Thursday, 18 January 2018

Historic Hunter Valley wine landmark reopens with new branding

One of Australia’s oldest wineries is to reopen its doors for the first time in more than three years after a rigorous revival project.
Dalwood Estate, the historic winery, formerly known as Wyndham Estate, will welcome guests this weekend 190 years after it was established at Branxton in the Hunter Valley.

The French Pernod Ricard group acquired the estate in 1990 in its $73 million takeover of Brian McGuigan’s Wyndham Estate company.
The estate sat untouched after its closure in 2014 until last year when Iris Capital bought the property, adding a third winery to its Hunter portfolio alongside Hungerford Hill Wines and Sweetwater Wines.
After a major 12-month renewal program, the 260-acre property has been restored to its former glory, The Maitland Mercury reports. 
With a return to its original 1828 establishment name, Dalwood Estate boasts a heritage winery building, manicured lawns and gardens, a function centre, cellar door, restaurant, walking trails and public barbecue areas on the banks of the Hunter River.
Iris Capital general manager Craig Hibbard said the reopening was about celebrating the revival of an Australian icon. 
“It’s been a busy 12 months – imagine a 260-acre estate that hasn’t been maintained for three years – but we’re really proud of Dalwood’s transformation and we can’t wait to share it with the wider community,” Hibbard told the Mercury. “Our aim is to revive the property’s heritage and restore it to a fully operational vineyard again. 
“Dalwood Estate shares historical significance with the winemaking industry and not just in the Hunter Valley.”
Bryan Currie is the senior winemaker and general manager of Hungerford Hill, Sweetwater and Dalwood wine operations.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Family-owned Coonawarra vineyard marks organic milestone

For over 100 years the Reschke family have been living on their Koonara property in the heart of Coonawarra. 

The current family residents are Dru and Nicole Reschke with their two daughters Lucy and Alice.

After 10 years of conversion, Koonara Wines are the first vineyards in Coonawarra to be certified to Australian Organic Standards.

Coonawarra is renowned as one of Australia’s finest wine regions and is particularly known for producing world-class red wines, especially cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. 

The region's secret lies in a marriage of rich red terra rossa soil, limestone, pure underground water and a long, cool ripening season for the grapes. 

The Koonara wines are made by industry veteran Peter Douglas (formerly of Wynn's Coonawarra Estate). Both Koonara’s Coonawarra and Mount Gambier vineyards practice organic viticulture, and Coonawarra is certified organic.

All of Koonara’s red wines are aged in 100% fine-grain French oak hogshead barrels and the premium wines all contain no residual sugar, below organic levels of sulphur and a vegan friendly. 

Reschke said even though they have been practising organic viticulture for over 10 years, it was great to finally receive official certification earlier this month.

“We have not used any pesticides or herbicides in our Coonawarra vineyards for over a decade, as it can rob the soil of nearly all the good micro-fungi,” he said. “The vineyard is like our bodies; get the nutrition right and it stays healthy and disease pressure drops, and so the number of sprays needed drop as well. 

“Our aim was to increase organic material into our soil. Only 1% extra organic matter in the soil will hold an extra 177,000 litres of water per hectare, which is why we find weeds actually help, not hinder the vines.

“The root systems of weeds are usually no more than 30cm deep, when they die off at the start of summer their roots provide organic straws for oxygen and water to get deeper into the soil, which aids the vines.” 

Insects also play an important role in Koonara’s biodiversity plan. 

“We have identified five wasp and three spider varieties, and even a scorpion fly, which are all completely harmless. These insects larvae feed on our vineyard pests such as vine moth – and many of those so-called weeds are also a food source for them.” 

Two tribes go to war. Australian winemakers take on Canadians.

It's on. 

The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA) has welcomed Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo’s announcement that Australia has launched a dispute settlement action against Canada at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

And 24 hours later New Zealand confirmed it will join Australia's complaint against Canada over allegedly “arbitrary and disadvantageous” treatment of wine imports.

WFA chief executive Tony Battaglene said the action was the first formal step in seeking to resolve long-standing Canadian measures that allegedly "discriminate" against Australian wine imports.

“Canada is Australia's fourth-most-valuable export market at around $190 million and remains a very important destination for Australian wine,” Battaglene said.

“Australia is the fifth-ranked country of origin, with a 10% total volume share of the Canadian market behind wines from the United States, Canada, Italy, and France.

“Wine sales in Canada are controlled by provincial liquor boards. In recent years, the liquor boards have introduced a number of measures that discriminate in favour of locally produced wine. We respect the Canadian wine industry, but we are seeking a level playing field to ensure we can maximise our opportunities in this key market.

“The WTO provides a rules-based system that is vital to ensure countries around the world ensure their regulations are fair and non-discriminatory. We are delighted the Australian Government has decided to take action over these issues and the winners will be Australian producers and Canadian consumers.”

On January 18, 2017, the United States launched its own WTO trade dispute settlement action against Canada regarding ‘Measures Governing the Sale of Wine in Grocery Stores’ which Australia joined as a third-party observer. 

The new Australian-led WTO action addresses these same concerns as well as others across the Canadian provinces.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Post-Christmas hotel bargains look enticing

The Christmas holiday period is over so hotel groups are pulling out all the stop to fill their rooms over the next few weeks. 

Some of the best deals are being offered by Metro Hotels, including the chance to enjoy the Australia Day Skyworks with million-dollar views across the Swan River and Perth City – from a private balcony at Metro Hotel Perth. 

With prices starting from $300 for a Standard balcony room on the 3rd floor, guests will enjoy one night’s accommodation, views of the Australia Day fireworks from private balconies on levels 3-10, poolside barbecue on January 26 from 2-6pm with a free sausage sizzle, complimentary continental breakfast, parking and noon checkout.

In Sydney, Wizard of Oz has just started at Capitol Theatre (until February 4), and Mamma Mia starts from February 11. The Metro Hotel Marlow Sydney Central is offering a Capitol Theatre package from $140. 

This includes one night's accommodation in a Superior Queen Room, hot buffet breakfast for two adults, late check out and free wifi. 

Metro Apartments on Darling Harbour has a Sydney Attractions Package for $269 that Includes accommodation in a loft-style one-bedroom apartment with free wifi, a Sydney attractions family pass and a kids' goodies pack on arrival. Kids under 12 stay free. 

Metro Apartments on Bank Place in Melbourne has Family Package from $140 that Includes a free upgrade to a self-contained one-bedroom apartment and children under 12 stay free. There is also a discount voucher bundle giving access to a range of discounts and special offers at some of Melbourne's most popular attractions. 

For these and other offers in Brisbane and Darwin check out

Monday, 15 January 2018

Solo travellers cop the rough end of the pineapple

Lonely Planet has urged the travel industry to do more to help solo travellers.

The call follows new research that revealed a growing number of solo travellers face higher costs than those travelling with family or friends, including an average of nearly 20% on travel insurance and over 50% on accommodation.

Lonely Planet surveyed members of their dedicated global community of travellers, with more than one in three Australian respondents claiming to have felt disadvantaged when choosing to travel alone. These include single supplements on cruises and at hotels.

Nonetheless, 85% of those surveyed plan to take a solo trip in the future.

Examples given in the survey by solo travellers of poor service from the hospitality industry included lack of choice in organised excursions and poor service in restaurants and bars.

One in two Australian travellers said that they have had to pay a single person supplement when travelling alone, and 90% of those surveyed said they would look more positively on a company that did not charge this.

Restaurants were also particularly criticised by respondents to the survey, with typical comments involving poor service from staff, being seated in the worst spots and even being refused bookings.

But the travel industry treats solo travellers with disdain at its peril with solo travel on the rise.

Lonely Planet has compiled the top tips and advice from their experts in The Solo Travel Handbook, published this month, from the practical (meeting people and staying safe) to the inspirational (health, fitness and sustainable travelling).

The travel company is also calling on the industry to look more positively on those travelling solo, rather than just as single occupants of rooms and dinner tables.

Lonely Planet spokesperson Chris Zeiher says: “Travelling solo can be one of the most rewarding ways of experiencing any destination, and most travellers will find themselves alone on the road at some point in their travelling lives. Sadly, a significant number of travellers cite a lack of choice or increased cost as a barrier to this type of travel.

"The profile of the solo traveller has changed substantially over the last few years and is now spread across age groups, diverse backgrounds and, interestingly, evenly balanced across gender. Over the coming years, we expect the desire to travel alone to continue its growth, setting the challenge for tourism providers to better serve this popular and lucrative travel trend.”

To find out more about The Solo Travel Handbook, and top tips for travelling solo, visit

Lonely Planet’s Solo Travel Handbook, $29.99.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Weekends of fun to celebrate the man who wrote Waltzing Matilda

Orange is well known for its annual food and wine festivals but the Central Western New South Wales city also hosts a celebration in homage to poet Banjo Paterson, who wrote Australia's unofficial national anthem Waltzing Matilda.

The first Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival celebrated the anniversary of the poet's 150th birthday in 2014 - and 2018 will mark the fifth such celebration.

Bush poetry, school performances, professional entertainers, markets, golf, barbecues and camp-oven cooking are some of the attractions over the weekend of February 16-18.

There will also be the opportunity for community members and visitors to Orange to show their skills in poetry recital and musical entertainment.

The Orange region will also host indigenous performances and cultural tours, insights into local history and the cool -climate food and wine of the region.

Highlights include Anne Kirkpatrick putting Paterson poems to music at Yeoval, the Banjo Paterson original poetry competition, a night market, a Banjo Paterson breakfast, a brunch and lunch and an opportunity to visit the Banjo Paterson....more than a Poet Museum.

There will also be additional events on the weekend of February 23-25.

For more information visit

Friday, 12 January 2018

ACCC vows to take on those lying, cheating, thieving airlines

There are few more useless, toothless organisations in Australia than the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). 

Known for talking big without the follow-up action, the ACCC has vowed to take on Australia’s airlines to ensure greater consumer protections. 

The ACCC's website says airline contracts are currently too one-sided - against the consumer. 

Don't hold your breath waiting for action, but the ACCC identified three key issues in its preliminary report on Airline Terms & Conditions last month. These relate to fares being advertised as non-refundable, excessive cancellation fees and a lack of compensation provided to passengers when flights are cancelled or delayed.

In its report, the ACCC found that “there appears to be an imbalance in rights between consumers and the airlines, and the airlines are entitled to make unlimited changes whereas the consumer is financially penalised for making even minor adjustments.”
One particular area of concern is airlines advertising fares as “non-refundable”. 

Under Australian Consumer Law, customers may, in fact, be entitled to a refund under some circumstances. For example, if the airline cancels the flight and fails to offer an adequate alternative. 

Jetstar, similarly, states that all Starter fare add-ons are non-refundable. But in cases where paid add-ons such as meals or entertainment are not provided, customers are legally entitled to a refund.
Other concerns identified by the ACCC include: customers being charged for flight changes forced by the airline’s actions; travel vouchers being offered instead of refunds; customers not being compensated for the cost of booking a new flight on another airline in the case of a last-minute cancellation.

Now let's see what happens.