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Friday 31 March 2023

A new way to approach fortified wines

Fortifieds were once the powerhouse of the Australian wine industry. Today they are the much-ignored ugly relative. 

Now family-owned McLaren Vale winery Woodstock is aiming to change the perception of fortified wines among consumers, launching a new campaign focused on cocktail recipes that showcase their award-winning fortified wines.

The Woodstock team shares a passion for the art of fortified winemaking, producing a wide range of dessert styles. 

“Woodstock has a proud tradition of fortified wines which spans over 70 years, beginning with my grandfather, Doug Collett,” says third-generation winemaker Peter Collett.

“Before table wine [became popular], Australian winemakers were dedicated to the production of world-class fortifieds. We want to bring back the celebration of this craft and share some of our cellar treasures."

The Woodstock team wanted to help drinkers rediscover the enjoyment of fortified wine and to learn about the winemaking and maturation processes. 

The popularity of cocktails was an opportunity they identified to help people reassess what they know about fortified wines - and to introduce the style to people who haven’t tasted them before.

Together with mixologist Harry Mansfield, the Woodstock team developed a range of cocktail recipes, exploring fortifieds beyond the traditional stereotypes and embracing new ways to enjoy them. 

“Fortifieds have been a little left behind in the bartending arsenal, but well made and aged fortified wines can bring intensity, complexity and balance when embraced in the right cocktail recipe,” Mansfield said.

The bespoke cocktail recipes include an Espresso Muscatini, a Tawny Negroni and a Blackcurrant Sour (top image) - each highlighting a specific Woodstock fortified wine.

“We’re really excited about what we’ve been able to create - the recipes are fun, simple to replicate at home, and most importantly, delicious,” says Mansfield said. 

The Rediscover Fortified cocktail recipe videos can be viewed at

New AirAsia flights open up Indonesia for Australians

There is a lot more to Indonesia than the popular holiday playground of Bali.

Indonesia AirAsia is hoping to open up different regions of the country to Australian tourists with the announcement it will be flying from Jakarta to Perth for the first time, starting from June 2.

Fares on the route went on sale this week, with flights starting from $179.

The direct service will run four times a week, delivering over 1,400 visitor seats weekly through Perth and Jakarta airports, with plans to grow in line with demand.

Indonesia AirAsia is the only airline flying between Jakarta and Perth post pandemic.

Travel between Indonesia and Australia has always been popular for a number of reasons, including the convenient flight time and appeal of both destinations for shopping, dining, adventure, beaches, as well as education.

The Embassy of the Republic Indonesia says the number of Indonesian students in Australia this year has already reached more than 20,000.

“This is the first time Indonesia AirAsia has flown on this route - thanks to our tourism and airport partners for helping to make these new services a reality," said the CEO of Indonesia AirAsia, Veranita Yosephine,

"We foresee this new Jakarta-Perth route will be very popular for leisure travellers wanting to see more of Indonesia and for the more than 270 million Indonesians [more than 10 million residents in Jakarta alone] wanting to visit Perth and West Australia for business, leisure, studying and visiting friends and family."

And there was also excitement in Perth.

“This new service to and from Jakarta will deliver a significant boost for the business and tourism sectors and the broader economy," said acting CEO of Perth Airport Kate Holsgrove.

"More than 60 percent of the world’s population lives on our doorstep in Asia. Perth is closer than Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to 17 of Asia’s top 20 most populated cities - including Jakarta."

Thursday 30 March 2023

"Give them the most basic accommodation possible": British Government

The British Government has revealed plans to treat asylum seekers with the minimum of respect.

Coming from the immoral clan that was responsible for Brexit, that comes as no surprise.

The Conservatives have announced plans to put "thousands of asylum seekers" in disused military bases to accommodate their "essential living needs and nothing more".

The Government is also considering using out-of-service cruise ships and barges as new homes for migrants, saying hotels and bed and breakfasts are too expensive.

Still, at least they aren't sending them to remote islands like Australia's politicians do.

The Government is seeking cheaper options as it is spending over €5 million per day on migrant hotels, which seems like an absurd figure, Someone, somewhere is making serious money.

In a Commons statement setting out the next stage in the plans to reduce asylum claims in the UK, Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said the plans would meet legal requirements to ensure that those who arrived were not made “destitute”, but would offer nothing more," Travel Mole reported.

“We must not elevate the wellbeing of illegal migrants above those of the British people,” he told MPs. Of course, seeking asylum is not illegal, but lies come easy to Conservative politicians.

Jenrick confirmed plans to house people at the disused defence base at Wethersfield in Essex, the RAF base at Scampton in Lincolnshire (above), an RAF site turned prison in Bexhill, East Sussex, and the Catterick garrison in North Yorkshire.

Ministers were also continuing to “explore the possibility of accommodating migrants in vessels”, he added.

The proposal follows plans to bar people who arrive in the UK without paperwork from ever being able to claim asylum or settle in the country. They will instead face deportation to Rwanda or another country.

Shades of Australian cruelty there, too.

Given the scale of arrivals on boats across the Channel, “we must fundamentally alter our posture towards those who seek to enter our country illegally,” Jenrick said with his pants on fire. 

Gippsland has a new gourmet destination

Gippsland has a new destination for wine lovers and gourmets. 

Meet Carrajung Estate.

The former Toms Cap Winery, a 40-hectare property surrounded by forest in the Strzelecki Ranges, opens this weekend under its new identity.

The restaurant doors will open on Friday and the kitchen will be headed by chef Patrick Haney, who aims to showcase regional produce to match the wines.

‘With an emphasis on seasonality and sustainability, our dishes feature fresh ingredients sourced directly from nearby farms that celebrate the natural beauty and culinary richness of Gippsland." says Carrajung Estate co-founder Ivy Huang.

"Through our food, we want to share these grower’s stories.’

Think dishes like a heirloom tomato salad with crumbed fetta, pesto cream and tomato foam; duck breast wit twice-baked parsnip, parsnip puree and blackberries; or perhaps prosciutto-wrapped rainbow trout. 

Haney has over 20 years experience in Australia and the US. He was most recently at The Growers in Shoalhaven.

The first release of wines labelled Carrajung Estate wines will coincide with the restaurant opening.

Carrajung Estate co-founder Adrian Critchlow, Toms Cap founder Graham Morris and Marcus Satchell, from Dirty Three Wines, will be using shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc.

The property, which currently features five individual cabins for visitors, has been run by Ann and
Graham Morris under the Toms Cap brand the past 30 years.

The Nest, the first of the new-look cabins to be unveiled, will be taking books from April 7.

The team plan to renovate the remaining four cottages to have all five renovated as quickly as possible.

For family groups, young ones can meet a variety of Carrajung Estate residents: from friendly alpacas, pigs and chickens to curious goats.

The vineyard restaurant is open for (lunch Friday-Sunday 11am-2.30pm and dinner Thursday to Saturday 5.30pm-8.30pm.

The cellar door is open Thursday-Sunday 11am-3pm but ring ahead for an appointment.

Vietnam to loosen visa restrictions

Vietnam is to grant longer period visas to tourists in a bid to boost its sluggish travel industry recovery.

The Government will propose the National Assembly extends the duration of e-visas, Travel Mole reported.

It wants the current 30-day limit applicable to Australians and US visitors to be extended to a maximum of three months.

The Government Office said the proposed extended e-visa would be be valid for single or multiple entries.

This visa is currently for single entries only and available to nationals of 80 countries.

The Government also wants to expand it to more countries.

Vietnam also has visa waivers for a limited number of countries allowing stays of up to 15 days.

Vietnam opened borders a year ago but the tourism industry recovery has been slow, official figures show.

Image: Alessandro Castiglioni, 

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Hawke's Bay wine region bounces back after cyclone

Six weeks after Cyclone Gabrielle devastated the region, winemakers in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, are enjoying vintage with pickers enjoying some welcome sunshine.

“While we have all seen images of the devastated vineyards following Cyclone Gabrielle, we want to assure wine lovers that Hawke’s Bay is open for business," says Sally Duncan, chair of Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers.

"We invite you to come and visit our beautiful region and enjoy the distinctive varieties and wines you know and love.

"Most cellar doors and our fantastic restaurants are open and looking forward to welcoming visitors over the Easter break.

"And if you can’t get to Hawke’s Bay, then look to support the region by buying Hawke's Bay wines and the other produce that the region is famous for.”

The Hawke's Bay community has rallied around the vineyards and wineries impacted by the cyclone with on-the-ground help with clean up, organising fundraising events or contributing to the Hawkes Bay Winegrowers Charitable Trust Relief Fund. 

“It has been heartening to see huge teams of volunteers helping out all over the region with the clean up of affected wineries and vineyards” says Brent Linn, executive officer for Hawke's Bay Wine.

The Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Charitable Trust Relief Fund has so far raised over $NZ160,000. Those wanting to donate directly to the Hawke’s Bay Wine community can find more information here.

Time to crack down on airline bullshit


There have been increasing calls for more Australian Government oversight of airlines.

With the ongoing plethora of absurdly high fares, poor service, cancelled flights and lost luggage, the airlines appear to have lost the right to self regulate.

In Europe, and many other destinations, passengers are compensated if their flights are delayed.

As Qantas has benefitted from millions of dollars of taxpayer money, why should it not cough up when it gets things wrong?

I flew from Hobart to Melbourne last week for a one-night visit. My ticket with Qantas for this simple flight cost a whopping $986 - which was an absurdity.

My flight was two hours late from Hobart to Melbourne - and the snack was a sliver of biscuit. I had chosen an aisle seat in advance but was switched to a window "because of a change of aircraft".

My return flight was just an hour late, while my business class meal (I upgraded for $65) was a dodgy chicken noodle dish that would not pass muster at Dad's Noodles.

There was no wifi on either flight but I travelled with hand baggage only, so was not subject to the usual baggage chaos at both airports.

A friend of mine is currently having an even worse experience. A Qantas platinum frequent flyer, he booked and paid for a flight to attend a wine event in Melbourne on Friday night.
Qantas this week cancelled his flights and said there were no other Qantas options. 

He was told he would have to book with their "unreliable subsidiary" - at an increased cost of $200.

This followed his experience the week before, when he flew from Hobart to Melbourne to see a specialist. Again, his flight home was cancelled but Qantas did get him on a replacement flight - that was only 50 minutes late.

Constant failures like this are simply not acceptable.

Customers are being treated like mugs.

Time to act Albo.

Take a behind the scenes look at a winery during vintage

Ever wondered what goes on in a winery during vintage?

With vintage 2023 firmly underway, McLaren Vale winery Chapel Hill is this weekend offering the chance to take a a peek behind the scenes.

For the first time since 2019, Chapel Hill chief winemaker Michael Fragos will host the Vintage Immersion Experience this Sunday: April 2.

"We are pulling back the curtain to winery operations and giving a select few the chance to see what it takes to make the Chapel Hill wines," says Fragos.

The event will run from 10am-4pm to offer guests for a first-hand look (and taste and smell) of all things vintage-related.

The day will start with some local pastries and the Escape Room Piquette - a new wine innovation in a can.

That will be followed by a vineyard and winery tour, ferment and 2022 barrel tasting as well as participation in wine-related activities like grape tasting and red fermenter plunging, perhaps even some pigeage.

A long table lunch in the cellar door atrium will be hosted by Fragos and the cellar door team with chef Jarred Styles firing up the spit with some local lamb, gourmet salads and Stoneground Bakery sourdough - paired with some cellared wines chosen by Fragos to mark his 20th vintage at Chapel Hill.

To round out the day there will be cheese platters and a new release wine tasting.

Tickets for the event are $160, but only $100 for wine club subscribers. Sounds worth a trip.

Book here:

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Punchy Asian flavours shine in Melbourne

Asian restaurant Salted Egg has a couple of strikes against it from the start.

First it is in a hotel, which will dissuade some potential patrons, and secondly it is on level one with zero street visibility, meaning some diners might well walk past without even knowing it exists.

Which would be a mistake on their part.

Not only does Salted Egg offer Thai-accented food that is delicious and well priced, it is also obviously on the radar of quite a number of food savvy Melbourne folk.

I'm in house on a Thursday night and even though the weather is not particularly appealing (it's Melbourne folks), the pace is buzzing with a number of large groups clearly enjoying themselves immensely.

The vibe is helped by a helpful and efficient young service team - a welcome rarity in these times of staff shortages.

Salted Egg is located in the Quincy Hotel Melbourne (review later this week), which is also home to The Q rooftop bar - a great spot for a post-work drink, and with spectacular views from above the CBD.

The food in Salted Egg is vibrant and flavoursome - it turns out executive chef Adam Woodfield has worked at both Chin Chin and Jimmy Liks, two of Melbourne's star Asian eateries.

So think Thai-accented, hawker food market-inspired south-east Asian cuisine that rewards those with a an adventurous palate. Pungent and punchy. 

There is even a Thai-inspired breakfast menu - the chilli scrambled eggs on sourdough with crab meat, Sichuan oil and crispy salt bush are exceptional.

For dinner, you can choose from a degustation menu - ideal for groups - or order al a carte.

For fresh, tangy palate cleanser start with a pomelo betel leaf with caramelised coconut, chilli and mint (above). It is delightfully crunchy.

Next up I opted for prawn and ginger dumplings with Sichuan oil and prickly ash salt (second image): funky and filling.

My main course (top image) was a huge and satisfying stir-fried roast duck with crispy egg noodle, yellow bean sauce and pickled chilli Probably not the sort of dish you'd cook at home, but perfect for sharing with friends.

I was urged to try a dessert and the colourful pandan and white chocolate mousse with ube ganache, coconut jelly and coconut crumble (below) transported me to Malaysia, gastronomically speaking.

There is a huge selection of cocktails - as befits the party vibe - but local craft brewers like Moondog, Stomping Ground and Hop Nation are well represented on the drinks list. 

There is also a short, but well curated, selection of wines by the glass with the In Dreams 2021 Pinot Noir a particularly good match for the duck dish.

Salted Egg is on Level one at The Quincy Hotel Melbourne, 509 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000. Breakfast 7am-11am daily; lunch noon-3pm Tuesday to Saturday; dinner from 5pm Monday to Saturday.

For full details see

The writer was a guest of The Quincy Melbourme

Italy awash with imbecile tourists

Italy seems to attract more than its fair share of nutty tourists.

Regular readers will recall the American idiot who was fined €500 for driving over the pedestrians-only centuries-old Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence.

Then there was the tourist who had to be rescued after falling into the crater of Mount Vesuvius when taking a photo. Also American.

Last year we had a pair of tourists who were fined and briefly banned from Rome’s historic city centre after damaging the city’s historic Spanish Steps with electric scooters. Also Americans.

Then there were the two people seen riding eFoils, or electric surfboards, along the Grand Canal in Venice. This pair were Australians and were described as "imbeciles" by the Venice mayor.

Image: Twitter / @LuigiBrugnaro

And now authorities in Venice are searching for a "cretin" who jumped from a three-storey building into a canal. (image above)

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro called the man shown in a video an "idiot: and promised to give him a "certificate of stupidity and a lot of kicks".

Officials say the man - and his companion who filmed the stunt - will be arrested if located. 

The man was wearing only boxer shorts when jumping into the canal.

“We are trying to identify him,” Brugnaro said. “He risked his life in that jump, but he is also a delinquent."

Image: Venice by Agata Bertolini,

So you'd like to enter the Australian wine industry?

Many people dream of starting a vineyard and making their own wine.

A lot more realistic option is buying an existing vineyard, winery and house - the complete package in one hit.

One such business recently hit the market: ATR Wines in the Grampians region of Victoria.

Winemaker Adam Richardson and journalist Eva Dienel are selling their business to return to Oregon in the US, where Adam met Eva when making wine some years back.

"After buying an empty sheep paddock in 2005, planting the vineyard, building the winery, developing and running the ATR Wines business and tasting room, Adam is ready to retire from winemaking," Eva said in an email to friends and business associates.

The family will move to live in Bend, Oregon, where Eva's parents are based.

So if county vineyard life sounds your thing, here are some links with all the details you might need.

The property covers 43 acres with 18 acres of vines planted to shiraz, riesling, nebbiolo, durif, tannat and viognier.

The location is a 2 1/2-hour train ride or drive from Melbourne.

Monday 27 March 2023

New owner to pounce for Champagne Henriot

Champagne's largest grower co-operative has begun exclusive negotiations to buy the Champagne Henriot brand from recently formed conglomerate Artémis Domaines.

Terroirs et Vignerons de Champagne (TEVC), which already owns the Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and Castelnau brands, is apparently the leading bidder for Henriot, French wine news website Terre de Vins reported.

The Terroirs & Vignerons de Champagne group has also recently purchased historic Maison Abelé.

The Artémis Domaines group has the Jacquesson Champagne brand, upon which it is apparently willing to focus while offloading Henriot.

TEVC was formed in late 2021 when the co-op behind the Nicolas Feuillatte label merged with Castelnau owner Coopérative Régionale des Vins de Champagne.

It created a regional Champagne powerhouse with 6,000 growers and 3,000 hectares under vine.

Nicolas Feuillatte is the best selling Champagne brand in France, and third largest globally behind Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot.

Henriot was created in Reims in 1808 and Alice Tétienne, formerly of Krug, is the cellar master. 

She began her career at Nicolas Feuillatte so will enjoy a homecoming if the deal goes through.

Qantas flights from Melbourne to Tokyo resume

Qantas has today resumed direct flights between Melbourne and Tokyo for the first time in more than three years.

The new service is the first non-stop flight between Melbourne and Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport by any airline, saving passengers nearly two hours travel to downtown Tokyo compared with Narita Airport, to where the flight operated to before the pandemic.

The year-round flights will operate four days per week with an Airbus A330 aircraft and add to Qantas’ existing flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Haneda Airport, snubbing Narita, which is much more distant from downtown Tokyo.

Together, these flights offer customers more than 420,000 seats between Australia and Japan annually and the choice of double daily flights to Tokyo, a hugely popular destination for Australians.

Qantas Domestic and International CEO Andrew David said the flights would support the resurgence of tourism and trade links between Australia and Japan which have been growing rapidly since borders reopened.

“We’ve seen the demand for our Tokyo flights bounce back very strongly, and our research shows that it is one of the top tourist destinations that Australians plan on visiting in the next 12 months,” he said.

“Our customers in Victoria have been looking forward to the return of this route, with the flights launching in time for travellers to enjoy the cherry blossom season in Japan.

"Corporate travellers can also now save time on their airport commute by flying into or out of Haneda.

“We’re pleased we can now offer our customers much easier access to Tokyo city centre and the world’s third largest economy from three major East Coast Australian cities."

The Qantas Group now operates up to 35 return flights per week from Australia to Japan. This includes Qantas’ flights from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to Haneda and Jetstar’s flights from Cairns to Narita and Osaka, and the Gold Coast to Narita.

Natural wines get their day in the sun

Enjoy "natural" wines? 

Fancy a trip to the Byron Bay hinterland? 

The Luna Wine Store’s Full Moon Wine Festival returns in Eltham, just a short drive from Byron Bay. 

Mark Saturday, May 6, in your diary for an event to be hosted by sommeliers Russ Berry (Luna Wine Store), James Audas and Tom Sheer (Luna Wine Store, Bar Heather, Lo-fi Wines) at the funky Eltham Hotel.

‘Full Moon is our fun way of bringing the community together to enjoy the company of some of the country’s most exciting producers," says Berry. 

"We want to create an environment where people can engage, learn and ask questions, as well as tasting a few wines, and having a dance." 

The Full Moon Wine Festival proclaims it is "about truth, authenticity and frank wine talking", but also "showcasing really good wine and building the community".

Tickets cost $75 for a three-hour tasting session from 2-5pm. 

The event will feature 30 "natural" winemakers under the auspices of  Luna Wine Store, Byron Bay’s only natural wine store, which focuses entirely on independent organic, biodynamic and natural wine producers.

Winemakers will be visiting from Tasmania, Margaret River, the Adelaide Hills, Gippsland, Barossa and Mount Gambier. 

Once the tasting ends, guests can continue partying until late with Luna’s ‘Baller Bar’ serving some rare wines from around the world by the glass.

There will be live music and DJ’s playing into the night, and food from the Eltham Hotel and  Ciao, Mate by chef Matt Stone. 

There will also be buses from Byron Bay and Bangalow. 

Location: Eltham Hotel. 441 Eltham Road Eltham, NSW 2480. 

For tickets visit


Sunday 26 March 2023

Fancy a gourmet trip around a Pie and Tart trail?

Wine trails are two a penny, but how about a Pie and Tart trail?

More than 40 venues across the Macedon Ranges region in Victoria will be showcasing a huge range of pies and tarts during April.

From classic country bakeries to winery cellar doors across nine villages, visitors can choose to dine with a glass of wine or enjoy a pie picnic.

It's a bonanza for pastry lovers with both sweet and savoury palates catered for.

The trail will run from April 1-30 at a huge range of venues.

If you are heading for some pie heaven you can print your Pie&Tart Trail Map beforehand.

Choices include a Sunday Roast Pie from the Malmsbury Bakery and a picnic in the botanic gardens, or and a trip to Mount Macedon Winery for a cellar door picnic pie paired with a glass of pinot.

Alternatively try Darraweit Valley’s Cider House for a Pork and Caramelised Apple Pie or visit Double Oaks Estate at Lancefield for a Lebanese pie and a wine flight.

For those with a sweet tooth, Hunter Gatherer Winery in Pipers Creek will be serving an American-style cherry pie. Your chance to go full Twin Peaks.  

There are also vegetarian options available on the trail.

New Levantine Hill wine releases make a serious statement

Elias Jreissati is not afraid to make a statement, or ruffle a few wine industry feathers.

The Melbourne property developer and philanthropist aims for the stars whether it concerns his business, or his family operated Levantine Hill winery in the Yarra Valley.

When building his cellar door - and later a state-of-the-art winery/functions centre - he used leading architects Fender Katsalidis.

When choosing a winemaker he selected Yarra Valley cool-climate guru Paul Bridgeman (below).

Now there are plans for a luxury hotel on site and Levantine Hill hit the headlines this week when it released its second batch of Optume wines; high-end, very limited-release wines that are the most expensive in Victoria.

The new releases are the 2020 Levantine Hill Optume Chardonnay and the 2018 Levantine Hill Optume Shiraz, dubbed as "Masterpieces of Wine".

Both have been made from grapes sourced from across the Yarra Valley - some from the estate, others from "a row here, or a small block there".

"The combination of terroirs allows for more nuanced flavours and complexity, and the creation of a wine that is greater than the sum of its individual parts," says winemaker Bridgeman.

"These wines are the optimum expression of cool-climate wines that have been crafted without regard to vineyard location, cost or effort - the pinnacle of what we are capable of.

"Elias has a belief in our vinous vision of art - and Optume is our Michelangelo. Instead of being limited by our boundaries we looked at putting a blanket over the entire Yarra Valley - taking various elements from the best vineyards across the region, seven sites in all."   

The chardonnay may be a first release, but is up there with the finest Australian chardonnays I have  been fortunate enough to sample. Beautifully balanced with impressive light and shade, it is full flavoured and downright delicious.

When this intense but subtle wine was being benchmarked, the great white Burgundy Bonneau du Martray was much referred to.

Only 660 bottles were made, so this is an instant collectors item.

The 2018 Optume Shiraz is a parcel of just 984 bottles and it is a classic cool-climate shiraz that will develop over time. 

Right now it is very classy but still a little sleepy. Stylish but not strident; one for the cellar at least in the short term. I can't wait to taste this in 5-10 years. 

The chardonnay sells for $600 a bottle, the shiraz for $880, so clearly these are not wines for everyone, although buyers will get a rare opportunity to sample wines that very few people will ever taste. Each wine comes in a wooden box with its own key (below). 

The wines will only be made in outstanding vintages. Last year the Optume releases were a shiraz and a cabernet. This time around the cabernet was deemed not to have made the cut, but there is the first release of what is now Australia's most expensive single vintage chardonnay.

"Levantine Hill Estate exists for one reason: to produce wines of uncompromising quality and distinction," says art lover Jreissati. "We have an ongoing desire to pursue perfection - and push the boundaries. 
"The vision is to create the optimum expression of a cool-climate wine, from each suitable vintage - and there are always consumers who want the exceptional. These wines are for them.

"I see Paul Bridgeman as an artist who is weaving his magic and crafting the best example of what can be achieved."

Elias Jreissati and his wife Colleen (top image) own Levantine Hill and his daughters Samantha and Melissa also play key roles in the business. The business was established in 2009 and produced its first vintage in 2012. 

To learn more, or buy a bottle, see

# The writer was a guest of Levantine Hill

Saturday 25 March 2023

Rathbone speaks out as fight over the name Prosecco continues

The fight over the name Prosecco - and whether it is a region or gape variety - continues to make wine industry waves.

Australian Grape & Wine is urging anyone with an interest in the name Prosecco, or the ongoing rights to use other grape variety terms, to make sure their voice is heard as the Australian Government opens a public objections process in a range of proposed European Union (EU) wine geographical indications (GIs).

“It’s absolutely critical that Australian grape growers and winemakers submit their views to Government through this public objections process” said Lee McLean, chief executive of Australian Grape & Wine.

“Prosecco is a grape variety just like shiraz or chardonnay” said McLean. “We need to let political decision makers in Australia and the EU know that maintaining our ability to use grape variety names is an essential element of rules-based trade and investment in our sector.”

Through the negotiation for the Australia-European Community Agreement on Trade in Wine (Wine Agreement), the EU is seeking protection for 50 new wine GIs - including Prosecco and Picpoul de Pinet - as well as updates to existing GIs.

The public objections process is a way for interested stakeholders to provide submissions of objection to the wine GIs for which the EU is seeking protection for in Australia.

It is the second time the grape variety name Prosecco has been subjected to a public objections process in Australia under the agreement.

The last attempt by the EU to stop Australian producers from using the name Prosecco was quashed by the Registrar of Trademarks in legal proceedings in 2012 and 2013 on the grounds that Prosecco is a grape variety name.

Italian producers say the name of the grape is glera and that Prosecco is a defined region.

“We understand some will be frustrated by the requirement to re-prosecute the arguments they made in 2012-13, particularly given the common-sense outcome delivered by the Registrar of Trademarks at the time” said McLean.

“It is critical, however, that every grower and every winemaker with an interest in Prosecco takes the time to lodge a submission into this process.”

Darren Rathbone, CEO and winemaker at the Rathbone Wine Group, whose labels include Yering Station, Mount Langi Ghiran and Xanadu, is vocal on the issue. 

"It is important to protect the names of the grape varieties that we use in Australia," Rathbone says.

"Prosecco is the name of the grape that the Australian winemakers use to make the wine we call Prosecco. Unfortunately the EU are claiming that Prosecco is a region rather than a grape variety.

"Protection of regional names, such as Margaret River, Yarra Valley or Burgundy (there are obviously thousands of them across the world) need to be defined and protected.

"Grape variety names, such as chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon or prosecco also need to be defined and protected."

Australian Prosecco has grown to over $200 million dollars in value, with regions like Victoria’s King Valley - home to Prosecco producer DalZotto (above) - investing millions in vineyards, production facilities and associated tourism infrastructure. 

The variety is now grown in 20 regions across Australia.

Submissions must be lodged before noon on April 21 via the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s Have Your Say webpage.

Friday 24 March 2023

Really Cool new airline plans

If you want to fly with a really cool airline then keep an eye out for a new Thailand airline called Really Cool Airlines.

The new carrier has unveiled plans to launch flights by the end of the year, Travel Mole reports.

CEO Patee Sarasin said Really Cool will announce route details by the end of June.

Patee is the former chief executive of Thai budget carrier Nok Air.

The new Thailand airline will focus on international routes and has revealed its tagline ‘We Fly the Future.’

Patee aims to position Really Cool Airlines in the hybrid segment, between low cost and full service.

Thursday 23 March 2023

Global recognition for Brisbane Airport hotel

Airport hotels can be strange beasts where many guests stay just one night, and often rise before dawn to catch an early flight.

One Brisbane Airport hotel has made a major impact on its guests, however, to have been named Best Airport Hotel Australia/Pacific for the second straight year at the Skytrax World Airport Awards.

Pullman Brisbane Airport was also named in 10th position in the World's Best Airport Hotels 2023.

Alex Penklis, Chief Operating Officer of Brisbane Airport Hotels Group (BAHG), said to have received these accolades for the third year in the five years of the hotel's operation was a testament to the dedication and quality of service shown by everyone involved.

“The entire team at Pullman Brisbane Airport is extremely proud of these Skytrax accolades," he said. "To have maintained our position as the number one airport hotel in the Australia/Pacific region for the third time in five years, with two of those awards years impacted by a global pandemic, is a truly outstanding achievement.

“I am incredibly proud of what our dedicated team has been able to achieve, both at the Pullman Brisbane Airport and also the Novotel Brisbane Airport, who secured fourth position in the Best Airport Hotel Australia/Pacific ratings.

"We have experienced a challenging couple of years, however we have never stopped working hard to maintain and deliver our world-class level of service for our guests.”

Pullman Brisbane Airport, which opened in October 2017, is part of a $150 million project which includes the 243-room ibis Brisbane Airport and the Brisbane Airport Conference Centre.

For further information see

Virgin Australia re-boots flights to Samoa

Virgin Australia has resumed flights to Samoa with up to two flights a week between Sydney-Apia and Brisbane-Apia.

Virgin has also launched a 72-hour Samoa sale, with return airfares available from $549 (economy lite).

Both routes will be serviced by Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Virgin Australia Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Alistair Hartley said the return was welcome news for travellers across the Pacific.

“There is a strong Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) market in Samoa," he said. 

“It’s an exciting step in the rebuilding of our short-haul international network and comes ahead of our return to Vanuatu later this month.

“Samoa is well-known for its rich culture and friendly locals and has been a popular destination in the Virgin Australia network since 2005.”

Samoa Tourism Authority CEO Pativaine Petaia-Tevita said: “The return of Virgin Australia flights from Australia to Samoa is wonderful news for the nation, boosting collective efforts to rebuild and recover Samoa’s visitor economy.

“With a diverse flight schedule it means more and more travellers will be able to make their way to us to experience Fa`a-Samoa, our beautiful culture and way of life.”

For more information or to book, visit

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Qantas promises a better in-flight food experience

Qantas has boasted that customers travelling across its regional, domestic and international networks can expect better a in-flight and lounge dining experience as the airline rolls out a menu enhancement program this month.

The additional multi-million dollar investment introduces new dishes and larger portions across all cabins, using high-quality ingredients from premium Australian producers.

I'm flying tomorrow, and although I no longer have Qantas Club lounge access we'll see if the flight experience has improved.

Qantas says the move is "the single biggest investment in Qantas in-flight and lounge dining in a decade" and comes as the airline returns to profit and accelerates its customer investment programs.

The menu changes follow an overhaul of the domestic economy menu in October 2022, including offering a vegetarian option for all meals.

Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Markus Svensson said new dishes, generous portions and premium produce would take the in-flight dining experience to a new level.

“Premium food and wine is one of the top three reasons our customers choose to fly with Qantas, so this significant boost means we will be able further our efforts to deliver a world-class experience in the sky,” he said.

“We are proud to work with established and emerging Australian food and wine producers to offer the best possible dining experience to our customers.”

Qantas Creative Director of Food, Beverage and Service Neil Perry, who has worked with Qantas for 25 years, said: “We are spoilt for choice in Australia when it comes to being able to source top quality food from fantastic Australian producers, and together with generous servings and great service, these are the key ingredients to creating an enjoyable meal.”

The new menus have begun rolling out on domestic flights and will launch on international services from March 29.

New aged sparkling wine stars in Brown Brothers' Patricia releases

A new aged sparkling wine is a special release as part of Brown Brothers 20th anniversary Patricia reserve wine range.

The 2010 Extended Lees Patricia Sparkling, a wine that has been kept on lees for over 12 years, is the new addition to a range that honours late family matriarchs Patricia Brown.

The newcomer is made using pinot noir and chardonnay grapes grown in the King Valley in north-east Victoria - close to Brown Brothers' base at Milawa.

"The 2010 vintage had so much lively acid and freshness, we thought it would be great to keep a small number of bottles back and age it," says Cate Looney, Brown Brothers' senior winemaker.

"It has resulted in beautiful creamy, nutty, dried fig characters you get with this extra time on lees."

This is the 20th release for Brown Brothers most premium range, which includes the 2017 Patricia Sparkling, 2021 Patricia Chardonnay, 2018 Patricia Shiraz, and 2018 Patricia Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Patricia wines are renowned for their exceptional quality,” says Cate. “We blind benchmark each release against local and international peer wines and as we produce each vintage we're reminded of Patricia's wise words: ‘You can name this range after me, but it better be bloody good!’

"Our commitment to upholding her legacy remains unwavering even after 20 vintages.”

The 2010 Extended Lees Sparkling will be available to purchase at Brown Brothers cellar door and online at for $160 in a single gift box.

I shall report back when I have tasted it.

Want to enjoy a luxury Barossa weekend with a stint as a winemaker?

Serious about wine? Love a luxury lifestyle?

The Louise, one the very best addresses in the Barossa, is launching a new winemaker event series launching in April.

Now part of the Baillie Lodges group, The Louise will kick off with the Tscharke Experience Vintage package, featuring the resort's closest neighbour, Tscharke Wines, from April 28-May 1.

Next up will be a partnership with historic family winery Yalumba over the dates of June 23-25, with the expperience to be led by chief winemaker Louisa Rose.

The Tscharke Experience Vintage package offers guests staying at The Louise the chance to be winemaker for a day.

Running during vintage, guests staying at the luxury lodge will venture behind-the-scenes and be part of the winemaking action.

Guests will join the Tscharke winemakers for hands-on, three-hour experience of vintage, which includes an exclusive tasting of the current vintage wines plus two specially selected back vintages to be sampled in the Underground Cellar.

The experience starts with a welcome drink in the winery’s Protagonist bar, before a tour of the winery where guests will witness the journey of the fruit as progresses through the winemaking process.

Guests can join in activities including tasting ferments, testing baumé and monitoring ferment temperatures.

The Tscharke Experience Vintage package may be taken over any two nights over the long weekend with an option of adding an extra night or two on either side.

The Tscharke Experience Vintage weekend coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Barossa Vintage Festival with some 75 events dotted around the Barossa over the weekend.

Becoming a winemaker in not a cheap experience.

Rates for the Tscharke Experience Vintage package start at $3,450 per couple for two night with several inclusions.


Baillie Lodges’ Australian properties are all members of Luxury Lodges of Australia.

Tuesday 21 March 2023

New Sydney eatery to have a serious French accent

Sydney's hip inner city suburb of Surry Hills is get a new French brasserie from next month.

Restaurateur Andrew Becher, the owner and operator of European-inspired restaurants Franca and Parlar, will open his third venue, Armorica Grande Brasserie, on April 20.

Armorica is being billed as a 150-seat restaurant that draws on classic Parisian brasserie culture in a contemporary way.

It will take over the site that had been occupied by Toko over the past 15 years.

Amorica is named after an ancient Celtic region that once encompassed much of modern-day Brittany and spanned into what would later become Paris.

“Armorica is a Parisian brasserie that embraces the timeless charm of classic French dining," says Becher. "We want to bring the fun, energy and excitement of dining in the city of light right here on Crown Street.”

The menu will centre around wood-fired cooking and executive chef Jose Saulog (ex Bells of Kilcare) aims to showcase the best of Australian seafood and meat.

The menu will feature small plates including a coral trout crudo with finger lime; as well as Foie Gras ‘Torchon’ (top image).

Also featured will be a seafood tower featuring oysters, prawn cocktail, octopus roulade and rock lobster, as a well as a classic steak frites.

Armorica's wine list spans 400+ labels with a focus on some of the classic wine regions of the world.

Becher has collaborated with renowned American Illustrator David Plunkert on a selection of original art that will feature throughout the restaurant.

Let's hope it is good as another French eatery in Surry Hills: chef Jacob Brown's late, lamented Tabou.   
Armorica is located at 490 Crown St, Surry Hills, and will open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday and lunch Friday to Sunday. See

Clare Valley unveils 10 days of wine and food fun

The 2023 Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week program has been released today and it boasts over 80 events across the 10-day festival in May.

Event organiser Belinda Heinrich of Clare Valley Wine & Grape Association said this year's 39th edition of one of Australia's first gourmet festivals is set to be bigger and better than ever. 

“There has never been a better time to make a stay of it - the midweek and final weekend programs have seen a marked increase in the number and variety of events,” she said. 

Held in the lovely Clare Valley - perhaps the country’s most quintessentially Australian wine region -  this event turns the spotlight on local wines and produce; showcases chefs from across Australia; and features a diverse entertainment line-up. 

The 10-day festival is split into three parts; Festival Weekend (May 19-21), Breathe It In (May 22-26) and Land of the Long Lunch (May 27-28).

The first weekend sees the region’s cellar doors and restaurants doing something a little different with Mitchell Wines welcoming chef Duncan Welgemoed's innovative South African-accented cooking style in Clare for the first time. 

Pikes, meanwhile, is throwing a Paella Party on the lawns, bringing back an oyster shucking
station from Pacific Estate Oysters.

The midweek Breathe It In sector sees Sevenhill Cellars offer a guided tour of a 100-year-old vineyard and underground cellar along with with yoga and art classes. 

Many cellar doors will also show off back vintage and hard-to-find wines throughout the week.

Land of the Long Lunch will feature events like Terroir Auburn presenting wine-writing duo Nick Ryan and Nick Stock with food from chef Dan Moss. 

Arkhé chef Jake Kellie, meanwhile, will be cooking over fire with Jim Barry Wines in their Armagh vineyard hut. 

Visit to book accommodation and see the full program at 
Images: Matt Turner 

Monday 20 March 2023

Strikes threaten Heathrow Airport operations over Easter

Something is rotten in the state of Brexit.

Following on the heels of a threatened strike at several passport offices, industrial action at Heathrow Airport is being planned for the Easter holiday period.

Travel Mole reports that security officers at the airport's Terminal 5 will strike over Easter as part of a pay dispute.

Union Unite said over 1,400 workers will strike for 10 days starting from March 31.

“Our members are simply unable to make ends meet due to the low wages paid by Heathrow,” Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said.

"They are being forced to take strike action due to need, not greed.

“Unite has a laser-like focus on prioritising the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and HAL needs to be in no doubt that the workers at the airport will receive the union’s unstinting support.”

Heathrow management says it has plans to mitigate any disruption

“Passengers can be reassured that we have contingency plans which will keep the airport open and operational,” it said in a statement.

The airport says it has offered a 10% increase in pay.

The airport strike follows news that 1,000 passport office workers are due to strike throughout April.

The PCS union said this strike action will likely to have a "significant impact" on new passport deliveries.

Angry passenger takes on shoddy airline behaviour - and wins

An angry airline passenger has gone to court and had bailiffs sent to an airport after being let down by a budget carrier.

Russell Quirk sent bailiffs to Luton Airport to confront Wizz Air over money owed to him after his family's flights to Portugal were cancelled at the last minute, the BBC reported.

Quirk said he was left to to find another route to Portugal which cost him £4,500 ($8,170) and after months of waiting for Wizz Air to reimburse him he went to court and ended up sending in the bailiffs.

Wizz Air paid up, apologised and said its performance "fell short of our own aspirations and our customers' expectations".

The company is one of a number of budget airlines facing county court claims against them, consumer magazine Which? has reported.

The way customers have been treated by Wizz Air has been "shocking, shambolic and shoddy", Quirk told the BBC.

He had booked flights from Luton Airport to Faro, in Portugal,  in January last year for a family holiday with his wife and three daughters.

He awoke early on the morning of their flight to find a message from Wizz Air saying it was cancelled.

"There was no explanation, no alternative offered and no apology," he said.

"I had to wake my three daughters and tell them we weren't going on holiday - they were very upset."

With hotels, transfers and an airport lounge already paid for, he said the only viable option was to find another carrier, with which the family flew the following day.

Those flights, together with money lost on a night in hotel rooms and other expenses, cost him £4,500, he said.

On his return he tried to get recompense from Wizz Air, but he said it took almost two months for the cost of his original flights to be returned along with other legal compensation.

But, he said, Wizz Air repeatedly ignored his claim for "consequential losses" - the £4,500 extra he had spent.

He took his case to the county court but said Wizz Air "ignored" the judgement made against the company, so bailiffs were sent in to the Wizz Air desk at Luton Airport.

"Their option was to hand over the money or the bailiffs would take it in goods - it might have been chairs, tables, computers or an aircraft," Quirk said.

He said taking his case to court cost him about £180 in court fees, plus £60 to send in the bailiffs - although additional costs associated with the bailiff visit would have had to be paid by Wizz Air.

"Increasingly businesses are thinking they can treat customers like dirt and I'm determined to eradicate that," Quirk told the BBC.

"My message is, where big companies stonewall you, if you persevere you can get what is owed to you."

A spokesperson for Wizz Air said: "In the summer of 2022, due to unprecedented levels of disruption across Europe and the UK which affected the entire industry, we fell short of our own aspirations and our customers' expectations.

"When things went wrong, we did not react quickly enough to manage the high volume of customer claims that resulted from this disruption. We are sorry about this and we are working to ensure that our customers' experience with Wizz is better this year."

Alleged pest banned from an entire region

Now here is a great idea.

A man who has been tagged as a serial pest has been banned from the entire English county of Norfolk.

Stepehn Cutts, 51, was given the court order after being accused of abusive behaviour and begging in Norwich city centre.

Cutts, from Surrey, was charged during the week with a public order offence.

He was released on bail but given conditions not to enter Norfolk unless to attend court or other pre-arranged legal appointments.

If only courts around the world would follow suit. 

Idiots banned from city centres because of silly haircuts. 

Loudmouths banned from the radio for having extreme views. 

Or being banned from downtown Melbourne for being a loud Collingwood fan. 

The possibilities are endless. 

Image: Norwich city centre. No pests allowed. 

Sunday 19 March 2023

The affordable business class route to Europe


Many business class travellers opt for the tried and trusted.

If they are heading for Europe from Australia then they will opt for Qantas, or perhaps Singapore Airlines.

More recently trips via the Middle East with Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Air have been hugely popular.

But those who want business class amenities at a much lower price, a new option is on offer from Vietnam-based Bamboo Airways.

Bamboo PR manager Brad Crawford is talking up bargain basement business class lie flat bed comfort with Bamboo Airways to Europe via Vietnam from only $4,500 including taxes ex Melbourne or Sydney.

Adventurous flyers, or those with some time to spare, can fly to London or Frankfurt via Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

Crawford warns that seats are limited and that not all flights have direct links - but a day or two in Vietnam would hardly be hardship. And many flyers - myself included - enjoy breaking up their long-haul flights into two sectors.

I'm hoping to try this route sooner rather than later, so stay tuned for reports.

For details see

Melbourne boutique hotel gets new look and new flavours

There are some pretty weird ways of promoting a hotel. 

One is having just one room designed by a bloke who appears on TV. Another is highlighting an unusual ingredient featured on the menu. 

The team behind the re-launch of Melbourne boutique hotel Laneways By Ovolo have opted to showcase both those options, although they had solid logic behind the moves. 

The new-look property features reimagined public spaces and rooms by Australian interior designers Luchetti Krelle, as well as a new drinking and dining venue Amphlett House - spearheaded by chef and restaurateur Ian Curley and mixologist Andrea Gaudi. 

All good. But here is where it gets a little odd. 

First the hotel is showcasing Room 303 – "an exclusive suite styled by renowned design aficionado Neale Whitaker". Guests who reserve Room 303 can apparently expect a collection of original art, limited-edition objects and soft furnishings hand selected by Whitaker himself.

Wow! Not my thing, but whatever floats your boat, I guess. Whitaker has apparently stayed in the hotel regularly and asked to be involved.    

But wait. Amphlett House is one of the only restaurants in Australia to be serving beef heart, presented at the restaurant seared on a bed of lentils, creamed spinach and mustard.

A dish that will appeal to a very small minority, I suspect, although someone who has tried the dish describes it as "excelleent". 

One other oddity: in the hotel lobby guests will find an Honesty Bar, offering an assortment of sweet and savoury treats, bottled cocktails, wine and Champagne. Guests note what they take and it is charged back to their rooms.

I wonder how long that will last? 

Anyway, back to the basics. 

The hotel has 42 rooms and the decor takes inspiration from the Memphis Group - a 1980s Italian design and architecture collective. 

It is located at the top of Little Bourke Street, well located for the nearby theatre district.

Guests booking directly with the hotel are guaranteed: breakie to go-go, high-speed wifi; in-room mini bar (first round is on Ovolo); self-service laundry, all-day sweet, welcome goodie, social hour in Amphlett House (below) and a tree planted by Eden Project. 

“The food concept for Amphlett House is elevated pub dining, with a classic menu highlighting quality Victorian produce," says Curley. 

"I’ve loved this part of Melbourne for many years and am looking forward to serving up humble fare with big flavours at the top end of town. We welcome guests to share a meal with family and friends or grab a quick bite with your better half.”

In addition to beef heart, other food offerings might include smoked bone marrow served on toast, parsley and shallot salad, blue oyster mushroom skewer with smoked romesco and moules marinières, aioli and toasted sourdough. 

To learn more, or to make a booking, visit

Laneways By Ovolo is at 19 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. 

Passport office strike: travel misery post-Brexit goes on and on

Travel in and out of Britain is already a lot more cumbersome and time consuming than it used to be - one of the many "benefits" of Brexit.

Now a passport office strike could spell disaster for the holiday plans of thousands of Britons already suffering from the folly of their political masters and their own stupidity in voting to leave the EU.

Over 1,000 workers at the passport office will go on strike for several weeks from April 3, Travel Mole reports.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union warned of a ‘significant impact’ on the processing of passports

About one quarter of all passport office workers will strike.

The proposed industrial action will impact locations at Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport.

It could potentially affect the handling of an estimated one million passport applications.

The PCS union said the Passport Office strike is over an imposed, non-negotiable 2% pay rise.

The union says it was forced into the "significant escalation" as ministers ‘have failed to hold any meaningful talks with us.’

Saturday 18 March 2023

ProWein delegates warned to prepare for "chaos"

There are thousands of wine exporters from around the world - including many from Australia - ready to descend on the German city of Düsseldorf for one of the most important events on the wine calendar: Pro Wein.

The event starts on Sunday and runs until Tuesday, but unfortunately coincides with a Düsseldorf bus and metro strike.

"Public transport in Düsseldorf and the region will be the subject of a strike by the Verdi union on Monday and Tuesday, March 20 and 21, 2023," event organiser Messe Düsseldorf announced.

"The strike will start at 3 am and will last 48 hours."

Unfortunately, the Düsseldorf exhibition centre is located well away from the city centre in the direction of the airport.  

The hunt for taxis promises to be a competitive sport but organisers have announcd that shuttles will run every 30 minutes to the exhibition center from the airport and Düsseldorf Central Station.

Queues for the Düsseldorf metro and bus can already be substantial in normal times, wine website Vitisphere reports, adding "these exceptional conditions raise fears of some form of chaos."

The 2023 edition of ProWein is expected to welcome 6,000 exhibitors and over 50,000 visitors.