Sunday, 23 July 2017

$51,000 for a bottle of Australian wine that may never be opened

Imagine paying over $51,000 for an old bottle of wine that may never be uncorked. 

A private collector has paid $51,750 for a bottle of 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage, the first vintage made of the benchmark Australian red; and a wine that was never on sale to the public. 

The wine was sold through Melbourne-based independent wine auction house MW Wines.

Nick Stamford, managing director of MW Wines, said fewer than 20 bottles are thought to remain in existence; with even fewer likely to be of this quality, which has been tasted and re-corked by Penfolds winemakers.

“The bottle of 1951 Grange has been verified at the Penfolds re-corking clinic, tasted, and signed by legendary Penfolds winemakers Max Schubert and Peter Gago, who have declared it to be of ‘excellent’ condition',” Stamford said.
Penfolds Grange is one of the jewels of Australian wine and the 1951 vintage represents a significant part of Australia’s wine history. Just 150 cases were produced, and it was not sold commercially. Winemaker Schubert gave most away to family, friends and colleagues.

Wines of this vintage are seen primarily as investments and the bottle may never be opened. 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Enjoy the comforts of a five-star hotel afloat

The Rees Hotel in Queenstown is one of the finest in New Zealand, with an attention to detail second to none.

Now the Rees has announced a new Auckland-based 84-foot motor yacht, MV Templar, is now available for chartered and private cruises.

Based in Viaduct Harbour in Auckland, the MV Templar by The Rees is a fully-furnished luxurious four-cabin yacht, with en suite bathrooms, accommodating up to 44 people during the day and up to nine overnight.

Mark Rose, the urbane and wine loving general manager of The Rees explains: “We are always looking at innovative ways to offer our valued guests new experiences in line with the high standard and quality of accommodation and service we strive to maintain at The Rees Hotel Queenstown.

"This has included our culinary series dinners, our unique heli-wine tours and heli-weddings experiences and now we are extremely excited to announce this new expansion into Auckland, with the acquisition of our motor yacht MV Templar, offering a range of exceptional experiences on Auckland harbour for corporate events and private charters.”

The MV Templar is available to be chartered for any occasion including day charters or extended cruising, sunset cruises, Champagne breakfasts, fine dining, golf or island transfers, celebrations, weddings, honeymoons, corporate functions, product launches, unique business meetings, team building and staff incentives.

Members of the experienced Rees team will be on deck to ensure everything goes smoothly. Rates can be quoted hourly (three-hour minimum), daily and extended cruise periods and special events on request.

For full specifications and booking enquiries see or contact Nathan Brown:

Savour South-East Asian holidays tailored with gourmets in mind

Gourmet travel is constantly growing in popularity and Sens Asia Travel recently announced a new range of journeys that are tailor-made for travellers and food lovers looking to experience an authentic taste of South-East Asia.

These holidays are designed for small groups of adventurous travellers who want to catch iconic sights while at the same time tasting intriguing dishes that are only found off the mainstream routes.

Inspired by the mantra “You must taste a culture to understand a culture”, Sens Asia encourages travellers to explore Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos and uncover the flavours, smells, and dishes that are unique to each destination. 

In Vietnam, travellers can expect a 12-day journey from Northern Hanoi all the way to Vinh Long in the deep south. They can join a journey through the old and the new, visiting ancient towns, unspoilt cruising routes through Ha Long Bay and taste local delicacies including Pho Bo, Bun Tom Nuong Xa and Café Trung. 

The culinary and cultural experience in Northern Thailand lets travellers explore the bustling cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Chill out by the canals of Bangkok savouring the spicy flavours of a steaming bowl of boat noodles, enjoy a fresh seafood dinner whilst cruising the Chao Phaya River and discover Issan cuisine at waterfall restaurants in Chiang Mai. 

Those looking to take some time for themselves can join a relaxing trip to Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can treat their eyes to the intricate details decorating the town's ancient temples then treat their taste buds to an array of traditional Laotian dishes such as herb crusted fish steamed in banana leaf or purple sticky rice in coconut milk with tamarind sauce. 

In Cambodia, travellers can experience one of South-East Asia’s most remarkable wonders, Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Guests can explore majestic, ancient temples and rural floating villages whilst enjoying the delicious cuisine heavily influenced by Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese flavours. 

For details and booking information, please visit

Thursday, 20 July 2017

World continues its love affair with Australian wine

Drinkers around the world continue to seek out premium Australian wine, the new The Wine Australia Export Report June 2017 reveals.

The report shows Australian wine export value increased by $201 million (10%) in 2016–17 to $2.31 billion, underpinned by strong export growth to China and the United States.

Australia is the world’s fifth-biggest exporter of wine – behind France, Italy, Spain and Chile. In 2016–17, Australia outperformed each of the four larger exporters in its rate of export growth.

Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark said: "Pleasingly, nearly all price points experienced growth and there were benefits for exporters in all segments of the market.
"The strongest growth was in more premium wines, with all price segments of $10 per litre and above experiencing growth, and the strongest rate of growth for wines $30–49.99 per litre.

"There were a record 1997 exporters last financial year and 69% contributed to the total increase in value shown.

"An interesting development from last year was the growth in the carbonated wine category, which includes varieties (is Moscato a variety or a style?) such as Moscato. Exports more than doubled to $30 million. The United States was the destination for 35% of the carbonated wine exports, with mainland China (15%) and Japan (14%) the other major destinations," he said.

Lisbon: a city in which to expect the unexpected

Portugal’s national capital, Lisbon, is one of the most under-rated destinations in Europe. 

Not only are prices lower than in most other western European destinations, but Lisbon is a vibrant, safe city with its own unique character.

The locals boast that Lisbon boasts one of the longest histories, warmest climates and most enticing nightlife of any major European city, alongside its dramatic location sprawled along seven hills overlooking the river Tagus and the country’s west coast.

Famed for its year-round sunshine and beauty and characterful trams, Lisbon’s grand architecture dazzles and its old-world charm shines. The fresh seafood and local wines are outstanding and affordable.

With some guidance from local experts, visitors can decide whether they want to discover the secrets of Portuguese gastronomy, learn to horse ride or take to the waves in one of the world’s top surfing destinations. This is a city in which to expect the unexpected.

Here are some of the experiences being promoted:

Traditional Portuguese Cooking
Visitors can explore Lisbon’s rich gastronomic history with Portugal on a Plate's food and wine tours and culinary walks. Local cooking experts share their knowledge and passion for Portuguese ingredients and regional flavours, as well as revealing what shaped Portugal’s food culture, and how Portuguese gastronomy has influenced the world. Guests will learn how to order in a traditional Lisbon restaurant and how shop to locally, including the chance to pick up some great ingredients to take home.

Fado Performance Workshop
Haunting and poetic, fado is considered as one of the purest expressions of Lisbon’s ‘soul’, and is believed to have originated from the sorrow felt by the sailors and their families who were separated by Portugal’s explorations around the globe in the 19th century. The narrow streets of Alfama, the city’s oldest district and most associated with this iconic song, is home to numerous “fado houses” as well as the Fado Museum, which is the best place to discover everything about this unique art form. Here, visitors can take part in a one-hour group workshop, which concludes with participants singing their own fados – no embarrassment allowed. If they are confident enough, then visitors can then head to the Mouraria neighbourhood, next to Alfama, and try one of the houses offering “fado vadio” or ‘amateur’, where anybody can stand up and start singing!

Horse Riding
Set in a vast pinewood forest in Sintra, and certified by the Portuguese Equestrian Federation, “O Paddock” trains riders of all ages and skill levels, from international athletes to amateur riders. With a capacity for more than 100 students, the club also offers the opportunity to explore the region from a different point of view. Its location makes every ride calm and picturesque, as well as giving visitors the opportunity to visit some of Lisbon’s most historical monuments, country estates, golden sandy beaches and rugged cliffs, whilst on horseback.

The Lisbon region offers some of the best surfing in the world, and visitors do not have to be experienced to enjoy the best that the destination has to offer. From Ericeira (my favourite resort in Portugal), Europe’s first World Surfing Reserve, to the Costa da Caparica and the Estoril/Cascais coast, there are locations that are perfect for beginners, intermediates and advanced surfers. Lisbon Surf Tours, Carcavelos Surf School and Guincho Adventours all offer multi-lingual tuition for all ages and skill levels., and

Discover the Local Wines
Visitors to the region can learn all about the history of Portuguese wine and its grape varietals, on a wine journey that begins at the converted wine cellar, Rota de Vinhos. From a lesson with a local wine taster in how to choose and taste regional wines, to a wine cruise along the Sado Estuary, everyone from the wine beginner to the wine connoisseur will enjoy a visit. For those looking to get their hands dirty, there is even the chance to take part in traditional wine treading.

For more information, ideas and inspiration on visiting Lisbon, please go to

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Affordable luxury: an impressive new hotel opens at Sydney Airport

It is rare to stay at a hotel with rooms that have been designed with typical guests in mind.

We are all familiar with having to search around the floor and behind the bed for power points, being baffled by multiple light switches and being scalded by badly-designed showers.

The rooms at the brand-new Mantra at Sydney Airport, which was officially unveiled today, are smartly designed for today's airport visitor.

There's fast, free wifi, several well-positioned power points and USB chargers, light switches that are easily reached from the bed, and a shower that is simplicity itself.

I'm already won over before you throw in the fact that the bed is comfortable, the towels a good size and the toiletries of excellent quality.

Add in the fact that the Mantra is the closest hotel to Sydney's domestic terminal, that many of the rooms have runway views and the lobby and eatery (think dishes like salt and pepper squid, or 250-gram fillet steak with mash and veggies) are bright and attractive. Ladies and gentlemen we have a winner.

Prices start at $159 for an aviation-themed double room - a bargain given Sydney hotel tariffs.

The new Mantra was officially opened by New South Wales Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Adam Marshall MP and Mantra Group Chief Executive Officer Bob East said the new 136-room property provides much-needed hotel capacity to support the growth of aviation and tourism in the Sydney basin.

“Mantra Hotel at Sydney Airport addresses the demand for contemporary airport accommodation with vibrant, dynamic facilities and a slick service culture,” East said. "The key factors for a new hotel are location, product and service and even just a week after the soft opening, this property already feels right.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Sydney Airport on this project, which is a win for the economic growth of Sydney.”

The eight-storey landmark building is the newest hotel at Sydney Airport and Sydney’s third on-airport hotel.

Sydney Airport Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kerrie Mather said the opening of the new hotel so close to terminals would further improve the customer experience for airport visitors. It takes just nine minutes to walk to terminals 2 and three - I tried it.

Mantra Hotel has an integrated reception and lobby with a 24/7 atmosphere and service, express check-out, internet kiosk, airport screen updates and relaxed dining with local beers (including Young Henry's), wines (the selection by the glass is too small and needs attention), as well as cocktails.

Other teething problems included a slow check-in and the non-appearance of the morning newspaper I ordered. All easily solvable.

There is an opening special of $159 per night in a Studio King room including 1GB of internet access daily, a welcome drink voucher on arrival and room upgrade (subject to availability).

For bookings or further information, visit or call 1300 987 603.

# The author was a guest of Mantra Hotels 

Monday, 17 July 2017

Margaret River underlines its environmental credentials

Margaret River not only produces some of Australia's finest wines: Vasse Felix, Cullen and Leeuwin Estate among them, it is home to some of Australia's best surf beaches. It also takes its environmental duties seriously. 

A Memorandum of Understanding has been established between The Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association (MRBTA) and Nature Conservation Margaret River Region (Nature Conservation) with the aim of further protecting the natural environment of the Margaret River region.

The partnership between the two independent not-for-profit bodies took effect on July 1 and establishes a framework for working together to strengthen the relationship between the environment and tourism, on which the long-term sustainability of the region's tourism industry depends.

Key areas of focus at the heart of the agreement include the environmental management of MRBTA-managed cave and lighthouse precincts; raising community awareness and appreciation of the natural environment; strategies to raise support and funding for key environmental programs; eco tourism accreditation and encouraging responsible behaviours towards the natural environment.

Outcomes of the partnership will be achieved by working together with Wadandi Aboriginal elders and are expected to impact the region on a number of levels. New projects and initiatives include encouraging visitors to make a voluntary contribution to regional conservation, and investigating the potential for obtaining Geopark status for the Margaret River region.

MRBTA CEO Pip Close said the partnership marks a further commitment to the vision outlined in the region's Nature-Based Tourism Strategy, unveiled in March of this year.

“When we laid out our intentions to establish the Margaret River region as the leading sustainable nature and adventure tourism destination in Australia, the emphasis was on achieving this through a collaborative, cross-region approach. We are therefore thrilled to be working in partnership with one of the region's leading environmental groups.

The team at Nature Conservation possess a wealth of expertise in environmental management, and together we will be able to place the region’s natural environment needs front and centre in all of our actions and plans.”