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Thursday 31 August 2023

Consumer watchdog unleashes on Qantas

Consumer watchdog the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission is sometimes derided as a toothless tiger, accused of failing to act against serial offenders.

Today, however, the ACCC has initiated legal action in the Federal Court of Australia against national airline Qantas, alleging that the carrier has engaged in "false, misleading or deceptive conduct" by advertising tickets for flights that it had already cancelled, sometimes weeks earlier.

The ACCC has accused the airline of selling tickets for more than 8,000 flights scheduled to depart between May and July 2022, alleging the Australian flag carrier kept selling tickets on its website for what is alleged to be an average of more than two weeks - and and in some cases for up to 47 days -after the cancellation of the flights.

The ACCC also believes that for more than 10,000 flights scheduled to depart in May to July 2022, Qantas did not notify existing ticketholders that their flights had been cancelled for an average of about 18 days.

The ACCC alleges that Qantas did not update its “Manage Booking” web page for ticketholders to reflect the cancellations.

“We allege that Qantas’ conduct in continuing to sell tickets to cancelled flights, and not updating ticketholders about cancelled flights, left customers with less time to make alternative arrangements and may have led to them paying higher prices to fly at a particular time not knowing that flight had already been cancelled," the ACCC said.

The action comes at a particular interesting time with the Australian government lately being accused of giving Qantas favourable treatment over its rivals.

The ACCC is Australia's national competition, consumer, fair trading and product safety regulator.

“The ACCC has conducted a detailed investigation into Qantas’ flight cancellation practices," ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

"As a result, we have commenced these proceedings alleging that Qantas continued selling tickets for thousands of cancelled flights, likely affecting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people.

“We allege that Qantas’ conduct in continuing to sell tickets to cancelled flights, and not updating ticketholders about cancelled flights, left customers with less time to make alternative arrangements and may have led to them paying higher prices to fly at a particular time not knowing that flight had already been cancelled.

“There are vast distances between Australia’s major cities. Reliable air travel is essential for many consumers in Australia who are seeking to visit loved ones, take holidays, grow their businesses or connect with colleagues. Cancelled flights can result in significant financial, logistical and emotional impacts for consumers.”

As an example of the conduct, the ACCC said ticketholders scheduled to fly on Qantas flight QF93 from Melbourne to Los Angeles on May 6, 2022, were first notified of the cancellation on May 4, two days before the scheduled departure and four days after Qantas had cancelled the flight.

One consumer was provided with a replacement flight a day before their original departure date, which was communicated only by the Qantas app. As a result, the consumer had to change connecting flights and had a 15-hour layover in Los Angeles, which had a significant impact on the consumer and left them $600 out of pocket.

The ACCC is seeking orders including penalties, injunctions, declarations, and costs.

Combining wine and art in Margaret River

Art and wine will be paired from September 9-24 with seven Margaret River wineries hosting local artists who will be creating and exhibiting their work for the 10th Margaret River Region Open Studios.

A total of 166 artists will be throwing open their studio doors this year in what is Australia’s largest open studios event.

Gralyn Estate, Fraser Gallop Estate, Voyager Estate, Swings & Roundabouts, Domilona, Edwards Winery and Aravina Estate are all hosting Open Studios artists or events.

Dorothy Gallop will be painting and showcasing her work in Open Studios for the first time from the Fraser Gallop Estate Cellar Door. Her main inspiration is her home - the Fraser Gallop Estate property where she lives with husband and owner Nigel Gallop. Her latest collection of works takes her back to her birthplace, with paintings of the African landscape and animals.

Yallingup painter and printmaker Jessica McKiernan will be creating from Swings & Roundabouts for Open Studios. Jessica aims to capture nostalgic scenes shaped by sentimental stories and memories of growing up in the south west.

Margaret River painter and photographer Olivia Lancaster and Margaret River sculptor Mark Hampton will be showcasing their work at Voyager Estate. Olivia specialises in painting, drawing, and photography and gathers most of her inspiration from her love of Margaret River’s seascapes, forests, native plants, and birds. Mark was originally a tool maker in the Isle of Wight and has always been fascinated by metal, engineering, and fabrication.

On moving to the south west, Mark began creating armillary dials to the region’s exact latitude - reflecting his nautical heritage and the precision of tool making.

Photographer Russell Ord will showcase his work in MRROS for the first time from his studio gallery at Edwards Winery. He began pursuing photography in the early 2000s and quickly made a name for himself with his surfing images.

The co-owner of Gralyn Estate is photographer, mixed media and installation artist Scott Baxter, who will have his work displayed in a new way this year as Gralyn Estate transforms its old cellar into a visual and sensory experience.

All profits from the sale of his art will be donated to the Cancer Council of Western Australia.

Taiwan-born Margaret River ceramic artist Yu-Hua Lan will be showcasing her work during the event from Dormilona Winery. She casts organic seeds, shell forms and other natural materials, transforming them into sculpture, jewellery, and pottery.

Aravina Estate is hosting this year’s Art Dinner on September 9. Leon Pericles has donated a bottle of 2019 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay with his signature and personalised artistic embellishment.


Wednesday 30 August 2023

Sparkling wine standout House of Arras sold

In a major move in the Australian wine industry, Accolade Wines has sold its multiple-award winning House of Arras sparkling wines brand and vineyards, along with the Bay of Fires winery and cellar door in Tasmania, to boutique producer Handpicked Wines for an undisclosed price.

Accolade has been hit by high debt levels at a time when the wine sector is being impacted by an oversupply of grapes and diminished demand due to cost-of-living pressures.

Handpicked Wines was creating by William Dong more than a decade ago and it owns vineyards in the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley regions in Victoria, in Tasmania, and in the Barossa Valley.

Under sparkling specialist Ed Carr (pictured), House Arras has been Australia’s highest profile sparkling producer. Carr will apparently stay on under the new ownership. 

Accolade said in a statement on that an agreement had been reached for Handpicked Wines to acquire House of Arras, 24 hectares of vineyards, and the Bay of Fires winery at Pipers River in Tasmania.

No word on the future of talented Bay of Fires winemaker Penny Jones but Accolade will retain the Bay of Fires wine brand, under an arrangement that will see Handpicked Wines make the wine under contract.

"House of Arras is a globally celebrated sparkling house and we are honoured to become the custodians of this admired brand and uphold its tradition of winemaking excellence," Dong said. 

"We look forward to working with Ed Carr and the team to bring Australia’s most awarded sparkling wine to the world."

Handpicked Wines chief winemaker Peter Dillon said: "Ed Carr is one of Australia's most respected
winemakers and I'm excited to work with him through Arras and with the network of Tasmania’s
best sparkling growers and vineyards.”  

Accolade has 50 wine brands in its portfolio including Hardy’s, St Hallett, Petaluma, Banrock Station and Grant Burge but has been selling off assets.

"Drink more alcohol" says politician

Hong Kong residents have been told they are not drinking enough.

With Hong Kong’s economy losing steam, the city state’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan is calling on locals to drink more on weekends at restaurants and bars to boost night-time economy, Chinese website Vino Joy reports.

Chan made his remarks at the opening ceremony of a summer festival.

“After having dinner afterward, remember to grab a few drinks before going home," he said. "Today is Saturday, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit late.

“Apart from having fun with friends and families, I also hope you can share this happy atmosphere in society. With a more positive social atmosphere, business will start booming too.”

This advice is part of the Hong Kong government’s latest push to revive Hong Kong’s once-bustling nightlife following the Covid pandemic.

The government has been in talks with several of the city’s leading property groups to encourage them to extend mall operation hours, hand out free alcohol and vouchers to encourage local spending.

Hong Kong’s dining sector, in particular, was hit by low demand and a drain of local customers who prefer dining and shopping in the cheaper nearby city Shenzhen, in mainland China.

Image: Roberto Moreno,

Horsing around: the world's oldest Lipizzaner stud farm

So you love horses? You are probably familiar with the striking white/grey Lipizzaner horse.

If you are heading to Slovenia you might want to add Lipica to your list of destinations. It is home to the largest Lipizzaner stud farm in the world, is the cradle of the Lipizzaner breed and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The noble white Lipizzaner horses are native to Slovenia - one of Europe's most under-rated travel destinations and just a couple of hours by bus from Venice.

The original stud farm was established in Lipica in the Karst region in 1580 and is one of the oldest Lipizzaner stud farms in the world.

The Lipizzaner is closely associated with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna in Austria, where the horses demonstrate the haute école or "high school" movements of cclassic dressage,

The tradition of breeding these elegant white/grey horses, which are named after Lipica, is inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Visitors can admire the elegance of the Lipizzaner horses at classical riding shows and training sessions and experience the Karst region in a carriage or on horseback.

Visitors can tour an old barn with representatives of all the classic Lipizzaner lines, visit the Lipizzaner and horse carriage museum and learn about the special features of Lipica and the Karst region.

Choose from a guided tour, or exploring the estate on your own.

For details see

Tuesday 29 August 2023

AI images a challenge for the wine industry

Wine and grapes are wonderfully evocative subjects for photographers. 

As someone who often needs generic images, I was tempted to create some AI photos by giving some simple commands. 

It took just seconds to create these images. What do you think? 

I hope it is rather harder to create coherent and accurate wine reviews. 

Crittenden recognised for vineyard initiatives

When you visit Crittenden Estate on the Mornington Peninsula, you are immediately struck by the attention to detail in the vineyards.

No surprise, then, that Rollo Crittenden (above) of Crittenden Estate has been awarded the 2023 Dr. Allan Antcliff Vineyard of the Year Award by regional body Mornington Peninsula Wine.

The award recognises Crittenden’s sustainable growing vineyard practices and wine quality.

In its second year, this biennial event, supported by benefactors and founders of the wine industry on the Mornington Peninsula, Sarah and the late Bails Myer, acknowledges the work of exceptional viticulturists and their commitment to environmental excellence.

The award is in recognition of principal research scientist in vine physiology and ampelography Dr Allan Antcliff, AM., whose work was pivotal to the development of the Australian wine industry.

The judging panel led by Dr Samantha Scarratt praised Crittenden for his approach to soil ecology through extensive compost research and development and to provide the balance and biodiversity necessary for a thriving ecosystem.

Crittenden focusses heavily on the bacteria and fungi present in compost to support the health in the soil and root systems putting nutrients back into soil that is depleted during the growing and ripening phase.

“What set Crittenden apart in a very close competition, was its extensive research into, and application of, different practices in the vineyard," Scarratt said. "It is something the team there have been doing for quite a while now with excellent results.

“Overall, I was extremely impressed with the level of the submissions and excited for the future in the Mornington Peninsula. Through my work, I have travelled to many wine regions and looking through the lens of the six vineyards judged, it feels there is a young vibrant wine community that is taking a very mindful approach to viticulture.”

Rollo Crittenden said: “Going through the submission process was immensely beneficial to Crittenden as it gave us the opportunity to pause and reflect on every aspect of our viticultural process.

"The interaction with the three judges, given their wealth of collective experience, has brought great value to our business, and resulted in further consideration and evolution of our processes.”

The other finalists were Quealy Winemakers and Portsea Estate.

Mornington Peninsula Wine CEO Olivia Barrie said the region has a dedicated focus on sustainability and on growing for the future.

“We want to ensure we are at the forefront of sustainable wine growing and caring for our local environment.” Barrie said.

“By rewarding and naming those that are doing a great job out there in the vineyards, planning for future generations, it creates a buzz among the community and allows knowledge and initiatives to be shared amongst peers, which can only result in an overall improvement in the region.” 

Getting greedy backfires on Bhutan tourism

The mountainous Asian kingdom of Bhutan has long been one of the most expensive places for travellers - with huge fees imposed on visitors to deter mass tourism.

But now Bhutan is having second thoughts on gouging travellers after its travel industry failed to bounce back as hoped post Covid.

Following the pandemic shutdown, the Bhutan tourist fee was increased to US$200 per night, up from US$65.

The kingdom has now revised what it calls the ‘Sustainable Development Fee’ down to US$100 as of September 1, the South China Morning Post reported.

“This is in view of the important role of the tourism sector in generating employment, and earning foreign,” a government statement said.

It comes in time for the peak tourist period when the country hosts many Buddhist festivals.

Prior to the pandemic, Bhutan welcomed over 300,000 visitors annually. The kingdom only began allowing visitors in 1974.

Bhutan hopes to raise the contribution of tourism to its economy by 20%. It currently is about 5%.

Dorji Dhradhul, director general of the Department of Tourism, said the halving of the fee could boost arrivals in the September-December period.

Monday 28 August 2023

Virgin Australia launches a new baggage locating app for flyers

Like many people I am travelling with hand luggage only when if I fly, if at all possible.

Some bad experiences during the chaos of Covid have made me - and millions of others - wary of checking their baggage lest it comes lost, or is delayed.

To aleviate such fears, Virgin Australia has launched Australia's first-ever airline baggage tracking tool across more than two-thirds of its domestic network.

Following a successful pilot of the program in May, most guests will be able to track the status of their checked baggage via the Virgin Australia app.

The announcement follows Virgin Australia’s investment of more than $400 million in digital innovation, technology and customer experience initiatives.

The tracking tool will be available on most domestic routes between major airports, including Sydney-Melbourne, Brisbane-Sydney, Melbourne-Gold Coast, Melbourne-Hobart, Adelaide-Melbourne, Sydney-Sunshine Coast, and more.

The airline’s remaining domestic network, including select services departing Perth, are expected to feature the tracking tool soon.

To access the tool, flyers must download the Virgin Australia app and enable push notifications via the app setting. Once enabled, a series of push notifications will be sent to the guest’s phone throughout the journey, reflecting the bag being checked-in, transferred to an international partner airline, or available for collection at the final destination. The tool will also advise the guest which carousel the baggage is available for collection from.

Virgin Australia Group Chief Customer and Digital Officer, Paul Jones, said: “It’s our mission to be Australia’s most-loved airline and that means we need to listen to our customers to ensure we are offering the services that are most important to them.

“We know the potential of lost baggage is a concern for travellers globally and anticipate today’s announcement will give many guests that extra level of comfort knowing where their bag is at every step of the journey."

Hotel Morris: Accor's newest Handwritten property

Guest poster Roderick Eime takes a look at a new Sydney hotel drawcard. 

I make no secret of my fascination for old buildings and hotels revitalised and repurposed. The Porter House is one recent example and Capella Sydney is another.

So my interest was piqued with the announcement of the reopening of Hotel Morris, a boutique reimagining of one of Sydney’s early landmark hotels.

Built in 1929 as a showcase design from architect Virgil Dante Cizzio, it was exemplary of the Inter-War Palazza style and it’s pleasing to see the new owners' nod to this important pedigree.

From opening until 1963 the building held the title of Australia’s tallest hotel. Up until the recent sale, it traded as Nomads Westend Backpackers Hostel and attracted anything but accolades. The bare-bones refurbishment included much remedial work and the reversal of the many tasteless embellishments thrust on the poor structure over the years.

According to a report in Hotel Management Magazine, four agencies were behind the new design and branding of the hotel, which honours Cizzio’s style, including hospitality refurbishment specialist Reward Group, Squad Ink on brand development, Tom Mark Henry on interiors, and Fellow Hospitality, responsible for conceptualisation.

Hotel Morris also perfectly suits Accor’s new midscale Handwritten Collection featuring “charming and stylish places curated by thoughtful people.”

By all accounts, it’s a success and we had an opportunity to test the product last month, not long after the official opening, which was delayed like everything else that requires a builder at present.

Straight off the street is Bar Morris, an intimate 40-seat multifunction bar and restaurant featuring deep tones of green and burgundy, natural wood flooring, marble bar and tabletops, and brass metal and tiling. I’m having a snack on Friday evening and every seat is occupied with younger 20- and 30-somethings presumably as a precursor to a big night on the town. At this end of Pitt Street, however, there’s quite a bit of new residential, so they may well be residents grabbing an evening bite.

Bar Morris in restaurant guise (supplied)

The space also serves breakfast for guests and doubles as the reception for the hotel. So you’re getting the idea that Hotel Morris is a pared-down property focussing on being good at the essentials. 

And, as a guest, you’re not paying for swimming pools, spas, gyms and business centres that you won’t use anyway. It’s whispered that a rooftop space is in the planning, but it could be a little while off as building approvals are navigated.

There are 82 rooms in total, each in an Art Deco style with five ensuite varieties. Golden mustard tones are used throughout alongside brass detailing and bold stone finishes.

With names like Bambina and Piccolo, you get the idea that these are smaller rooms at 13 and 15sqm respectively. With a Queen-sized bed in each, there’s not room for much else. But hey, what else do you need? The rest range up in size to the ‘palatial’ Grand King at 28sqm and these feature gorgeous ornate windows facing the street.

Grand King

Despite the minimalist design, there’s a lot to like about Hotel Morris and, with its excellent location, it's sure to attract its own type of appreciative guest.

Full details and rates at:

The writer was a guest of Hotel Morris

Sunday 27 August 2023

A taste of Provence that's perfect for summer drinking enjoyment

Here's an unusual - but delicious - little taste of Provence for enjoying over the summer months.

An intriguing blend of Vallée de la Durance peaches, peach tree leaves harvested in autumn, cane sugar and Lubéron white wine, RinQuinQuin a la Peche is a very stylish Provençal aperitif.

All you need is some ice cubes.

Distributed by Cerbaco in Australia, it is made by the Distillerie et Domaines de Provence in the village of Forqalquier, a delightful commune situated between the Lure and Luberon mountain ranges. During the Middle Ages it was the capital of Haute-Provence..

With its narrow streets, churches, fountains and squares, the town is popular with tourists and hosts a market every Monday. The surrounding region is knowns for producing a wide range of botanicals and fruits, which the distillery harvests.

Founded in 1898, Distilleries et Domaines de Provence has been making aperitifs and Provencal liqueurs for over 125 years. It now sells its products to 78 countries around the world.

The RinQuinQuin Peche, which features several different varieties of peaches, comes in 750ml bottles and has an ABV of 15% - around the same as a bottle of wine. The name RinQuinQuin, meaning "a refreshing drink", comes from a word in the local dialect - requinquilhar - 'to cheer up'

Think sweet citrusy/peachy fruit with a bright but rich finish. Drink solo, or add to cocktails. 

Other drinks produced at the same distillery - and distributed by Cerbaco - include the impressively tart/bitter Gentiane de Lure, made from an ancient recipe that features a melange of Lubéron white wine, sweet fortified wine, alcohol, sugar, infusions including sweet and bitter oranges, and extracts of gentian roots.

The distillery is also famous for its Pastis Henri Bardouin and range of absinthes, vermouths and other fruit liqueurs and aperitifs, including the exotic Farigoule de Forcalquier Thyme Liqueur. .A range well worth exploring for any adventurous drinker.

For more details see

Plans for new dining precinct are bowling along

Waverley in Sydney's eastern suburbs is to gain not one, but two new eateries.

Henrietta Street Café and The Ambry Bar & Restaurant will be adding new life to the new Waverley Greens precinct as part of the re-imagined former Waverley Bowls Club.

The duo is the brainchild of Easts Group and Blond Catering.

The Ambry (above)  will be the destination restaurant, serving club classics alongside an Italian-inspired menu.

Henrietta Street Café will be more casual, with a range of brewed coffees and "delectable bites".

Jesper Hansen, chef and director of Blond Catering, says: “We are honoured to be partnered with Easts in this renewal of Waverley Greens. Our team is dedicated to creating exceptional culinary experiences, and we look forward to bringing our passion and expertise to this exciting project.”

Both will be opening soon offering meals to both members and guests, so keep an eye out on Instagram and Facebook at @theambry.waverley and @henriettastreetcafe.

The Easts Group comprises hospitality venues across Greater Sydney and the Illawarra: Easts Bondi Junction, Kingswood Sports Club, Berkeley Sports Club and shortly Waverley Greens.

Blond Catering, meanwhile, was established in 2008 by Danish-born Hansen and has catered at several leading Sydney venues.

Saturday 26 August 2023

Major changes brewing at Hop Nation

Footscray beer emporium Hop Nation Taproom will unveil a new look at the end of next month.

Last drinks at the original taproom will be poured tomorrow before Hop Nation shuts up shop after eight years - although takeaways will be available - before unveiling a revamped space on Thursday, September 28.

Hop Nation partnered with the hospitality interior design veterans at Studio Y to bring its vision of a Brooklyn warehouse-meets-Melbourne brewery to life.

The previous layout of the taproom will be completely transformed, creating an expansive, open-plan brewhouse.

There will be 17 brews on tap, featuring the full Hop Nation core range, Ray Hard seltzers – including a brand-new limited-release Pink Grapefruit and Lime Seltzer - and seasonal limited-edition brews, including a Hazy Mid, Oat Cream IPA, Grapefruit West Coast IPA and Guava, Dragonfruit and Toasted Coconut Sour.

The team will also be pouring a new release Footscray Draft to celebrate the re-opening.

The new-look taproom will feature a new purpose-built kitchen, where ex-Figlia Pizzeria chef Alex Addams Williams will be heading up Good Pizza. The pizzeria will focus on long-ferment dough, in both thin, and thick, crispy pan varieties.

Alongside food and drinks, the freshly renovated taproom will be hosting events, including an AFL Grand Final party on Saturday, September 30.

There will be Happy Hours on Thursday and Friday from 3-6pm, and a nod to Oktoberfest with three European-style beers on offer – a Rattenhund Classic Pilsner and two limited releases: a Kellerbier and a Czech Pilsner.

Hop Nation was started by former winemakers Duncan Gibson and Sam Hambour in 2015. Their small-batch beers are made using natural ingredients with no fining or pasteurisation and minimal filtration.

Hop Nation will operate Thursday-Sunday 3pm-9:30pm. See

Farewell The Colony, hello Maya Maya

Mandoon Estate's The Colony accommodation - one of the most popular places to stay in the Swan Valley wine region - has been rebadged to acknowledge Traditional Owners.

Mandoon, a member of Ultimate Winery Experiences of Australia, says the change reflects its commitment and connection to Country.

The name of  the 32-room retreat has been changed to 'Maya Maya' - which means 'camp' in local language.

The land on which Mandoon Estate now resides was a popular camping location for the Whadjuk Noongar people, due to its rich resources.

The move is described as "mirroring Mandoon's steadfast dedication to fostering cultural awareness and inclusivity."

In 2022, Mandoon Estate commenced a transformative journey by embarking on a 'Reflect' Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

The rename was an integral aspect of this journey. It was guided by Nelson Waite, Mandoon Estate's cultural development co-ordinator, in collaboration with local Traditional Custodians.

"Undergoing the change to Maya Maya, we embark on a fresh chapter that not only mirrors our dedication to luxury, but also honours cultural inclusivity, welcoming guests to immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the Swan Valley,” said Mandoon Estate general manager Travers O'Rafferty.

"Tthe change honours and shows respect for the history of the Whadjuk Noongar people and what existed before us."

Kate Shilling, executive officer of Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia, said that Mandoon was leading the way when it came to celebrating its Indigenous heritage.

“The Swan Valley region holds a rich history, and Mandoon Estate offers a unique opportunity to listen to the stories of this area and learn about local Indigenous food and culture from Noongar Elder, Dale Tilbrook,” she said.

Mandoon Estate engaged artist Samaja Miller - a young Aboriginal woman from the Minang and Kaneang people - to create the new logo for the accommodation, which represents the camp, the soil and the Swan River.

Friday 25 August 2023

Cherubino swoops to buy new wine facility

Leading West Australian winemaker Cherubino Wines has today announce the acquisition of Margaret River Winemakers, a winery and spirits brand located on Bussell Highway, 14 kilometres from Margaret River township.

The purchase includes a 2000-tonne facility with warehousing, distillation capacity, and cellar door.

As part of the deal, the spirits brand [Three Lily's] will be rebranded with a focus on utilising Cherubino’s vineyards and fruit resources to create regional and beginning-to-end estate spirits and a produce farm shop, which will complement the existing Cherubino cellar door and Frui Momento restaurant and Enoteca located on Caves Road, Wilyabrup.

Larry Cherubino and his wife Edwina, the founders of Cherubino, have been planning an acquisition for over 20 years and are excited to integrate the Margaret River Winemakers’ assets into their business.

The current wine facility and equipment will be moved to the new facility over the next 12 months, enabling the Cherubinos to expand.

“We are committed to a long-term approach to winemaking, and this acquisition represents an incredible opportunity for us to establish the brand not only in terms of supply but will greatly support our production and marketing capabilities” said Larry Cherubino (pictured).

“Cherubino’s newly appointed distribution partner in the UK, Hatch Mansfield, Oatley Fine Wine Merchants in Australia, and our many partners and customers around the world have allowed us to make this important step with confidence and we look forward to sharing more details of the project soon.”

Bonza to link Launceston with the Gold Coast

Tasmania is becoming more and more connected.

Low-cost airline Bonza this week announced it will connect the Gold Coast to Launceston (above) for the first time with year-round flights starting in November.

The unveiling of Launceston as a destination marks the Tasmanian debut of Bonza, and is the 18th destination for the carrier which launched this year.

From November 21, travellers will be able to fly directly between the Gold Coast and Launceston three times a week on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, with prices starting from $79pp via the FlyBonza app.

Launceston Airport CEO Shane O’Hare said the new route will open up more leisure opportunities for Tasmanians searching for a holiday in the sun.

“These year-round services will make it much easier for Tasmanians to enjoy Australia’s favourite holiday hotspot, but it also opens the door for thousands more tourists from south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales to visit our state,” he said.

Bonza CCO Carly Povey said the carrier’s buzz is already reaching Tasmanians, who have downloaded its app 11,000 times, adding “there will be more destinations for Launceston, and Bonza’s wider route map, to come”, with details to be revealed “when the time is right”.

The flights are still subject to regulatory approval but they must be confident as tickets are already on sale.

"This is good news for Aussie travellers and the many small-to-medium businesses who make up the local tourism and hospitality industries,” Povey added.

Launceston is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy and a gateway to nature experiences including Cradle Mountain. It is thee first destination outside of Australia’s East Coast to be added to Bonza’s network.

Thursday 24 August 2023

Fancy a flight to North Korea?

I've often thought that North Korea would be a fascinating place to visit.

The food would probably be average, and I wouldn't expect the service to be great. But what an experience.

Such a trip is now closer to being a possibility after international air links to the "Hermit Kingdom" have resumed after a gap of three years due to Covid-19, Travel Mole reports.

A flight operated by North Korean flag carrier Air Koryo touched down in Beijing from Pyongyang earlier this week.

China has "approved the regular flight plan of Air Koryo for Pyongyang-Beijing-Pyongyang flights and other passenger routes" the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Travel agency Koryo Tours said the restart of the Pyongyang-Beijing route would initially facilitate travel for North Koreans to go home.

There is no sign it will lead to a tourism resumption into North Korea just yet.

“This flight isn’t a full resumption of the route yet, it is a special flight for Koreans stuck overseas,” said Simon Cockerell, GM of Koryo Tours.

Air Koryo also has scheduled flights to Vladivostok, Russia, later this week.

A Russian-made Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-204 jet with capacity to carry 210 passengers landed in the Chinese capital on Tuesday and was filmed taking off again later the same day.

Just beachy: a new address in Manly

The Sydney beach suburb of Manly will this week welcome a new place to stay for business or leisure.

Accor Pacific, the largest hotel operator in Australia and New Zealand, will open Peppers Manly Beach, managed by Accor Vacation Club.

Previously known as the North Tower of The Sebel Sydney Manly Beach, the hotel's opening under the new brand will take place on Friday.

Peppers Manly Beach has two swimming pools and three conference spaces in a much sought-after location.

It is home to 42 studios, apartments and suites, many of them offering ocean views.

Sarah Derry, CEO Accor Pacific, said: "We are thrilled to officially open Peppers Manly Beach. This stunning property marks a significant milestone for Accor Pacific, as we continue to deliver exceptional experiences. Peppers Manly Beach showcases the perfect blend of coastal charm, exquisite design, and unparalleled service. We invite guests to immerse themselves in the beauty of Manly and create unforgettable memories in this breath-taking destination."

To celebrate its opening, Peppers Manly Beach is offering a range of exclusive packages and special rates for guests who book directly through Rates start from $333 per night in a superior one-bedroom apartment.

Accor brands across the Pacific region include Sofitel, MGallery, Art Series, Pullman, Swissôtel, Mövenpick, Grand Mercure, Peppers, The Sebel, Mantra, Handwritten Collection, Novotel, Mercure, BreakFree, ibis, ibis Styles and ibis budget, as well as Ennismore’s SO/ and TRIBE.

Wednesday 23 August 2023

Taylors raises the bar with new cellar door and tasting experiences

Taylors Wines this week opened the doors of its new Clare Valley cellar door after the completion of a multi-million dollar project on the property. 

The new tasting facility is the first significant update to Taylors’ hospitality offering since the winery was established in 1969. 

The development sees Taylors move from its existing cellar door in the main winery building on the property to a newly developed site: an extension from the original homestead located on the front lawn.

“This is the beginning of an exciting new era for our family winery," said third-generation vigneron and managing director Mitchell Taylor. "We wanted to elevate the experience with this new cellar door, so there are no half measures. 

“Every detail in the project is considered, with design features that are sophisticated while being warm and inviting. The space truly reflects our family and the Taylors story, and we hope it will be the first point of call for visitors to our wonderful region.”

The new cellar door features five distinct areas for visitors: the Main Tasting Room, The Courtyard, The East Patio, The Event Pavilion, and the Collector’s Club members' tasting room. 

The main entry features Taylors’  three seahorse emblem in weathered steel. The use of limestone is  a feature of the facade and walls, alluding to how the Taylor family discovered fossilised seahorses in the vineyard’s limestone bedrock when they established the estate over 50 years ago.

The tasting counter features Enomatic wine serving systems to preserve premium wines while the central feature of the main tasting room is a bronze-green tiled circular fireplace surrounded by cosy lounge chairs and furniture featuring American oak and soft leather. 

The private Collector’s Club members' room sits beside the main tasting room, offering groups of up to 18 a comfortable space in which to conduct hosted tastings and events. This area offers guests 180-degree views of the lawn and vineyards to the east of the property. 

There are two outdoor areas designed for guests to enjoy on the Clare Valley’s sunny days. 

“Our goal has been to create a space that epitomises both Taylors Wines and the Clare Valley - it's an original style all of its own,” Kristina Soggee, senior project architect at GP Architects, said. 

Also new is a range of new tasting experiences including wine and cheese and wine and chocolate tastings. 

For serious wine lovers the Flagship Wines Tasting Experience showcases wines from the Taylors Masterstroke and St Andrews ranges, along with the exceptional parcel release wines, The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon and The Pioneer Shiraz. 

Travel temptations aim to entice online

More than ever, given the tough times, Australians are loving a bargain.

Enter Click Frenzy Travel from 7pm today - a five-day online festival of travel deals. Think Black Friday or Cyber Monday with a travel focus.  

A recent survey by Power Retail revealed that 73% of Australians have cited rising cost of living as the main factor preventing them from booking domestic or international travel this year.

Click Frenzy Travel will run until 11:59pm on Sunday - giving would-be travellers plenty of time to browse and check out which deals suit them.

The Click Frenzy Travel event will spotlight travel providers and their deals with categories including flights and destinations, accommodation, cruises, car hire, experiences and tours, luggage and travel essentials.

Brands offering top travel deals include Air New Zealand, Flight Centre, The Bali Bible, Scoopon, G Adventures and Malaysia Airlines.

Daniel Thompson, head of marketing at Click Frenzy, says: “We know that Australians have been feeling the pinch of inflation but are still eager to explore domestically and abroad after years of not being able to do so.

"The Click Frenzy Travel event couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve worked hard to curate the best travel deals so Aussies can book a luxury holiday at a fraction of the price.

“We encourage consumers to visit to find our biggest range of travel deals, vetted and verified by our team. With online scams becoming a growing issue in Australia, consumers should be conscious of deals on external sites by brands who are not partners of the sale.”

Do your own research to see if the deals suit you or not, and check out the terms and conditions. 

Some of the promised deals include

Air New Zealand:

● Sydney to Auckland, Seat, one way from $269

● Sydney to Queenstown, Seat one way from $279

● Melbourne to Los Angeles, Economy return from $1,569

● Sydney to Los Angeles, Economy return from $1,449

Flight Centre:

● Phuket 7 nights from $899 per couple - save $415

● Vanuatu 4 nights from $999 per couple - save $250

● Gold Coast family 5 nights from $999 per family of 4 - $800 bonus value

The BALI Bible:

● Additional 5% discount on already discounted Bali Bible product


● Novotel Nusa Dua Escape with one-way airports transfers, daily breakfast and nightly cocktails from $699. Save up to 59%.

● Thailand Khao Lak Retreat with cocktails, massages and daily breakfast from $549. Save up to 47%.

G Adventures:

● 25% off select Thailand, Cuba, India and Peru tours

Malaysia Airlines

Return fares to Japan from $969

● Return fares to Malaysia from $662

● Return fares to Thailand from $676

● Return fares to India from $883

Rex outdoes its big-name rivals when it comes to punctuality

Which Australian airline has the best record record for on-time flights?

Not Qantas or Virgin Australia - and obviously not Jetstar.

Little Rex Airlines has been named as Australia’s most reliable regional airline in July by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics.

Rex led for both domestic and regional flight operations with the Qantas Group a distant second.

The survey revealed Virgin Australia Group recorded a sub 60% performance in the on-time departure metric.

The differential was even greater for cancellations.

Qantas Group recorded 100% more cancellations compared to Rex and Virgin Australia regional flight cancellations were 600% higher than Rex Regional.

Rex executive chairman Lim Kim Hai said, “All airlines in the world are severely impacted by the aviation supply chain dislocation and pilot shortages.

“We are not proud of our current performance. Many passengers have been inconvenienced.

“It is small consolation to know that problems would have been magnified many fold if passengers flew with our competitors.

“The entire management team is working relentlessly every single day to minimise disruptions.”

Rex is Australia’s largest independent regional and domestic airline.

It has a fleet of 58 Saab 340 and eight Boeing 737-800NG aircraft, flying to 57 Australian destinations.

Tuesday 22 August 2023

A barrelhouse of fun for Sydney drinks lovers

Lover of alcoholic drinks have a new "go to" address with the opening this week of Barrelhouse Cellars, a new bottle shop, outdoor tasting space and deli on George Street in Sydney.

The Barrelhouse Cellars is the brainchild of the team behind The Barber Shop, The Duke of Clarence and nearby Hickson House - and they boast its has spirits, wine and beers at all price points.

The new space complements an historic The Rocks' terrace that is also home to Frank Mac’s, Doss House, Orient Hotel and Mrs. Jones.

The historic paved courtyard, backing onto Kendall Lane, will offer individual tastings and themed flights, such as Australian gins and New World whiskies.

The tasting table will see regular meet-the-maker sessions for members of Barrelhouse Club, the Cellars' loyalty program.

The store will be managed by industry veteran Nick Minogue, who will showcase independent, craft producers with an Australian focus.

He has secured a cellared private wine collection, and his team has sourced spirits will complement the Hickson Rd gins.

“Whether you're a local popping in on a weeknight, or a traveller seeking a memorable, local shopping experience, we’ll find you the perfect drop,” Minogue says.

The Cellars team also offers bottled cocktails from leading local bars, hand-cut ice and cocktail garnishes; alongside artisanal cheeses, pates and charcuterie.

Check out the online store at

Barrelhouse Group founders Julian Train and Mikey Enright said: “The Cellars is the next stage of our longer-term vision for The Rocks. We wanted to created an accessible, inviting, local bottle shop; drawing on our hospitality experience to add a few features we couldn’t find elsewhere. The paved tasting courtyard is particularly special.”

Barrelhouse Cellars is open at 10am daily until 8pm Mon-Tue-Wed, until 9pm Thu/Fri, until 8pm Sat, and until 6pm Sun.

Moxy makes its Australian debut

The Moxy Hotels group, part of Marriott Bonvoy’s portfolio of 31 different hotel brands, today opens the doors to its first hotel in Australia.

The Moxy Sydney Airport is the first of a range of hotels that are designed to appeal to the young and young-at-heart with their casual vibe.

I've stayed at Moxy properties in Glasgow, and at Milan's Malpensa airport and enjoyed both stays.

Located in Mascot, in the Inner South of Sydney, the new 301-bedroom hotel is close by to Sydney International Airport, with Moxy’s pink airport shuttle bus set to greet guests as they arrive.

The hotel is easily accessible from Sydney CBD.

Sean Hunt, area vice president of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific for Marriott International (what a great job title!) said: “We have been fiercely focused on introducing new lifestyle brands to Australia that will appeal to the changing needs of modern travellers.

"The debut of Moxy’s disruptive hotel experience at Sydney Airport does just that, ringing in an exciting new era for Marriott International in the country.”

​​​​​Moxy Sydney Airport's design is inspired by Mascot’s industrial and art-deco heritage.

The hotel’s façade has a mural created by local artist Elliott Routledge, known for his distinctive, abstract designs.

The lobby has exposed ceilings, wrought-iron beams, and natural materials to create the open, airy feel of a converted warehouse.

Designed as a multi-functional work and interactive social space, the lobby is centred around the hotel bar where guests check in with a complimentary “Get Moxy” signature cocktail. Within the lobby, guests can also enjoy the hotel’s ​​​​Living Room, a laid-back communal space.

The industrial-chic bedrooms are said to "combine functionality and flexibility with edgy detail". The rooms feature modular furniture including Moxy’s signature Stellar Works foldable workspace desks and chairs, as well as smart features like peg walls to allow guests the flexibility to adapt the room to their needs.

Tech-savvy touches include motion-activated LED lights, keyless entry, 55-inch flat-screen TVs, and complimentary wifi.

Bar Moxy is designed for working and connecting during the day and transforms into a social hub at night. Local brands including Archie Rose and Young Henry are showcased, while the hotel’s street café, Little Baxter, offers grab n’ go bites or coffees and pastries for those looking to linger.

There are also five meeting studios for private events.

Located at 56 Baxter Road, Mascot, Moxy Sydney Airport offers rates starting at $209 per night.

Monday 21 August 2023

Qantas says its flight schedule is "almost back to normal"

Qantas says it is fast approaching normal pre-Covid flight levels.

The Australian flag carrier today announced an increase to its international capacity ahead of additional aircraft returning to its fleet.

Destinations with more capacity announced today include New York, Los Angeles, Johannesburg and Bali.

The Qantas Group is currently at around 80% of its pre-Covid international capacity levels, which has almost doubled in the past year. This is expected to reach 100% by March 2024, the airline said.

Qantas has received three long-awaited Boeing 787s in recent months and is gradually able to return more of its Airbus A380s to service as they complete post-storage maintenance.

The national carrier is publishing more than 250,000 additional seats to and from Australia that include:

Sydney-Bali: larger Airbus A330 aircraft will replace daily Boeing 737 flights from October this year with more premium seats and fully-flat beds in Business Class.

Sydney-Auckland-New York: following the successful launch of the new route in June this year, flights will increase from four per week to daily from August 2024.

Sydney-Johannesburg: for the first time Qantas A380s will operate to South Africa from July 2024, close to doubling capacity during peak periods.

Melbourne-Los Angeles: capacity will increase by around 20% with more A380 flights on the route from July 2024.

Sydney-Los Angeles: flights will increase from eight to nine per week from July 2024, operated with a mix of 787 and A380 aircraft.

Tickets will be available to purchase from Tuesday at and through travel agents.

Qantas International CEO Cam Wallace said the additional flights would help support the sustained demand for international travel and provide a boost to the tourism industry.

“Hundreds of thousands of extra seats on our network is great news for our customers planning their next overseas trip,” said Wallace.

“We know our customers are looking for great value and this additional capacity will put more downward pressure on fares.

“The additional capacity will largely be made possible through our final two A380s returning to the Qantas fleet following heavy maintenance and cabin improvements.”

Two top eateries are talking Turkiye

A unique taste of Turkiye? 

For one night only, Efendy Group’s executive chef Arman Uz and owner and head chef Coskun Uysal from Melbourne’s Tulum are to join forces for what is billed as "the ultimate Turkish dinner". 

With a share-style menu created by the Tulum team, the collaborative dinner will be held at Maydanoz, in Sydney’s CBD, on October 26.

“We are looking forward to bringing our friends at Tulum to Sydney for a special night at Maydanoz," says Uz. 

"If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Tulum in Melbourne, you’ll have an idea of what is to come. If you’re yet to make it, let this be your incredible introduction."

So he's keen. 

Known for his extensive hospitality experience at restaurants including Jaime Oliver’s Fifteen, Uysal’s culinary expertise is demonstrated at his hatted Turkish restaurant, Tulum, located in the Melbourne suburb of Balaclava. 

Uz, meanwhile, has worked under some of Turkiye’s top chefs, including Efendy Group owner Somer Sivrioglu. Uz oversees the food programmes at Efendy Group restaurants Maydanoz, Anason and the recently-opened Baharat.

The event will kick off with cocktails and canapes before guests are seated and treated to a menu split into three main sections; small plates, larger plates and desserts. 

Highlights from the small plates include: whipped Tulum cheese and Turkish chilli jam, simit with smoked taramasalata, white anchovy and candied orange zest, smoked date butter and cumin and lentil kofta with pickled turnip. This selection of dishes will be accompanied by grilled Turkish pide bread.

Star turns among the larger plates will be raw yellowfin tuna with fried green pepper borani and smoked cherry tomatoes; Icli kofte with lamb and walnut kibbeh and buttermilk and salgam; and kuzu lamb shoulder served with eggplant puree, prune jam and bulgur pilaf.

Wrapping up the evening, dessert will be a spin on a Turkish dish traditionally served to Ottoman sultans in the Topkapı Palace; chicken and milk pudding with lemon thyme ice cream and a sweet caramel mousse.

The collab event follows Maydanoz and Tulum’s long Sunday lunch at Lezzet, Elwood.

Tickets can be purchased at for $165 a head. An optional wine pairing will also be available on the night.


Semillon and songbirds to enliven the Hunter

Been looking for an excuse to visit the Hunter Valley?

With spring just around the corner, the team at Bimbadgen is hosting Songbirds and Semillon on Sunday, September 10 from 11am-4pm, at sibling property Emma’s Cottage. 

The plan is for a relaxing day on the lawn showcasing five of the best female music artists who call the Hunter home.

Songbirds and Semillon will feature the original music of award-winning country artist Max Jackson, Anna Weatherup, who has moved on from The Voice with her new single Crossing the Sea, Piper Butcher's roots rock, and songs from Amy Vee and Chloe Gill.

Songbirds and Semillon is billed as a micro-scale music event in keeping with the boutique Emma’s Cottage vibe.

“We are thrilled to bring together five fabulous female singers from the Hunter to celebrate springtime in true Hunter style, with some great alfresco food and wine amongst the vineyards," said Mulpha Hospitality GM Belinda Stapleton. 

" At Emma’s Cottage the hills really will be alive with the sound of music this spring.”

The event will also feature the opportunity to sample the semillons under the Alter Wines label created by Bimbadgen winemaker Richard Done. 

The complete range of Alter Wines, as well as a selection of beers and spirits, will be available to purchase on the day. Food items will also be available for purchase on the day and BYO picnics are welcome. 

Or you can pre-order an Emma’s Cottage Hamper for two people when you book your tickets. Each hamper contains a bottle of Alter sparkling blanc, baguette and crackers, aged cheddar, spinach, olives, feta frittata, roast pumpkin and quinoa salad, lemon meringue tart and macarons.

Tickets are available through and are priced at $49 for adults, $19 for teenagers 13-17, and free for children under 12.

Return transfers are now available to book through Rover Coaches for only $25pp. Pick up is from Cessnock, The Vintage and Huntlee. To book

Sunday 20 August 2023

France puts out the welcome mat for rugby fans

It might just be one of the longest major sports events ever held.

The Tour de France and the Olympic Games games stretch over three weeks; the World Cup soccer tournament extends well over a month.

But this year's Rugby World Cup in France will run for seven weeks from September 8 to October 28.

There will be 48 matches featuring 20 national teams in France.

This will be the10th in a tournament series played every four years since 1987. I've been lucky enough to attend four of them: the opening event in New Zealand/Australia, in South Africa, in the British Isles and France, and in Australia.

While Paris will be the main stage - hosting the opener between France and the New Zealand All Blacks and the final - nine other cities will also host games.


During the almost six years I lived in France I visited seven of the host cities. Sorry Toulouse and St Etienne.

Here are my brief thoughts on the cities rugby fans will be descending upon.

Paris will be in the spotlight and is always a city of surprises and joy. The opening will be played at the Stade de France (top image), the largest stadium in the country.

The 80,000-seat arena will also host the two semi-finals and the third-place playoff.

Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Lille-Villeneuve d’Asq and St Etienne are also in the host line-up.

Marseille’s Orange Vélodrome is usually the home of football team Olympique Marseille. 

Be careful where you go at night in Marseille. The port city is my least favourite destination in France and in my experiience the locals the least welcoming.

In contrast, a French city that screams art and culture, is Bordeaux, with over 350 UNESCO-listed buildings in its historic centre. Wine lovers will want to explore the vineyards and visit the Cité du Vin wine museum on the banks of the Garonne. Dine at quirky La Tupina if you get the chance.

Toulouse, called  the ‘Ville Rose’ (Pink City) is known for its aerospace industry and is rugby heartland. Try the local sausages.  

Lyon is the gourmet capital of France, a delightful city with narrow streets and secret passageways, hidden staircases and stylish courtyards. Head to one of its ‘bouchons’ (traditional restaurants) for a casual gastronomic experience.

Lille's Pierre-Mauroy stadium in the suburb of Villeneuve d’Asq is an unlikely venue - football is king in the his region of France. Visit LaM (the Museum of Modern Art, Contemporary Art and Art Brut) set in large park full of sculptures.

Nice, surprisingly chosen ahead of rugby-crazy Toulon, is home to many of the highlights of the Côte d’Azur. Visit the local markets and walk the Promenade des Anglais.

In Nantes, the Beaujoire stadium is best known for its football team than rugby. Visit the ‘Machines de l’Ile’ site: former shipyards where you can climb aboard a giant carousel of extraordinary sea creatures. And have a seafood meal at La Cigale - one of my personal favourite restaurants.

St Etienne is another city much better know for football than rugby. It is the gateway to the Auvergne, with its gentle sloping mountains, dormant volcanoes and beautiful countryside.

See and