hobart Qantas Club and an expanded Broome Regional Lounge.

The new London First Lounge is anticipated to open in late 2025, aligned with the debut of direct London-Australia flights.

The new $100 million lounge program is in addition to previously announced upgrades in Auckland, Adelaide, Rockhampton and Port Hedland.

The national carrier has an extensive lounge network, including 42 in Australia (12 of which are in regional destinations) and nine overseas.

“Being back in profit means we’re back to making long term investments for our customers," said Joyce. That started with the major aircraft order we announced last year and now we’re building on that with a major investment in our lounges.

"Millions of people a year visit our lounges and they are typically our frequent flyers who travel with us the most, so anything we do to improve them is a way of saying thank you to our most loyal customers."

Good news for Tasmanians with the proposed relocation into a brand new Hobart Qantas Club with larger premises in line with the overall terminal redevelopment. Qantas is targeting a 50% increase in capacity from 96 to approximately 150 seats.

That further strengthens Qantas' postion in Hobart with Virgin Australia still not having a lounge despite promising one over a decade ago.

Eligible Qantas lounge customers include: Qantas tiered Frequent Flyers (gold and above), customers travelling in business class and first on Qantas operated flights and eligible oneworld and partner airline customers.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

New chef very much at home in the Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley winery Tokar Estate has signed up well-travelled chef Chris Toogood to boost its culinary offering.

Toogood has worked at Bistro Vue, Moon Under Water and Launceston Place and is the new head chef at Tokar Estate, a family-owned winery, cellar door and restaurant, known for its seasonal menus.

Toogood's love for food began on his family farm in the Mallee region of South Australia and has taken him to London and some of Melbourne's best culinary addresses.

“Living off the land and seeing where all our food came from a very young age and formed my strong paddock-to-plate mentality," says Toogood.

"We did everything from reaping the crops and tending to the livestock, to pickling, preserving and seeding using the fruit and vegetables grown by my grandparents.

"We were always surrounded by food and knew exactly how everything was made, and where it all came from. I found myself seeing cooking as a way of life, and once I finished high school, I found a culinary course in Ballarat, Victoria and moved from the farm to start an apprenticeship.”

At Launceston Place in London he worked under Tristan Welch, who trained with the likes of Gary Rhodes, Michel Roux Jr and Gordon Ramsay.

He has also worked at Seville Estate, so knows the Yarra and its artisan producers.

“I focus on getting the best out of the produce the local area has to offer," he says. 

"Food miles and the environmental impact it has is very important to me and the Tokar family. We are surrounded by an abundance of magnificent makers and growers, so it makes perfect sense to highlight the fruits of their labour."

There are several dishes on the menu that look worth trying. Among those tempting me are starters like Yarra Valley salmon caviar, chive crème fraiche and crostoli, and cured pork and roast apple croquettes.

Larger dishes include roasted Wandin heirloom tomato tart, olive caramel and goat curd, and pasture-fed roast beef rump cap with confit shallots, crispy potato and jus.

The midweek set menu offers two courses for $65pp or three courses for $80pp including a glass of Tokar Estate wine.

There are also weekend set menus and a group sharing menu on offer.

Meals are served from 11:45am until 5pm Thursday to Sunday.

For diners wishing to extend their stay beyond lunch, Tokar Estate also has an on-site Bed and Breakfast, The Residence.


Australian food market chain eliminates artificial colourings

The move towards healthier eating is inexorable, with even the smallest elements of our diet under the microscope.

Tristan Harris from Harris Farm Markets was joined by colourful pastry chef Anna Polyviou this week as the food chains announced that its stores are now free of all artificial flavours after a five-year program came to fruition.

Harris Farm Markets says it the only major grocery provider in Australia making the commitment.

“Anything artificial colours can do, nature can do better,” said Tristan Harris.

That means no more erythrosine and no more tartrazine, compounds that are used to make foods look more appealing.

“For over 50 years Harris Farm Markets have been delivering goodness to Australian families," said Harris, the company's joint CEO.

"To continue to do this, we knew we needed to eliminate artificial colours from our shelves. So, for the past five years we have been working with our suppliers, to find new methods of production if needed and alternative ingredients if required.

"Now, our pasta sauces, dips, juices, peanut butter, cookie dough, curry pastes, chocolates, soups, noodles and even orange juices - just to name a few - are all free of artificial colouring.

"It has meant, however, that some product lines have been eliminated, because we have to stand firm on our commitment.”

Harris added: “The Covid-19 pandemic fine-focused Australians on health and immunity, and has instigated a return to home cooking, which in turn has increased everyone’s understanding of how foods impact health.

"There’s more reading of labels, more questioning of provenance, and a much deeper understanding of where food comes from now. We applaud this; our new sourcing policy means a healthier and cleaner alternative for families every day. ”

Pastry chef Polyviou said: “I learnt of Harris Farms’ Coloured by Nature commitment when I first tried to get my products on their shelves.

"By being knocked back initially, I learnt about Harris Farms’ standards, and if I wanted to be a supplier, I needed to meet those. It was a whole new ballgame for me and my team.”

Image: Adam Hollingworth

Monday 20 February 2023

Meet an eatery, a picklery, a gallery and a wine bar all in one

Harvest & Light is a unique space in the Huon Valley that offers a true taste of Tasmania.

The brainchild of microbiologist and research scientist Cassy Faux, Harvest & Light is a small batch-pickle and condiment producer, a wine bar, a snack spot and a photographic gallery - all in one. 

It is home to a major collection of local wines and spirits, offers cheese platters and gourmet treats for lunchtime enjoyment, hosts wine tastings and is a Friday night hotspot for locals.

It has a very relaxed vibe, lovely light and there is the option of sitting indoors, on a veranda, or in an enclosed garden.

Re-opened three months ago after a break, Harvest & Light is open Thursday through Sunday and visitors are welcome to simply browse Faux's stunning photographs, enjoy a cheese platter or sip some wine from an all-female winemaker by-the-glass list. 

So think names like Stargazer, Wines by Aunt Alice, Kate Hill, Sinapius and Bellebonne among over 100 Tasmanian wines, spirits and artisan beers on offer. 

The curious can enjoy a paddle of five Women in Wine selections for $20. 

When I visited last week the constantly changing menu featured cheeseboards with a selection of home-made pickles and preserves created on-site (various prices) and a selection of small dishes, some with the imprint of former Masterchef star Sarah Clare.

Think dishes like labneh with charred eggplant and zucchini, onion jam and chilli jam ($16), or a heritage tomato caprese with locally grown tomatoes, cheese and herbs ($14). Both were absolutely delicious. 

Other options I did not try were lamb skewers with roast carrot hummus, cucumber and wild fennel pickle ($16), and white anchovies with fennel and herbed salsa ($14). 

A blackboard lists the local farms where all the fruits and vegetables are sourced - and the array of condiments on sale includes pickled gherkins, peach mustard, berry jams and home-made cordials that can be mixed into cocktails. 

My credit card got a little bit of a workout. It is pretty hard not to grab some delights to take away.  

Harvest & Light is at 6 Church St, Geeveston, TAS 7116.

The writer was a lunch guest of Harvest & Light 



Hard cheese: Australian producers exercise their whinge muscles

Australians are pretty big on cultural appropriation.

It is not so long ago that Aussie wine drinkers used to quaff Hunter Valley Chablis and enjoyed a Moselle or two.

But when the boot is on the other foot, Aussies are incensed. Like when Americans take our beloved Ugg boots and call them their own.

To me it is just plain silly to drink Australia "Burgundy" - a phrase thankfully now phased out - or eat "Cheddar" cheese that has not come within 17,000km of its birthplace at Cheddar in Somerset.

But that hasn't stopped the Australian dairy industry from having a big old whinge in the Weekend Australia about European Union moves to prevent Australian producers from using terms like brie and parmesan.

Brie is a soft cow's-milk cheese named after Brie, the French region from which it originated, while Wikipedia assures me that Parmesan is an Italian hard, granular cheese produced from cows' milk and aged at least 12 months.

The people interviewed by the Weekend Australian whined that consumers will stop buying local cheeses if they are not clearly identified.

One even said: "I'm a third generation European immigrant, so I'm very upset that they (the EU) are taking my cultural significance away from me."

Some serious irony there.
I wonder how the cheese farmers in Europe feel about their names being inappropriately used by Australians incapable of coming up with their own Australian names for their Australian products.

After much griping, Australian wine producers had to stop using terms like port and sherry - Portuguese and Spanish terms respectively.  

I simply fail to see how it is fair and reasonable for Australian producers to sell cheeses called Red Leicester or Camembert. 

In fact, I reckon a French or Italian producer should start marketing some Barossa Tasty, or Hunter Valley crumbly.

I bet that would not go down well at all.

Another airline bites the dust in testing times

Another established airline has gone out of business in the difficult economic period following the pandemic.

Mexican airline Aeromar announced this week it is going out of business with immediate effect, saying it has been unable to work through its financial difficulties.

The airline was founded in 1987 and operated 21 domestic routes and also flew to McAllen and Laredo in Texas, as well as Cuba. 

Aeromar operated mostly short flights to beach resorts out of Mexico City with a fleet of ATR planes. It has a workforce of about 700.

The airline had faced financial problems even before Covid.

“Measures taken were not sufficient to stabilise the company’s situation,” it said in a statement.

Other recent airline closures include British-based FlyBe, and Norwegian-based Flyr. 

Sunday 19 February 2023

Why you can safely ignore so many "experts"

Everyone is an expert nowadays.

TV and radio are awash with them. The internet is home to millions of them. And the newspapers are flooded with them.

You only need to have a minimal amount of knowledge about one subject - less even than contestants on TV program Hard Quiz - to proclaim yourself an expert, or be hailed as one.

The other day one of the newspaper travel sections had a selection of holiday choices from "experts". Nearly every single one was singing the praises of a destination that they sell.

The other night, veteran journalist Liz Hayes was surrounded by "experts" on her prime time TV show Under Investigation

The experts debated a decades old murder mystery for an hour - and revealed not one piece of new evidence or intelligence.

All we got was their "expert" thoughts on a crime they clearly knew very little about, but were very keen to waffle about.

Then there is a TV show MAFS - for which I have only seen adverts and snippets before changing the channel. 

But I've seen enough to know that their "expertise" seems to extend to pairing up wildly mismatched couples in a bid to create sensationalist headlines and publicity.

So many experts are just seeking publicity either to feed their own egos, or because they want to sell you something.

In today's Body & Soul supplement in News Ltd papers, three of the experts chosen to talk about "the morning hacks of productive people" were a bloke who has had well publicised mental issues; a woman who most recently hit the headlines after being accused of an affair with with her ex partner, a retired cricketer, and another woman who sells sex aids and potions but does not know the difference between the prostate and being prostrate.

Their "expert" advice was unintentionally hilarious.

The first woman's tips on having a good morning were "spending a moment to ground my thoughts, refer to my crystals, oracle cards and readings from the book The Daily Stoic".

Deep stuff.

The TV type who has "spent many years battling anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation" has good morning hints including "not carrying any irrational energy'. He exposes himself to daylight and has a double espresso to get his "prefrontal cortex firing.".

Good stuff.

But the best tips come from the sex business saleswoman who assures us that we "must make time for a little morning masturbation".

Of course. 

She insists that we should "start your day with an orgasm (solo or with a partner) to get those feel good chemicals flowing".

That's pretty darn expert. And, of course, the story kindly provides the name of her no doubt lucrative online business.

A crucial element missing at wine celebration

One of the biggest annual events in the Barossa Valley is the annual Declaration of Vintage celebrations.

The regional celebration of the grape harvest is held annually in the Barossa town of Tanunda with plenty of pageantry and colourful costumes to mark the occasion.

This year, however, something was missing: grapes. The 2023 vintage is several weeks behind schedule.

With no ripe grapes to press, for the first time since this event has been staged, the traditional hand crusher remained in storage and no grapes were pressed.

There was, however, some traditional business to attend to: the announcement by the Barons of the Barossa organisation of their Winemaker and Viticulturist of the Year.

The Barons named Jack Scholz (above) as the 2023 Barossa Winemaker of the Year and Tammy and Stuart Schutz as the joint Viticulturists of the Year earlier today.

Louisa Rose, the fraternity’s Grand Master (sounds a bit like the Freemasons) said: “These awards are peer generated. Jack, Tammy and Stuart are all respected for their dedication to producing grapes and wine of quality with a depth of regional expression.”

Jack Scholz, 29, works alongside his father Peter on the Willows Vineyard, which has enjoyed much recent success with its G7 range.

Tammy and Stuart Schutz were both raised in generational Barossa grape growing families.

Viticulturist Adrian Hoffmann, the Barons’ honorary vigneron, said that while grapes have begun to colour, the 2023 vintage is still some weeks away.

Europe starts to crack down on Airbnb properties

Portugal has unveiled a package of measures aimed at tackling a housing crisis, including a ban on new licenses for Airbnb properties and other short-term holiday rentals.

Rents and house prices have skyrocketed in Portugal - and many other parts of the world - as tourists flock to one of Europe's most affordable holiday destinations.

The tourism boom is a key factor in rents in Lisbon jumping 37% in 2022, local news service WIO reported.

Portugal also signalled the end of its controversial Golden Visa programme for new property buyers from abroad.

Foreign property owners will now only be eligible for the visas if their properties are used as their own home, or placed in the long-term rental market.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a press conference in Lisbon that new licences for tourism businesses - like Airbnb properties - will be prohibited, though rural areas will be exempt.

The move aims to make more properties available to locals who have been priced out of the rental market.   

Saturday 18 February 2023

Cruise line pitches in to aid earthquake victims

Here's a good news story from the travel industry with cruise operator the MSC Group and the MSC Foundation pitching in to aid earthquake relief initiatives in Turkiye and Syria.

The MSC Aurelia left Naples on February 16 en route to the port of Iskenderun with 60 pallets of basic medical supplies, warm clothing and blankets, and food and beverages.

After offloading its cargo, the MSC Aurelia will remain docked in port in Türkiye, at the authorities’ disposal, to provide accommodation for those impacted by the earthquake.

MSC is also arranging for the provision of thousands of empty containers for the provinces that have been hit the hardest by the earthquake to accommodate families who have been displaced.

MSC Aurelia is normally used as a passenger and vehicle ferry. It will provide impacted communities with over 1,000 beds and leisure spaces including a restaurant and cinema.

In addition, thanks to the collaboration between the MSC Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a further 100 containers carrying first aid supplies (including blankets, mattresses, sleeping bags, kitchen sets, jerry cans and lamps will depart from Jordan via Haifa, the headquarters of the UN Refugee Agency’s warehouses.

The containers are destined for Gaziantep and other cities hit hardest by the earthquake and will be at the disposal of the relief workers already onsite caring for survivors.

MSC Türkiye has also set up temporary accommodation at Iskenderun port using empty containers for 300 MSC Group employees and their families who lost their homes in the earthquake.

“We feel a strong sense of obligation to act promptly in order to support the people most in need," said Daniela Picco, executive director of the MSC Foundation.

"We are a part of a global organization that can set in motion a large-scale operation by involving foundations and associations that we collaborate with all around the world.

"As soon as the terrible earthquake in Türkiye and Syria struck, we immediately took action to collect funds, supplies and food, which we can deliver on our ships within a short period of time."