This one has to go to d'Arenberg's 2007 Cenosilicaphobic Cat Sagrantino Cinsault. The wine itself is so brilliantly innovative - and tastes so damned good - it deserves a berth in this list for quality drinking alone. It's a blend of 91 per cent young-vine sagrantino, a tongue-hugging red grape originally from Umbria, and nine per cent old-vine cinsault, a robust southern French grape that's deeply savoury and superbly satisfying. The fact that it's been named after a sozzled winery moggie ("cenosilicaphobia" is the fear of an empty glass, apparently) only makes it all the more delicious.
If you think you know Indian trains, think again. There's a vast gulf between the standard of Indian Railways' 800 locomotives and the standard of the new Maharajas' Express: its lavish carriages are the last word in subcontinental train travel. Themed itineraries, such as Princely India and Celestial India, crisscross the country via fabled cities that might include Varanasi or Khajuraho, with butlers and bearers on hand to grant every wish. There are 14 carriages in all, including one devoted entirely to the $6500-a-night Presidential Suite, two restaurants (black-tie dinners, naturally), a bar and an observation lounge. Guest speakers include Sir Mark Tully, former BBC correspondent, and The Cinnamon Club's executive chef Vivek Singh.
It's taken a while, but Brisbane finally has its own back-alley bar - and it's a doozy. The clever space, poised metres above the newly christened Spencer Lane, is the wild-child offspring of last year's multimillion-dollar revamp of fine-dining restaurant Urbane. The Laneway bar lacks grunge but pays tribute to its gritty location with a black-and-off-white palette, complete with a striking wall-sized metal-cut screen emblazoned with road sign references. The snacks, from Urbane chef Kym Machin, are suitably luscious and judiciously salty, ranging from a wagyu burger with shoestring fries to in-house cured and smoked ocean trout with confit lemon. The Laneway, Spencer La, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3229 2271
Call it Hard Tourism (as in "hard labour"), but a week-long stint at Ecotraining Australia's Swim Creek camp, sleeping among mozzies and snakes and crocs and sweating buckets in the Northern Territory, is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. The camp is an offshoot of the high-end hoteliers Wild Bush Luxury, so you're guaranteed gourmet meals and plenty of good times, but the underlying emphasis is on the environment. The facilities might be basic but the experience is anything but. Seven-day stays from $1990.
Seven Seeds, St Ali, Brother Baba Budan, Toby's Estate, Sensory Lab, Proud Mary, Dukes, Auction Rooms, Outpost - the list of specialty coffee houses/roasters in Melbourne keeps growing at a super-caffeinated pace. With the expansion comes an increasingly complex conversation about vacuum, siphon and pour-over filter methods, single-estate beans, seasonality and the fine art of blending. The latest to throw its hat in the ring is Fleur Studd's Market Lane. Studd (daughter of GT cheese guru Will) says Market Lane's focus is on quality, seasonality and provenance, with a particular emphasis on beans sourced from individual farms. "People are finally realising that coffee is an agricultural product subject to location, soil and weather," she says. "It matters where it's from." Market Lane, Shop 13, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Rd, South Yarra, Vic, (03) 9804 7434
When it first opened as a restaurant four years ago, Sydney's Bentley Restaurant & Bar looked pretty slick, but its recent renovation at the hands of Melbourne interior architect Pascale Gomes-McNabb (best known for her work at Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc) has raised the bar. The new look, unveiled in February, gives Nick Hildebrandt's wine and Brent Savage's food a setting that is both more comfortable and more fittingly luxe without losing the edge that has become the pair's signature. Bentley Restaurant & Bar, 320 Crown St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9332 2344
The bucolic, peaceful bushland location helps, but even without the smell of eucalypts and the twittering birdlife (and the smart Chris Connell-designed metal and glass dining room), Café Vue at Heide Museum of Modern Art would stand out from the often average gallery café crowd. Flexibility is part of the attraction - sandwiches and quality coffee for the between-exhibition snackers, a weekly changing menu based on produce from Heide's famed kitchen garden and, three nights a week, dinner that amps things up again in a snail spring roll/skate wing salad kind of fashion. With nary a bain-marie or heat lamp in sight, Shannon Bennett's foray into the gallery world is a smart and artful success. Café Vue at Heide, 7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen, Vic, (03) 9852 2346