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Tuesday 31 October 2023

Halloween wines: a serious crime?

So you thought Halloween was a fun festival that remembers the dead but is enjoyed by children?

Yep. But it is also apparently the chance to flog some cheap wine.

The 19 Crimes label, known for featuring criminals and rappers on its labels, has released some special edition wines in the US and UK markets featuring Dracula and Frankenstein.

Controversy is likely over whether such label are appropriate - but I guess any publicity is good publicity.

"19 Crimes has joined forces with Universal Monsters to unveil their spookiest pours yet of a delicious Red Blend and Cabernet Sauvignon featuring Dracula and Frankenstein," the press release spruiks perkily.

"The limited-edition wines are launching just in time for Halloween and bring Universal Pictures' classic monster characters to life with newly reimagined artwork, featuring glow-in-the-dark labels and a new boundary pushing AR experience."

Now not many adults I know are attracted by glow-in-the-dark labels, so what exactly is the target market here?

"19 Crimes and Universal Monsters is the perfect collaboration for Halloween and an opportunity to introduce 19 Crimes to brand new enthusiasts," says Treasury Americas Chief Marketing Officer Carl Evans.

The question is: Just how old are the possible new enthusiasts?

"You'll be able to hear Dracula and Frankenstein come to life on the label through augmented reality, inviting people to experience wine in a rebellious but fun and engaging way, which is the heart of 19 Crimes," Evans says.

I'm not impressed. But then I'm not 12 years old.

Treasury Wine Estates swoops on premium US producer

Australian industry giant Treasury Wine Estates has pounced to purchase a leading premium wine producer in California.

Treasury - which owns brands ranging from Penfolds and Wynns Coonawarra Estate to 19 Crimes and Squealing Pig - today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire DAOU Vineyards.

The luxury wine business founded by brothers and co-proprietors Georges and Daniel Daou will command an "upfront consideration" of $US900 million, plus an additional earn-out of up to $100 million.

The press release says the "transformative deal will accelerate TWE's focus on a portfolio that is increasingly luxury-led with a greater presence in key growth markets such as the US".

Founded in 2007 and based in Paso Robles, California, DAOU is billed as the fastest-growing luxury wine brand in the US trade over the past year. It is known for its award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon-based Patrimony wines.

DAOU should prove a strong complement to TWE's existing portfolio in upper-luxury price points and fills a key portfolio opportunity for Treasury in the $20-40 range in the US, as well as strengthening its luxury portfolio in the $40+ range.

Tim Ford, the CEO of Treasury Wine Estates, said: "The US is the world's largest wine market and we're beyond thrilled to add DAOU to our portfolio, cementing our position as a global luxury wine leader.

"This is a transformative acquisition that will accelerate the growth of our luxury portfolio globally and paves the way for new luxury consumer experiences. DAOU is an award-winning luxury wine business with an outstanding track record for growth and we have grand plans for DAOU to become the next brand with the international scale and luxury credentials of Penfolds.

"With DAOU, we will be well-positioned to connect with a new generation of wine lovers, combining tradition with innovation, culture-led experiences, and global distribution."

"The last frontier has always been international, and as part of the Treasury Wine Estates portfolio, we have unlocked the potential to be amongst the highest-end wines for consumers to enjoy globally," said Georges and Daniel Daou, who will remain with the business.

"In Treasury Wine Estates, we have found a partner that not only understands the value of our brand and the premium assets we have cultivated but also the importance of ensuring that we maintain a relentless focus on quality and craftsmanship as we step into our future. 

"Both companies are change leaders and by joining forces, we will continue to boldly disrupt the industry and bring the very best in wine and luxury experiences to consumers around the world."

Visitors to Tasmania flock to cellar doors

Cool-climate Tasmanian wine is very much in vogue right now - as are visits to Tasmanian cellar doors.

The latest Tasmanian Tourism visitor statistics report show that over 300,000 interstate and international visitors dropped into one of the island state's cellar doors during the year to June 2023.

It is the first time that reported cellar door visitation has exceeded 300,000 people, with this segment of visitors spending 40% more than other visitors to Tasmania and representing 24% of all visitors.

Wine Tasmania CEO Sheralee Davies revealed the new data in releasing the new 2024 Tasmanian Wine Trails publication.

The new guide coincides with two major wine festival weekends coming up with the Open Vineyards weekend in Southern Tasmania running from November 3-5, and the Effervesence sparkling wine festival in the north of the state from November 10-12. See and

“Tasmanian cellar doors continue to attract more interstate and international wine lovers every year," Davies says. "This is the highest number of recorded visitors, reflecting the ever-increasing global demand and interest in our exceptional wines.

“When these high-value visitors travel to Tasmania, they spend time in our regional areas, enjoying our broader hospitality and tourism offerings and everything this amazing island has to offer.

“With exceptional quality but reduced wine availability in 2023 [courtesy of Mother Nature], visiting Tasmania and its cellar doors is the best way for people to experience the depth and diversity of our wines, with some wine producers reserving their most sought-after wines exclusively for cellar door visitors.”

The Tasmanian Wine Trails publication is a free guide to the island’s best wine experiences and complementary activities. It is released as a printed A5 publication, an interactive online version and a condensed A3 map.

The Tasmanian Wine Trails booklet profiles four geographic areas – the North West, Tamar Valley, East Coast and Southern wine trails, with information on key cellar doors and complementary experiences along each trail.

The online version can be accessed at, while free copies of the print publication are available at visitor information centres and at cellar doors.

Image: Craigie Knowe Vineyard: Wine Tasmania 

Monday 30 October 2023

Get away from it all in serious Tasmanian style

So you really want to get away from it all? 

You’d like to be in a quiet vineyard setting with spectacular views and no neighbours, but within an hour of a city. 

And while you want a rustic experience you don’t want to miss out on life’s little luxuries. Quality Smeg appliances, fast wifi, a wine fridge...  

Welcome to the Picker's Hut on the Invercarron vineyard property in the Jordan Valley, north of Hobart, where you’ll struggle to see another property no matter how intensely you scan the horizon. 

There are few better places to breathe in some fresh air, take in the tranquillity and re-charge the batteries. 

The pleasures here are simple ones - but satisfying. A barbecue overlooking the vines, perhaps, a game of chess, or the chance to read a book on the terrace while taking in the meandering Jordan River below. In winter you can toast some marshmallows over the firepit.  

The only sounds will be those of birds, or perhaps the bleating of a sheep or two. 

The Picker's Hut looks and feels modern, but has a fascinating history. 

It was an original hut from the Brighton Army Camp down the road, and was built to house Tasmanian soldiers before they departed to fight in World War Two. 

Those huts were also used to house prisoners of war from 1944-1946, immigrants from Europe in the late 1940s, as shelter for victims of the 1967 bushfires and intermittently for camps for army cadets.

The camp was decommissioned in 1999 and the huts had been sitting idle since then. 

This hut was transported to the Invercarron vineyard in in 2016 and had been used by vineyard workers and fruit pickers before being repurposed in a rather glamorous way. 

Although the external structure has changed, the original foundations and floorboards are the same. 

The Picker's Hut has two bedrooms and is suitable for a maximum of four guests, who have plenty of room to stretch out, perhaps in front of the wood fire on a colder night. 

There is a bath - also with a view - and a shower in the bathroom, as well as a separate toilet. 

The owners - the Jones family, who have farmed in the Jordan Valley for seven generations -  have thought of just about everything from the fully equipped kitchen with a range of cooking utensils and well-stocked pantry to large windows in every room to provide panoramic views. 

There is an excellent house book with details on the hut and nearby destinations. 

Hobart is just 45 minutes away, but you'll need to bring dinner supplies as there are no local restaurants that you can pop out to. 

Day trip options include the Derwent Valley and Coal River Valley wine regions, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and the growing town of New Norfolk, home to the popular Agrarian Kitchen eatery and cooking school. 

The Invercarron vineyards contain pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris grapes - and visitors are encouraged to take a stroll through the vines.

The rate of $595 per night includes a welcome basket of breakfast provisions including cereals, fresh farm eggs, a loaf of local sourdough bread, butter and condiments, as well as a bottle of estate pinot noir. 

Guests are encouraged to book direct and save. See

The writer was a guest of the Picker's Hut 

Wise Wolf delivers a sustainable wine message

Wise Wolf is a new range of wines from Banrock Station, sold in bottles that are made with 91% recycled glass. 

Which is a great innovation from owners Accolade Wines. 

The only issue is that the packaging looks very similar to Wolf Blass Wines, owned by Treasury Wine Estates, and the name also invites confusion from non-wine savvy consumers. Or maybe it's just me. 

A French range was launched last year in European markets and the new Wise Wolf range for Australia features labels made from 100% upcycled sugarcane, caps made with 26% less materials than average caps and wine cartons are made from 100% recycled paper pulp.

"As one of the largest wine companies in the world, we are focused on leading the pack with innovations that make real and lasting change," says the release. 

The first wines in the Australian range are an Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc and a Limestone Coast Chardonnay, with a Barossa Shiraz to follow in May next year.

Wise Wolf by Banrock Station is available now in major retailers including Dan Murphy’s, BWS and First Choice. 

If you want to know more check out

Sunday 29 October 2023

When your pilot makes an error

Everyone who takes a commercial flight hopes that their pilot does not make an error.

A pilot for British budget airline easyJet made a doozy this week - but fortunately no one got hurt.

British holidaymakers experienced a dramatic start to their Mallorca holiday when their easyJet flight from Birmingham to Palma Airport touched down and was immediately surrounded by armed police and the Civil Guard.

The reason for the panic was a a cockpit hijack alert activated ‘by mistake,’ Travel Mole reported.

The Spanish police operation - which involved around 20 officers - is apparently normal protocol when hijack alerts are activated.

The aircraft was escorted away from the airport terminal and inspected by the armed officers before being given the all clear.

The pilot was interviewed and confirmed it was a false alarm that he activated in error just as the flight was about to land.

The return flight to Birmingham was delayed by about 90 minutes because of the incident.

Qantas adds Paris flights for summer 2024

Qantas is adding another direct service between Australia and Europe with the launch of a new route between Perth and Paris, just in time for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and European summer.

Following the success of the national carrier’s direct flights from Perth to London and Rome, the new year-round route will see Qantas operate to the French capital for the first time in nearly two decades, cutting around three hours off the current fastest travel time from Perth to Paris.

From July 12, 2024, the 17-hour Perth-Paris flights will initially operate four days per week during the peak European summer using the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Services will reduce to three per week from mid-August 2024.

Qantas Group CEO Vanessa Hudson said the airline was thrilled to put Paris back on the Qantas map with a direct link for Australians to the French capital for the first time.

“This route has been on our wish list for a while and we think customers will be as pleased as we are to see it go on sale today,” Hudson said.

“Our direct flights to London and Rome have been hugely popular and Paris is the next most-requested destination, so we know the demand for this service will be strong as well.

“Some of the first customers on these flights will be Australian athletes heading to Paris to compete at the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“We’re the only airline offering these direct flights rather than going through a mid-point because the key market we serve is Australia. Our in-flight service is designed with long-haul travel in mind.

“The schedule we’ve announced today will add more than 75,000 seats between Australia and Europe each year and we’ll be working with Tourism WA to help make the most of the opportunity to bring tourists here, knowing that direct flights are a big factor in people deciding where to travel.”

The new flights will operate through Qantas’ existing terminal at Perth Airport (Terminal 3), which will allow seamless connections to other domestic destinations in Australia.

Western Australian Premier Roger Cook said: 
“Securing new direct aviation services like this is absolutely vital to drive travellers to Western Australia, inject visitor spend into our economy and create jobs in the tourism and hospitality industries.”

The Paris service will also offer connections to more than 70 destinations across Europe, including Barcelona, Munich, Frankfurt and Athens, and 12 destinations within France through Qantas’ network of partners.

A “circle fare” also allows Qantas customers to fly into Paris and return to Australia from London or Rome on the one ticket.

Fares are on sale now starting from $1,899 from Perth via and through travel agents.

Discover one of Tasmania's most beautiful vineyard restaurants

Just half an hour north of Hobart, you'll find a newish vineyard eatery that offers one of Tasmania's best wine and food experiences - with views to match.

The Shed at Derwent Estate sits on a hill surrounded by vines, and looks down over the River Derwent.

On a sunny day there is no better place to enjoy a glass or two of wine and some local produce.

The original shed on the Derwent Estate land was built on the Mount Nassau property in the early 1900s but burnt down in the 1967 bushfires.

Rathbone Cottage (circa 1820) and the Homestead (circa 1830) survived and are still used today as the Derwent Estate tasting facility and as a private residence by the Hanigan family, who have lived and farmed here for five generations.

The Shearing and Tractor Shed replaced the original shed and in 2021 work began on “The Shed” Restaurant, which has been built in exactly the same footprint as the Shearing and Tractor Shed.

Many of the table bases have been built with timber from the Shearing Shed. 

It is a charming and rustic setting - and the vineyards have produced fruit for world-class wines including Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay.

We mixed and matched snacks with some wines by the glass, bypassing the Bruny Island oysters for parmesan and leek croquettes with lemon mayo; smoked duck breast with blackberry and a linseed and native pepper crisp. A super-rich Dorper lamb croquette with green tomato relish was the star of the show. 

We opted for the grilled octopus with Romesco sauce, black garlic and under-stated chimmichuri from the small plates and pan-fried blue-eye trevalla with buttered leek, sprouting broccoli and pickled radish from the large plates. Both were impressively presented and deftly cooked. 

There are several Vegan and vegetarian options, as well as desserts and cheeses with Tasmanian producers Pyengana and Grandvewe well represented.

The drinks list features around a dozen Derwent Estate wines by both the glass and the bottle, and a range of vintage wines dating back to 2010 on a by-the-bottle list.

We had the 2022 Sauvignon Blanc, 2022 Rosé and 2021 Chardonnay by the glass - all were of the usual excellent standard.

One worth adding to the "to visit" list for locals, and anyone visiting the Apple Isle. And just a short drive MONA. 

Derwent Estate is at 29 Lyell Highway, Granton TAS 7030. The cellar door is open 10am-5pm daily and The Shed Restaurant from 11am- 5pm Wednesday to Sunday. Bookings are recommended.



Saturday 28 October 2023

Bridging the gap: Sydney's night-time economy is bouncing back

On a recent visit to Sydney it was impressive to see restaurants busy and bustling - even early in the week.

An now data released this week by the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors (CCCLM) has reported an uptick in Sydney’s night-time economy with a growing number of establishments across the city and a boost in overall sales turnover.

Notable increases were reported across the retail, accommodation, food, drink, leisure and entertainment sectors, highlighting an opportunity for more consumer-facing businesses to adjust their trading patterns to service the growing night-time demand.

The Measuring the Australian Night Time Economy Report covers the 2021-2022 financial year, and despite the impact of Covid restrictions during part of this period, reported encouraging results for Sydney’s night-time economy.

“It’s heartening to see the trajectory of these results as we want to keep our city safe, open and welcoming for everyone at all times of day,” Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore said.

“For years our communities have told us they want a vibrant night-time city where businesses big and small can flourish.

“The report highlights an opportunity for businesses to extend, improve or diversify their evening activities to support a more interesting and successful night-time economy.”

Of the 89 local government areas analysed in the report, Sydney hosts the highest density of night-time establishments per square kilometre in Australia.

Across the week, most businesses remain open at some point on a Thursday night, (particularly for late night shopping), and Friday and Saturday nights have the highest concentration of businesses operating in later hours from 9pm to 3am.

View the complete Measuring the Australian Night Time Economy Report here.

Why Esca Bimbadgen is well worth a visit

Esca Restaurant at Bimbadgen has long been a de rigueur dining destination for anyone visiting the Hunter Valley. 

I think I've been eating here for close to three decades, and a recent visit confirmed that standards remain high.

For anyone wanting a teste of the best of the region, the three-, four- or five-course degustation is highly recommended. 

After a winery tour and tasting of classic semillons, chardonnays and shirazes, of course. 

The entrance overlooks the working winery and once you are seated, indoors, or on the terrace, you are greeted by spectacular vineyard views. 

You can choose from the tasting menu, or just a pizza from from the wood-fired oven, depending on your level of hunger. 

Choose from dishes like gorgonzola ravioli with green apple, brown butter and walnuts (mouther-wateringly good); yellowfin tuna ceviche, maybe grilled West Australian octopus with lemon, nduja, pangrattato and white onion. 

Meatier options might include the likes of pork croquette with green olives and Calabrian chilli, or duck breast with purple cabbage, agrodolce, native pepper and hazelnut.

It's hard to go past desserts, too, with choices including tiramisu, and a brown sugar pavlova with strawberries. 

Choose by the glass, or bottle, or there is a Premium Signature wine choice with six wines matched to five courses.    

Esca Restaurant is a NSW Finalist in the 2023 Restaurant and Catering Awards for Excellence - as Restaurant in a Winery and Contemporary Australian Restaurant, Formal. 

Although it is not that formal, really. 

While the food is serious, the vibe is very relaxed. 

We were hosted by Sophie Andrews (regional GM for Bimbadgen) and assistant winemaker Sam Boyd, so ate and drank extremely well. An afternoon nap was needed. 

Esca is open for lunch Wednesday to Saturday from noon and for dinner Friday and Saturday from 6pm. 

For details see

The writer was a guest of Esca Bimbadgen

Friday 27 October 2023

Debt-ridden airline "on the brink"

If you have flights booked with Pakistan International Airways then you'd better keep your fingers, and toes, crossed.

The Pakistan flag carrier could be on the verge of ‘total collapse’, travel industry website TravelMole reports.

PIA has been cancelling dozens of flights daily for several days due to its lack of funds to purchase aviation fuel.

Some media reports said Pakistan State Oil has suspended fuel deliveries due to unpaid bills, although this has been denied.

PIA, which has been flying internationally since 1955, has been looking for another government bailout, but the Asian nation has serious debt issues.

Political and economic uncertainty has sparked inflation and fuel prices have surged.

This has in turn led to widespread protests, causing more turmoil.

PIA is currently on the market for privatisation but the fact it has cancelled over 300 flights over the past 10 days is unlikely to encourage potential buyers.

New-look Stonier snaps up talented Grounds

Stonier Wines on the Mornington Peninsula has claimed a coup with the appointment of Julian Grounds as technical director to oversee the winery and vineyard under its new ownership.

West Australian-born Grounds, who will have equity in the business, has spent the last five vintages at leading New Zealand producer Craggy Range, where he was chief winemaker. He has been keen to return to Australia. 

Well-credentialed Grounds has had stints in Burgundy, Margaret River, Central Otago and Oregon and was senior winemaker at Giant Steps in the Yarra Valley, before returning to Margaret River to join McHenry Hohnen as chief winemaker in early 2017.

Later that year, he was named Dux of the Len Evans Tutorial, before heading to Hawke's Bay.

Circe Wines, owned by three families, acquired Stonier from Accolade Wines in the middle of last year. Former chief winemaker Justin Purser will pursue his own project in Beechworth and work as a consultant.  

Co-owner Aaron Drummond - who worked with Grounds at Craggy Range - also reports a new look to the Stonier cellar door, with a new fireplace and new seating. Outside there are now heaters and wind-proof blinds.

Also new is a providore fridge "with the best local cheese, breads and charcuterie".

Millers delivers fresh bread every weekend, but and will also be making focaccias to match the wines.

Drummond reports: "In the vineyard, our organic farming roll out is going really well and already the vineyard is looking visibly healthier.

"As part of this organic regime we are now turning the soil undervine rather than spraying chemicals to kill weeds. We are big believers that great wine is grown in the vineyard, and with all of the work we are doing on soil health, I really feel this will translate nicely in the coming vintages."

Thursday 26 October 2023

They shoot horses don't they? Yes, all the time

It is the peak of the horse racing season in Australia with the Melbourne Cup just around the corner.

Which means huge crowds, big money for bookmakers, a massive boost for tourism and, usually, several horses being pushed beyond their limits and dying.

The 2023-24 season in Australian began on August 1 - and in the very first week of the new 'racing year' 10 horses were killed due to injuries sustained on Australian racetracks.

That following a record year of racehorse death in Australia in 2022-23 - with 168 horses dying at race tracks around the nation.

The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR) published its Deathwatch 2023 Report this week, which reflected the grimmest toll since CPR started recording race-day deaths in 2014.

The record number was a 20% increase in racehorse deaths from the previous year and represented a horse being killed on an Australian racetrack every two days from August 1, 2022 to July 31 this year.

CPR campaign director Elio Celotto says this season is on track to be even worse than its predecessor.

“It is simply not good enough for the racing industry to be putting out propaganda videos about how much they care about their horses when they are turning a blind eye to all the horses killed on the track,” Celotto says.

"We’re seeing the racing industry do what it always does when it tries to regain the confidence of the public. It spends more and more money on the marketing machine instead of doing the real work of caring about its horses.”

CPR has been researching and publishing a record of deaths caused by racing-related injuries because the racing industry does not collate and publish the horrific data, he says.

CPR monitors every race in Australia to keep an annual count of the gruesome stats.

It says 51 of the 168 horses killed by racing last season died past the winning post, meaning many were suffering injuries while being beaten and pushed beyond their limits to the finish line.

New South Wales has the most blood on its hands of any state with 53 deaths, followed by Queensland with 40 and Victoria with 39.

The report revealed Racing Victoria was the biggest culprit of not reporting the cause of death of a horse - failing to do so on 16 separate occasions.

"Efforts to hide deaths are greater than ever,” Celotto says. “When the racing industry chooses to ignore calls for transparency, it means it has much to hide.”

And he says deaths are actually higher than reported.

“Many sustain injuries and are taken off the racetrack and later euthanised. This way their deaths don’t have to appear in stewards’ reports. The industry records them as ‘retired’ and wipes their hands of them.

“If the racing industry was serious about animal welfare, it would offer complete transparency about the retirement of all its horses.

“As the nation prepares to get into party mode for the Melbourne Cup, people need to know they are actually ‘celebrating’ the maiming and murder of a magnificent, highly intelligent and sensitive animal on an industrial scale.

“I’m sure the Champagne wouldn’t taste so sweet if people were aware of how cruel and bloodthirsty the sport is.”

Worth bearing in mind.

Image: Abdullah Minhas, 

Carr bubbling over bright new era for Arras

Esteemed fizzicist Ed Carr is all smiles.

Carr was in Hobart recently to show off the latest premium releases in the House of Arras range - Australia's most-awarded range of sparkling wines.

But GOTR also needs to ask him about the recent sale of the Arras brand to Handpicked Wines, a deal that was officially finalised today.

Handpicked announced last month it had acquired House of Arras from Accolade Wines including the brand, 24 hectares of premium vineyards, inventory and the Bay of Fires winery and cellar door at Pipers River, Tasmania.

Under the terms of the sale, Accolade has entered into a long-term agreement to continue to produce and bottle all House of Arras brands under contract with Handpicked Wines.

The grapes will continue to be sourced and pressed in Tasmania and the wines will be made at existing facilities in the Accolade network.

“I am thrilled that I can continue the House of Arras tradition as chief winemaker under the new ownership of Handpicked Wines," brand innovator Carr said.

"I look forward to being part of an enthusiastic and dynamic team that can further grow the global recognition of our Arras brand. Handpicked Wines is the right custodian to evolve and build upon our worldwide reputation as Australia’s premier sparkling producer.”

Handpicked Wines CEO and founder William Dong said: “We are proud to achieve such a significant milestone in our company’s history and, more importantly, being able to keep the Arras brand and its talented team together under the ownership of an Australian family-owned producer.

“We are confident that the Arras brand will further elevate our current portfolio of luxury brands and bring exceptional choice, craftsmanship and quality to our partners and customers. Ultimately, our focus is about creating storied and authentic brands that evoke a sense of well-being and longing. These core values and the energy is what lies at the heart of our company culture.”

When I chatted to Carr last week, he was very upbeat about both the deal, and the new premium releases from Arras, hitting the market in time for Christmas (below).

He's positively buoyant about the new chapter.

"I believe that this will be positive for the Arras drinker," he said. "Handpicked Wines are very much premium focused and they want to support the brand and take it further, so there is no need for lover of Arras to be concerned. 

"We will be looking at increasing the markets and Handpicked has good contacts and distribution channels.

"I think it will be positive for me; the wines will be made exactly the same way. Production-wise nothing will change, and quality will remain the focus - along with aged releases.

"We've settled into a pattern with a group of wines that are released after four years, another a group after eight, and others even longer."      

A brand new release you might want to consider is the first Arras Brut Elite Rosé Cuvée 1801 (around $65), a multi-vintage based rosé style that is a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier and is vibrant and elegant with impressive structure.

All the wines are, as you would expect, stylish, concentrated and elegant, but the ones that particularly took my fancy included the fabulous Arras 2015 Blanc de Blanc (around $95); the perfect match for Christmas seafood with just 1% of pinot noir in the mix alongside the chardonnay. This is super-elegant and impressively pristine.

For those looking for complexity, the 2008 Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged (around $200) has spent over 13 years on lees, building layers of flavours. Think green apple, spice and toasty notes as waves of pleasure penetrate your palate. 

Then there is the Arras Grand Vintage 2015 ($115); the 17th release of the classic with chardonnay comprising 66.7%, and pinot noir 33.2% of a complex, brilliantly fresh wine that showcases quality cool-climate Tasmanian fruit.

Whatever your budget, you really can't go wrong.  

Australians have a taste for imported wines

Australian wine drinkers have a healthy appetite for imported wines, Wine Australia has reported.

Imported wine has an estimated 20% share by volume on the domestic market in Australia - and more by value.

New Zealand accounts for approximately half of all imported wine, followed by France (20%), Italy (17%) and others (10%).

Customs figures show total wine imports have grown from 82 million litres in 2014 to 106 million litres in the year 2023.

Wine Australia says: "It is no surprise that other wine-producing countries are targeting this market in a competitive, free-trade global environment, characterised by declining demand and excess supply."

Imports from France and Italy have both grown by a compound annual growth rate of around 7% since 2014, although figures have dropped over the past two years.

Wine Business Solutions reported Australian wine-producing states and New Zealand lost ground to European countries in 2023 in terms of share of wine listings in licensed premises across Australia.

Overall, wine listings from France increased by 16% to be second only to South Australia, while Italy grew 1% to take third spot from Victoria, which slipped from second to fourth.

Another warning sign for Australian producers is that although the volume of French wine imports may have declined in the past 12 months, the value increased by 9% overall, driven by Champagne (up 30%).

Overall, French wine imports account for 49% of the total value of imports. 

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Do you get confused between Sweden and Switzerland?

You would think that only a moron in a hurry would struggle to tell the difference between Switzerland and Sweden.

Other than the fact that both countries are in Europe and have names that begin with the same letter, they are fairly easy to tell apart.

But they are apparently being mixed up all the time, perhaps by the same folks who cannot get their heads around the fact that Australia and Austria are different countries.

Incredibly, about 120,000 people each year Google the question: “Are Sweden and Switzerland the same?”.

Now tourism officials in Sweden want to end the confusion, Travel Mole reports.

The Visit Sweden tourist board wants to make the distinction between the two clear and the first draft of a proposed  agreement between Sweden and Switzerland has been drafted.

Research from Visit Sweden suggests that over two-thirds of British people were unable to locate Sweden on a map. But that is not really a surprise. I suspect many could not find London on a map either.

The survey found 13% of Britons thought Sweden and Switzerland were the same place and that 50% of American respondents confessed to a lack of confidence in distinguishing between Swedish and Swiss cultures.

A number of Brits also wrongly highlighted Ikea (15%) and Abba (13%) as things they loved about Switzerland.

“If people struggle to separate our two countries, we need to help them," said Susanne Andersson, CEO of Visit Sweden.

"We can’t change the names of our nations, but we can become more distinct.

“It’s time to decide who promotes what, and hopefully we can reach an agreement.”

Check out

Image: Stockholm Old Town in Sweden, not Switzerland. Credit: Visit Sweden  

Sydney's new rooftop bar opens its doors

Sydney has a trendy new rooftop bar in time for summer.

Harper Rooftop Bar opened today for guests to enjoy cocktails al fresco style in the city centre.

It is being promoted as the largest open-air rooftop bar in the CBD and is located on Level 7 of the Kimpton Margot Sydney hotel. 

Harper has a rooftop pool, colourful pod seating, long dining tables and plenty of greenery.

Chef Luke Mangan has created a contemporary Mediterranean-inspired menu designed for sharing.

“Finally the cat’s out of the bag - Harper Rooftop Bar is open and we can’t wait to see Sydneysiders enjoying this amazing open-air rooftop bar with a rosé in hand,” Mangan said.

“We’ve created a delicious Mediterranean-inspired menu full of small, share-style plates using fresh, local produce and plenty of amazing seafood - the perfect combo to celebrate the warm summer days.”

The Harper drinks menu features bespoke cocktails, summer-inspired slushies, and award-winning wines, the press release says. There will also be a "build-your-own-Martini station".

“Harper Rooftop Bar is an immersive space that celebrates the finer things in life which is reflected in the F&B offering," says Jean-Baptiste Robert, Pro-invest Group’s regional director of food and beverage.

"The drinks menu has a fun, playful vibe with premium cocktails and delightful slushies complemented by an extensive range of wines available both by the glass and bottle.

“It’s a destination in its own right and the place for people to gather with amazing food, laidback tunes and energetic vibes in the pulsing heart of the CBD.”

Opening hours will be: Thursday 4pm-10pm, Friday and Saturday from noon until late, and Sundays from noon-10pm.

To kick off the party season, Harper Rooftop Bar will host a Melbourne Cup celebration from 12.30-3.30pm on Tuesday, November 7.

There will be race on big screens, three hours of free-flowing beer, wine and non-alcoholic options, roaming gourmet canapes and live DJs spinning tracks. You'll need to back a winner or two with the price at $195 per person.

For further information visit

My big question: Who the hell is Harper?

Images: Dexter Kim 

The changing face of the premium whisky drinker


It is not so long ago that the image of your average whisky drinker was an old buffer with a red nose wearing a tweed jacket with leather patches.

Fast forward and today's Scotch drinker might well be a hipster in an inner-city cocktail bar enjoying a whisky-based cocktail.

The whisky market has changed rapidly - with increased demand for unique, quality product.

The style of whisky matters to more knowledgeable consumers - as does the way it was matured.

For over 180 years, The Dalmore has been known for multi-cask maturation, hand-selecting casks from the world's finest producers of sherry, and rum, and using them to craft layered whiskies of finesse.

The Dalmore is part of the Whyte and Mackay group that sells single malt and blended Scotch whiskies, liqueurs and vodkas. 

Even in a fast-changing market there is increased demand for a premium product like The Dalmore - and the company is boosting its presence and increasing stocks in Australia, says charming brand whisky specialist Mark Bruce. 

“The Dalmore is a brand that promises nothing less than the best, with a relentless focus on realising the full potential of our single malt and delivering whisky that is first in its class and a masterpiece of its craft," he says. 

" Right now is an exciting time for The Dalmore in Australia: we have stronger distribution and availability than ever before, and we are thrilled to be in a position where more people are able to experience our portfolio of unparalleled single malt whiskies.

"There is very definitely a changing demographic in the spirits space that began with the popularity of gin and vodka. There is more and more growth and more and more demand - but there is still a focus on quality. 

"Globally recognised brands like The Dalmore are still very much at the forefront for serious whisky lovers. We are also finding there is increasing interest in learning more about the process and different ways of enjoying whisky - and Australia is a definite focus for us over the next decade."

Founded in 1839 on the banks of the Cromarty Firth in the Scottish Highlands, The Dalmore has a history dating back over 180 years.

It is easy to spot on shelves crowded with whiskies from around the world with a 12-point silver stag emblem on each bottle. The emblem was bestowed upon Colin of Kintail, the first chieftain of Clan Mackenzie, after he saved the life of King Alexander III of Scotland from the fury of a charging stag.

At the home of The Dalmore, the distillery has an idiosyncratic collection of stills, and a range of casks that have been at some of the world’s finest wineries, bodegas and rum distilleries.

Leading The Dalmore’s range is the Principal Collection, a collection of eight single malt whiskies.

The Dalmore 21-Year-Old is the pinnacle of the collection - finished in 30-year-old Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso Sherry casks. It also features the annual release of The Dalmore 18-Year-Old and the King Alexander III.

I tried the very smooth and distinctive Port Wood Reserve - matured in American ex bourbon barrels and aged tawny port pipes - which is deliciously fruity and nutty and at the more affordable end of the range. It can also be used in a highball cocktail. 

The Principal Collection and wider portfolio are now available across retailers nationally, including Dan Murphy's. For more details see


Tuesday 24 October 2023

"Forgetful" US politician arrested after flying with a gun in his briefcase

They really are as dumb as they seem.

Americans love their guns. And they like to take them everywhere.

Even into foreign countries where they are illegal - and onto planes.

After all, that is their God-given right as Americans.

The latest idiot to expose themselves to ridicule is Washington state senator Jeff Wilson, a Republican (of course).

He was was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport (above) on charges of possessing a locally unregistered firearm, Travel Mole reported.

Wilson said he discovered the weapon on his flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong when he reached into his briefcase for a piece of chewing gum (how very American), his office said in a statement.

An easy mistake to make. Who doesn't have a gun in their briefcase?

Baggage screeners in Portland, Oregon, apparently failed to notice the unloaded pistol in his briefcase when he went through security - how reassuring.

Wilson said that when he landed at Hong Kong International Airport, he told customs officials there about the gun. Other reports said the gun was discovered during a search.

“It was an honest mistake,” Wilson said in his statement.

He said the pistol was properly registered in Washington, although unregistered in Hong Kong.

Wilson said he had started a five-week vacation (do most Americans get five weeks of annual leave?) with his wife, his office said. He hoped to resume his planned travel to Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia once the matter was resolved.

Under Hong Kong’s laws, carrying firearms without a license is punishable by up to 14 years in jail and a fine.

Wilson was initially detained and has been bailed to face a hearing October 30.

Discover some of the best gourmet experiences in Tasmania

Long-time favourite The Agrarian Kitchen offers some of the best gourmet experiences in Tasmania.

Rodney Dunn and Severine Demanet now offer weekly cooking, gardening and lifestyle classes at their base in New Norfolk - under an hour from Hobart.

A one-acre walled garden has been established on-site allowing cooking class guests to forage for the ingredients that they will use in the class. Full day classes will commence from $440 per person with a maximum 12 guests per class.

These courses include a guided garden tour, hands-on cooking experience and a three-course lunch matched with Tasmanian wine.

The menu is crafted from the best of the garden that day, while the masterclasses are for those looking for specific knowledge -from learning the butchery elements of how to breakdown a carcass, to making your own cheese, bread, charcuterie or pastry.

A whole range of classes and specific skill-based workshops are also available, from grafting fruit trees and propagation, to protected growing and composting.

The Agrarian Kitchen began back in 2008 when Dunn and Demanet opened The Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School and Farm within their home in The Old Schoolhouse in Lachlan.

They later took over the Bronte building in nearby New Norfolk’s Willow Court - the town’s old mental asylum. The Agrarian Kitchen restaurant was born in June 2017, followed by the more casual The Kiosk.

For full details visit

Meet the world's largest outdoor wine event

Australians like to think they can throw a wine party.

But Aussies have nothing to match an extravaganza coming up in Hong Kong this week that is expected to attract a staggering 140,000 people over four days.

That is the total of wine lovers expected at the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival, which returns this week after a five-year Covid-enforced hiatus.

Dubbed as the largest world-class outdoor gourmet party, the event returns from October 26-29 at the Central Harbourfront Event Space in Hong Kong.

Organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), the festival will showcase a collection of wines, spirits and delicacies from 36 countries and regions.

There will be bites from around the globe to be enjoyed against the picturesque backdrop of Victoria Harbour.

Organisers say there will be around 300 booths with wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy, and the US, as well as from smaller producers like Moldova, Finland and Thailand.

Among the Australian brands being showcased are Ox Hardy, Koonowla, Kellermeister, St Hallett, Petaluma and, of course, Penfolds. Also Hong Kong-owned West Australian brand Palinda.

I am, however, a little concerned about the wine knowledge, with the official website listing Koonowla 2018 Riesling as a red wine.   

China’s emerging wine scene will also be in the spotlight, with selections from Shandong, Ningxia, and Yunnan, Chinese wine site Vino-Joy reported.

There will also be live music performances.

Monday 23 October 2023

Sorry; your airline forgot to offload your luggage

Error-prone Indian airline IndiGo came under fire after forgetting to offload passenger baggage and taking off again with their suitcases still on board.

The blunder came just a few weeks after IndiGo neglected to put an elderly couple on their connecting flight to India at Istanbul airport a few weeks ago, The Times of India reported.

The IndiGo international flight bound for Bengaluru, India had to make a U-turn to Singapore Changi Airport after the error.

Not long after take off it had to return to Changi after the carrier "forgot to offload luggage" from a previous international flight.

The Airbus A321neo landed back at Changi about one hour after it took off.

It contributed to a four-hour delay for passengers - and a very long wait for passengers at the baggage carousel.

It is unclear how the bags remained on board.

“We acknowledge the baggage error on part of our service partners at Singapore airport and we sincerely regret the inconvenience,” the airline said.

IndiGo is India’s largest airline operating up to 2,000 flights daily.

China news sees optimism return to the Australian wine industry

There were toasts all round in the Australian wine industry today after Prime Minister Albanese announced that China has agreed to a review of the 220% import duties currently imposed on Australian bottled wine.

There has been an oversupply of Australian wine over the past three years after Chinese markets virtually closed.

"This is great; all Australian winemakers are very happy about this," said Mitchell Taylor, managing director Taylors Wines, talking to Channel 9.

"We've been suffering for the past three years."

Treasury Wine Estates CEO Tim Ford said: “It’s great to see an agreement for an expedited pathway forward to allow our Australian brands and wine to be sold in the Chinese market.

"There are only positives to come out of a favourable review, for the Chinese consumer, customers, and the wine category, as well as for the Australian wine industry and TWE.

"We're well placed to rebuild our Australian wine export business to China should tariffs be removed at the end of the review period."

NSW Wine Industry Association president Mark Bourne echoed that the announcement was good news for the entire industry.

“This is an encouraging step forward that will hopefully lead to the removal of Chinese import duties on Australian wine,” Bourne said.

“It is currently a very difficult time for the wine industry. Following several seasons of challenging weather events and the Covid pandemic, we are now facing worldwide falling consumer demand and an oversupply of wine.

"The announcement of a potential pathway to resolve the multi-year trade dispute, and the reopening of the Chinese market, is positive news for many grape growers and winemakers.”

It has been reported the Chinese Government’s review may take five months to complete.

“Under the current circumstances, we are hopeful that the proposed approach is the best way for the Australian wine industry to achieve its desired result within the shortest time frame.” 

Prior to the imposition of crippling import duties in 2020, the value of Australian wine exports to China were $1.2 billion annually.

Bamboo Airways disappears from Australian skies

The dangers of booking with low-cost start-up airlines.   

Bamboo Airways, which debuted in 2022, has abruptly quit the Australian market - and cancelled all its long-haul flights.

The Vietnam-based airway has sacked all its Australian staff and announced a move into “long-term restructuring”.

Bamboo offered direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City, along with Melbourne to Hanoi.

"It is with a heavy heart that I advise all Bamboo Airways Australia staff have been made redundant including my national sales manager role,” the former national sales manager Australia and New Zealand, Brad Crawford, said on LinkedIn.

Other long-haul routes scrapped include London and Frankfurt, which were served by Boeing 787 jets the airline is phasing out.

Many Australians used Bamboo as a budget option for flying to Europe via Vietnam.

"For the route network, Bamboo Airways has improved commercial efficiency by reducing the frequency of a number of inefficient routes with low passenger demand while increasing operation on routes recording high demand," the airline said on its website.

"The carrier's fleet structure is expected to incorporate narrow-body aircraft and jets, which will be deployed on key domestic routes, strongly emphasizing trunk routes such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. The airline will also offer services on domestic tourist routes with high demand and international routes to south-east Asia."

For those who have bookings with Bamboo, the airline says: "Affected passengers will be promptly notified and assisted in adherence to the airline's policies and applicable laws."

Head off the beaten track with a seriously niche tome

Is a trip to Baldy Knob on your radar?

Dingo Tops, the Guy Fawkes Wilderness, or Rowleys Rock, perhaps?

Or maybe a picnic at Hanging Rock? 

This has to be one of the most niche books I have been sent for review.

But 4WD Treks of Northeast NSW delivers exactly what it says.

Author Yvonne Everett has put together a very useful, brilliantly illustrated guide to getting off the beaten track in one region of Australia with a lot to offer.

There are terrific maps, lots of good background info and details on campsites and picnic areas. there are 25 suggested itineraries in all.

If you are heading to the region and want to get away from it all, this is recommended. 

Unfortunately, that is probably less than 1% of you.

4WD TREKS of NORTHEAST NSW by Yvonne Everett. Published by Woodslane Press, RRP: $44.99. Available from all good bookstores and online.

Sunday 22 October 2023

Tourists warned they could be terror targets

The US wants to be the world's policeman.

But the global arbiter of what is good and evil - and the country that is what war more often than any other - has admitted that its politics put its citizens at increased risk around the globe.

The US State Department this weekend issued a global travel warning for all Americans abroad.

It advised all US nationals around the world to "exercise increased caution because of tensions in various locations around the world".

Increased tensions have the potential for ‘terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests, it said.

So look out loud, gum-chewing, baseball hats on backwards types. You are easy to spot.

The warning came as a response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and terrorist group Hamas.

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said: “We take a number of factors into consideration when making the determination.

“It’s not necessarily any one thing but everything that we’re watching around the world."

Travel advisories for Lebanon and Israel are currently at the highest level, with non-essential government staff and their families are asked to leave, Travel Mole reports.

Global travel warnings are fairly rare but the State Department issued a similar worldwide advisory last year when al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed.

US citizens are advised to "stay alert in locations frequented by tourists".

Australians - whose government has taken a strong pro-Israel stance - have been issued with a similar warning from the government's SmartTraveller app. 

"We continue to advise reconsider your need to travel to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories overall due to the volatile security situation, including the threat of terrorism, armed conflict and civil unrest," it said over the weekend.

"We continue to advise do not travel to Gaza, border areas with Gaza and border areas with Lebanon closed by Israeli authorities. We now also advise do not travel to the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) due to the volatile security situation.

"The situation is highly challenging and rapidly changing. Australians who want to leave are strongly encouraged to take the first available option. Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport remains open and commercial flights are available."

Do you really know where your seafood comes from?

An innovative hand-held scanner could change the way Australians buy their seafood.

Warming waters due to climate change, pollution, overfishing and fraud in the seafood supply chain means that knowing where our seafood comes from is more important than ever.

Australia has the third-largest fishing zone in the world, covering over 8 million square kilometres, , but it is estimated that over 60% of seafood eaten in Australia is imported from overseas. 

Researchers at UNSW Sydney are part of an ongoing collaborative project, led by ANSTO, that is developing novel ways to determine exactly where seafood has been sourced, and whether it has been farmed or was wild caught.

“The seafood supply chain, especially with seafood imported from across the globe, is quite long," says Associate Professor Jes Sammut, from the School of BEES.

"And there are various people at different points in the supply chain that handle a seafood product. In that process, there is the risk of what we call ‘food fraud’.”

A common type of food fraud is mislabeling. “For example, a product may say that it’s a barramundi fillet from Australia, when it’s really a barramundi fillet from overseas. Mislabeling can also happen at the retail end, so a cheaper product can be labelled as more expensive based on its origin and production method,” says Sammut.

Looking for solutions to these ongoing challenges, ANSTO scientists, led by Dr Debashish Mazumder and a research team at UNSW have developed protocols and mathematical models for a hand-held device that is able to determine the origin of seafood by providing a unique profile of its elements.

“The idea is to use the hand-held device at any point in the supply chain, providing details that can lead to a more sustainable and ethical seafood trade,” says Sammut.

This ongoing research is part of a huge collaborative effort between ANSTO, UNSW, Sydney Fish Market, Macquarie University and the National Measurement Institute.

“This device is really about empowering the consumer, empowering the retailer and also empowering the wholesalers to know more about the produce they’re buying and selling.”

In a recent study published in Food Control, the team used the hand-held X-ray device to locate the site of origin of black tiger prawns from across Australia, with over 80% accuracy.

“This paper brings us a step closer to seeing the scanner device being used on the fish-market floor, to determine in real time, where seafood has come from, and how it was produced,” says Sammut.

Image: Marco Brivo,