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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.


Media interested in viewing the space or experiencing the new 'Mystery of Muscat' tasting please reach out to me via email on

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, 

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: 


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

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:

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