A Toast to 12 of the Best Grower-Producer Champagnes

Let’s raise a glass to these independent French winemakers. 

By Belinda Aucott-christie 24/01/2024

A new wave of French winemakers is forging their own path in Champagne. In one generation they have revolutionised hundreds of years of tradition and ushered in an entirely new approach. It’s an experimental attitude energised by a love of farming and a commitment to craft.

Industry insiders call them “growers producers” (or “growers” for short) because they no longer sell their grapes exclusively to the big houses or négociants and maintain a focus on boutique labels. Each year they bottle idiosyncratic wines of high quality and distribute them in small quantities which only adds to their rarity. Together they demonstrate passion for making Champagne that conveys a deep sense of place. Their methods are so revelatory that they’re beginning to influence some of Champagne’s biggest players like Louis Roederer.

Grower releases are healthier because they use fewer chemicals and have lower added sugar content. Often they are made from single vineyard and single grape varieties. For example just chardonnay, just pinot noir, or just pinot meunier.

If you love Champagne and have already experienced the grand marques, expand your connoisseurship with the standout grower offerings below.

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Millesime 2014


Creamy, layered, rich

Known as the “sommelier’s Champagne”, a coveted drop, especially in vintage styles. (The village of Ambonnay, where it is grown, is lauded for its abundance of decadent grand cru fruit.) The 2014 vintage is made from 40-year-old vines and is a seductive, layered and powerful expression of the region. A bouquet of subtle floral notes that is worth every cent.

$1,050; Five Ways Cellars.com.au

Larmandier Bernier Grand Cru VV du Levant 2012


Stone-fruit, mineral fresh, weighty palate 

A husband and wife team from Vertus, Larmandier-Bernier produce some of the best grower Champagne going. This is 100% chardonnay Champagne matured in large-format casks. The alcoholic and malolactic fermentations take place naturally, and there is no filtration. Best to drink on its own or with a delicate shellfish starter.

$380; Fivewaycellars.com.au

Laherte Freres Ultradition NV


Lively, light and fleshy

An aperitif-style wine with wonderful ripeness, body and generosity compared to past releases. A non-vintage sparkling wine, the Ultradition is an outstanding entry-point champagne from producer. Aurélien Laherte, one of the most talented vignerons of his generation. An approachable drop that has a gentle red fruit character from the Pinot Noir, with acid that is lively, but not showy. You will want to buy two bottles.

$140; Fivewayscellars.com.au

Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2012


Pear, grapefruit and peach

Aÿ is where Ayala and Bollinger are made. At Philiponnat, a little-known house highly regarded by connoisseurs, there is a family history of making wine that dates back to 1552. The 2012 Extra-Brut Clos des Goisses is fleshy and textural. It shows aromas of pear, grapefruit and stone fruit, all mingled with hints of honey, brazil nuts and fresh bread. On the palate, it has concentrated stone fruit at its core, bright acid and a plump, soft mousse.

$1,000; Fivewayscellars.com.au

Agrapart Grand Cru Venus Blanc de Blancs 2016




Citrus, almond, yellow nectarine 

More like a white Burgundy than a Champagne, the Venus comes from a single vineyard in the clay-rich soils of Avize—specifically from a single vineyard and plot known as La Fosse aux Pourceaux. A single-parcel cuvée is made in only tiny quantities each year (which adds to its rarity and desirability). It’s an intense wine that demands food and will be able to handle a main course of lemon sole or even white meat.

$615; fiveways.com.au

Andre Clouet Chalky Brut NV


Crisp, salty, creamy 

A reputable boutique house, Clouet produces excellent rosé and non-vintage styles that are terrific value. As a 100% Chardonnay cuvée, this initial release of “Chalky” is made entirely from the remarkable 2013 vintage and dials up the crisp and salty flavours in grapes grown from these chalk-rich soils. Chalk soils have long been considered one of the key resources enabling the region to produce such intense and refined wines.

$130; Fivewayscellars.com.au

NV Jacquesson & Fils Champagne Cuvée No. 744/ 746 Extra Brut

Aromatic, yellow fruit, mineral

Referred to in wine circles as “baby Krug” Jacquesson is known for crafting detailed wines that are matured in casks and made in a blended cuvée style. Acquired by François Pinault, the owner of Château Latour in 2022, founders the Chiquet brothers continue to manage every detail of the wines they produce. The minimal packaging and extra brut style of the Champagne belie the rich, full and delectably chalky profile.

$175; Princewinestore.com.au

Benoit Lahaye NV Brut Nature

Deep, taught and spiced

From a small-scale vineyard that produces true ‘Champagne de vigneron’ quality wines, Benoit Lahaye is made from ripe, biodynamic fruit mainly from the village of Bouzy in Montagne de Reims. A rare wine to see on a wine list, but well worth trying. A wonderful expression of terroir.

$136; acellars.com.au

Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs


Citrus, baked bread and creamy cashew

Hailing from Mesnil sur Oger, an all-star part of the region, Pierre Pieter BdB with refined yeast lees, citrus and baked bread aromas followed by faint scents of oyster shell and cashew.  The front palate is backed by a subtle toastiness and some brioche. Finishes dry and finely textured with stimulating acidity and a long savoury aftertaste. 

$230; Cru Cellar and Bar Brisbane

Jacques Selosse Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Version Originale NV


Wine-like, textural and generous

This wine has a cult-like following. Only around 3,000 bottles are produced each year and all the Selosse Champagnes are akin to an artistic expression of the region. Version Originale (VO) is a blend of three successive vintages from Avize, Cramant and Oger, but there is more Avize fruit in this release which brings plenty of texture and generosity to the palate. The VO is complex,  more like a white wine or a traditional white Burgundy than your standard sparkling.

$850; United Cellars

Bérêche & Fils Brut Réserve NV


Rich, vibrant and refreshing 

Maison Bérêche create stunning expressions and their latest release Brut Reserve NV is no exception. Rich yet refreshing, it hums along the palate with unflagging energy and character. The depth and delicacy of the flavours are unfathomable for an entry-level offering. Must be tasted to be believed.

$93; Princewinestore.com.au

André Jacquart Brut 1er Cru Expérience Blanc De Blancs

Champagne, France

Nutty, grapefruit, complex

The ‘house’ Brut cuvée is a blend of 60% Vertus and 40% Le Mesnil. There is no oak to the nose, instead it shows roasted nuts and complex notes of autolysis. Crisp and dry there is a rich creamy mousse on entry, then fresh grapefruit acidity, a fine mineral thread flowing through to a dry finish. A graceful balance of power and freshness this is a perfect aperitif style to serve by the glass.

$121; acellars.com.au

Frequently Asked Questions

Why choose a ‘grower’ Champagne over a well-known brand?

Buying a grower-producer champagne is casting a vote for the future of the Champagne region itself.  These top makers are independent and they represent the future of Champagne as it transitions to a more sustainable approach to growing the best grapes possible.

What should a good bottle of ‘grower’ Champagne cost?

The best advice is to buy the best you can afford. From time to time it’s prudent to try a bigger, bolder Champagne and spend more—for example by splurging on quality grower blanc de blancs, a rosé or vintage.

You can find fairly good quality grower Champagne like those by André Clouet for $60 per bottle; $100 is pretty standard for non-vintage wines and then the quality skyrockets from about $150 upwards. You can still get a great grower Champagne for around $100-120 dollars in good wine stores, and they will cost anywhere between $250-400 on restaurant wine lists. But in very basic terms you can’t go wrong.

How do I know whether the Champagne I am choosing will be dry?

Like fashion, Champagne has instructions on the label. The term Brut means dry. Extra Brut is very dry. Brut Nature means very little sugar has been added. Brut Nature Champagne is more common with global warming and it will be a crunchier and zestier wine with a less lush, or viscous mouthfeel. Zero Dosage means little or no sugar has been added to the final wine so this is bone-dry Champagne. If you want a light refreshing aperitif wine then zero dosage can be good. It will still pair well with a rich entrée or canapé.

Sec means sweet in French, and Demi-Sec means semi-sweet. Avoid these styles if you can. You will find that even if you are serving your Champagne with cake or rich desserts, a dry style with great acid and nervy will help to cut through sugar and cream.

Where do I go to source these speciality wines? How do I know I am buying the best quality?

Most hatted restaurants and dedicated wine bars will have a good grower Champagne on the wine list. Use your restaurant sommelier to help you find something that is to your taste and budget. Good wine stores such as the City Wine Shop in Melbourne, Best Cellars in Darlinghurst, Prince Wine Store Sydney and Melbourne, Cru Cellar and Bar on James Street in Brisbane, East End Cellars in Adelaide along with Five Ways Cellars and Annandale Cellars in Sydney are absolute experts who can guide you to finding a superb wine in your budget.


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Escape from the Ordinary

Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean.

By Robb Report Team 19/02/2024

Not all cruises are created equally. Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean. From the stunning Amalfi Coast to the pristine Greek Islands, the narrow Corinth Canal to the picturesque Dalmatian coast, historic Istanbul and beguiling Malaga, each destination is a unique adventure waiting to be unravelled. With Ponant, these aren’t just locations on a map; they’re experiences that come alive with the intimate knowledge and insight that their expert guides provide.

Ponant’s luxury cruises are renowned for their individuality, with no two journeys the same. This is not by chance. Itineraries are scrupulously designed to ensure that each passenger is left with a feeling of having embarked on a journey unlike any other.

Athens-Venise. Photograph by N.Matheus. ©PONANT

In 2025, their fleet will set sail for a combined 56 departures from March to October, exploring the dreamy locales of Greece and the Greek Islands, Malta, Italy (including Venice and Sicily), Croatia, France, Turkey, Spain and Portugal. These European Journeys offer an intimate encounter with the Mediterranean, its people and culture. As you cruise in luxury, you’ll dive deep into the heart of each destination, exploring historic sites, engaging with locals, sampling scrumptious cuisine and soaking in the vibrant atmospheres.

The company’s small, sustainable ships, which can accommodate from as few as 32 to 264 guests, have the exclusive ability to sail into ports inaccessible to larger cruise liners, affording privileged entry into some of the world’s most treasured alcoves. Picture sailing under London’s iconic Tower Bridge, crossing the Corinth Canal, or disembarking directly onto the sidewalk during ports of call in culturally rich cities like Lisbon, Barcelona, Nice and Venice, among others.

Photo by Tamar Sarkissian. ©PONANT

This singular closeness is further enriched by destination experts who unravel the tapestry of each locale’s history and traditions.

Onboard their luxurious ships, every guest is a VIP and treated to refined service and amenities akin to sailing on a private yacht. Whether at sea or ashore, their destination experts guarantee a fascinating experience, immersing you in the rich cultural and historical diversity of each region.

Indulge in the finest gastronomy at sea, inspired by none other than gastronomic virtuoso and Ponant partner, Alain Ducasse. Each voyage offers an expertly crafted dining experience, from a-la-carte meals with perfectly matched wines by the onboard Sommelier at dinner and lunch, to a French-inspired buffet breakfast, featuring all the favourite pastries, fresh bread and quality produce.

Chef Mickael Legrand. Photograph by NickRains. ©PONANT

For a more intimate discovery, consider Le Ponant, with its 16 high-class staterooms and suites—perfect for private charter—sailing eight exclusive routes between Greece and Croatia, offering guests unparalleled experiences both onboard and ashore. Ponant’s commitment to crafting unforgettable experiences extends beyond itineraries. Aboard their ships, the luxury is in every detail. Unwind in opulent cabins and suites, each offering private balconies and breathtaking views of the azure water and destinations beyond.

Ponant’s upcoming European Journeys are more than just cruises—they’re your passport to a world of cultural immersion, historical exploration, and unrivalled luxury. Don’t miss this opportunity to embark on the voyage of a lifetime: the Mediterranean is calling.

To book European 2025 sailings visit au.ponant.com; call 1300 737 178 (AU) or 0800 767 018 (NZ) or contact your preferred travel agent.


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Saint Laurent Just Opened a New Bookstore in Paris. Here’s a Look Inside.

The chic new outpost is located on the city’s arty Left Bank.

By Rachel Cormack 14/02/2024

Saint Laurent is taking over even more of Paris.

The French fashion house, which only just opened an epic new flagship on Champs-Élysées, has launched a chic new bookstore on the Left Bank. Located in the 7th arrondissement, Saint Laurent Babylone is a mecca of art, music, literature, and, of course, fashion.

The new outpost is a tribute to the connection that Yves Saint Laurent and partner Pierre Bergé had to the Rue Babylone, according to Women’s Wear Daily. (In 1970, the pair moved to a 6,500-square-foot duplex on the street.) It is also inspired by the house’s original ready-to-wear boutique, Saint Laurent Rive Guache, which opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1966.

The exposed concrete in contrasted by sleek marble accents. SAINT LAURENT

With a minimalist, art gallery-like aesthetic, the space is anchored by a hefty marble bench and large black shelves. The raw, textured concrete on the walls is juxtaposed by a soft blue and white rug, a wooden Pierre Jeanneret desk, and sleek Donald Judd stools.

The wares within Saint Laurent Babylone are the most important part, of course. Curated by Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello, the collection includes everything from photos by British artist Rose Finn-Kelcey to books published by Saint Laurent itself. Some tomes on offer are so rare that white gloves are required for handling.

The store also offers an enviable selection of records that are no longer being pressed. Highlights include Sade’s Promise, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, and the debut studio album of electronic band Kraftwerk.

Other notable items on the shelves include Leica cameras, chocolates made in collaboration with pastry chef François Daubinet, prints by Juergen Teller, and brass skull sculptures. You’ll also find an assortment of YSL merch, including pens, lighters, and cups.

To top it off, Saint Laurent Babylone will double as an event space, hosting live music sessions, DJ sets, book readings, and author signings over the coming months.

Saint Laurent’s latest endeavor isn’t exactly surprising. With Vaccarello at the helm, the Kering-owned fashion house has entered new cultural realms. Only last year, the label established a film production company and debuted its first movie at Cannes.

The space is fitted with a Pierre Jeanneret desk and Donald Judd stools.

Perhaps Saint Laurent film reels and movie posters will soon be available at Babylone, too.

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The Best Watches at the Grammys, From Maluma’s Jacob & Co. to Jon Batiste’s Vacheron Constantin

Music’s biggest names sported some outstanding watches on Sunday evening.

By Rachel Mccormack 08/02/2024

Weird yet wonderful watches punctuated this year’s Grammys.

The woman of the moment, Taylor Swift, who made history by winning Album of the Year for an unprecedented fourth time, wore an unconventional Lorraine Schwartz choker watch to the annual awards ceremony on Sunday night. That was just the tip of the horological iceberg, though.

Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma elevated a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds, while American musician Jon Batiste topped off a stylish Versace ensemble with a sleek Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon. Not to be outdone, rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a rare Audemars Piguet Royal Oak for the occasion.

There was more understated wrist candy on display, too, such as Jack Antonoff’s Cartier Tank LC and Noah Kahan’s Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo.

For the rest of the best watches we saw on the Grammys 2024 red carpet, read on.

Maluma: Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon

Maluma busted out some truly spectacular bling for this year’s Grammys. The Colombian singer-songwriter paired a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds. The sculptural wrist candy sees a four-arm movement floating in front of a breathtaking dial adorned with no less than 257 rubies. For added pizzaz, the lugs of the 18-karat rose-gold case are invisibly set with 80 baguette-cut white diamonds. Limited to just nine examples, the rarity is priced at $1.5 million.

Asake: Hublot Big Bang Essential Grey

Nigerian singer-songwriter Asake may not have won the Grammy for Best African Music Performance for “Amapiano,” but did wear a winning Hublot Big Bang at Sunday’s proceedings. Released in 2023, the Essential Grey model is made purely of titanium for a sleek, uniform feel. The 42 mm timepiece was limited to just 100 pieces and cost $37,000 a pop.

John Legend: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding

Multihyphenate John Legend wore a legendary Audemars Piguet with silky Saint Laurent on Sunday evening. The self-winding Royal Oak in question features a 34 mm black ceramic case, a black grande tapisserie dial, and striking pink gold accents. The watchmaker’s signature is also displayed in gold under the sapphire crystal. The piece will set you back $81,000.

Jon Batiste: Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon

American musician Jon Batiste received four nominations but no wins at this year’s Grammys. The “Butterfly” singer can take solace in the fact that he looked ultra-sharp in Versace and Vacheron Constantin. A tribute to the spirit of travel, the Overseas Tourbillon features a 42.5 mm white-gold case, a bezel set with 60 baguette-cut diamonds, and a blue dial featuring a dazzling tourbillon cage inspired by the Maltese cross. Price upon request, naturally.

Fireboy DML: Cartier Santos

Fireboy DML’s outfit was straight fire on Sunday night. The Nigerian singer paired an MCM wool jacket with a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet, several iced-out rings, and a sleek Cartier Santos. The timepiece features a steel case, a graduated blue dial with steel sword-shaped hands, and a seven-sided crown with synthetic faceted blue spinel.

Noah Kahan: Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo

Best New Artist nominee Noah Kahan wore one of Panerai’s best new watches to Sunday’s festivities. The Luminor Quaranta BiTempo features a 40 mm polished steel case and a black dial with luminous numerals and hour markers, a date display at 3 o’clock, and a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. The timepiece can be yours for $14,000.

Busta Rhymes: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Legendary rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a chic Audemars Piguet for this year’s Grammys. The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph in question is distinguished by a 42 mm rose-gold case and a matching pink méga tapisserie dial with an outer flange for the tachymeter scale. The face is fitted with three black subdials, large black numerals, and a black date display at 3 o’clock. You can expect to pay around $61,200 for the chronograph on the secondary market.

Jack Antonoff: Cartier Tank Louis Cartier

Producer of the year Jack Antonoff took to the red carpet with a stylish Cartier on his wrist. The Tank Louis Cartier in question appears to be a large 33.7 mm example that features an 18-carat rose-gold case, a silvered dial with black Roman numerals and blued steel hands, a beaded crown set with a sapphire cabochon, and a brown alligator strap. It’ll set you back $19,900.

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This 44-Foot Carbon-Fiber Speedboat Can Rocket to 177 KMPH

The new Mayla GT is available with a range of different powertrains, too.

By Rachel Cormack 03/02/2024

We knew the Mayla GT would be one of the most exciting boats at Boot Düsseldorf, but a deep dive into the specs shows it could be downright revolutionary.

The brainchild of German start-up Mayla, the 44-footer brings you the blistering performance of a speedboat and the luxe amenities of a motor yacht in one neat carbon-fiber package.

Inspired by the go-fast boats of the 1970s and ‘80s, the GT sports an angular, retro-futuristic body and the sleek lines of a rocket ship. Tipping the scales at just 4500 kilograms, the lightweight design features a deep-V hull with twin transversal steps and patented Petestep deflectors that help it slice through the waves with ease. In fact, Mayla says the deflectors decrease energy usage by up to 35 percent while ensuring a more efficient planing.

The range-topping GT can reach 185 kph. MAYLA

The GT is also capable of soaring at breakneck speeds, with the option of a gas, diesel, electric, or hybrid powertrain. The range-topping GTR-R model packs dual gas-powered engines that can churn out 3,100 hp for a top speed of more than 100 knots (185 kph). At the other, more sustainable end of the spectrum, the E-GT is fitted with an electric powertrain that can produce 2,200 horses for a max speed of 50 knots. The hybrid E-GTR pairs that same electric powertrain with a 294 kilowatt diesel engine for a top speed of 60 knots (111 km/h/69 mph). (The GT in the water at Boot sported two entry-level V8s good for 650 hp and a top speed of over 70 knots.)

The GT is suitable for more than just high-speed jaunts, of course. The multipurpose cockpit, which can accommodate up to eight passengers, features a sundeck with sliding loungers, a wet bar and BBQ, and a foldaway dining table for alfresco entertaining. Further toward the stern, a beach club sits atop a garage with an electric transom door.

The garage has an electric transom door. MAYLA

The GT is even fit for overnight stays. Below deck lies a cabin with a double bed, sofa, wardrobe, vanity, and en suite. You can also expect a high-tech entertainment system with TVs and premium audio.

As for price, the GT with the entry-level powertrain will cost between $2.7 million and $2.9, depending on the final configuration. (You can fine-tune the layout, hull color, and interiors, naturally.) Interested buyers can set up a sea trial with Mayla, with test-drives set to begin this spring in Europe.

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Red Centre

First Nations artist Shaun Daniel Allen joins forces with Chopard to create a timepiece inspired by the Australian landscape.

By Horacio Silva 29/01/2024

Shaun Daniel Allen does not look like your typical collaborator on a prestige watch. For one, Shal, as he prefers to be known (“There are many Shauns but only one Shal,” he explains), is more heavily tattooed than your average roadie. His youthful appearance, bad-boy ink and all, belies his 38 years and leads to a disconnect. 

He recounts being recognised on the street recently by a journalist, who, unable to remember his name, shouted out, “Chopard!” “I was with a friend,” Shal says, holding court in his apartment in Sydney’s inner city, “and he’s, like, ‘What the hell? Does that happen to you often?’”

Perhaps because of his body art, he reasons, “People don’t put me and Chopard together.” It’s not hard to understand the confusion, Shal adds; even he was taken aback when Chopard reached out to him about a potential collaboration a little more than a year ago. “When I first went in to see them, I was, like, I don’t know if I’m your guy. I’m not used to being in those rooms and having those conversations.”

He’ll have to adapt quickly to his new reality. Last month Chopard released Shal’s interpretation of the Swiss brand’s storied Alpine Eagle model, which in itself was a redo of the St. Moritz, the first watch creation by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (now Co-President of Chopard) in the late 1970s. 

Previewed at Sydney’s About Time watch fair in September, to not insignificant interest, and officially known as the Alpine Eagle Sunburnt, the exclusive timepiece—issued in a limited edition of 20—arrives as a stainless steel 41 mm with a 60-hour power reserve and a burnt red dial that brings to mind the searing Outback sun. Its see-through caseback features one of Shal’s artworks painted on sapphire glass.

When the reputable Swiss luxury brand approached Shal, they already had the red dial—a nod to the rich ochre hues of the Australian soil at different times of the day and gradated so that the shades become darker around the edges—locked in as a lure for Australian customers.

Shal was charged with designing an artful caseback and collectible hand-painted sustainable wooden case. After presenting a handful of paintings, each with his signature abstract motifs that pertain to indigenous emblems, tattoos and music, both parties landed on a serpentine image that evoked the coursing of rivers. “I have been painting a lot of water in this last body of work and the image we chose refers to the rivers at home,” he says, alluding to formative years spent at his grandfather’s, just outside of Casino.

It says a lot about Chopard, Shal points out, that they wanted to donate to a charity of his choosing. “Like everything else on this project,” he explains, “they were open to listening and taking new ideas on board and it actually felt like a collaboration, like they weren’t steering me into any corner.”

In another nice touch, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the watch will go to funding programs of the Ngunya Jarjum Aboriginal Corporation—an organisation, established in 1995 by Bundjalung elders, whose work Shal saw firsthand after the 2022 eastern Australia flood disasters ravaged their area. “Seeing Ngunya Jarjum suffer from the floods,” he says, “and knowing how much they do for the community on Bundjalung Country was heartbreaking. I want to see Bundjalung families thriving and supported.”

So what’s it been like for this booster of Australian waterways to be swimming in the luxury end of the pool? “I’ve done a few things with brands,” he offers, referring to the Louis Vuitton project earlier this year at an art gallery in Brisbane, “but nothing on this scale. It’s definitely fancier than I’m used to but I’m not complaining.” Neither are watch aficionados.

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