Friday, 30 June 2017

Up-to-date information a key to enjoyable travel

How many times have you looked in a guide book for up-to-date information only to find out later that a recommended restaurant serving that guinea pig you've always want to try has long since closed, or that highly-rated folk dancing theatre is now a porno cinema?

In a rapidly changing world, it pays to be on the ball with info: a little research might prevent you from booking into a previously perfectly adequate hotel that now offers views of a massive, and noisy, new freeway construction site. 



Or worse, that the No.12 bus now only runs twice a day and you are destined to spend several hours waiting for the next one. 

Search engines, websites and apps can all play a major part in ensuring a stress-free trip. 

A major holiday destination, Thailand, recently upgraded its Amazing Thailand and Tourism Thailand mobile apps to ensure accurate and timely travel information is at the fingertips of local and international tourists. 
In response to the way modern travellers seek services online, in particular on their mobile devices, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has developed mobile apps which give travellers instant facts and data on general tourist information or more niche services. 
The English-language Amazing Thailand mobile app is aimed at helping international tourists find data on attractions, tours, dining and accommodation. The Tourism Thailand mobile app, meanwhile, offers a similar range of services to local travellers with Thai language listings about events and attractions.
Both the Amazing Thailand and Tourism Thailand mobile apps are boast new features including maps, GPS and 360 VR images of destinations to enable users to easily find attractions and gain preliminary impressions of places of interest. Information can also be shared via e-mail and other social media platforms and email.
In addition, the Amazing Thailand mobile app also allows users to 'speak Thai' via an English-to-Thai translation dictionary, which can be voice-operated enabling tourists to find words they need to communicate with Thai people, shop owners or food sellers.
How very convenient should you urgently need a post office, or, even more urgently, be looking for the public toilets in some remote village in Nakhon Ratchasima. 
For more information, see http://mobile.tourismthailand.org/  

Tasmania's favourite chef collects two Michelin stars

Tetsuya Wakuda AO, star Sydney chef and Tasmanian brand ambassador, has earned his second Michelin star for his Singapore restaurant, Waku Ghin.



Tetsuya, a much-loved figure in Australian culinary circles, was awarded two stars in the latest Michelin Guide, Singapore, announced overnight at an awards ceremony held at The Fullerton Hotel.

He joins Brett Graham of The Ledbury in London as the only Australian chefs to hold two Michelin stars.

“It’s something we never expected," Japanese-born Tetsuya said. "It’s very flattering and I’m proud ... I'm more proud of my staff.

“This is the restaurant business. This is a very special industry. It’s very hard, very tough, but in the end, very sweet.”

Tasmania claimed a share of the recognition as both Waku Ghin, at Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore, and Tetsuya's in Sydney, both highlight fresh Tasmanian produce.

Tetsuya became an official Tasmanian Brand Ambassador in 2004, four years after first visiting the state to source ocean trout for his world-renowned signature dish, confit of Tasmanian ocean trout.

He has assisted Tasmanian producers with the distribution of wasabi, cheese, abalone, oysters, onions, wagyu beef, grass-fed beef and lamb, walnuts, leatherwood honey, wine, olive oil and many other products.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Are Armenia and Albania among the next travel hotspots?

Is Armenia on your agenda for a holiday? How about Albania (pictured) as a vacation destination? 

Both countries are among the most enquired about with British travel agents Responsible Travel, who also see growth in destinations including Montenegro, Croatia and Georgia (not the one in the US). 



Responsible Travel reports a colossal rise in popularity of Eastern European destinations for the first half of this year, compared to 2016. 

With exchange rates predicted to sting many European tourists in traditional destinations this summer, the on line travel company’s latest data suggests a growing trend for Eastern Europe, where holiday budgets stretch further and local communities can benefit, too.

Responsible Travel’s percentage increase in enquiries (year on year): Armenia +143%, Albania +110%, Montenegro +71%, Croatia +54%, Georgia +54%. 

Enquiries, of course, are not solid bookings, but do suggest an interesting trend.



“Our customers are showing unprecedented interest in Eastern European destinations where we know they get better value for money," says Responsible Travel CEO Justin Francis. 

"Local people can benefit hugely from this growth in popularity if we, as travellers, make sure our money is going directly to the people that need it. Staying in local accommodation, eating in locally owned restaurants, shopping in local markets…these pump money into communities. So when tourism is done responsibly then we have a win-win situation for local people as well as visitors.”

The weak sterling rate means British tourists are being hit harder than ever in many of the traditionally popular holiday destinations. With the current exchange rate, it is reported customers will pay an extra £200 for €1000. Also, popularity and demand rises for destinations considered ‘safe’, such as Spain and Portugal, so do the prices.

So is a cultural tour of Armenia, or a walking trip in rural Albania tickle your fancy next time you are in Europe...
www.responsibletravel.com
  

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Cape Town becomes a wine region in its own right

The profile of South African wine is set to attract greater international attention now that a new Wine of Origin District named after Cape Town, one of the world’s foremost tourism brands, has been approved by the South African Wine and Spirit Board.

The ground-breaking move is aimed at elevating the profile of South African wine through a direct association to Cape Town and will unite the wine regions of Constantia, Durbanville, Philadelphia and Hout Bay under the inclusive name Wine of Origin Cape Town.


A total of 30 wineries, including some of South Africa’s leading brands such as Groot Constantia (below), Durbanville Hills (above), Diemersdal, Klein Constantia, Nitida, Meerendal, Buitenverwachting and Cape Point Vineyards will join forces under Wine of Origin Cape Town, capitalising on the global recognition Cape Town has achieved as an international tourist destination and sought-after lifestyle brand.

Rico Basson, CEO of South African wine producers’ organisation Vinpro, said an official Cape Town wine district automatically links the local wine industry to one of the leading place names in international tourism, lifestyle and business.


The collaboration between the various wards and wineries in coming together to form the new wine district is a huge step forward for the South African wine industry,” he says.

It is an example of innovative co-operation in harnessing producers to market their respective regions under one name, the name Cape Town being much-needed for South African wine to present itself as a global player.

As a wine region, Cape Town now encapsulates a wonderful set of dynamics in terms of heritage, culture and modern wine styles. South Africa is already well-known for our wine tourism offering and this new development will add to integrating our strategy of innovative marketing.”

Basson said the areas involved are incorporated in a unique area of the Cape Winelands that includes wards surrounded by the effect of the Atlantic Ocean and representing a similar geography.”

Friday, 23 June 2017

Somewhere special to stay for visitors to Hobart

There is no shortage of variety in the range of accommodation available in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, but a newly-opened rental cottage offers a tangible link to the past. 

1870 Hobart Town is a super-comfortable heritage cottage in South Hobart, dating back to, you guessed it,1870. 



It's tucked away on a characterful side street and just a couple of minutes' walk from cafés and restaurants like Ginger Brown and newcomer Miss Jane. 

Not that you'll need them. As with the owners' other rental property, Coast House, outside Cygnet,1870 is stocked with gourmet goodies ranging from fresh free-range eggs and Huon smoked salmon, to fresh artisan breads, a selection of Tasmanian cheeses, fresh strawberries and even a bottle of local wine and some soft drinks.



Coincidentally, the adults-only cottage was once the home of the Pooleys - now one of the state's leading wine producing families. 

The brand new website (1870 was only launched a couple of weeks ago) describes 1870 as "a heritage cottage with character, comfort and convenience."

With open wood fires lit when we arrived, and hugely comfortable furnishings, there is a temptation, particularly in winter, to snuggle up for the night. 

That, however, would be a pity when all the attractions of Hobart are on your doorstep. It is a 20-minute walk to Salamanca and the waterfront and several mountain tracks are available in the foothills of kunyani/Mt Wellington.


For those who want to stay on one level, there are a comfortable queen- sized bed with luxury linens and bathroom downstairs; along with a spacious living area and kitchen. There is a second character attic bedroom upstairs.

For warmer days guests have use of a balcony and an embryonic garden, as well as off-street parking, while internal additions include a coffee maker, dishwasher, washing machine, hairdryer and a stocked pantry. 

You'll find TV and free, fast internet, too, for keeping in touch with those at home, as well as a stereo system. 

My only complaint was the towels; feeble little things that didn't work for a big blubbery boy. I'm told they have since been replaced, so I can give 10/10. 

Summing up; 1870 Hobart Town is just delightful with all city comforts in the quietest of neighbourhoods.

For details and bookings visit  www.1870hobarttown.com. Prices start from $250 a night. 

# The writer was guest of 1870 Hobart Town  

Christmas in July and August in the Blue Mountains

There are a lot of people for whom it doesn't seem right to celebrate Christmas on the beach, or beside a swimming pool. 

Usually British, or European-born, they are scornful about prawns and beer; demanding a traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings, along with brisk winds and maybe the odd flurry of snow. 

That's how Yulefest came about; an Australian celebration of all things Christmasy when it really is winter Down Under. 



This weekend marks the start of the Blue Mountains’ annual Yulefest, and while the stiff breezes are blowing and sleet threatening there’s no better place to be than beside the log fire in the lovely surrounds of Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains, MGallery by Sofitel.

To celebrate the reverse season, Fairmont Resort is set to host lavish Yulefest feasts each weekend from June 24 to August 12. 

The newly refurbed Jamison’s Restaurant will be transformed "into a winter wonderland" with a roaring fire, festive feast, storybook scenery, and even the occasional snowflake. Come dinner time guests can craft their own menu from an extensive gourmet buffet, complete with festive favourites such as roast carvery dishes and desserts.


Taking things beyond parody into a world of Hansonesque absurdity, Fairmont Resort will also welcome special guest Santa Claus, "who will pay the children a visit and wish all a merry Yulefest".

I wonder if you can pay him to stay away? 
  
Friday and Saturday Yulefest dinners cost $92 per adult, $49 per teen (13-17) and $29 per child (5-12). Kids under four eat free. Bookings are essential. 

For those that want to extend the Yuletide cheer, the resort is offering a Bed and Breakfast package from $339 per night which includes overnight accommodation for two adults and adults and two children, plus buffet breakfast the following morning.

For more information visit www.fairmontresort.com.au, call (02)  4785 0000 or email reservations@fairmontresort.com.au


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ready to experience Tasmania's Three Capes Track?

The Tasmanian Walking Company has opened bookings for its new Three Capes Walk. 

The company, which also operates walks including the Cradle Mountain Walk and the Wineglass Bay Walk, says the new experience has been "hailed as Australia’s premier coastal walk". 


The four-day guided experience traverses the full Three Capes Track staying in the Tasman National Park’s only private lodgings. 

Groups will comprise groups of no more than 14, led by two experienced guides.

Walkers will sleep in architecturally designed lodges at night and will be served locally sourced fare, matched with a selection of Tasmanian wines.

The first departure will be on September 1, 2018, but walks are expected to book out fast. 

The two lodges have been designed to rest gently in the environment. Both reflect sustainability in their built form; respecting their surrounds. Environmentally friendly features, include bird-friendly wind turbines, water-recycling showers and the latest solar technologies. 

For details email bookings@taswalkingco.com.au or phone (03) 6392 2211.    


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Champions. Low-cost airline wins for ninth straight year.

There are dozens of low-cost airlines in Asia alone, some operating just a couple of aircraft, others flying large fleets. 

I've flown several times with AirAsia and it came as no surprise to find it had won the World’s Best Low-Cost Airline for the ninth year in a row. 



Air Asia X also won awards for Low-Cost Airline Premium Cabin and World’s Best Low-Cost Airline Premium Seat awards for the fifth straight year.

The long-haul sister airline of AirAsia won the accolades at the 2017 Skytrax World Airline Awards at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace at Le Bourget Airport yesterday.

Dubbed the “Oscars of the Aviation Industry”, the Skytrax Awards are the global benchmark of airline excellence with over 19.9 million customer surveys completed worldwide by more than 105 nationalities, measuring standards across 49 key performance indicators of an airline’s frontline products and services.

AirAsia and AirAsia X have won a combined 25 Skytrax World Airline Awards since the awards were introduced in 2001.




AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said: “Today, Asean has created a world record. We are now nine times world champion. To put it into perspective, Brazil won the FIFA World Cup five times, Michael Jordan was NBA champion six times and Michael Phelps holds the record for most first place finishes at a single Olympics with eight gold medals.

“We take the world champion title seriously and we will strive to continue to improve for both our guests and shareholders. Over the last 15 years we have created a great brand and over the next 15, we want to move towards One AirAsia, a truly Asean community airline. We also want to recreate ourselves as a digital airline and use technology to drive more value.
 
“We are humbled by the support shown by our valued guests and we thank them for voting for us nine times in a row." 

If you like great views you'll love this new bar

I have a strange confession to make for someone who makes his living writing about wine, food and travel: I have never been to Greece. 

I've always wanted to; somehow never managed it. 

One of the places that's on my radar, should I get to Greece as a doddery old bloke, is the luxury boutique hotel Grace Santorini.


Reopened last year after extensive renovations, Grace Santorini is this week launching its "destination Champagne lounge, 363, and a partnership with Dom Pérignon and Moët & Chandon for the 2017 summer season.

So we've got a dream island, we've got Champagne, and we've got these views. I'm in!

Set to offer one of the world’s best bar views, the new champagne lounge sits 363 metres above sea level overlooking the breath-taking Aegean Sea. 

For the rest of summer, Grace Santorini will partner with Dom Pérignon and Moët & Chandon to host Vintages & Vistas, a series of exclusive Champagne events.


Inside 363, a feature wall is made of lava rock from Santorini using local architectural techniques, with mirrors behind it to reflect the light.

A fully-lit honey onyx bar with brass shelves provides a dramatic statement foil to the dark volcanic stone. The bar is furnished with Emperador marble coffee tables, and barstools and armchairs handmade in Greece and upholstered in C & C Milano fabrics. Adorning the walls is a curated collection of modern art from the renowned Rarity Gallery. 

One day! 

Grace Santorini is only open April to October and room prices start from 600 per night including breakfast and taxes. +30 2286 021300. www.gracehotels.com/Santorini 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Fico: One place you really must eat in Hobart

Hobart is all grown up now; the one-time culinary wasteland is awash with fun and interesting places to dine, including Templo, Aloft, Franklin and Glass House. 

If you have just one night in which to dine, however, and want to see what is attracting locals (even on Tuesday nights) let me direct you to Fico Bistro and Vino; six months old and now fully into its stride. 



This is a grown-up restaurant with adult food, but also with a sense of whimsy and top-notch service from a floor team that seems entirely European. Professionalism and product knowledge rules.

Fico is the brainchild of Oskar Rossi, the son of leading Hobart artist Tom Samek, and his chef partner Federica Andrisani, who started with pop-up events before opening their own place on Macquarie Street. 



The food is, as you'd expect, Italian-accented, but with nods to both Australia and Australia in terms of flavours. You can order a la carte, or pay $65 (a bargain, given prices in Sydney and Melbourne) for the "let us cook for you option". 

So let them cook - and of a total of eight small dishes that arrived, virtually every one of which was a tour de force of flavour, texture and balance. 

You are never quite sure of what you are going to get, with the menu following the short-hand style of squid, sunflower, lardo; or blini, smoked eel. 



It's a little hipster, but not achingly so. 

The dishes arrived well spaced; first kingfish soy gel, wasabi (two scrumptious slivers), then a modern take on sardines on toast. 

We began with a very good Mediterranee rosé from the south of France ($12 a glass) and then after these two dishes ordered a bottle of the Terre de Pierres Macon-Villages, minerally crisp in style of Chablis ($65). 

The wine choices ranged from reasonably priced Italian and Tasmanian wines to some serious credit card busters (and only a couple of "natural" options, praise the Lord).



Bug tail carpaccio with shiso and rhubarb was one lowlight, lacking in distinctive flavours, but we were wowed by taleggio tortellini with mushroom, some ultra thin grissini and the aforementioned squid, sunflower and lardo. 

A whole grilled flounder with ginger sauce shone - and we finished our savoury courses with going near any red meat - although whole pigeon was on offer as a daily special.


Desserts were chocolate, coffee and mandarin; and quince, bay, white chocolate and lemon. Distinctly different and both downright delicious.

I'm late getting to Fico; Graeme Phillips and John Lethlean have long ago praised it with similar enthusiasm. But standards have clearly been maintained. 

Totally satisfactory - and exactly what a good restaurant should be.

Fico Bistro and Vino, 151 Macquarie Street, Hobart. (03) 6245 339. www. ficofico.net. Lunch Wed-Sat; dinner Tue-Sat. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Art exhibition to honour memory of Leonard Cohen


The Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, Canada, has just announced details of  A Crack In Everything, the first major exhibition on the great poet, writer and musician Leonard Cohen.

The presentation will be the first full exhibition dedicated to the legendary artist and its opening will coincide with the first anniversary of his death. 

A Crack In Everything will be unveiled on November 9, and run until April 8, 2018.

Known as a poet, author, singer and songwriter, Cohen remains one of the most enigmatic and iconic figures in modern culture and authorised the exhibit himself before passing.

Featuring 18 new works with 40 artists confirmed including Moby, Lou Doillon and Julia Holter, the show will present pieces from 13 visual artists, seven filmmakers and 20 musicians. A series of concerts will also run in parallel with the showing dates.

The aim of the exhibition is to create an immersive, visually compelling and in-depth experience exploring Montreal-born Cohen’s aesthetics of art and life. 

Through his music and lyrics, songs and poems, Cohen has attracted a huge global audience and influenced countless artists across all disciplines and generations. 

The exhibition will explore the creative impact of his work on the international arts community by presenting a unique selection of commissioned works and installations by artists from different disciplines all around the world who have been inspired, influenced or otherwise moved by Cohen.

Beyond the works that will be created especially for A Crack in Everything, the exhibition will also include innovative multimedia environments in which Cohen’s songs will be covered and performed. 

The museum It is located on the Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles. Montreal, and is part of the Place des Arts complex. Founded in 1964, it is Canada's first museum devoted to contemporary art. See www.http://macm.org/en/ 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

How to meet your maker. Join d'Arenberg for an online wine tasting.

Chester Osborn, the flamboyant d'Arenberg winemaker, is one of those in the wine industry who has taken to online tastings with gusto.


Osborn will launch the 2014 vintage d'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz on Thursday, June 29, via Facebook. 

Since being first released in 1993, The Dead Arm Shiraz has enjoyed international success and is now recognised as d'Arenberg’s flagship - an impressive accolade in a portfolio of over 70 wines. 

“I’ve travelled all over the world, meeting people, tasting, and sharing the stories behind the quirky names of our wines,” said Osborn. “But the world is a big place, and I can’t have a drink with everyone!" 

Instead, he is offering "a chance to hear about the art of winemaking, the d'Arenberg way, from the comfort of your own home, hopefully with a glass of wine in hand.” 

Broadcasting live from the d'Arenberg Facebook page at 7pm ACST on June 29, the man with Australia's wildest collection of shirts will offer insight into d'Arenberg’s winemaking techniques and talk about the 2014 Icon wines. 

Potential viewers are encouraged to purchase a triple pack of the 2014 Icons as a special pre-release offer and taste along at home, sharing their experience online using the hashtag #mytasting

The triple pack can be purchased for $195 online at www.darenberg.com.au/mytasting. The packs include one bottle of each Icon wine, The Ironstone Pressings GSM, The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon and The Dead Arm Shiraz in a gift box. 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The best address in London - if money is no object

London's Capital Hotel is a classic British five-star boutique hostelry.

Perfectly situated, just around the corner from Harrods of Knightsbridge, it offers style and sophistication to a well-heeled audience of global travellers.



The Capital has just launched its new luxury penthouse - a London bolthole for those looking for discretion and plenty of space. Go on, spread out. You've paid for it.  

Now available for summer stays, it is priced at £2000 per night - which puts it well out of my budget; but hopefully not yours.



On the first floor is a bright sitting room with floor-to-ceiling windows that lead to a charming terrace – an extremely rare facility in the heart of London.

Across the hall is a large, well-equipped, open-plan kitchen/dining area for additional entertaining space. Upstairs is an elegant en-suite master bedroom – also with private terrace overlooking the roofs of Knightsbridge - and a double bedroom, a fully-fitted dressing room, separate bathroom and storage space.

The Capital’s concierge, housekeeping and front office team are on hand for guests to tailor their visit in accordance with their individual requirements. Ask for a llama to be sent to your room and no one will bat an eyelash. It's the style of place where the customer is always right.

The Knightsbridge Penthouse is fully-equipped for self-catering, or guests may book a table for Outlaws at The Capital (the Michelin-starred in-house eatery that specialises in Cornish seafood - also highly recommended). There are a variety of recently renovated meeting rooms and the on-site car park, also a London rarity.

The Capital’s whisky bar is open daily. Ask for a glass of wine from owner David Levin and wife's own winery in the Loire Valley of France. His daughter Kate is the general manager. 

Should they wish to visit local attractions, guests are within walking distance of Harrods, Hyde Park and the V&A Museum. 

The Capital (www.capitalhotel.co.uk) has 49 jolly comfortable bedrooms, including eight suites, and a selection of comfortable apartments. Tell them I sent you.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Honour for Mornington Peninsula wine pioneer

Mornington Peninsula wine industry pioneer Nat White, previously of Main Ridge Estate, was one of those honoured in the Queen's Birthday List, collecting a well deserved OAM award. 


David Lloyd, from Eldridge Estate, reported much satisfaction across the region, saying: "I wanted to share my regions happiness at the recently retired Nat White receiving an OAM award yesterday. Our region went from hobbyists to a serious wine region due to his drive and vision.

Nathaniel John White of Flinders was honoured for services to the wine industry, including Main Ridge Estate Winery - Mornington Peninsula: Owner and Wine Maker, 1975-2015, as well as his consultancy work. 

He was the Peninsula's first qualified winemaker and opened the region's first licenced winery in 1978.

He was a foundation member of the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association (MPVA) and committee member for 36 years as well as being involved with the establishment of the Friends of the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons and wine makers' representative "for many years".

He was also a founding committee member of the Mornington Peninsula International Pinot Celebration, a consultant, mentor and educator to local winemakers "for 40 years".

I hear several local vignerons joined in a toast to White last night. 




Blue Wren Winery: A bright feather in your culinary cap

What is chef Steve up to?
Things are very much on the move at Blue Wren Winery, Mudgee. Recent samples have impressed, particularly a 2016 Verscato, a crisp aperitif wine made from verdelho grapes in the style of Moscato.

Colleague Roderick Eime visited Blue Wren last weekend and was impressed by the momentum. Here's his guest post.

After a complete upgrade to every aspect of the property, one of Mudgee’s signature wineries relaunches as a bold gastronomic and events venue.

There’s a wry smirk on Chef Steve’s face as he digs deep into the punnet of thick coffee-coloured mousse he’s about to put on my plate. The velvet-smooth paste is delicately extracted with an ice cream scoop and placed to the side.

As I ponder this strange concoction, Steve continues to taunt me with cheeky glances as he prepares for the next astonishing procedure.


[read full story] (opens in new window)

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Peter Gago: Master of the Wine Universe

Even today, after 15 years in the biggest job in Australian wine, Peter Gago AC occasionally shakes himself to be certain he is not living a bizarre dream.



He was probably shaking his head again this morning when named as a Companion of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

The Penfolds' chief winemaker, one of the most in-demand wine speakers and presenters in the world, spends much of his time in first-class lounges and luxury hotels, rubbing shoulders with the great and good of the wine world.

Adelaide one week, Hong Kong the next. Then London and Paris, followed, maybe by a few days in New York and San Francisco spreading the Penfolds gospel.

A private tasting with Jancis Robinson one day, a gala dinner the next, accepting a trophy the next.

It is a gruelling schedule, but one which Gago thrives on. He's one of the nice guys of the wine industry, quick with a smile and private chat with even the humblest of wine scribes or representatives.

A few years ago I watched him deal with request after request for a few words or a photo at Vinexpo, the world's biggest wine fair.

We caught up twice late last year, first in Sydney for a Penfolds tasting, then in London, where meeting the all-powerful Robinson and collecting a global science award were on his agenda.

He's come a long way, this former school teacher and scientist turned winemaker.

Born in Newcastle, England, he moved to Adelaide with his family when he was six. After completing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne, he worked as a chemistry and mathematics teacher before succumbing to a long-held interest in wine, which saw him return to Adelaide at the age of 29 and complete a Bachelor of Applied Science (Oenology) at Roseworthy College.

After graduating as dux, Peter joined the winemaking team at Penfolds in 1989, initially in the craftsmanship of sparkling wines, before moving on to reds where he took on the role of Penfolds' red wine oenologist.

He quickly became an integral part of the winemaking team and in 2002 succeeded John Duval as Penfolds chief winemaker, the role he has now held for a decade and a half.

His job ranges from time in the vineyards to globetrotting ambassador to overseeing the final blends of Penfolds' most prestigious reds.

As only the fourth custodian of Grange since Max Schubert was appointed in 1948, he is in constant demand internationally.



“A year or two ago I was at celebration of the 40th year of Decanter, the English wine magazine, a glamorous event at London's Le Gavroche that was attended by people like Olivier Krug of Champagne Krug, Marchese Piero Antinori of Antinori wines and Christophe Salin of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild,” he said in a recent conversation.

Wines served at that event included Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006, Penfolds Yattarna 2008, Isole e Olena’s Cepparello 2006, Chateau Montrose 1975 in magnum, Chateau Coutet 2009 and a special ‘Decanter’ bottling of Taylor’s 40 Year Old Tawny Port.

“Not only was Penfolds invited, but they also asked for one of our wines, which was a tribute to where we stand in the world of wine and was an absolute thrill,” Gago said.

“It was a recognition of Australian chardonnay in company that included Pierre Taittinger and Angelo Gaja and so many other names that I could drop. Australia is not just a little country any more; our wines have cachet and are being recognised by some of the most serious people in the world of wine.

“It is great if wines like Grange and Yattarna can open global doors for other Australian producers; and I think that is what is happening.”

Gago himself has become used to recognition and sharing stages with the greats of the wine world.

In 2012, he received the ‘Winemaker’s Winemaker’ award, presented by the Institute of the Masters of Wine and British industry publication The Drinks Business.

Late last year, he was honoured by the Royal Institution of Australia, which awarded him a prestigious Bragg Membership for his contributions to the science of winemaking.

The organisation is a national scientific not-for-profit organisation with a mission to '"bring science to people and people to science".

The award is named after the South Australian scientists Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir William Lawrence Bragg, a father and son team who won the Nobel Prize in 1915 for establishing X-ray crystallography, a scientific technique still widely used today.

Gago said he was “shocked, delighted and humbled” to be made an Honorary Bragg Member, the highest category of membership awarded by The Royal Institution of Australia.

“I am delighted as I am honoured to represent the pursuits of the many practitioners of the ancient discipline of oenology, humbled at joining eminent and world-renowned scientists and shocked to have been chosen on the right side of 60,” he said.

Gago joined just 31 other scientists as a member and was inducted along with paleontologist Professor Michael Archer AM, marine biologist Professor Terry Hughes and biochemist Adjunct Professor Zee Upton.

The Royal Institution of Australia chairman, Peter Yates AM, said celebrating the achievements of great scientists was an important part of Australia’s development as an innovative nation.

“By acknowledging and honouring our industry leaders we hope to inspire the next generation of scientists and STEM graduates who will play a critical role in building Australia’s future,” he said.

Gago says he likes his wines to reflect the fruit and the vintage.

"I would not say that my style is particularly evident in the winemaking, although I'm a firm believer in no filtration or fining; natural yeast, open-top fermenting and other non-invasive techniques,” he says.

“My role is about knowing when to interfere and when to stay out of the way."

While Gago is very serious about winemaking; he is not always intense. When we meet up we are just as likely to talk about Bruce Springsteen as wine; and we both enjoyed an exhibition on 1960s culture “Say You Want a Revolution” at London's Victoria and Albert Museum late last year.

He's constantly preparing or presenting – and his wife, Gail Gago, is a leading South Australian State politician. They are one of the busiest couples in the country.

“I still sleep less well than I should on planes, given the amount of flying I do,” he says. “But I'm doing a job that I love, one that I would do for free and one that I never imagined I would have the chance to do.

“It's a very exciting phase of the wine industry to be involved in. I'm sure there are great vineyards still to be planted in Australia. There is every chance that our Le Montrachet has yet to be discovered, and that there are great wine styles still to be invented.

“I'm over the novelty and 'romance' of travel but what thrills me is when we put on an event in Paris and we get a 100% acceptance. That is heart-warming and makes everything worthwhile. If you can sell Australian wines in Paris then you can sell them anywhere.”

Imagine taking your seat on a plane and then being savagely bitten

If you are flying with a United States airline then you need to be prepared to expect the unexpected. 

In April, there was the case of a United Airlines passenger who was dragged from his seat and off a plane by Chicago aviation police after declining an order to leave a flight the airline had overbooked. 

The "guest" suffered a concussion, a broken nose and lost two teeth in the incident.

A couple of weeks later, witnesses told of an American Airlines flight attendant violently taking a stroller from a woman with her baby, hitting her and just missing the baby. The crew member then allegedly tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her. The employee was later suspended. 

The most recent incident, this time involving Delta Airlines, is arguably the most shocking. 

An Alabama man got to get to his window seat by climbing over another man who had his "emotional support dog" on his lap. 

The man was twice attacked by the dog, which was not muzzled, and needed 22 stitches for facial wounds. He might need plastic surgery.  

The victim, Marlin Jackson, suffered a large open wound under his nostril and another open wound running along his right cheek. 
Initial police reports said that Jackson was bitten by a dog owned by, Ronald Kevin Mundy Jr, reportedly a former US Marine. 
All three were on a Delta Airlines flight leaving Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta headed to San Diego a week ago.
Officials from Delta Airlines said the flight was delayed as Jackson was transported to a local hospital and Mundy and his dog were escorted off the plane. But no charges were laid against Mundy.

Some questions for Delta Airlines and the police.

Why would you allow any type of dog to travel in the cabin without wearing a muzzle?

Why would you place any dog, alleged support animal or not, in the middle seat of a row?

Does an airline not have a duty of care to its passengers?

How do you determine whether a "support dog" has been trained to behave properly in public settings as service animals do
 
Why would the owner of a vicious pitbull-type dog not be charged after it attacked an innocent person?

Mundy told authorities that the dog, which he said was a chocolate lab/pointer mix, was issued to him for support. Strangely, his Facebook page shows him playing golf and engaged in other social activities without a support dog.

Also, he is employed as a maintenance supervisor at a nearby airport. Can the public be sure he was not given preferential treatment?

Can airline passengers demand to be moved if they are uncomfortable sitting next to a "support animal"?   

Some key points worth considering here. Jackson is a black man. Mundy is a white man and formerly with the US military. This incident occurred at Atlanta, in the heart of the deep south, a city with a long history of racism.

It certainly makes you think - and to be very wary of where you might sit when flying in the US.    

How an air crew's inability to add up can put lives at risk

Just the other day my wife had a shop assistant search for a calculator to add up the total from two purchases: $5 and $3.50.

Lots of people cannot add up; and that is an issue when the flight crew that's been given the task of making sure the correct number of passengers are on your plane have that issue.


You'll have seen them going up and down the aisles, clicking a little machine that is supposed to ensure that no one has loaded some baggage and then decided to scarper.

Except when they can't get the numbers right - and a passengers' luggage flies, but he does not.

It happened recently at Mumbai Airport when a passenger dozed off on an airport bus and missed his flight - without the bus driver or the IndiGo airline crew noticing.

The bus was ferrying passengers to the aircraft from the terminal at Mumbai Airport and somehow the driver and other airport personnel failed to spot him, TravelMole reported.

The bus was then parked up and locked, trapping him inside for six hours (apparently he was one of only three people in the country without a mobile phone).

The man, who did not want his identity disclosed, said he dozed off due to exhaustion after working non-stop for more than two days.

"I was in Mumbai for official work and continuously working for 2-3 days. I was very tired and fell asleep after I sat on the back seat, close to the air-conditioning vent," he said.

"I spent the entire night at the airport and took the first flight to Bangalore in the morning," the flier said.

He added he was at first considered a trespasser after being found on the bus; before he had the chance to prove his story.

Airlines go through multiple head count checks during boarding and on the flight, and it is unclear how crew failed to spot that they were one passenger short. A good job he wasn't a terrorist.