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Friday 21 June 2024

Barrels of fun: a new wine tasting experience in Rutherglen

 

Stanton & Killeen, a family owned winery that produces outstanding fortified wines, has opened a new speakeasy-style tasting space at its winery in Rutherglen, north-east Victoria.

The wine maker has transformed part of its century-old cellar into a cosy space surrounded by muscat barrels that is now open for group experiences and private hire.

The area is a new addition following a renovation of the old winery space.

Guests are able to step back in time and experience a 'Mystery of Muscat' tasting surrounded by old old oak barrels, or can book the space for friends or family groups.

The space is available for a minimum of four and maximum of 30 guests for a three-hour private experience featuring premium wines and gourmet provisions.

This is part of Stanton & Killeen's membership of Ultimate Winery Experiences of Australia.

The producer has a history stretching back seven generations and almost 150 years.

See https://www.stantonandkilleen.com.au/


Media interested in viewing the space or experiencing the new 'Mystery of Muscat' tasting please reach out to me via email on tori.johnson@ultimatewineryexperiences.com.au

Visa-free entry to China a bonus for Australians



Australian travellers and wine producers are among the big winners following the visit of Chinese Premier Li Qiang earlier this week.

Fresh after announcing visa-free access for New Zealand travellers to China, Li flew across the Tasman and offered the same benefits to Australians.

The visa relaxation moves gives Australians up to 15 days in China without the need for a $110 single-entry tourist visa. The visa-free entry will be valid for tourism, business or family visits.

Australians join New Zealand, Singapore, France, Japan, Spain and Thailand in having the perk, a sign of thawing relations between China and Australia.

“We agreed to provide each other with reciprocal access to five-year multiple entry visas for tourism, business and visiting family members - so as to better facilitate personal exchanges,” Li said.

Meanwile, Li Qiang made a historical visit to Australia’s popular winery Penfolds, which has resumed exports to China following the lifting of tariffs.

Treasury Wine Estates, Penfolds’ parent company, had CEO Tim Ford and managing director Tom King host Li.

The visit also included welcomes from South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas, Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell, and Foreign Minister Penny Wong at Magill Estate, guided by chief winemaker Peter Gago.

So the big guns were out in force.

Image: Beijing. Roberto Moreno, Scop.io 

Thursday 20 June 2024

Looking good: Hobart's Winter Feast glows

I get asked a lot: "What is Hobart's Dark Mofo Winter Feast like?"

OK. Think some of the best drink producers in Tasmania, some quirky food options, a main hall that is disturbingly red (colouring all my photos) , and an outside area with warming heat pots. 

There is a great vibe and it is very easy to spend a lot of money. Cards only. No cash allowed. 

The festival continues through Sunday and is well worth a visit. 

Here are some images of some of my favourite stalls, some I wish I'd got to but didn't, and some hints at the atmosphere. 

Get along if you can. You'll find all the details here: https://darkmofo.net.au/winter-feast 













  


Wine industry looks to boost gender equality/diversity


The Australian wine industry is launching a new survey to investigate the state of gender equality, and to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for progress in the grape and wine sector.

The collaborative effort is being run by Australian Grape & Wine’s Diversity, Equality and Inclusion in Wine (DEIW) committee and is funded by Wine Australia.

Research will be undertaken by Charles Sturt University and the University of New South Wales.

The research team will engage wine and grape sector stakeholders to identify recommendations and develop a practical toolkit for businesses and sector organisations, translating best practices and innovative ideas for gender equality, into actionable steps.

There's a whole lot of politically correct jargon in that one sentence, but hopefully the sentiment is serious.

Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Martin Cole said the study will help the sector tap the depth of diversity across the breadth of the sector’s value chain. Yikes.

“Achieving long-term sector profitability, resilience and sustainability means we must have the best people at the table," Cole said. "A vibrant future demands we look to broaden the expertise, experience and perspectives of those at decision-making tables across the value chain.

Gender equality and diversity were identified by the sector as a priority through recent consultation for the One Grape & Wine Sector Plan.

“This research project will build on efforts made by the sector in recent years, recognising the need to progress these, providing evidence-based support for ongoing improvement,” Cole said.

“Our goal is to equip the sector with practical resources to be more inclusive, fostering equality and diversity to strengthen business and sector performance.”

Australian Grape & Wine DEIW committee chair Ali Laslett said the grape and wine sector was a significant employer in regional areas and had shown commitment to increasing gender equality.

“Promoting gender equality aligns with the strategic priorities of many primary industries," she said.

"The DEIW committee identified several initiatives in our workplan, and we are delighted that our recommendation to provide practical resources for all businesses within the sector will be realised through this project.

"Our sector’s future success is built on practices that support and retain a diverse workforce.”

Cheesy but good news for Melbourne gourmets



Say fromage. 

Cheese lovers can celebrate winter in style as The Westin Melbourne welcomes the return of its High Cheese event to Allegro Restaurant.

The indulgent-sounding High Cheese menu has been curated in collaboration with two renowned cheese aficionados: brother-sister duo the Studd siblings, Ellie and Sam Studd.

The Studd siblings, both members of the International Guilde des Fromagers, have teamed up Apoorva Kunte, executive chef of The Westin Melbourne, to curate a three-tiered selection of sweet and savoury treats.

Each creation showcases a quality cheese from around the globe, and the nibbles are paired with a selection of wines from Scotchmans Hill, including some single-vineyard wines selected by chief winemaker Robin Brockett.

“We are very excited to bring back our much-loved High Cheese this year," says chef Apoorva.

"Drawing from my personal travels and through collaboration with the Studd siblings, we have come up with a menu that showcases some of the best producers from around the world and locally, with a few surprise dishes I know people will love.”

So think of dishes like cloth-aged Cheddar and candied apple scones, accompanied by whipped organic butter and Singing Magpie Smyrna quince nectar.

Savoury items, which feature on the second tier, include: tart of vine-ripened tomato tartare, Sarakatsani-style ewe's milk Galotyri, with Congo potato; Woombye triple cream layered with truffle, mushroom and macadamia cervelle de canut; and Dreaming Goat Dairy chevre, homemade fig and pistachio confiture.

Also featured willl be L'Artisan Mepunga Gruyere Welsh rarebit with Champagne and English mustard on olive and rosemary sourdough; and Le Conquerant baked Camembert studded with lemon thyme and garlic.

The cheese tastes will be served with grapes, lavosh, and date and apricot sourdough crisps with an assortment of sweets to follow.

The High Cheese offering will be available in Allegro Restaurant from this week until September and reservations are essential.

The price is $105pp including a glass of wine by Scotchmans Hill

Bookings at https://www.westinmelbournedining.com.au/highcheese

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Free cookbook showcases the cuisines of refugees



It is World Refugee Day on Thursday and Australia for UNHCR has launched a new online cookbook showcasing recipes by current and former refugees.

The aim is to raise money for the UN Refugee Agency.

Flavours of Hope includes recipes and stories from 10 individuals, including those who have found safety in Australia, and others living as refugees overseas.

“Although our contributors have survived extremely difficult experiences, they have not lost the urge to share what they have with others - in this case, their stories, their culture and their food,” Australia for UNHCR CEO Trudi Mitchell said.

“I encourage everyone to download the free book via our website to experience these amazing recipes and help support the cause.”

World Refugee Day is an annual celebration of the talent, contribution and resilience of refugees in communities.

Australia for UNHCR Ambassador and founder of Boost Juice, Janine Allis, is making a donation every time someone downloads the book.

These funds will go towards UNHCR’s life-saving work helping people flee conflict, disaster and persecution around the world.

Cooks featured in Flavours of Hope include former AFLW player and Australia for UNHCR ambassador Akec Makur Chuot, Melbourne restaurant owner Hamed Allahyari, and captain of the Afghan women’s football team, Fatima Yousufi.

“Afghan food has a very special taste," Yousifi says. "The flavours are unique and whenever those smells hit my nose, it takes me straight back to my childhood.”

“Eating Afghan food in Australia has allowed me to feel much more alive and connected.”

The free cookbook can be downloaded via: unrefugees.org.au/cookbook

Image: Fatima Yousufi and her mother Khadija. ©Australia for UNHCR/Sally Hulse


Italian flavours result in a wine success story



At a time of doom and gloom in much of the Australian wine industry it is full steam ahead at Dal Zotto Wines in Victoria's King Valley, where the brand is booming.

Over the last five years, Dal Zotto Wines has grown 12% year-on-year and the addition of an accommodation offering in 2023 has seen an increase in cellar door visitations by 20%.

To meet growing demand, the Dal Zotto family also purchased a 100 acre-vineyard in Whitlands, increasing vineyard holdings by 50%.”

As part of the expansion, Harry Brazel was recently appointed as CEO, joining chief winemaker Michael Dal Zotto, the former CEO, and sales and marketing director Christian Dal Zotto in the leadership team.

It is the first time the Dal Zottos have looked outside the family to employ someone in this pivotal role.

“I’ve been CEO for over 15 years and it’s time for a change and time for me to concentrate on the winemaking side of things,” says Michael Dal Zotto.

"The business growth has enabled us to look at Dal Zotto Wines more broadly and bring someone in, separate to the family, to steer the ship.

"It’s exciting to bring in a new perspective. Harry has a lot of fresh ideas and it’s time to create more opportunities. It’s what’s best for the business.”

Brazel has extensive business experience - including a stint in London - as was commercial manager of Limestone Coast Wines from 2017 to 2021.

“For me, it was the perfect position," he says. "I love wine and the wine industry, have the skill-set and I was already living in the region. I couldn’t have written the script better; it ticked a lot of boxes.”

Founded by Otto Dal Zotto, an Italian immigrant from Valdobbiadene who is Michael and Christian's father, Dal Zotto has a focus on Prosecco styles and Italian varietals. 

Image: Harry Brazel, Christian Dal Zotto, Michael Dal Zotto. Supplied.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Wolf Blass takes an "exhilarating journey" with some dragons



Marketing departments come up with some unlikely combinations.

How about this one: House of the Dragon x Wolf Blass?

Yes, you read that one right: a fantasy franchise Game of Thrones spin-off collab with one of Australia's best-known wine brands.

The blurb tells tells me that I should "embark on an exhilarating journey into the heart of Westeros with the eagerly awaited second season of the HBO Original series, House of the Dragon".

Apparently, "as war rages and alliances crumble, I can raise my banners with the House of the Dragon x Wolf Blass collection - the second collaboration between Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products and Wolf Blass wine."

Somehow, I simply can't guess how, I missed out on the first collab.

But here goes: The Wolf Blass House of the Dragon Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV is "a sparkling tribute to the majestic dragons that grace the skies".

Of course it is.

There are also a collab chardonnay and a red blend, with all the wines on sale online or at Dan Murphy's outlets.

Enjoy. 🍷🍷

Leading chefs aim to make sweet music with special Opera House dinners

 

Four of Australia's most prominent chefs will be hosting a series of special dinners at Sydney Opera House during August. 

Chefs of the House is a new dining experience starting on August 1 and featuring the four chefs who already pan handle at the Sydney icon. 

The four acclaimed Opera House chefs - Matt Moran (Opera Bar and House Canteen), Peter Gilmore (Bennelong), Mark Olive (Midden by Mark Olive) and Danielle Alvarez (Yallamundi Rooms) will each host two intimate shared-table dinners in one of the Opera House’s unique venues.

As each chef guides guests through their distinct food philosophy, 270-degree projections and live music performances honouring each chef’s theme will complement the dining experience.

Sounds like fun. Sounds expensive. 

Peter Grutt, general manager of food and beverage, says: "At the Sydney Opera House, we're passionate about providing locals and visitors with extraordinary one-of-a-kind experiences - whether that’s on the stage or the plate.

“Chefs of the House is an epic celebration of our chefs’ diverse talent and a uniquely personal way to experience their individual food philosophies.

“We can’t wait to invite guests in to experience the wonder and possibility of the Opera House, and the culinary artistry within.”

Each Chefs of the House menu will feature a signature dish that will also be available at their respective venues at the Opera House throughout August.

Winter Harvest Symphony from Danielle Alvarez (Yallamundi Rooms culinary director) will run on August 1-2. It will be an ode to the art of seasonal gastronomy with matched wines selected by sommelier Louella Mathews. 

Dreamtime by Mark Olive will run on August 8-9 will fuse native ingredients with contemporary cooking techniques and music from First Nations performers Marimayi. 

The Icons of Bennelong with Peter Gilmore will be held on August15-16 and will explore 50 years of Bennelong menus, showcasing premium Australian produce with paired fine wines. 

“It's an absolute honour to represent Bennelong and our incredible team for Chefs of the House," says Gilmore. 

The final dinners will be Ocean to Table by Matt Moran on August 29-30 with chef Moran reimagining the ‘Paddock to Plate’ philosophy he helped pioneer in Australia. The menu will be built on sustainably and locally sourced seafood served on bespoke plates glazed with crushed mollusc shells from third-generation ceramicist Sam Gordon.

“I’ve curated a menu that features some of my favourite seafood from around Australia," Moran says.


Star winemaker has a dual focus moving forward

 

Star winemaker Paul Hotker may have resigned after 17 years at Bleasdale in Langhorne Creek, but he has no intention of winding down. 

Hotker is taking up a new role as head of winemaking Longview Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills from July 1, as well as establishing his own wine consultancy. 

Hotker says he will be "offering my services on a consultancy basis to a wider audience". 

"With the wine sector going through another challenging period, it’s never been more important for wine businesses to make better wine and remain competitive," he says. 

" I am focusing on my key strengths, adding value and improving winemaking and production systems from vineyard to winemaking both from a quality and efficiency perspective. 

" I am offering audits and recommendations of process by variety, red or white, winery or full portfolio reviews with viticulture and winemaking recommendations to match client aspirations in wine quality and qualities. 

" I can also assist with classification tastings, wine assessment or guidance and assistance at the blending bench."

Hotker says he expects to spend the lion’s share of his time at Longview Vineyard, with whom he  has been working as a consultant, predominantly on red wine, over the past six years. 

Longview has multiple trophies and gold medals for its cabernet sauvignon and syrah wines, including a cabernet trophy at Melbourne Royal and red wine of show for syrah at last year’s Adelaide Hills Wine Show.

"I had ideas about starting a new [consultancy] venture along these lines a few years ago but Covid, bushfires, smoke taint, export challenges and a lack of a succession plan narrowed my focus whilst this was addressed," he said. 

"There have been four cracking vintages in a row at Bleasdale and there is plenty of good stuff in tank. Matt Laube will very ably succeed me in the senior winemaking role, assisted by Sam Rowlands, a winemaker with a Viti-background who joined Bleasdale two years ago [from Longview]. 

"They have an excellent cellar team and Sarah Keough remains in place as viticulturalist and knows the blocks and growers after years with Bleasdale and many more in ‘The Creek’."

During his time with Bleasdale, the team collected over show 85 trophies and 330 gold medals for Bleasdale and clients. 

At Longview, Hotker will work with the Saturno family. 

"The passion and drive all at Longview have for barbera and nebbiolo particularly, is infectious and the vineyard also produces excellent examples of some Adelaide Hills modern classics," he says. 

"Having spent six years getting to know each other, I am confident that I can make a great contribution to an already excellent business and the increase in my time and focus will help consolidate and support their plans.

"Longview is a terrific vineyard, with diverse slopes and aspects, soil types and varietal spread, along with one of the best meso-climates of ’The Hills’. They are a driven team that like to have fun whilst growing amazing fruit and producing compelling and delicious wines… what more could I ask for?"

Tiny town to show its resilience



The tiny Gippsland hilltop community of Mirboo North is bouncing back after the disastrous storm that hit the town in February.

The town's resilience will be on show when the Mirboo North Winterfest is held across the weekend of August 3-4.

The storm saw thousands of trees lost, the local pool destroyed and the Strzelecki Ranges community was without power for over a week and more than 30 families are still unable to live in their homes.

The Winterfest has grown into a major event on the Gippsland calendar as a celebration of food, arts and culture to brighten darkest winter days.

Launched in 2022 as a reimagining of the town’s long-running Arty Gras event, the 2024 festivities kick off on August 3 with food and drink stalls in Baromi Park from 4pm, serving throughout the afternoon and evening.

Stars of the Gippsland drinks scene in Sailors Grave Brewing, Gurneys Cider and South Gippsland Gin Co, will be slinging drinks alongside a bevy of food trucks.

Events will include drumming and dance workshops, a lantern parade and live music from Ally Row.

From 8:45pm on Saturday night the Mirboo North Shire Hall will be hopping to a music from Skazz - who blend ska and jazz.

The Sunday will showcase an Artisans Market from 9am-2pm and there will once again be live music and food stalls.

# Mirboo North Winterfest is a Mirboo Country Development Inc (MCDI) event, supported by Regional Development Victoria, Events Gippsland, South Gippsland Shire Council, Mirboo North and District Community Foundation and the Community Bank Mirboo North & District.

Mirboo North is 150km east of Melbourne and has a population of around 1700.

Monday 17 June 2024

Old Bastard delivers Barossa power and precision


If you want a big, bold Barossa shiraz that is full of flavour and personality but also has balance, then Kaesler is a label to have on your radar.

Kaesler recently launched its new vintage icon portfolio, headed by the 2022 vintage of its flagship Old Bastard ($350), alongside the 2021 editions of its ‘Old Vine’ Shiraz and ‘Alte Reben’ Shiraz.

The new releases also include the 2021 ‘Age of Light’ Cabernet Sauvignon and ‘WOMS’ Shiraz Cabernet blend.

Chief winemaker Tim Dolan believes the consecutive vintages of 2020 and 2021 delivered terrific results for Barossa producers.

“This Old Bastard Shiraz is our flagship wine and is released as a four-year-old shiraz," Dolan says.

"The name is fitting, referring to a small number of old gnarly bush vines planted in 1893. These ‘old bastards’ flourished during the 2020 vintage, with dry and warm conditions throughout spring into summer, resulting in significantly reduced yields.

“We believe wine is made in the vineyard, and the mild conditions throughout the harvest period enabled a long, even ripening period. The resultant wine is deep and brooding, like an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove.”

It is certainly a wine with immense power - and long-term cellaring potential.

For more immediate drinking pleasure, the Old Vine’Shiraz and Alte Reben Shiraz (both $110) are better prospects, but remain wines of concentration and palate weight.

The Kaesler family had a long history in the wine business with the Silesian migrants establishing their vineyards in the 1890s.

The family settled in Barossa in the 1840s and purchased 96 acres in 1891. By 1893, they had planted the entire acreage with shiraz, grenache and mataro vines with much of the fruit still sourced gnarly dry-grown vines.

“Our Icon wines are a true testament to the history, soil, and place of Barossa," says Dolan.

"Access to premium old vine material means we can produce bold estate wines representative of Barossa Valley. In fact, the intensity of the old vine shiraz inspired the production of the Old Bastard.

In 1999, agribusiness entrepreneur Ed Peter, winemaker Reid Bosward, and business partners purchased the property and immediately regenerated the old vines.

The Kaesler team, now led by general manager and viticulturist Nigel Van der Zande, view themselves as the custodians of the ancient vineyards.

“At Kaesler, we strive not only to maintain but rebuild the soils because we want to leave these precious old vines in better condition than we found them," says Van der Zande.

"It’s a process called regenerative farming, as it’s more than sustainability; it is a constantly evolving practice, so we are not just sustaining the environment, we are aiming to improve it.”

See https://kaesler.com.au/




Let's go clothes shopping; and have a wine or a cocktail



It's an odd concept: a bar/restaurant owned and operated by a clothing manufacturer.

But it has worked in the past and the team from Rodd & Gunn are confident it will work again.

Rodd & Gunn’s remodelled ‘The Lodge’ in Queenstown in Central Otago - described as an "experiential retail space" - is now open after a major refurb.

Initially opened in August 2016, the The Lodge now has a bespoke bar that will showcase cocktails made using spirits from local distilleries on the South Island.

Helmed by executive chef Matt Lambert, the expanded commercial kitchen has a refreshed dining menu featuring dishes ranging from steamed green lip mussels to cacio e pepe and Lake Ohau Wagyu T-bone steak.

Complementing the dining options, Cameron Douglas - New Zealand’s only Master Sommelier - has transformed The Lodge’s beverage offering with a selection of Central Otago and New Zealand’s finest wines. This includes the Rodd & Gunn Central Otago Pinot Noir – the brand’s very first wine launched earlier this year.

The building has views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding peaks.

Visitors can combine shopping with dinner, cocktails at the bar, or New Zealand wine and snacks by the window.

See roddandgunn.com/au/the-lodge-bar/queenstown

Sunday 16 June 2024

Thailand abandons plan for travel tax



The Thai Government has abandoned long-mooted plans to impose a tourism tax on visitors.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has confirmed the proposed THB 300 ($12) levy is to be scrapped, Travel Mole reports.

The tax was approved by a previous government in 2023. It has been dropped in the hope visitors to Thailand will instead spend more money in the tourism sector.

“Its elimination could encourage higher tourist spending in other areas, thereby providing a more substantial boost to the economy,” the Government Public Relations Department said in a statement.

Implementation of the fee was delayed several times due to technical issues.

Thailand has taken other measures to boost tourism numbers including reciprocal visa free arrangements and offering longer visa stays for tourists.

Travellers from 93 countries are now allowed to stay for up to 60 days on a tourist visa.

Thailand hopes to welcome up to 40 million foreign visitors this year.

Here's cheers to a global beer monopoly



Talk about a monopoly.

One company owns eight of the 10 most valuable beer brand in the world, a new research report shows.

AB InBev, the merged entity of Anheuser-Busch and InBev SA/NV, is a Belgian-Brazilian multinational brewing and drinks company based in Belgium is the global behemoth, research firm Kantar says.

AB InBev was formed through acquiring American company Anheuser Busch.

AB INBev-owned Corona is the world’s most valuable beer brand in 2024, says the London-based market researcher its annual BrandZ global rankings.

“Valued at more than US$19 billion, Corona has become the most valuable global beer brand due to consistent acceleration of growth globally and specifically tapping into growing markets, like Brazil, China, South Africa while maintaining its stronghold in Mexico,” says Kantar CEO Chris Jansen.

The top 10 ranking for beers is:

1. Corona

2. Budweiser

3. Heineken

4. Modelo

5. Brahma

6. Michelob

7. Bud Light

8. Skol

9. Guinness

10. Stella Artois

Of these, Ab InBev owns Corona, Budweiser, Modelo, Brahma, Michelob Ultra, Bud Light, Skol and Stella Artois, industry authority the drinks business reports.

Marcel Marcondes, AB InBev’s global chief marketing officer, said of the results: “Growing our megabrands is a key part of our business strategy to lead and grow the category.”

He said the company’s focus was “on delivering against the needs of our consumers in a way that gives them what they seek, but also in a way that earns their love.”

Hard to believe anyone could love Bud Light, but there you go.

Published annually, the Kantar BrandZ Most Valuable Global Brands Report ranks the world’s top brands, the sector leaders, big movers and brands to watch.


Saturday 15 June 2024

How to create a beer with your own image



There is always something new in the hospitality industry. 

How about printing images from your smartphone into the foam of your beer? 

Sounds wacky, sure, but it has proved a hit at Automata, Centara Grand Hotel Osaka's innovative 32nd-loor bar in Japan's second city. 

Automata is one of several hotel bars operated across Asia by Centara Hotels & Resorts, Thailand’s leading hotel operator. 

I'm told that entering Automata feels like stepping into a science-fiction movie. Think polished chrome, neon lights and a self-service bar where you can blend your own drinks.

I do like the idea of being able to send patterns and images from your smartphone to print in your beer foam. 

Then there are the views with panoramic windows framing Osaka’s skyline. 

Centara has 95 properties spanning destinations including the Maldives, Vietnam, Laos, China, Japan, Oman, Qatar, Turkey and the UAE. 

Find out more about Centara at www.CentaraHotelsResorts.com



Opportunity Nox at Vietnam beach destination

 

Vietnam's central coast is turning up the summer heat for beach lovers, fun seekers and foodies.

NOX Beach Club is being promoted as south-east Asia's "most spectacular multi-experiential gastronomy and entertainment destination". 

Which is a big statement to live up to. 

The complex has six restaurants and bars, a large free-form swimming pool, cosy cabanas, sun loungers and a retail space on a prime stretch of beachfront land. 

Diners can enjoy a series of special dishes this summer, including NOX lobster banh mi at Banh Mi and Noodles (below) and Ccnocchia (squid ink pasta) at Osteria. 

There will also be a most unusual drink: Fish Sauce Ca Phe Phin; a fusion of Vietnamese cold brew coffee, whisky and home-made caramel fish sauce, poured over ice. 

Couples, families and friends can enjoy NOX Beach Club’s swish poolside cabanas. 

Cabana Packages let guests unwind in style in an exclusive cabana, including a private locker room, towel service, premium amenities, pool and beach access, a charging station, high-speed wifi etc. 

Then, as the sun starts to set, the party kicks into top gear with Sundown Social Happy Hour, offering 50% off signature cocktails, house pints, and pool snacks from 5-7pm. 

Rates start from VND 1,500,000 ($88) for up to three people.

At night, NOX Beach Club hosts events and pool parties with a Girls’ Night Out staged every Wednesday offering two hours of free-flow signature cocktails to all ladies from 8-10pm. Sounds like a riot. 

“NOX Beach Club is turning on the style this summer with an action-packed calendar of uplifting activities and attractions for all ages," says hype master Jimmy Lopez, general manager, New World Hoiana Hotel and New World Hoiana Beach Resort. 

For more info see www.noxhoian.com

The location is 15 minutes’ drive from Hoi An and 45 minutes from Danang. 

Friday 14 June 2024

Plane speaking: Qantas backing Australian Olympians

 

Qantas has thrown support behind the Australian Olympic and Paralympic Teams by unveiling a special ‘GO AUSTRALIA’ message on either side of one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

The Australian flag carrier has commissioned the specially created graphic that aims to showcase Australian pride on the international stage ahead of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris.

Qantas Group CEO Vanessa Hudson said Qantas and the Australian Olympic team have more than 70 years of shared history.

“Qantas has a long and proud history of supporting the Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams, from first flying Olympic athletes to the London Games in 1948 to our engineers designing custom cushions and support devices for our Australian Paralympians to travel comfortably on long-haul sectors,” she said.

“We are so proud to support our Australian athletes and supporters to get to the Games once again and hope our special cheer squad 787 will help spur on our teams and supporters to put on a great show in Paris.”

Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission for Paris 2024 Anna Meares welcomed Qantas’ ongoing support for Australian athletes.

“Qantas has been supporting Australian Olympic dreams for generations,” Meares said.

“We are thrilled Qantas will be proudly sharing their support of Australian Olympians on their 787 Dreamliner.

“As an Olympian, flying on that Qantas plane home from a Games, to meet friends and family in the Qantas hangar welcome home, is such a special memory. I’m looking forward to our 2024 Olympic team making their own Qantas memories on their journey to and from the Paris Games.”

In addition to unveiling its team support, Qantas is preparing to launch its new Perth to Paris route next month and this weekend will resume its direct flights from Perth to Rome for the third year running.

It is the only airline to offer direct flights between Australia and continental Europe.

“Deplorable” airline passenger banned for life



Many frequent flyers would have come across someone like Jay Dalziel at one time or other.

Dalziel went ape shit on a recent flight on leisure airline Jet2 and has been banned for life following a "violent" in-flight incident, news portal Travel Mole reports.

Dalziel, 19, from Motherwell in Scotland, acted in a ‘"deplorable and violent" fashion, causing a Glasgow to Tenerife flight to be diverted to Shannon Airport in Ireland.

He was then taken into custody - missing out on his holiday.

Dalziel displayed "disruptive and aggressive" behaviour shortly after take-off.

It escalated to the point of allegedly physically attacking Jet2.com cabin crew other customers.

After touching down at Shannon Airport, Garda officers boarded the flight and took him into custody.

Video published online captured Garda officers removing a topless man from the plane. He was reportedly seen screaming as he was handcuffed and hauled off the flight.

Jet2 immediately banned him for life.

The airline also plans to take action to recover costs incurred by the diversion, estimated at a five-figure sum.

A standby aircraft and crew were then flown to Shannon Airport to take customers to Tenerife.

Jet2 apologised to customers for the inconvenience.

Phil Ward, MD of Jet2, said: “This is one of the worst cases of disruptive passenger behaviour that we have ever witnessed, and we would like to apologise to all colleagues and customers onboard for what they had to experience.

"It is a disgrace that hardworking customers, families and colleagues should be subjected to such appalling behaviour and we will vigorously pursue Mr Dalziel for all the costs that we incurred as a result of this diversion, as well as banning him for life."

Irish police said: ""Gardaí met the aircraft and arrested the man under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997. He is currently detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 at a Garda station in County Clare. Investigations are ongoing."

Ski set get premium Champagne experiences



Champagne is always a popular drink with the ski set, so a new collaboration between Champagne House Pommery and Thredbo Resort, Australia’s premier year-round alpine destination, makes sense.

Located in the heart of Australia’s highest mountain range, Thredbo’s European-style village and  experiences create the perfect backdrop to enjoying a bottle or two of bubbles.

As the resort officially opens for the winter season, guests can indulge in Champagne Pommery cuvées at various venues across the resort.

The Thredbo Long Lunch presented by Pommery kicked things off with over 200 guests enjoying Pommery from sabred magnums, served through a bespoke ice sculpture luge.

Very fancy.

A series of Kareela Supper Club events presented by Pommery will run throughout winter.

Guests will be transported across the mountain via a gondola and snowcat under the stars on Saturday nights, before arriving at the Kareela Hutte restaurant. From the deck, diners will enjoy the Flare Run and Fireworks Show from mountain top while imbibing.

“We are thrilled to partner with the beautiful Thredbo Resort," said Inge Fransen, CEO of Vranken-Pommery Australia.

"In our history, we have always aligned with industry players who share our commitment to creating premium experiences and considering the environment as our greatest source of inspiration.

"As the home to Australia’s premier year-round alpine destination, Thredbo’s first-hand offering for its guests and its dedication to preserving and protecting its environment makes the partnership a perfect match.”

Founded in 1836, the Champagne house has a rich heritage. The Champagne Pommery estate features 18kms of art galleries hollowed out into the chalk cellars that house over 20 million bottles of Champagne.

See www.champagnepommery.com and www.thredbo.com.au.



Thursday 13 June 2024

Banking on it: meet a new wine range inspired by Bordeaux


A new range of wines from Orange has been inspired by the acclaimed reds of Bordeaux.

Orange’s Stockman’s Ridge Wines has just released two new wines as part of its ‘Signature Range’: the 2022 Stockman’s Ridge ‘Signature Range’ Right Bank and its sister wine, the 2022 Stockman’s Ridge ‘Signature Range’ Left Bank.

I'm not sure how many Australian wine drinkers are familiar with the differences between the two styles, but the new releases are vigneron Jonathan Hambrook’s tribute to French inspiration. 

The ‘Left Bank’ is a nod to the Médoc region of Bordeaux and is a blend of cabernet sauvignon (60%) and merlot (40%). The ‘Right Bank’ tips its hat to St Emillion, being a blend of merlot (70%) and cabernet franc (30%).

“We have been producing our Bordeaux blend of merlot and cabernet franc since our second vintage,” says Hambrook. “I have a real love of these styles and wanted to explore them further with our ‘Left Bank’ blend of cabernet and merlot, which has a long and proud history in Australia,

“The [Orange] region is perfectly suited to these varieties. While there is strong focus on the Burgundy varieties in Orange, history has shown that these Bordeaux varieties excel.

"The founding vignerons of the region such as Bloodwood’s Stephen and Rhonda Doyle, Canobolas Smith’s Murray Smith and Philip Shaw have examples of these varieties that have shown to have superb depth, complexity and most of all, great longevity.

“We are hoping to build on these early examples and create wines that will evolve and develop in the bottle over the next 15 plus years."

Both wines are made by consultant winemaker Will Rikard-Bell.

The Stockman’s Ridge Vineyard is located on Boree Lane at an elevation of 800 meters, Wines are avilable available at www.stockmansridge.com.au.

The Bank wines cost $45 each. I'm traditionally a Left Bank man, but open minded. I will report back.



The 9 1/2-hour flight to nowhere



Imagine being on a plane for over nine hours and going nowhere.

Passengers on board a British Airways flight from Heathrow ended up back at their departure point this week after a nine-hour plus ‘flight to nowhere’, Travel Mole reported.

The Houston-bound flight had reached North America but then turned around and returned to London Heathrow due to a “minor technical issue”. It flew 7,779km.

The Boeing Dreamliner jet had just crossed the Canada-US border when the pilots were alerted to the issue.

It was apparently not serious enough to warrant an emergency diversion so the plane returned to the UK.

The flight to nowhere was in the air nine and a half hours, crossing the Atlantic Ocean twice.

BA hasn’t disclosed what the technical glitch was but the plane landed without incident at back at Heathrow.

“The flight returned to London Heathrow as a precaution due to a minor technical issue. It landed safely and customers disembarked as normal,” BA said in a statement.

“We’ve apologised to our customers for the disruption to their journey.” 

I’d be wanting a whole lot more than an apology. What a nightmare scenario.

Passengers were all re-booked onto alternative flights to Houston. Hotels and information on how to claim for any additional expenses, were also provided.

Sydney hotel does the right thing

It is good to see big business doing its bit to help the less fortunate.

And that is certainly the case as construction begins on the multi-million-dollar transformation of Adina Apartment Hotel Sydney Town Hall. 

Furniture and fixtures from the hotel’s apartments have been donated to Sydney furniture rescue charity, ReLove, to help Aussies in need this winter.

Furniture, artworks, mirrors, kitchen appliances, and even dust pans and brooms have been saved from potential land fill and, with the help of ReLove, will hopefully find a new lease of life in the homes of Sydneysiders who need them most.

TFE Hotels’ Group Chief Operating Officer Chris Sedgwick said the decision to work with owners across the network and donate pre-loved furniture to charities was simply the right thing to do from a corporate social responsibility perspective.

“With the introduction of TFE Hotels’ Global People, Social Conscience ESG charter last year, we encourage our owners and our hotel teams to make a difference in the lives of the communities in which we operate,” he said. 

“And, as a group, we are making a commitment to sustainable practices, so we’re thrilled to see these items go to good homes and not into landfill.”

ReLove co-founder Ren Fernando said the ReLove free store primarily supported women and children impacted by domestic violence and people experiencing homelessness, asylum seekers or people coming out of incarceration.

“Donations like these directly contribute to supporting individuals in crisis by furnishing them with safe and welcoming homes,” she said. “It has been a great process working with the TOGA and hotel teams to investigate the scope of what can be rescued from the Adina.”

TOGA director Michelle Fischl said the company’s many and varied CSR initiatives not only make a meaningful impact in society, but also serve to foster a strong sense of unity with the team.

“Our dedication to ESG - whether it is maximising under-utilised properties for use as temporary housing solutions or donating furniture to save it from landfill - demonstrate how innovation and collaboration can help with pressing social challenges.

“ReLove were down to their last glasses and ironing boards, so we are thrilled so many goods - big and small - can be reused to brighten the homes of Sydneysiders in need this winter.”

Adina Town Hall closed its doors for major refurbishment works last month. The hotel has a target completion date of December 2024. 

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Launceston hotel rewarded for sustainability efforts


Tasmania heavily promotes its clean, green image, even if there are a lot of old growth trees being chopped down out of the view of most tourists, and the local farmed salmon industry is problematic.

That said, there are lot of tourism operators doing their best to be sustainable and protect the environment.

Peppers Silo Hotel Launceston has met globally recognised sustainable tourism standards to become the first hotel in Tasmania to achieve Ecotourism Australia's Sustainable Tourism Certification.

The Accor hotel has been recognised for its sustainability measures across accommodationl, Grain of the Silos restaurant, and its meetings and events offering.

The independent validation confirms Peppers Silo Hotel Launceston has met international best practice sustainable tourism standards across eight criteria sections, including environmental management, interpretation and education, working with local communities, and cultural respect and sensitivity.

"The hotel team has worked diligently to improve their sustainability initiatives across the entire property," said Peppers Silo Hotel Launceston GM Paul Seaman.

Tthey were proud to announce their certification achievement and acknowledge the support of the hotel's owner in supporting key initiatives, such as solar panels and local procurement."

Grain of the Silo food director Massimo Mele said being fiercely local and creating connections with producers was a critical part of the restaurant's offering and identity from day one.

“Our processes and connections with local farmers and growers takes courage and planning to match the expectations of diners and travellers with the seasons and sustainable farming,” he said.

To learn more about Peppers Silo Hotel Launceston on the Green Travel Guide see https://greentravelguide.org/listing/peppers-silo

Food coma? Marketing frenzy capped by a morbid prize



The fast food business is hugely competitive in Australia. Which leads to some great deals - and some weird ones as well.

Market leader McDonalds bombards customers with special offer emails several times a week. A $4 Big Mac one day; a $6 cheeseburger meal and an extra cheeseburger the next. 

Hungry Jack’s is giving away toys with kid’s meals. 

One of this week's offers from taco emporium Mad Mex is a bit grim. It has a competition offering the chance to own your own burial plot in a cemetery.

In bad taste? Maybe. Attention grabbing? Certainly.

Mad Mex is announcing the return of its infamous 1kg Big Burrito and has partnered with "cult" water brand, Liquid Death to bring customers a combo "that promises to kill their hunger and murder their thirst".

Here is the spiel: "The double-sized burrito come with a free Liquid Death and it also comes with a warning that will scare even the most daring burrito lovers.

"Anyone brave enough to take on the challenge will go in the running to win a grand prize to die for - a foot (and body) in the door of the Australian property market... a place to set up roots... prime real estate in the dead centre of town...

"Yep, your own personal plot of land. In a cemetery."

Mad Mex is also running a less gruesome Buy One Get One Free deal on DoorDash until June 23.

The Big Burrito and Liquid Death combo will be available across Mad Mex stores nationally or via delivery from Uber Eats or the Mad Mex app until July 21. See madmex.com.au/bigburrito.



Less crazy is a new breakfast range (above) being launched by Soul Origin from tomorrow.

To mark the arrival of dishes like the Gourmet Brekkie Bun, a Schnitty Brekkie Bun and a Haloumi and Veggie Brekkie Wrap comes the offer of free coffees to all its loyalty members.

The free caffeine boost is available to all loyalty members from June 17-30 with any item from the new breakfast range.

A voucher will automatically be loaded into loyalty accounts. See https://www.soulorigin.com.au/

Novotel and WWF team up to help protect ocean environments



The sustainability message is an important one in the hospitality industry, as is underlined by a new deal between Novotel hotels and the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature).

Novotel, Accor's founding brand, will champion the protection and restoration of the ocean through "science-based action and conservation projects".

Under the three-year agreement from 2024 to 2027, WWF France will provide technical expertise to Novotel, helping its 580 hotels worldwide to "have a positive impact on the ocean, challenging and guiding the brand and its properties throughout many aspects of its operations".

The partnership will also see Novotel sponsoring several critical WWF ocean-related conservation projects across the world.

Novotel says it will build a three-year science-based action plan, rooted in three of the United Nations' priority ocean-related actions: reducing marine pollution and ocean acidification, particularly from land-based activities; fighting overfishing and promoting sustainable fishing models; and increasing scientific knowledge and research for ocean health.

The partnership will see Novotel supporting essential WWF France conservation projects around the world, including the WWF France's Blue Panda boat (top image), which sails across the Mediterranean carrying out work including scientific dives, protecting cetaceans from collisions with marine vehicles, and protecting endangered species of rays and sharks.

Another key element will be tracking and tracing marine turtles in Asia-Pacific, gathering knowledge on their movements from nesting beaches to migratory corridors and foraging grounds, and mapping critical populations and conservation areas.

Karelle Lamouche, Chief Commercial Officer, Premium, Midscale & Economy Division, Accor (another great job title), said: “We are delighted to announce that Novotel is embarking on an exciting new chapter. Novotel, Accor's founding brand, is a powerful brand, leading the Midscale segment in most of the world. Today, we are starting a bold new ambition, championing a sustainability cause globally.

“Novotel has a long-standing commitment to innovation and balance, and we now take that commitment further, by choosing to help the greatest source of balance on our planet – the ocean."

Yann Laurans, Conservation Director, WWF France, said “WWF aims to restore ocean health for the benefit of people and nature. The oceans are an essential resource of biodiversity that must be protected."

Created in 1967 in France, Novotel is Accor's founding brand. It has over 580 hotels across 65 countries.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Food festival aims to bring home the bacon


There is nothing like a good pun - and the folks behind Kingaroy's much-loved BaconFest are full of 'em.

Apparently it is when Kingaroy gets "piggy with it" for "another crackling instalment" of food fun.

Here's their news: "Bacon lovers are already sizzling with excitement with the news that the Kingaroy BaconFest is back on the local food festival menu for another year".

Set tantalise the taste buds of festival goers from August 16-18, the two-day festival will see celebrity chefs Alastair McLeod and Justine Schofield "bringing home the bacon" alongside Sunshine Coast foodie favourite Matt Golinski and long-time BaconFest ambassadors Dan and Steph Mulheron.

The program is, I am assured, brimming with mouth-watering swine-inspired food and drink, the annual bacon-eating competition, a smoke-off contest, and the Rasher’s Run through the South Burnett Rail Trail.

Early bird entry tickets for the festival are being released on June 12 with 30% discount on offer until June 30.

See https://www.kingaroybaconfest.com.au/

Cellar Door in the City to pop-up in Fremantle



I'm a big fan of West Cape Howe and Hay Shed Hill wines; consistently good and always sensibly priced. 

That duo will pair with fellow West Australian producers Mount Trio and Risky Business for their annual Cellar Door in the City tastings in Fremantle on the weekend of July 13-14. 

The venue will be Harbourside Freo - just around the corner from Little Creatures - where you can enjoy uninterrupted 180-degree views of the ocean to Fremantle Harbour. 

The popular pop-up will give visitors the opportunity to taste over 50 wines from the four wineries and their siblings, to chat with the people that make them and also have access to "one weekend only" prices.

The Saturday will see a wine tasting with canapes from 2pm-5pm, while the Sunday will feature a wine tasting with substantial finger food from 11am-2pm. 

Both are standing events and tickets will be on from tomorrow from noon WST. 



White heat: Major wine industry player has its export licence cancelled


A major player in the Australian wine industry has had its export licence cancelled.

Wine Australia today announced it has cancelled the export rights held by Jindalee Road Wines Pty Ltd, an entity operating out of the New South Wales Murray Darling region.

Jindalee Road says on its website that it is a specialist in the growth and production of white varieties and the biggest sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio grower in Australia.

Jindalee Road does not own a label but specialises in bulk sales to other wine producers.

Wine Australia’s Label Integrity Program investigation found that Jindalee Road Wines had failed to meet its record-keeping obligations established by the Wine Australia Act 2013.

Wine cannot be exported from Australia without an export licence issued by Wine Australia.

There are no concerns about health or safety for consumers of the wine, Wine Australia said. "However, wine label claims in relation to vintage, variety and region strongly influence people’s purchasing decisions.

"The licence cancellation reflects Wine Australia’s commitment to ensuring that consumers worldwide can be confident that label claims reflect what is in the bottle."

Jindalee Road Wines may make an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of the decision to cancel its export licence in accordance with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975.

Wine Australia was not able to comment further as the matter is subject to an ongoing investigation.

It is not the first time the wine entity has found itself in trouble.

Jindalee Road Wines and its ex-manager David Littore were in March fined $500,000 for stealing irrigation water.

Wine Australia says, however, that there is generally a strong culture of compliance in the Australian grape and wine sector. Wine Australia has only suspended or cancelled eight licences in the past 10 years, including Jindalee Road Wines. There are more than 2000 active licence holders.

More information on the Label Integrity Program can be found at www.wineaustralia.com/labelling

Monday 10 June 2024

Orange winemaker prepares to pull up stumps after 25 years

 

Gerald Naef, the transplanted Californian who has been making terrific wines in Orange for a quarter of a century, has revealed he is in the process of winding down his wine industry career.

With more travel on the agenda for Naef and his artist wife Anji, he describes himself as "nearing the home stretch" of a great career. 

Coming off a classic 2024 vintage in the Central West of NSW, Naef has not yet decided whether he will be making any more wine under their Patina label in the future.

"It’s been a great ride but I'm progressing to the next phase that will involve more traveling," he writes in his newsletter. 

Naef's career has taken him from study in the US, where he experimented with making wines as a young child, to cotton farming in Wee Waa, to crafting wines with impressive individuality in Orange, made from fruit grown in the foothills of Mount Canobolas. 

He started studying wine science at Charles Sturt University in 1999 and learned as his wine journey progressed. 

"I have enjoyed some great accolades along the way starting with my first-ever chardonnay winning a couple of trophies and recently being shortlisted for the Halliday Winemaker of the Year," he says.. 

"This last one really surprised me as I have remained a small producer making the style I like and not paying much attention to what is popular. But my biggest reward is to see the appreciation my wines have garnered from loyal followers." 

Naef, who is about to turn 69, added: "I started farming at 19...that’s long enough. Time to move on to the next phase. It's time to spend a little more time traveling."

Naef estimates he has enough wines in his warehouse to last a couple more years if sales figures remain stable. I suspect he might sell out sooner once news of his retirement gets around. He will be offering back vintages to Patina wine club members. 

"If wine sales continue at their current rate and I don't make more wine, I estimate that stocks will be gone in two years," he says. 

"I am surprised how well my wines age. I recently included some very old sauvignon blanc and rosé in some Mystery Dozens and have had requests for more."

As things wind down, the Patina cellar door will be closed over August and September while the Naefs go travelling. 

Having been lucky enough to try some of his earliest releases, I am a huge admirer of Naef's creativity. Looking back though my notes, it has been his chardonnays that I have enjoyed most over the years. 

Napa Valley wine legend dies at 95



Warren Winiarski, one of the key figures in developing the Napa Valley wine industry, has died at the age 95.

Winiarski founded industry leader Stag's Leap Wine Cellars but was also a key figure in the wine business community in the region, Wine Spectator reported.

Winiarski, who also owned Arcadia Cellars, was born in 1928 in Chicago, and was an academic track before he spent time studying in Italy and was inspired to enter the wine industry.

He was the first head winemaker for Robert Mondavi's eponymous winery in 1966 when Michael Mondavi was doing military service. 

Winiarski purchased a fruit orchard and ranch in the Napa Valley in 1970 and began planting cabernet sauvignon and merlot. He made wine from those plantings, along with some existing petite sirah (durif), and released the first Stag's Leap Wine Cellars label wine in 1972.

Stag's Leap was quickly recognised among the upper echelons of California wines, winning the historic Judgment of Paris blind tasting in 1976 with his 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. That tasting saw top wines from France and California compared against each other. 

In 2012, a bottle of that wine was received into the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. permanent museum collection. 

In 2007, after 37 years in charge, Winiarski went into partnership with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Marchesi Antinori, but remained involved.

Winiarski oversaw the Winiarski Family Foundation, which supports educational and charitable causes.