Travel News with Winsor

The latest news and views from the world of gourmet travel, presented by travel editor Winsor Dobbin

Hobart luxury hotel MACq 01 has partnered with Australia’s globally-regarded sparkling wine brand House of Arras to launch a tasting experience at the hotel’s The Story Bar.

The ‘Arras in the City’ experience will bring a slice of the Arras cellar door in the north of Tasmania to Hobart’s waterfront for the first time. Guests can enjoy a flight of four of the brand’s highly-ranked releases paired with a selection of bites from MACq 01’s culinary team.

Available daily until June 30, the ‘Arras in the City’ experience includes two of the highest-awarded and newest wines available from the Arras portfolio.

Founded in 1995, House of Arras is Australia’s most-decorated sparkling wine brand, with 100 trophies and more than 268 gold medals. The ‘Arras in the City’ tasting tipples include NV House of Arras Blanc de Blancs paired with Tasmanian crayfish, spanner crab, apple radish, dill, yuzu aioli and black sesame crisp; NV House of Arras Brut Elite Cuvée No. 1701 with buckwheat blini, Meander Valley crème fraiche, chives, dill and Avruga caviar.

The 2014 House of Arras Grand Rosé is matched with King Island steak tartare, cornichon, caper, shallots, parsley, chives and crisp sourdough; and 2014 House of Arras Grand Vintage matched with Ashgrove cheddar, Red Cow Dairy gruyere and Italian Taleggio arancini, aioli and truffle pecorino.

The wines and canapes are presented on a custom-made Tasmanian Blackwood platter alongside a tasting storybook for guests to explore the story of House of Arras and each wine. One of two bars at MACq 01 hotel, The Story Bar showcases Hobart’s history and stories.

The ‘Arras in the City’ experience costs $95 per person and is available seven days a week from 3-6pm. Bookings are not required. For more information, visit

There is some good news for business class travellers and Qantas frequent flyers.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has announced a program of new and refurbished Qantas lounges across the globe, proclaiming it as the biggest investment in the airline’s lounge network in over a decade. Joyce said the work had been enabled by the faster-than-expected recovery in travel demand, with the project including a new First Lounge at London Heathrow Airport.

Also on the agenda is a refreshed Hong Kong International Lounge, upgrades for the International Business lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, a new Hobart Qantas Club and an expanded Broome Regional Lounge.

The new London First Lounge is anticipated to open in late 2025, aligned with the debut of direct London-Australia flights. The new $100 million lounge program is in addition to previously announced upgrades in Auckland, Adelaide, Rockhampton and Port Hedland.

The national carrier has an extensive lounge network, including 42 in Australia (12 of which are in regional destinations) and nine overseas.

“Being back in profit means we’re back to making long term investments for our customers,” said Joyce. “That started with the major aircraft order we announced last year and now we’re building on that with a major investment in our lounges.”

Eligible Qantas lounge customers include Qantas-tiered Frequent Flyers (gold and above), customers travelling in business class, and first, on Qantas-operated flights and eligible oneworld and partner airline customers.

Enjoy “natural” wines?

Fancy a trip to the Byron Bay hinterland? 

The Luna Wine Store’s Full Moon Wine Festival is returning to Eltham, just a short drive from Byron Bay. 

Mark Saturday, May 6, in your diary for an event to be hosted by sommeliers Russ Berry (Luna Wine Store), James Audas and Tom Sheer (Luna Wine Store, Bar Heather, Lo-fi Wines) at the funky Eltham Hotel.

‘Full Moon is our fun way of bringing the community together to enjoy the company of some of the country’s most exciting producers,” says Berry. 

“We want to create an environment where people can engage, learn and ask questions, as well as tasting a few wines, and having a dance.” 

The Full Moon Wine Festival proclaims it is “about truth, authenticity and frank wine talking”, but also “showcasing really good wine and building the community”.

Tickets cost $75 for a three-hour tasting session from 2-5pm. 

The event will feature 30 “natural” winemakers under the auspices of Luna Wine Store, Byron Bay’s only natural wine store, which focuses entirely on independent organic, biodynamic and natural wine producers.

Winemakers will be visiting from Tasmania, Margaret River, the Adelaide Hills, Gippsland, Barossa and Mount Gambier. 

Once the tasting ends, guests can continue partying until late with Luna’s ‘Baller Bar’ serving some rare wines from around the world by the glass.

There will be live music and DJ’s playing into the night, and food from the Eltham Hotel and Ciao, Mate by chef Matt Stone. 

There will also be buses from Byron Bay and Bangalow. 

For tickets visit

Wine trails are two a penny, but how about a Pie and Tart trail?

More than 40 venues across the Macedon Ranges region in Victoria will be showcasing a huge range of pies and tarts throughout April.

From classic country bakeries to winery cellar doors across nine villages, visitors can choose to dine with a glass of wine or enjoy a pie picnic. It’s a bonanza for pastry lovers with both sweet and savoury palates catered for.

The trail will run until April 30 at a range of venues. Choices include a Sunday Roast pie from the Malmsbury Bakery and a picnic in the botanic gardens, or and a trip to Mount Macedon Winery for a cellar door picnic pie paired with a glass of pinot.

Alternatively try Darraweit Valley’s Cider House for a pork and caramelised apple pie, or visit Double Oaks Estate at Lancefield for a Lebanese pie and a wine flight.

For those with a sweet tooth, Hunter Gatherer Winery in Pipers Creek will be serving an American-style cherry pie. Your chance to go full Twin Peaks.

There are also vegetarian options available on the trail. Check out the details at  

Virgin Australia has resumed flights to Samoa with up to two flights a week between Sydney-Apia and Brisbane-Apia.

Both routes will be serviced by Boeing 737-800 aircraft and Virgin Australia Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Alistair Hartley said the return was welcome news for travellers across the Pacific.

“There is a strong Visiting Friends and Relatives market in Samoa,” he said. 
“It’s an exciting step in the rebuilding of our short-haul international network and comes ahead of our return to Vanuatu.

“Samoa is well-known for its rich culture and friendly locals and has been a popular destination in the Virgin Australia network since 2005.”

For more information or to book, visit

The 2023 Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week program has been released and boasts over 80 events across the 10-day festival in May.

Event organiser Belinda Heinrich of Clare Valley Wine & Grape Association said this year’s 39th edition of one of Australia’s first gourmet festivals is set to be bigger and better than ever. 

“There has never been a better time to make a stay of it – the midweek and final weekend programs have seen a marked increase in the number and variety of events,” she said. 

Held in the lovely Clare Valley – perhaps the country’s most quintessentially Australian wine region – this event turns the spotlight on local wines and produce; showcases chefs from across Australia; and features a diverse entertainment line-up. 

The 10-day festival is split into three parts; Festival Weekend (May 19-21), Breathe It In (May 22-26) and Land of the Long Lunch (May 27-28).

Visit to book accommodation and see the full program at 

Many business class travellers opt for the tried and trusted.

If they are heading for Europe from Australia then they will opt for Qantas, or perhaps Singapore Airlines.

More recently trips via the Middle East with Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Air have been hugely popular.

But those who want business class amenities at a much lower price, a new option is on offer from Vietnam-based Bamboo Airways.

Bamboo PR manager Brad Crawford is talking up bargain basement business class lie flat bed comfort with Bamboo Airways to Europe via Vietnam from only $4,500 including taxes ex Melbourne or Sydney.

Adventurous flyers, or those with some time to spare, can fly to London or Frankfurt via Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

Crawford warns that seats are limited and that not all flights have direct links – but a day or two in Vietnam would hardly be hardship. And many flyers – myself included – enjoy breaking up their long-haul flights into two sectors.

I’m hoping to try this route sooner rather than later, so look out for a full report soon.
For details see