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Three quarters of 2009 has gone, and now it seems we're racing towards the end of year holidays! I don't know anyone these days who isn't rushed off their feet. Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who are not, but whichever we hope you can find time for a quick break to enjoy our newsletter - because if you do you might win a chance to relax and unwind over a weekend in the Macedon Ranges, to enjoy a bottle of Penfolds Grange for Christmas, or to make some great new finds amonst the wines, books and events we are showcasing this season.

We love writing to you each month, and hearing back from you too. Your newsletter is written by real people who want to share our passion for wine, food and travel, and not by a corporate marketing department - and we welcome your input. Thanks to all of you who are posting comments on cellar doors, wines, events and accommodations on the site - readers are loving them! - and to those of you who email us or fill in our quickpolls . Keep sending us your ideas for new articles, itineraries and other suggestions, too. In fact, at least two readers are so enthused that they have become wine region detectives themselves, and are now writing for you on the site as well!

So if you want to see your ideas in print (and don't have the time or inclination to blog) send us an e and we'll consider them! Check out the results of last month's quickpoll below, too - most of you agree that Australia is awash with wine right now, but your suggestions as to what to do about it are as varied as the number of wine labels! Some feedback on our newsletter is welcome in this month's quickpoll on the right, too.

Enough from me, let's get on with the wine, the food and the song!


In this edition:

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Quick Links:

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Quick Poll:

Q1. So, you read the newsletter most months. Is it too much/too little?
Just right - it’s fine
Too long - cut it down!
Too short - needs more

Q2. What section is of most interest to you?
Wine - tasting notes, articles, reviews
Travel – itineraries, articles
Food – reviews, articles
Events and festivals
Members’ offers
Special promotions, eg Shedfest

Q3. Any comments? and our friends at The Wine Society - join and win

In September we announced an exciting new development - we're now working with The Wine Society, Australia's oldest and most respected wine club, to give you access to great wines as well as our fabulous travel experiences.

Here are just five reasons why we love The  Wine Society, and we think you might too:

  • It's run by dedicated and passionate people who put great wine and great service to you first - just like us!
  • All their wines are a minimum of bronze medal standard or greater - simply, there are no duds that someone is trying to sell off cheaply, no labels that no-one has ever heard of (and are unlikely to hear of again). Sure, their prices are excellent, but every single wine they sell has been tasted by their panel of experts and has passed their wine quality test. Even then, not all wines that pass this first round of tasting are offered to you - they then pick out the very best, those that in their 60+ (!) years of experience represent exceptional value for money.
  • All members of their tasting panel are qualified and active wine show judges. Many of you will know how hard this status is to achieve and how many years of work it takes to climb the ladder from humble wine steward through apprentice to judge status, and to maintain this year in year out (without pay). Truly a labour of love and commitment to excellence - which for you means it's reflected in the quality of their wines on offer.
  • The wines are delivered to your door (very quickly, in our experience!) and for Wine Society members the wine freight is subsidised - within Australia it's a maximum of A$7 per case (normal postage can be A$17-20).
  • You aren't sent 'quarterly dozens' (of sometimes variable quality) or any other wines that you do not order - and of course there is also a money-back guarantee.


A few stories about The Wine Society

FIrst let's introduce their friendly and efficient Member Manager Gillian Hyde, as she dons a white coat and attempts to mix it with the professionals on a morning's wine tasting with the experts »

So, who are these mysterious figures? Meet three of  The Wine Society Tasting Panel Members » 

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Wine Society established its Young Winemaker of the Year Awards in 2001 - now it seem there are young guns (and roses) everywhere. Check out these five young winemakers to watch before the leadup to the announcement of the winner at the big night in Sydney on the 20th November »

 HOW TO JOIN and a BONUS for the first twenty who join The Wine Society in October:

To join The Wine Society, the cost is A$50 one-off fee, refundable if you ever leave.  Each month The Wine Society offers a welcome gift - free wine or glassware - and which is usually worth far more than the joining fee.

Your only obligation is to buy a minimum of A$100 wine per year. The Wine Society also holds regular dinners, fun wine events and wine appreciation classes around Australia, from beginner to experienced levels - you can find some of them on our calendar here »

  • CLICK HERE to join The Wine Society, quoting the special promotional code VINE000 (zeros, not o's). You can also join on the phone - simply call 1300 723 723 and speak to one of their friendly staff - and don't forget to quote the code VINE000 when you do! By quoting the promotional code you will be entitled to special extras that we will offer you from time to time.

To celebrate our new friendship, the first 20 subscribers who join The Wine Society in October using the promotional code VINE000 will each receive a free double Membership of, which retails at A$169!

So be quick - take your wine travels to a whole new level and join both for only A$50 if you are among the first 20 this month. This has to be the bargain of the year.

Already a Member? You won't miss out. Be among the first 20 to join The Wine Society and we'll extend your Membership for another year for free, and make it a double if it's not already.

Find out more here and how to claim your free Membership or extension here »


  • Our SECOND BIG BONUS is for those of you who are already Wine Society members (and we've had emails from some of you who are, thank you) - now you can upgrade from a subscription to a full Membership at a special rate of A$69 for a whole year – that’s 30% off our normal price. Or join as a couple and save A$50.


So don't put it off any longer - spring is here and Christmas is just around the corner! Each member of The Wine Society who becomes a member of before the 30th November will also receive a free tchillbag worth A$14.50 to keep your wine cool, and you'll also receive two chances in the draw to win a bottle of Penfolds Grange 1998 (valued at over A$600) or one of ten copies of Australian Wine Vintages 2010 (RRP $34.95), by Rob Geddes MW.

So, that's A$69 for a Membership, a tchillbag and two entries to win the Grange.

It's simple to buy this package. Just CLICK HERE and use the special entry code(s) given under the section on 'How do you become a Member' »


The Yarra Valley springs into recovery

We all know how much the Yarra Valley suffered during the appalling bushfires last February. Now spring is underway, and some of the smaller winemakers are throwing open their doors over next weekend (10-11th) and the following one in October. They would love to welcome you to attend one or both events. So show your support, lift a few spirits and come along for a fun day in the Valley, or make a weekend of it.

As a special bonus, we'll give two lucky subscribers who visit the events pages below each a free double Membership (worth A$169 each) to use in the Yarra Valley and throughout the year - we have some great new Members' offers coming up at De Bortoli, Domaine Chandon, Immerse, Helen's Hill, Oak Ridge, Rochford, Barrique Wines, Seville Estate, Medhurst Wines, Red Shed Cafe and more, as well as those at Mandala Wines , The Gatehouse at Villa Readward and Hargreaves Hill microbrewery »

TO ENTER all you have to do is to click on the festival heading links below, read about the festivals and send us an email from the bottom of each page. It can't get much easier than that. We'll email the lucky winners at the end of October.



Shed Fest 10-11 October »

The smaller wineries and wine makers of the Yarra Valley will open their cellar doors over two weekends in October, with the popular Shed Fest held over the weekend of Saturday 10 and Sunday 11th September.

All wineries have sheds; usually housing crushers, barrels, tractors and other equipment vitally important to the production of fine wines. Every year, on the second weekend of October, eleven wineries along the Yarra Valley's Warburton Highway open their sheds for you to enjoy two days of fabulous food, fine wine, live music and entertainment.

Sample some of the Yarra Valley’s finest wines as you enjoy live music and entertainment, light meals and snacks. Visit and support our smaller winemakers as you enjoy their warm friendly hospitality, and bring along your friends and family »


Open Cellars of Nillumbik festival 17-18 October »

The following weekend there's the Open Cellars of Nillumbik festival on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18th. Come and meet the winemakers of 17 boutique wineries and share their passion for the exceptional quality wines they produce in this special part of the Yarra Valley. The cellar doors vary from contemporary design to buildings constructed from local stone and mud. 

Located at Kangaroo Ground right on the edge of the Yarra Valley, these are the closest vineyards to Melbourne, and many are not normally open to the public. Entertainment, art sales and wine sampling all on offer »

Come along to one or both, have a fun day out and support the Yarra Valley.

Wine and travel: what's cool, what's new, top 12s  - everything you need for a spring break

Around the regions

Grapes were first planted in the Granite Belt in Queensland in the 1860s, prompting the local Catholic parish priest to convert the horse paddock at the back of his presbytery into a vineyard to produce altar wine. The notion caught on although it is only within the past decade that the area has achieved recognition and commercial success.

With the vineyards of the Granite Belt amongst the highest in Australia, the cool, elevated slopes are an ideal retreat from the coastal heat. Be prepared for a few surprises as you taste wines far removed from the simple communion wines made by 19th Century pioneering vigneron, Father Jerome Davadi:

Melbourne is one of the world's eight 'great wine capitals'. Within just a few hours' drive there are many fabulous food and wine areas well worth a day trip. Follow some of our wine lovers' itineraries and linger between tastings to enjoy magnificent views.

Wine (and beer) notes

  • For pinot lovers - Mornington Peninsula vigneron Brian Stonier hosted the 10th annual Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting (SIPNOT) showcase of world class pinots at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney on September 21. Winsor Dobbin shares the sometimes colourful opinions of tasters on the night »
  • A year ago, intrepid Partner Manager Sara became the proud parent of Napoleon, now a one year old chasselas grapevine - reputed to be descended from a vine owned by the Emperor himself - and intent on taking over the Southern hemisphere. As self-appointed caretaker Sara learns how to correctly care for her baby, discovering on the way that pruning grapevines is not as easy as it looks »
  • With the footy over, the Spring Racing Carnival is here and the race that stops the nation - the Melbourne Cup - on the way, what better way to celebrate than with Champagne? The 2009 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Champagne tasting notes tell us how to taste and what to look for in the real deal, from the Grand Marques to the ultra boutique.
  • Want to know how environmentally friendly your fave drink is? The Alcoholic Drinks Edition of the True Food Guide by Greenpeace rates wine, beer and spirits as Green (GE-free) or Red (may contain GE-derived ingredients).
  • Far from the Lion Nathans and Fosters in Australia, there's a flourishing microbrewery industry being built by passionate brewers, intent on educating us about the diversity and complexity of beer. Willie Simpson's new book The Australian Beer Companion takes us on a journey around the country visiting over 100 breweries to discover there's more to Aussie beer than pale lagers.
  • Victoria Moore, wine's answer to Nigella Lawson, tells us How to Drink in this interesting book that will describe ways to enhance even the most common occasions. Well worth mixing a jug of something delicious and settling in for an afternoon's read.

Food for health, enjoyment and for thought

  • Do we really know what we are eating and what the long term health effects may be? Is natural, green and GE-free food best? That's where the Greenpeace Truefood Guide comes in. In the absence of comprehensive labelling laws for GE foods in Australia, the Truefood Guide is a ready reckoner of Green (which actively avoid GE ingredients in the supply chain) and Red (may contain GE ingredients) mainstream food brands. It helps consumers make an informed choice about GE food. Find out more about what you eat »  
  • Author, researcher, teacher and internationally renowned food historian, Barbara Santich, tells us what, how and why we eat is intimately connected to our culture. Looking for Flavour was recognised with an Australian Food Writers' Award in 1997 and is now an expanded second edition with a major new essay discussing changes in the food supply, not only in Australia but also globally, and the implications.
  • Take a fascinating journey of understanding,  encouraging everyone to 'taste, reflect and compare, alive to the rewards of flavour and sensible to its absence'.
  • For those of who feel challenged in the kitchen, Tasmanian chef and spice master Waji Spiby offers you a solution - a dose of Black Magic . But don't worry, there's no toil and trouble or remembering lengthy spells involved, it's all made much easier with the inclusion of Spiby's range of gourmet sauces, chutneys and oils to help make you look good.
  • New GFG editor Janne Apelgren and her team of more than 60 reviewers have cherry-picked Melbourne's best cafes, bars and gourmet getaways to bring you The Age Good Food Guide 2010 - 30th anniversary edition »
  • Celebrating Melbourne as one of the world's great cities for dining out, the Guide this year contains more than 550 restaurants representing more than 50 styles of cuisine. New to the Guide is a feature on the city's top gourmet cafes - places where great coffee and fine house-made food offer good value too. But mostly it is about the food, thirty glorious years of it »
  • Twenty-something years ago, Michael Pollan was a New York journalist. Now there are people saying he should be appointed as the US Secretary for Agriculture – although not the sugar or corn lobbies. Why? And what does he have to do with you?

His latest book, In Defence of Food follows on where The Omnivore's Dilemma left off. The latter was about the impact of our current agricultural systems on the environment, and was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by both the New York Times and the Washington Post. In Defence of Food addresses in more practical terms where your food comes from, what it does to you, and what you can do about it.

If you care about your body and what goes into it, or the environmental debate, then In Defence of Food is essential reading »

Our review also includes a video interview with Michael Pollan.


Enjoy Spring with these great events during October and November

October is Sydney International Food Festival month with something for everyone including extravagant dinners in best restaurants, night noodle markets, tours, cooking classes as well as community and regional events. A major highlight this year is the much awaited World Chef Showcase Weekend (9th-11th October) bringing together Sydney's biggest culinary stars around well as chefs from some of the best restaurants in the world.  We'ew going and we'll send you some reports. The festival runs from 1st to 31st October - 31 days of food, outdoor art and fun »

Mark your calendars on 16th October with World Food Day which is celebrated annually to draw attention to the international effort needed to defeat hunger. At a time when the global economic crisis dominates the news, the world needs to be reminded that not everyone works in offices and factories - and that we depend on our farmers.

On the 28th October leading Sydney restaurant Longrain is hosting the launch of the Greenpeace Truefood Guide for food free of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Master chef Martin Boetz will talk about why he avoids GE food. He will be joined by celebrity chefs, food writers and food industry leaders - and you can join them, too.

As we've said, perhaps imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Book your tickets to the original young winemaker awards night in Sydney on 20th November and find out  who is Australia's young winemaker of 2009? The Wine Society once again holds their annual black-tie Awards party with 10 talented young winemakers competing for 3 prestigious industry accolades.

Other great food and wine events around the country this and next month:

  • Less than four hours' drive west of Sydney is Orange, known for great food and wine. Orange Wine Week is a lively event which runs from 16th to 25th October and celebrates all the good things that Orange has to offer.
  • Taste top rieslings from all over the world in Canberra on 17th October at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge, one of the most important wine competitions in Australia.
  • Be entertained and educated in Canberra on 7th and 8th November at Wine, Roses and all that Jazz as it celebrates the art of the grape in the nation's capital. Sample award winning wines, indulge in gourmet food and relax to live music.
  • Experience the beauty of jazz at the Brisbane Jazz Festival on 27th October to 1st November. This Queensland festival features live and improvised music by some of the world's most acclaimed artists as well as the best emerging talent.
  • Love red wine? Heading to South Australia? Celebrating the quality of Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon and the craftsmanship of Coonawarra's winemakers on 16th-19th October are the Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations »
  • Head to the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria this month for the very best of wine, food, music, art, entertainment, shopping and fun. October Art Food Wine is a month-long celebration with everything from winery tours, gallery and garden jaunts to the renown Pinot Week from 3-11th October, held both locally and in restaurants in Melbourne.
  • Don't miss Sunday 18th October when Peninsula residents showcase what they enjoy on a daily basis at the Main Street Mornington Festival »
  • An enticing mix of jazz, food and wine makes for a memorable time in Mildura 30th October - 2nd November. Enjoy four days of fun at the Mildura Jazz, Food and Wine Festival.
  • On Tasmania's beautiful East Coast, beerlovers can enjoy a banger on the deck at White Sands Restaurant and sample this summer's release of Ironhouse Pilsner as they tap the first keg! Beer, Bangers and Blues - 17th October »
  • In Hobart this coming weekend (10-11th October) is the Southern Tasmanian vineyards White Wine Weekend, where you can sample the region's best whites in the cool atmosphere of the Henry Jones Art Hotel »

To help plan your spring and summer breaks, check out the calendar to find wine, food, music and art events around the country.

For inspiration, your team has put together our favourite Top 12 Wine Events and Festivals around Australia »

Have we missed your favourite event or festival on our calendar? Then let us know! Email us at with details and we'll make sure it's listed next time.

Did you know you can also post (and read) comments on events and places you've visted, simply by searching by name on our site and adding your feedback? We've had lots of great reports lately - such as this one on Patrick Plains Estate in the Hunter Valley - so keep them coming. They sure helps fellow visitors and the organisers love a bit of feedback, too.

MEMBERS: Planning a trip? Or ordering online? Here's some great new offers... including a wine special for subscribers, too.

October is an inspiring month to get out of town – the weather should be just about perfect where ever you plan to be and we have a great new range of exclusive experiences and benefits on offer for Members....

Two of McLaren Vale’s finest wineries have recently joined us at Partners with great offers to tempt you to their doors:


Not travelling? Then check out this special offer for all our Members AND subscribers - buy online from Best's Wines cellar-door only range and -  yes, get more free freight! -  to the end of October. Stock up on these fabulous wines for Christmas (we certainly will be).

To celebrate the release of their new wines in the Great Western Varietals Range, Best's Wines is offering Members and subscribers access to their usually cellar-door only wine list and for the first time ever, free freight for case purchases anywhere in Australia - only to the end of October »


Not a Member yet?

If you love wine and food, you should be! Join and take advantage of our fast-growing range of unique wine and food experiences and great value offers available exclusively to our Members at cellar doors, restaurants, provedores and accommodation providers across Australia.

Find out what you're missing and join us here today to take advantage of our October special offers »

SIX COMPETITIONS! Celebrate Budburst in the Macedon Ranges in a weekend of style, or tour our best microbreweries from home

This month we're celebrating the wineries of the Macedon Ranges in preparation for their Budburst Festival in mid November. Not only could you win fine wine from Hanging Rock or Granite Hills but you could be enjoying a free weekend at the Budburst Festival complete with quality accommodation and a wine tour in a special prize giveaway courtesy of Macedon Ranges Wine.


  • Granite Hills Winery, perched atop the spectaular boulder strewn hills of the Great Dividing Range, has just launched a new wine label - Nardoo - and you could be amongst the first to sip on these wines. We have two first prizes for you to win this month - one of two mixed half dozen superb wines from Granite Hills, including their renowned riesling.
  • There are three second prize - one of three books. Enter today for some wine research on the best from the west in  Ray Jordan's WA Wine Guide 2009 or perhaps the best from all over in James Halliday's Wine Companion 2010. Or perhaps you'd like to re-discover the sheer pleasure of eating real food at real mealtimes with Michael Pollan's In Defence of Food?
  • Third prize returns to the Macedon Ranges and Budburst - you could receive one of twelve double passes to this celebration of wine, food and lifestyle on the 14th and 15th November. MEMBERS could win:

  •  Hanging Rock Winery is providing two mixed half dozen packs of their stunning wines which not only highlight the cool-climate of Macedon but showcase some of the best regions in Victoria. Included in the mix is their flagship sparkling wine "Macedon" and their Heathcote Shiraz. Even if you can't make Budburst, you could be toasting the wine-makers of Macedon from afar. We can post these wines anywhere in Australia.
  • The Australian Wine Encyclopaedia by James Halliday is a distillation of his more than forty years in the wine industry and a must-have for any serious wine library. We have one copy to be won in October 
  • Ever wondered if there was more to beer than pale lagers? Willie Simpson's Australian Beer Companion takes us around the country visiting the top 100 breweries . In this beautifully produced book, you'll discover where to find the best beers in each state and the stories behind such labels Seeing Double, Feral White and Prickly Moses. With two copies to be won, you could be planning your next break around meeting some of the passionate brewers in our flourishing craft beer industry.

 WIN A WINE-LOVERS WEEKEND AT MACEDON - click here » SubscribersA weekend of wine, food and relaxation in a wine region celebrating Budburst - what could be better? If it's free of course! This special prize package gives you a double pass to Budburst, a one day winery tour with Victoria Winery Tours , quality overnight accommodation and a double Membership - valued at over $700. Enter now and you could be making your way around the Macedon Ranges with your official Budburst tasting glass in hand and celebrating the unique wine, food and lifestyle of Australia's coolest wine region.


Someone has to win our great prizes - it could be you »

We may sound like a broken record, and last month was a record broken with over 100 unclaimed prizes (!), but we do urge you to check our winners page . Our prize shelf is groaning underneath the weight of wines, books and chocolate hampers and we need to make space for our wonderful Christmas prizes. If you find your name on the long list of winners  please email us confirming your postal address to claim your prize.


Some feedback from us

Here's some feedback from us - the results of the last three newsletter quickpolls. Thanks to all of you who take the time to fill these in - we sure get some interesting comments!

In September we asked you if you think Australia has a wine oversupply problem - 70% of respondents said yes, 20% no, and 5% didn't know. There was less uncertainty but more divided opinion in answering 'do you think there are too many wine brands/labels in the market': 2/3 said yes, 1/3 no and only 2% didn't know. (Ed: I'm still thinking that 20,000+ wine labels are too many, but there is always room for regional bands in local markets...).

As for James Halliday's recent statement that up to a quarter of Australia's wine grapes might have to be removed due to oversupply, as to where: 68% thought the Riverland, 24% thought Riverland plus other regions and the balance don't know or don't think that Halliday's assessment is correct.

Comments varied from 'There is too much really bad wine around. I know that some people drink it, but one has to wonder about the integrity of the winemakers'; 'Not enough wine available in outlets from The Hunter and too much lower end from Riverland' and 'A big problem is the attitude of the brewers who own major wineries!' to 'Why pick on the Riverland?  They have been growing grapes for years. Get rid of some of the newer vineyards...' (Ed: if Halliday's estimates are correct then removing all cool climate grapevines - even assuming this would happen - won't solve the problem, as their total volume is too low) and 'perhaps a cap on growing grapes?'. (Ed: In a former life I was an economist, and I recall the laws of supply and demand...)

'Pity the A$ isn't lower to help move stock' was another common thought. Ah yes, but what about reports that Australian wines are falling in international favour, and arguments that we should be marketing more premium priced wines?

A South Australian reader who supports the removal of grapes in cool climate regions of Vic, Tas and SA (Ed: the Coonawarra and Limestone Coast?!) added the following: 'Too many grapes - of the wrong variety in the wrong place - for all the wrong reasons - tax minimisation is not a sound strategy - good marketing sense is - as when you plant a grape vine you make a marketing not a tax decision - that there is a consumer somewhere now and in the future to buy the wine made from those grapes - issues such as drought are non sense - as in the period of the biggest drought grape production ROSE - where you would have expected it to fall.'

Clearly opinions are divided but certainly the so-called 'Managed Investment Schemes' have not helped. Let's hear from some industry planners and spokespeople? Email us more comments if you wish »

As for where you get your wine information, the majority of you who use print rely on Halliday's Wine Companion, followed by Gourmet Traveller Wine and Wine Selector magazine. Next come Australian Wine Vintages , Campbell Mattinson, Nick Stock, Tyson Stelzer , Ray Jordan, Jeremy Oliver, Winestate magazine, Huon Hooke and The Australian. A full 20% don't read any printed guides, however - and over 50% in total use websites (including ours) and/or blogs.

Back in July we also asked you about the impact of the GFC on your wine buying. It really doesn't seem to have had much effect on readers who answered - some are 'drinking smaller volumes but better quality wines - not a bad compromise!', others like the fact that prices have improved so are drinking about the same quantity, and another is 'more receptive to redundant offers of 'questionable quality' than before!'

But whatever you're drinking, the Spring Racing Carnival is here, and most of us will be looking forward to a flutter and a glass or two of something special at this year's Melbourne Cup »

See you again after the big race has been run.

Good luck,

Robyn Lewis and the team (Kerry, Trish, Sara, Charlie, Graham, Andrew, Mike, Laura and Marie-Paule).


PS You can join our facebook group or follow our updates on twitter if you want the latest in between newsletters.

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