Wednesday, 30 August 2017

All change in Adelaide as Pullman hits town

 A week or so I stayed at the Crowne Plaza, Adelaide. It was a well-situated hotel with good bones. 

There were comfortable rooms, helpful staff but the business centre barely delivered; with old and slow machines. 

I was ready to give it a fairly warm review but a PR friend tipped me off online that it was about to given a facelift and rebranded. 


So it proved with the announcement today that "AccorHotels is pleased to announce it will take over the management of Crowne Plaza Adelaide and rebrand the hotel to Pullman Adelaide as of October 1, 2017".

With the opening of Pullman Adelaide, Pullman will become the largest five-star hotel brand in Australia in just under 10 years since its launch into the market.

Situated in the heart of the Adelaide CBD at 16 Hindmarsh Square and featuring 308 guestrooms, a restaurant and bar space, with top-floor meeting room facilities, the hotel will become AccorHotels’ 15th Pullman hotel in Australia. 

Simon McGrath, Chief Operating Officer of AccorHotels Pacific said: “We are very proud to be partnering again with Hines Property to bring such a prominent, well-respected brand to the city of Adelaide, which continues to see strong levels of tourism growth. 

"For some time we have been looking to bring the Pullman brand to South Australia, and through our relationship with the Hines Property we are thrilled to be operating Pullman Adelaide."

So the property will lift from 4.5 stars to 5 - and having enjoyed Accor's impressive Ibis property in Adelaide I'm looking forward to returning to the Pullman.


AccorHotels will add an executive club lounge to Pullman Adelaide as well as implement signature Pullman elements within the hotel. The Pullman brand now has over 117 hotels and resorts in 33 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle-East, Asia Pacific and Latin America. www.pullmanhotels.com 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Not just any port in a storm: a sweet Father's Day treat

There are still plenty of cold nights to come before Australia emerges from winter, so a bottle of warming port might make an ideal Father's Day gift for wine-loving dads. 

Port is a fortified wine produced exclusively in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweetish red wine, usually served as a dessert wine, though it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties.

The wine received its name, "port", in the later half of the 17th century from the port city of Porto at the mouth of the Douro Valley, where much of the product was brought to market.

The Douro was defined and established as a protected region, or appellation, in 1756, making it the third oldest, after Chianti (1716) and Tokaj (1730).
Dan Murphy's stores are currently promoting some fine ports from Cockburn's at very reasonable prices. 

The Cockburn label is over 200 years old and was founded in 1815 by the Scottish brothers Robert and John Cockburn. 

Originally wine merchants in Leith, their port house was founded with the objective of securing a supply of excellent wine at its source which would give them an advantage over the influx of poor-quality, cheap port which was common in Britain at the time. 

Cockburn's was purchased by a multinational corporation in 1962 and then by one of the great port families, Symington, in 2010.

Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), at Dan's for $24.99, is a wine from a single very good year that has been aged in large oak vats for four to six years, until it reaches the perfect level of maturity. 

The Cockburn’s 2011 Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is a rich and full-bodied wine (think silky liquid raisins) designed to be served at the end of lunch or dinner. Pair it will blue cheese for a superb wine and food match. Chocolate also works well.    

For details see www.cockburns.com or www.danmurphys.com.au.  

Sunday, 27 August 2017

A nifty gadget that's worth its weight for travellers

As someone who writes about travel, wine and food, I get offered the opportunity to try a wide range of gadgets and innovations. 

Few of them are as simple, or as useful, as the Energizer Vision LED Headlights.



While very few of us want to carry a torch around on our travels, these nifty mini versions of the old miners' helmet lamp are well worth tucking into a suitcase. 

Light as a feather, they are an ideal solution for any jobs that demand the use of both hands – whether that be while camping, trying to find a power point under a hotel bed, or in the case of a power failure (not unusual in destinations like Africa and South America). 

Designed with leading-edge LED optics and focusing technology (so the press release says), the head torches do their job. 

There are several versions, depending on how hard-core you want to go, ranging from $19.99 upwards.

I'd say these would be very useful for cyclists or on outdoor activities
 such as camping, fishing, hiking or caving, or simply putting in the chickens on a dark night. All have shatter-proof lenses, 50-hours run time and adjustable non-slip head straps. 

It would also be good news for anyone in a dark wine cellar, or trying to read without disturbing others. 

A pretty good idea for a Father's Day present. I'm not sending my sample back! 

Energizer Vision Headlights are available in leading hardware, grocery and outdoor retailers. For further information visit http://energizer.asia/en-au/  

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Why you should check your Telstra bill very carefully

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I travel a lot. Travel overseas a lot, too. 

One thing I always do is make sure my data roaming is turned off on my mobile phone when I take off from Australia. 


So I did that as usual for our recent trip to Thailand via Singapore. 

Except data roaming was apparently not switched off. Iphone fault? Telstra fault? No idea. 

But when my Telstra bill for July 21-August 20 arrived today, I had been billed $53 for data usage in Singapore (when I was using the very fast wifi in the Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Lounge) and a further $13 in Thailand (mostly in multiple amounts of 3c and 5c). 

I asked for help from Telstra on Twitter, where "Chris" gave me a number to call. I've just hung up on that number after waiting over 40 minutes for a response. 

Some advice: 

# Check your Telstra bill very carefully. 

# Make sure you are not billed for services you have not used. This also happened to me once before. 

# Put aside an hour or two of your own valuable time if you want to challenge these incompetent charlatans who cannot even answer their own phone. 

  

A uniquely Australian experience most Aussies have missed out on


Take one dusty desert town in outback Australia. 

Add a race meeting held just once a year. Throw in some destination dining, a fair whack of beer, fashion parades and some tent boxing for the brave or foolhardy.

The countdown to the 135th Birdsville Races is well and truly on, with Australia’s most iconic outback experience now less than a week away.

Event organisers are preparing for an influx of thousands to the tiny town on the edge of the Simpson Desert, which has a regular population of 115 people.

The town usually swells to host between 6,000-7,000 visitors over the bumper race weekend, which this year runs from September 1-2.

The historic event – billed by locals as the "Melbourne Cup of the Outback" – comprises a 13-race program and a jam-packed schedule of outback entertainment and activities – from film and comedy nights, to live music, Fashion in the Fields, cocktail parties, gourmet trackside dining and Fred Brophy’s famous travelling boxing troupe.



.
The race program offers up a combined prize-purse of $200,000, plus a further $12,500 in QTIS (Queensland Thoroughbred Incentive Scheme) bonuses – making it outback Queensland’s richest two-day horse-race meet.

The 2017 Birdsville Races will once again support the Royal Flying Doctor Service, hosting a 6.1km fun run on Wednesday, August 30, to help fundraise for the vital service in their remote region.

Tickets to the Birdsville Races are still on sale through www.birdsvilleraces.com.


Friday, 25 August 2017

The big boys are coming to town: Mercure moves in on Mudgee

Accor Hotels, the world's leading hotel operator, is on its way to the Australian country town of Mudgee. 

Accor announced that the Parklands Resort and Conference Centre in the New South Wales wine region has joined the Accor Hotels portfolio. 
The hotel, known as a function/conference centre and wedding venue, will undergo a refurbishment to bring it in-line with the Mercure brand standards and be re-branded as Mercure Mudgee in early 2018.
Parklands Resort and Conference Centre has the capacity to host up to 1,200 people across five event spaces and features 68-rooms, a restaurant and bar, fitness centre, indoor pool and tennis courts.
The resort joins Accor Hotels' growing network of regional New South Wales properties including Mercure Orange, ibis Styles Orange and Mercure Tamworth.

Simon McGrath, chief operating officer of AccorHotels Pacific said: “We are thrilled to add to our network of hotels in regional Australia and welcome the addition of Parklands Resort and Conference Centre to our network.
“Our move into the popular regional NSW town of Mudgee is backed by the growth of tourism in the area thanks to the many wineries and boutique providores that have really helped to put Mudgee on the map.
“The Mercure brand has a strong history in Australia, particularly in regional town centres, and Mercure Mudgee will deliver an internationally recognised, midscale hotel offering which will help drive tourism to the area.
“We are delighted to be working again with the owners, Elanor Investors Group, and we look forward to working with the local community and welcoming guests to the hotel.”
The Mercure brand has over 730 hotels in 56 countries. They are usually located in city centres, by the sea or in the mountains.
Accor Hotels is present in 95 countries and manages over 4,000 hotels. For full details see www.accorhotels.com

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

New campaign aims to boost sustainable tourism

Did you know it is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development?

Thought not.

To mark this less than memorable milestone (surely they could have come up with a snappier name?) the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is launching a consumer-oriented campaign aimed at raising awareness of the value and contribution that sustainable tourism can make towards development.

The ‘Travel.Enjoy.Respect’ campaign wants to engage tourists in making the sector a catalyst for positive change.

Great idea - but unlikely to work unless the organisation does more than send out a turgid press release.
The main message of the campaign was summarised by the UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai: “Whenever you travel, wherever you travel, remember to: respect nature, respect culture, and respect your host. You can be the change you want to see in the world. You can be an ambassador for a better future."

The campaign, which will run in various languages and outlets around the world, includes a manual of Tips for a Responsible Traveller, developed by the World Committee on Tourism Ethics in line with the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.

The manual provides travellers with a set of recommendations to help them make responsible choices when travelling and have a positive impact on the destinations they visit.

“Today, more than ever, ensuring that tourism is an enriching experience for visitors and hosts alike demands strong, sustainable tourism policies and practices and the engagement of national, as well as local, governments and administrations, private sector companies, local communities and tourists themselves,” added riffing Rifai.

The message will reach consumers through campaign supporters including among others CNN International, the Government of Andorra, the Madrid City Council, Iberia, the Spanish National Railways System (Renfe), Minube, PR MEDIACO, Cleverdis and Air Mauritius. None of them, except CNN, exactly global heavy hitters.

Good in theory - but money trumps sustainability any time; and this may be the last time you hear about this campaign.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Hunter star hits the road to showcase seafood and semillon

Andew Thomas, one of the Hunter Valley's leading exponents of semillon and shiraz, is taking to the road to host a series of Semillon+Seafood waterside lunches showcasing his full range of new-release semillons (with a red to finish).

https://sc-events.s3.amazonaws.com/4253170/main.jpg

The lunch series will be launched in Newcastle (Merewether Surfhouse on September 8), travelling to Brisbane (Aria, September 22), Melbourne (The Baths, Middle Brighton, September 17) with two dates in Sydney (Cirrus Dining, September 10 and Ormeggio, September 15).

Thomas believes semillon tastes better when the sun is shining, so to launch the 2011 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon and showcase the 2017 single vineyard semillons he's arranged this series of lunches.

Outstanding restaurants with water views and a focus on fresh seafood have been selected to complement the semillons, and Thommo has asked the chefs and sommeliers to create menus that showcase both the wines and local seafood.
The 2011 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon is a rare treat. "Each year we release just 500 six packs of this wine,"Thomas says. "It is set aside in cellar-controlled conditions, destined for re-release with six year's of bottle age."

Tickets are inclusive of three-courses plus canapes, paired with the range of semillons. 
Bookings are available by contacting Rowena (02) 49987 134 or by emailing cellardoor@thomaswines.com.au


Sunday, 20 August 2017

Margaret River winemaker starts an international stoush

The real deal
Imagine the uproar if a wine producer in Chile released a new product and called it Margaret River Chardonnay. 

That's exactly what just happened, except in reverse. And the Margaret River winery responsible is playing the publicity for all it is worth. 

Both Chile and Peru claim the delicious distilled spirit Pisco as their national drink, and both claim they invented it.There is a region called Pisco in Peru. 

Harmans Estate in Margaret River recently launched its own version of the distilled spirit and named it Pisco, earning, quite understandably, the ire of the South Americans. 

Winemaker Greg Garnish has been bleating to Today Tonight in Perth, saying: “We are copping a little bit of flak from the South Americans, particularly Peru. 

“A few death threats, which was quite interesting.”

He did not say who made the threats but added: “Pisco is, in our opinion, it is just a drink. It is a style of drink, being a distilled wine.”

Try telling the French that Chablis is just a grape drink; or the Spanish that Sherry is just a name. 

Sorry Mr Garnish, you have got this one very wrong. In my opinion, this is a bad look for both Margaret River and Australia.

The Peruvians have been using the name Pisco since 1764. Chile has had D.O.s (appellations since 1931). 

Why not call the Australian version by the generic name of aguardiente? Except that is not quite so fashionable, is it? 
   




Saturday, 19 August 2017

A special wine weekend on Tasmania's east coast



Looking for an excuse to visit Tasmania? The Apple Isle's beautiful east coast hosts the Great Eastern Wine Weekend annually to showcase the region’s finest food and wine.

The festivities kick off on the evening of Friday, September 8, with a 'Meet the Maker' tasting at Freycinet Lodge and then continue throughout the weekend with a variety of cellar door specials and events.

Guests can choose between visiting vineyards along the Great Eastern Drive, cruising with Wineglass Bay Cruises and staying at Freycinet Lodge for 'Meet the Maker' and the ‘Great Eastern Wine and Dine’ gala dinner.

Meet the Maker | Freycinet Lodge | Friday, September 8
From 6pm-9pm a range of winemakers from the east coast region will be providing free wine tastings, product sales, information and good conversation the deck of Freycinet Lodge. Delicious gourmet barbecue items will be available for purchase including pork ribs, steamed mussels, crispy duck and freshly shucked oysters by Melshell Oysters.The event is open to the public and bookings are not required.


Wine in Wineglass | Saturday, September 9 
Experience the spectacular Wineglass Bay Cruise from 10am with hosts Tim Goddard and Rick Burge. The cruise includes local wine tastings, morning and afternoon tea, freshly shucked oysters, Tasmanian salmon and a delicious Ploughmans bento box lunch. (03) 6257 0355


Lunch in the Winery | Craigie Knowe | Saturday, September 9 

The brand-new Craigie Knowe cellar door hosts this feast from noon-3pm at a coast of $95pp. This event will be the official launch of both the cellar door and the 2017 wines including a rosé, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay and white label pinot noir. A three-course wine-matched lunch of local produce including seafood, roast lamb, pig on the spit from Long Name Farm plus homemade dessert and cheese platters to finish. Bookings and enquiries: glenn@craigieknowe.com.au

The Great Eastern Wine and Dine Dinner | Freycinet Lodge | Saturday, September 9
A relaxed sunset feast overlooking Great Oyster Bay starts at 6pm for canapés and pre-dinner drinks, followed by a four-course dinner featuring gourmet Tasmanian shared platters matched to a selection of east coast wines. Each wine will be presented by its respective wine maker. Wine expert Tim Goddard from Cool Wines and Freycinet Vineyard winemaker Claudio Radenti will host the evening along with guest speaker Rick Burge from Burge Family Wines in the Barossa. $130 per person . Bookings and enquiries: sales.destinations@ract.com.au (03) 6236 4311


Accommodation Package | Freycinet Lodge
A minimum two-night stay package is available at Freycinet Lodge from $553.50 for auto club members, and $738 for non-members. The package includes two nights’ accommodation, breakfast and dinner at the Great Eastern Wine and Dine event for two people. Bookings and enquiries: sales.destinations@ract.com.au. (03) 6236 4311

Bubbles, Bivalves and Smooth Tunes at Devil's Corner | Sunday, September 10

From noon-3pm, guests can order fresh oysters and a glass of devilish bubbles, find a spot on the grass and settle in to the finish off the weekend with a relaxing afternoon of music. For just $24 you will receive a dozen oysters and a glass of bubbles to wash them down! No bookings required.

For details see here: www.freycinetlodge.com.au/WineWeekend 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Central and delightful Sydney accommodation

Five minutes' walk from Town Hall Station. Tick. Five minutes' walk from Darling Harbor. Tick. Five minutes' walk from the Queen Victoria Building. Tick. Five minutes' walk from the major department stores. Tick. 


Mantra on Kent furnished apartments may be tucked away on a quite stretch on Kent Street in Sydney, but they are right on the doorstep of many of the city's major attractions.

With a 24-hour reception service, very helpful staff, on-site cafe and jacuzzi, affordable places to stay in the big smoke do not come much more convenient. 

Guests travelling on business can take advantage of a variety of amenities on offer at the property, such as a business centre and meeting rooms. Wifi is also available - and there are computer stations in the lobby.


Mantra on Kent features 106 air conditioned apartments of various sizes. Ours featured a balcony with some terrific views. All have a refrigerator and a flat-screen TV with a DVD player. 

Sydney's attractions, including St Andrew's Cathedral are easily accessible on foot, as are Powerhouse Museum, the Australian National Maritime Museum and St Mary's Cathedral. 

Comfortable beds, good furniture and a laundry tick a lot of boxes. Recommended for no-frills comfort. 

For details and bookings visit: www.mantrahotels.com/mantra-on-kent

# The writer was a guest of Mantra on Kent 

50th birthday celebrations for Margaret River hit Sydney and Melbourne

This is a very important year for the Margaret River wine region, which is celebrating 50 years since the first commercial production from what is now one of the most famous vineyard districts in the world.

Margaret River was first planted by Perth cardiologist Tom Cullity, who was influenced primarily by a 1966 research paper of University of Western Australia agronomist, Dr John Gladstones.

He examined Margaret River’s suitability for viticulture and believed that the only possible disadvantage of the region could be its heavy winter rainfall which would necessitate choosing vineyard land which had good drainage.

The region is now home to 217 vineyards and 187 wineries and located a leisurely three- hour drive south of Perth.

The planting at Vasse Felix (below) in 1967 signalled the beginnings of a wine industry in the region.


It was quickly followed by Moss Wood (1969), Cape Mentelle (1970), Cullen (1971), Sandalford (1972), Leeuwin Estate, Woodlands and Wrights (1973).

To celebrate the last five decades since the first grape vines were planted, 19 renowned Margaret River wineries will host a series of dinners and wine tasting events in Melbourne and Sydney in early September.

Guests will have the opportunity to experience 11 of Margaret River’s most premium wineries over a stunning five-course dinner at three-hatted restaurant, Vue de Monde on Monday, September 4, and Bentley Restaurant + Bar on Wednesday, September 6.

Winemakers and sommeliers from wineries including Cape Mentelle, Voyager Estate, Howard Park and Woodlands will showcase their flagship varietals, predominately chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.

For Deep Woods Estate chief winemaker Julian Langworthy, the events offer a unique opportunity to bring together some of the region’s finest wines under one roof. “It’s great to see so many fantastic winemakers and wineries taking part in these events. I’m excited to showcase some of Deep Woods’ most notable wines alongside my industry peers,” he says.

Margaret River Wine will also host a tasting in Melbourne and Sydney, presenting over 50 wines from some of the region’s most iconic producers, including Fraser Gallop Estate, McHenry Hohnen, Xanadu and Margaret River’s oldest winery, Vasse Felix.

Guests will taste wines in order of the winery’s establishment, and enjoy a selection of canapés.

Participating wineries in order of establishment: Vasse Felix 1967, Cape Mentelle 1970, Woodlands 1973, Clairault | Streicker Wines 1976, Xanadu Wines 1977, Voyager Estate 1978, UMAMU Estate 1978, McHenry Hohnen Vintners 1979, Pierro Vineyards 1980, Devils Lair 1980, Deep Woods Estate 1987, Credaro Wines 1988, Howard Park 1996, Thompson Estate 1997, Oates Ends 1998, Fraser Gallop Estate 1999, Coward & Black 2001, Hutton Wines grower sourced, Flametree Wines grower sourced.

There is, of course, one elephant in the room. Some of the oldest producers, and some of the biggest names in Margaret River are not involved. Whether Cullen, for instance, and where are Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood and Sandalford?

Friday, 11 August 2017

Australia's own spirit links up with fashion icons

Forget Grey Goose, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff or Bacardi. 



Australia’s very own spirit, Vantage Australia, has been selected as the official cocktail sponsor for the Myer 2017 Spring Fashion launch taking place in Sydney on August 17.

The Vantage Australia team has created four special cocktails to serve at the A-list events with the who’s who of Australia’s fashion and social scene set to attend (my invite again went missing). 


The first of two events will be held during the day at a private residence at Coogee where both Aussie and international designers will showcase their latest collections at an exclusive fashion showcase headed sy Jennifer Hawkins. 

Vantage Australia has created a special activated-charcoal black Cosmopolitan to reflect the coastal views of Coogee Beach and its dramatic cliff’s edge.

Vantage Australia will also be having its mixologist on board at the second Myer event taking place that evening at Bronte’s Beach Surf Life Saving Club where guests will be taken back to a quintessential Australian childhood in summer. 


Inspired by some Aussie favourites, such as Frosty Fruits and Ginger Snaps, Vantage has developed three cocktails reminiscent of growing up in Australia: 

Frosty Fruit Granita: Vantage, cold pressed orange juice, pineapple juice and passion fruit  

Classic Vantage and Soda: Vantage, CAPI sparkling, fresh lemon 

The Ginger Snap: Vantage, CAPI flamin ginger, garnished with mint and lime. 


Reflective of the Aussie outback, Vantage white spirit draws its inspiration from native flora. 

For details see: www.spiritofanation.com

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

New Zealand awards reveal the best of the best

Pacifica in Hawke's Bay on the east coast of the North Island has been named the best restaurant in the country in New Zealand’s most prestigious restaurant awards.

The 2017 Cuisine Good Food Awards showcase the best New Zealand when it comes to food and wine - and the rising stars. 

At Pacifica, the celebrated Māori chef Jeremy Rameka combines Michelin-quality cooking with a casual New Zealand atmosphere, which you'll find in a weathered wooden bungalow near the coast.


Think dishes like pan-seared sesame crusted trevally with squid mince and green lip mussel sago.

Pacifica wasn’t the only Hawke's Bay eatery to get a mention with local favourite Bistronomy taking out best regional restaurant.

Malo, Hawke's Bay’s new kid on the block, picked up best new regional restaurant making this North Island region the big winner on the night. 

Auckland chef Ed Verner was named chef of the year for his work at his restaurant Pasture, while in Marlborough, Liz Buttimore, front of house star at Arbour, was awarded restaurant personality of the year. 

Oamaru restaurateur Fleur Sullivan of Fleur’s Place won a new award, the Food Legend. Fleur’s menu is simple and based on whatever is available on the day - the selection of seafood caught by the Moeraki Bay fishing boats that unload their daily catch on the wharf beside the restaurant.

Cuisine Restaurant Of The Year
Pacifica (Hawkes Bay)


Vittoria Coffee Chef Of The Year
Ed Verner, Pasture (Auckland)


Santa Vittoria Best Metropolitan Restaurant
Apero (Auckland)


Stuff Fibre Best New Metropolitan Restaurant
Gatherings (Christchurch)


Neat Meat Best Regional Restaurant
Bistronomy (Hawkes Bay)


Neighbourly Best New Regional Restaurant
Malo (Hawke's Bay)


Estrella Damm Best Specialist Restaurant
Cassia (Auckland)


Stuff.co.nz Best Casual Dining Restaurant
Azabu (Auckland)


Kenwood Restaurant Personality Of The Year  
Liz Buttimore, Arbour (Marlborough)


Ora King Salmon Innovation Award
Vaughan Mabee, Amisfield (Central Otago)


Cuisine Recommends Best Winery Restaurant
Black Estate (Canterbury)


Nautilus Estate of Marlborough Best Drinks List
Pasture (Auckland)


Negociants New Zealand Best Wine Experience
Noble Rot (Wellington)


Food Legend Award
Fleur Sullivan, Fleur's Place (Oamaru)

A unique taste of South Africa on the Cape Town waterfront


The Cape Grace Hotel is one of the most fashionable addresses in Cape Town and its Bascule Bar is one the trendiest spots to visit for a waterfront drink.

Right on the water’s edge at the V&A Waterfront yacht marina and with superb views of Table Mountain, Bascule is a café during the day that transforms into a lively bar when the sun goes down.

The Cape Grace Hotel, recently named one of the “Top City Hotels in Africa”, has launched a new drinks menu as part of its countdown to its 21st birthday.

The new cocktail list features ingredients grown only in South Africa and the hotel says it enables "guests to embark on an exploration of the country’s landscapes, folklore and history".

A variety of new cocktails aim to tell a uniquely South African story incorporating local flavours and fragrances.


Bascule Bar manager Victor Kirkbride says: “It is such an honour and pleasure to be unveiling this new collection of beverages to our guests. Guests are becoming more adventurous with their palates and the new menu is designed to get people excited about local, unique ingredients.

"We champion only the finest hand-crafted local spirits such as fynbos gin, multi-award-winning brandy and Methode Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wine made in the surrounding winelands.


The new ‘Taste of 21’ cocktail range includes:
Cape Classique: A cocktail variation consisting of KWV 10-year-old brandy and rooibos syrup topped with Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wine.

Amber Martini: A blend of Inverroche Amber Fynbos Gin, orange marmalade, Triple Sec (orange liqueur) and fresh lemon juice.

Rooibos Whisky Sour: Three Ships Bourbon Cask Whisky, fresh lime juice and rooibos syrup.

The bar has a selection of over 400 whiskies from around the world as well as serving classics like negronis.

For further information please visit www.capegrace.com.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Coonawarra and Tasmanian vignerons hit the road


Winemakers from Coonawarra and Tasmania are ready to set off on their annual roadshows to highlight their wares to the rest of Australia.

The Coonawarra Roadshow will have over 100 wines available for tasting - along with the chance to meet the good folk who make the wines.

Here are the dates:

Melbourne:
Wed, August 9 5-8pm, Federation Square – The Atrium

Hobart: Thu August 10 5-8pm, The Derwent Room, Wrest Point

Sydney: Fri August 11, 5-8pm, Ivy Sunroom, The Ivy
Brisbane: Sun August 13, 2-5pm, Moda Events Portside
Adelaide: Fri August 18, 5-8pm, The Sanctuary, Adelaide Zoo
Perth: Sunday, August 20, 2-5pm, East Fremantle Yacht Club 

Tasmania's finest will take their VIN Diemen tasting to Sydney and Melbourne this weekend with over 100 wines from 25 producers alongside some iconic Tasmanian gourmet goodies.


Sydney: Sat August 12, Noon-5pm, Cell Block Theatre. Darlinghurst

Melbourne: Sun August 13: Noon-5pm, Melbourne Meat Market, North Melbourne 

  


Jetstar to launch Hobart-Adelaide flights

In a move that will be welcomed by both tourists and those involved in the wine industry, Jetstar has announced it will begin three times weekly direct flights between Adelaide and Hobart from November 14.


The first direct flights between the two cities since Tiger Airways pulled off the route in August 2010- meaning all flights go via Melbourne and can take up to six hours. 

The new services will be operated by 180-seat Airbus A320s on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Up to 55,000 people are expected to travel on the flights each year.
“Thousands of travellers already fly from Hobart to Adelaide via Melbourne, so we are excited to offer direct low fares between the two cities, making it even easier to travel,” Jetstar group chief commercial officer Catriona Larritt said in a statement on Monday.
“Both Hobart and Adelaide are experiencing record tourism numbers, and we expect inbound tourism to the two cities to further strengthen with the addition of our new direct flights.
"We’ll start with three flights a week, if demand exceeds that, we’re always adjusting our schedule to provide what customers want.” Jetstar last flew the route in 2006. 
The new flight from Hobart will depart at 5:45pm, arriving in Adelaide at 7:15pm, with the return service then departing Adelaide at 7:45pm and arriving in Hobart at 10.05pm.
“The Adelaide-Hobart route has been our largest unserved market for some time,"said Adelaide Airport managing director Mark Young. 
"We know there is significant demand from customers to fly direct rather than via Sydney or Melbourne.” 
Adelaide will become Jetstar’s fifth destination from Hobart, and the Qantas low-cost offshoot says it now operates more flights to and from Tasmania than any other airline.

Parramatta moves upmarket with new five-star hotel


Parramatta,which has ambitions to be recognised as Sydney's second CBD, this week gets its first five-star hotel. 

SKYE Hotel Suites Parramatta opens its doors with 72 apartment-style suites. 

Each features L’Occitane toiletries, in-room dining from a modern on-site restaurant, a pre-stockable maxi-bar, the ability to choose your mattress firmness on each side of the bed, keyless entry and ‘virtual concierge’ tablets to enable access to all hotel services from each suite.
Amenities include a state-of-the-art gymnasium, pool, sundeck, spa, sauna and new restaurant, Husk & Vine Kitchen and Bar, which opened at lobby level on July 1.
Later this year cocktail operative Sven Almenning (the press release calls him a cocktail legend) will open a 26th-floor rooftop bar. 

When breaking ground for the development, Crown Group discovered archaeological remains integral to Parramatta’s historical and cultural past, including an 1840s house, an underlying convict hut, wheelwright’s workshop and the cellar of the Wheat Sheaf Hotel, which were preserved for public display and have inspired Husk & Vine’s decor.

The building itself is an architectural centrepiece for Parramatta, located less than 300 metres from Parramatta Square and a short walk from Parramatta’s train station and ferry wharf. 

Future SKYE Hotels Suites openings include Sydney CBD in 2018 and Green Square in 2019. 

SKYE Hotel Suites Parramatta, 30 Hunter Street, Parramatta. (02) 7803 2388. 
www.skyehotels.com.au/parramatta

Saturday, 5 August 2017

I want nothing this society's got; I'm going underground

The White Cliffs Underground Motel – the largest underground accommodation in Australia – has embarked on a major makeover including subterranean digging to further expand the 32-room hotel in the remote outback town.

One of only three ‘dugout’ motels in Australia, the White Cliffs Underground Motel attracts guests from around the world who enjoy a constant temperature of 22 degrees as well as a licensed restaurant, café, bar and above-ground swimming pool. 


It is located in a tiny opal-mining township is located in far western NSW, 1025km from Sydney and 781km north-east of Adelaide.

The motel dates back to the early 1900s when opal miners sought sleeping quarters away from the heat. It later became a family home and opened as a motel in 1989, with a new outback tourism company, Out of the Ordinary Outback, purchasing the property in 2016 as part of its growing stable of NSW outback experiences.

Unveiling details of the motel’s redevelopment, Out of the Ordinary Outback owner Scott Smith said eight rooms had already been completely renovated with new bedding and furnishings while beer on tap had also been added recently. 


Works to be completed by April 2018 included underground excavations to add en suite bathrooms to 12 rooms, a new family entertainment and games room, a new, outdoor lounge bar with wood-fired heater and flat-screen TV for use in winter, as well as eco-misting to cool down guests in outdoor areas in summer.

“Our underground motel in White Cliffs, a desert hamlet full of raw charm and colourful characters, is world famous so the aim of our upgrade is to improve amenities and further enhance the property’s appeal to guests from across Australia and overseas,” Smith said.

As part of the redevelopment, White Cliffs Underground Motel is offering a discount on two-night stays. Bookings made by September 30, 2017, are available from $291 per couple for two nights – an 11 per cent saving – or from $261 for solo travellers – a 13 per cent reduction. Tariffs include a continental breakfast both days.
Tri State Safaris and White Cliffs Underground Motel are owned by Out of the Ordinary Outback which also owns The Argent Motel in Broken Hill, the Warrawong on the Darling tourist camp and cabins at Wilcannia, the Copper City Motel in Cobar and the Ivanhoe Hotel. 

It all sounds like great fun. To book visit www.outoftheordinaryoutback.com.au or call 1300 688 225.

A beginner's guide to alternative grape varieties

There is a world of new grape varieties out there just waiting to be discovered. 

It used to be quite simple when you popped into a bottle shop to buy a bottle of wine. If you wanted white you'd probably go for chardonnay, semillon or New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

If it was red you were looking for then shiraz, cabernet sauvignon or maybe pinot noir were what you zeroed in on.


Nowadays, the choices are endless. In addition to natural wine, biodynamic wine, organic wine and gluten-free wine there are hundreds of imports to choose from. Even more confusingly there are wines made right here in Australia made from grape varieties ranging from aglianico to zweigelt.

It is estimated that there are now close to 150 different wine grape varieties grown in Australia. Here is an A-Z guide of some worth keeping an eye out for.

A:

Arneis: Originally from northern Italy, particularly Piedmont, arneis is a white grape that was often blended with nebbiolo in Italy. Known as “little rascal” because it is difficult to grow, in Australia it produces floral dry table wines for early enjoyment. Holm Oak Arneis from Tasmania is a benchmark.

Assyrtiko: A crisp, white grape variety from Greece that has just debuted in Australia, made by Jim Barry in the Clare Valley.

Aglianico: A red variety believed to originate in Greece that's now largely grown in southern Italy, it is tannic and tough in its youth. Used in a rose by Sam Scott for his La Prova label, it thrives in warm regions.

B:

Barbera: The third-most planted grape in Italy, barbera is a red variety most found in Piedmont. It has been planted in Australia for half a century but has yet to find a real home despite being grown in the Barossa, McLaren Vale and warm regions of New South Wales like the Hunter, where Margan make an outstanding example.

C:

Carignan: One of the mainstays of France's Languedoc region, carignan is found through the Mediterranean regions of Europe and is a high-yielding red grape often found in French bulk wines, along with cinsault. Often used in blends by wineries like Yangarra in McLaren Vale.

F:

Fiano: Originating from Campania in southern Italy, fiano was imported to Australia in 1978 and has found favour with both younger producers and drinkers. A lively white variety that stars at Oliver's Taranga in McLaren Vale and Pike's in the Clare Valley.

G:

Gamay: The classic light-red variety from Beaujolais in France, gamay is a refreshing red grape that is often blended with pinot noir – and can be chilled in summer. Look for examples from Sorrenberg in Central Victoria and Eldridge Estate on the Mornington Peninsula.

Graciano: A Spanish red grape that is grown primarily in Rioja, graciano has thrived in warmer parts of Australia. Woods Crampton source some excellent fruit from the Barossa.

Gruner-Veltliner: A spicy, white wine grape from Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic that can be made in both sweet and dry style. The first Australian version was made by Lark Hill outside Canberra, but there is a movement being led by Hahndorf Hill and other Adelaide Hills wineries.

L:

Lagrein: This red grape originates from the cooler Alto Adige/Trentino regions of northern Italy and produces intense wines with plenty of length. Look for Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy.

M:

Mencia: Many good wine judges are upbeat about the future of medium-bodied mencia in Australia and this northern Spanish variety from Galicia has enjoyed something of a boom at home over the past 20 years. Oliver's Taranga is the flag-bearer here.

Montepulciano: Widely planted in central Italy, this is a versatile, rich and expressive red variety that has shown great promise in several warmer regions of Australia. Try examples from di Giorgio in Coonawarra and Amato Vino in the Riverland.

N:

Nero d'Avola: Known as Calabrese in its native Sicily, Nero d'Avola is one of the success stories of new varieties in Australia, red-fruit flavours to the fore and easy to drink. Try standouts from Brash Higgins, Hither & Yon and Mount Horrocks.

P:

Pedro Ximenez: Used as a fruit source for the sweet sherry-style wines of Spain and Portugal, “PX” is sometimes used in Australian fortified wines for Campbells and Turkey Flat, and has also produced some excellent sweet wines for the likes of St Hallett in the Barossa Valley.

Pinot Blanc: Grown in Alsace, France, as well as Italy (Pinot Bianco), Germany and Austria (Weiss Burgunder), this neutral but easy drinking white offers stone-fruit flavours and thrives in the Yarra Valley (try Hoddles Creek or De Bortoli).

S:

Saperavi: One of the most ancient grape varieties in the world, this inky red originally came from Georgia (the country, not the US state) and is also grown in Kazakhstan and Moldova. Several Australian producers, including Symphonia and Patritti, are hopeful about its future.

T:

Touriga Nacional: This Portuguese grape is one to watch and has been planted by high-flyers including d'Arenberg and St Hallett. It is used extensively in the production of vintage port at home and for both fortified and table wines in Australia. Look for Three Dark Horses and St Hallett.

V:

Vermentino: One of the most successful new varieties in Australia, vibrant and fresh white variety vermentino is the most important white in Sardinia and also thrives in southern France (where it is known as Rolle). Dozens of Australian wineries have planted it: check out Billy Button or Chalmers.

Z:

Zweigelt: A lighter Austrian variety that is a cross between blaufrankisch and St Laurent, it is the most widely planted red grape in its homeland and has shown potential for Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hills.

Zibibbo: An alternative name for the Muscat of Alexandria grape, and is also sometimes known as lexia. It is often blended in sweeter wines, but has enjoyed success as both fresh and crisp white and rosé sparkling wine styles for Brown Brothers. 

# This story is an edited version of one that appeared in Nourish Magazine