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Wine Selectors was established in 1975 and has grown to become Australia’s largest independent direct marketer of wine. 

We deal with both the large, popular wineries and support the small wine producers who are the backbone of the Australian wine industry. 

Because Wine Selectors has strong relationships with over 400 wineries the range of wines is superb - from rare boutique labels to popular wines from big brand names.

Producer Q & A

Bunkers

Bunkers

The team at Bunkers Wines don’t just craft stunning vino; they celebrate some of Margaret River's greatest surf breaks. We recently sat down with Sally and Amy Calneggia, two of the driving forces behind this award-winning winery and dove beneath the waves to discover the secrets of the Bunkers success story.

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Can you tell us a little about Bunkers Wines?

Sally: Bunkers is named after the magnificent and beautiful Bunker Bay, the pristine natural beauty on the tip of the Cape Naturaliste peninsula in the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia. Bunkers unites surfing, fashion and wine – three of our greatest passions. Each wine is a reflection of its namesake Margaret River surf break so we have a "Lefthanders" Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, "Honeycombs" Chardonnay, "Windmills" Rosé, "Guillotines" Shiraz, "Bears" Cabernet Merlot and "The Box" Tempranillo (my favourite). We like to say these are serious wines… for not so serious people.

How long have you two been in the wine business?

Sally: I’ve been working alongside my husband Mike Calneggia in the wine industry since 1984. It’s been a long, exciting and rewarding journey for us both. Bunkers wines have been largely inspired by the youth of our daughter Amy, our love for the Margaret River region and my family’s background of fashion. I’m excited about the journey ahead of us and immensely proud to be working with my very talented and beautiful daughter.

Amy: I joined the family business in my late teens, working part-time in a marketing support role while studying at university. Before that I did the usual wine family stuff working odd jobs in the winery and the vineyard, which hooked me into the fabulous world of wine. I feel very passionate about Bunkers and what we have achieved so far, and I am even more excited about what’s to come!

Bunkers is a close-knit team. Do you find you have to wear multiple hats, and if so, what are they?

Sally: We’re grape growers first, winemakers second and by necessity, business people third. My role is to run the day-to-day administration and to manage our staff relationships, which dovetail into my brand ambassadorial roles along with Amy. As a small business owner it’s a matter of trying to organise the day to fit it all in. Amy: I’ve definitely learned to multitask! I look after the marketing but also very involved in sales. I also work closely with our winemaker Brian Fletcher in keeping an eye on our wine styles and our innovation.

Word has it that your wines are going to be showcased on Qantas flights…

Sally: We are super excited about Bunkers being selected for Qantas flights! The Bunkers "Bears" Cabernet Merlot and Bunkers "Honeycombs" Chardonnay have been selected for the 187 ml program (little bottles) for international flights. It’s fantastic news. So from New York to Mumbai, Cape Town to Rio and everywhere in between, you’re within arms reach of going Bunkers.

What are the biggest challenges in your respective roles?

Sally:  Having been in the wine business for over 25 years, Mike and I have been part of both the “ boom and bust years”.  I would have to say the last ten of which have been the toughest. With an oversupply of grapes and the GFC of the last 5 years, we have all been put to the test. We have been forced to work even harder to become better business people in order to stay in this industry, which we are so very passionate about. I’m happy to say that we’ve succeeded. Amy: The biggest challenge is prioritizing tasks with limited resources – we are a very small team and we set our goals high so we all have to work very hard to achieve our goals. But we’ve done it!

What do you love about the wine industry?

Sally:  The thing I love most about the wine industry is that although we’re very serious business people, being involved with wine allows us to still be very passionate and creative. It allows you to create new and exciting projects as we have done with Bunkers. I love the fact that we have been able to travel the world as a family, and no matter where we go, everyone loves to discuss what you do – and are always happy to share a bottle of your latest award winning wines. Amy: I love the evolution from the vineyard to the bottle. It’s thrilling. Plus, the wine industry is such an amazing group to be a part of – it’s full of interesting, creative and passionate people. Wine is a universal language that brings people together… It’s been around since the beginning of time and will continue to be an important part of our lives. Nothing can replace wine.

Sally and Amy, thank you so much for joining us.

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Crittenden Estate

Crittenden Estate

Zoe Crittenden of Crittenden Estate talks about her inspiring dad and founder of Crittenden Estate, Garry Crittenden, and shares her family’s love for the Mornington Peninsula.

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1. The Mornington Peninsula is well known for its excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but Crittenden Estate also successfully produces a number of alternate Italian varietals – what do you find so appealing about these varietals, especially the Tempranillo?

Garry was one of the first in Australia to introduce Italian wine varieties and we have since also embraced the enticing varieties of rural Spain. After trying some wines from Italy in the early 1990s (virtually unknown of over here at the time), Garry was pleasantly surprised by their savoury palate and suitability to food. He correctly predicted that these wines would grow well in the cool climate regions of Victoria. Garry’s love of Italian varieties became so strong that he wrote and published a book exploring their suitability to Australian climates – Italian Winegrape Varieties in Australia. As the younger generation of the Crittenden family, Rollo and I now make Spanish wines under our label ‘Los Hermanos’, which means ‘the siblings’. We realise it’s a bit indulgent, but we have always loved Spain; especially its food and wine.

2. What makes the Mornington Peninsula and your vineyard sites so suited to your amazing Pinot Noirs?

Thirty years ago, when in September 1982 we planted five acres of grapes in one weekend, we doubled the total plantings on the Peninsula. Today there are in excess of 2500 acres and this region is arguably one of the most well known in Australia for Pinot Noir. Our vines in particular have stood the test of time and with newer clones from France being introduced we are all the more enthused with the future of Pinot Noir down here; particularly those clones in our own vineyard. Garry recently had the opportunity to open one of our 1988 vintage Pinots for a knowledgeable group of UK trade and media and it’s not overstating the case to say they were gob smacked by its youthfulness and vigour at 25 years of age.

3. More and more vineyards are returning to biological, biodynamic, organic, and sustainable methods of production – how important are these methods to Crittenden Estate and the future of your business?

We are winemakers but we are also farmers. Our philosophy is simple – look after the soil and vines so that they will continue to produce even better wines. We believe that great wines are created in the vineyard and only enhanced in the vats and barrels. Garry has a horticultural background and this is now overlaid with respect for the environment. We minimize chemical use and synthetic products, we use cover crops such as peas and oats, and we compost and use recycled water. These practices build natural disease resistance in the vineyard, which makes healthier vines and grapes, the result being better wine. At home we eat organic foods wherever possible or grow our own. Our way of farming is simply an extension of our own personal philosophy about how we treat our planet.

4. What other varietals/blends may be on the horizon?

We do have some surprises that will be launched later in the year, two in particular that we are very excited about. One of the upcoming wines was recently sent to Jancis Robinson in London for a sneak preview and critique and, happily, she waxed lyrical. More I can’t reveal at this stage except to say; keep your eyes open around July for an announcement on our web site.

5. What other complementary products does Crittenden Estate produce?

I think that Garry is, at heart a frustrated alchemist. He loves to experiment with new, innovative and not to mention delicious products. Over the years most of these have been related to wine grapes, for example Vino Cotto, which is made from grape must. The most successful by far has been his Verjus. Verjus is the juice of semi ripe grapes and unique in that it provides moderate levels of sugar (grape sugar) which thicken and emulsify when heated. This combination brings together a delicious amalgam of tartness and sweetness with the ability to deglaze a pan; having said that, for many, the best use by far is as a delicious non-alcoholic beverage—tons of ice and 50/50 with soda water. Very refreshing.

6. Crittenden Estate is very much a family affair – how important is this and how do you keep the family/work balance?

I think it is only now that Rollo and I both have families and children of our own that we can truly appreciate how important family is. But then again, we have always been close. Keeping the balance between work and family is important but it’s fortunate that we are in an industry where coming together to enjoy food and wine is valued. And to a large extent, this is what we do. A Sunday spent eating and enjoying wine, with the kids joining in (hold the wine!), is not uncommon. Cooking and sharing food is important to all of us and we are enjoying passing this passion on to our youngest generation. We are also lucky that the Mornington Peninsula now has a number of wonderful eating options available, most of which are child friendly. And although the conversation at our family gatherings can often turn to wine and food, we do try to keep a balance. Garry is relishing his role as “Grumpy” and is a hands-on grandparent. We think our children are very lucky to have cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents all very close by and all taking an active role in their lives.

7. How was Vintage 2013 for Crittenden Estate and how did it compare to recent years?

Vintage 2013 was out of the box and a joy to be involved in. There were some brief moments of frantic madness when too many varieties wanted to get picked all at once, but apart from the inevitable log jam that caused, the quality of incoming fruit was comparable to the best we’ve known in a long time. In particular, the Peninsula Pinots look exemplary in barrel, as does a wonderful tranche of Tempranillo from our vineyard at nearby Patterson Lakes.

8. What are some of your vintage highlights?

After an eight week grind of long days, late nights and seven day weeks the sense of relief and satisfaction in mid April when we looked around at one another and said “That’s it, all over for another year”. Oh, and the end of vintage dinner when we all got together to open some wonderful wines from the family cellar.

9. What can our Members look forward to tasting from you in the next few years?

We are forever inspired by the sense of a challenge to forge new frontiers in the wine world and look at new varieties that may some day become mainstream. We have our eyes on the wonderful Austrian variety Gruner Veltliner and who knows, we may even have another go at a real version of Albariño

10. hat is it about the Mornington Peninsula that keeps you and your family inspired?

Where to begin? Rollo and I grew up amongst the vines with chooks, horses, our own huge veggie garden and rafting on our lake. An idyllic lifestyle – although in the 1980s a decent feed (bar one or two restaurants) involved a one and a half hour drive to Melbourne. There were no freeways in those days! Now, the number of eating options is vast and the quality is on par with many Melbourne restaurants. Red Hill alone is host to four The Age chef hatted restaurants. Couple that with pristine beaches, gorgeous bush walks and a great sense of community, I can’t imagine another place I’d rather live.

Crittenden Estate is a small family owned company on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and has no connection whatsoever with the Woolworths owned wine brand “Crittenden and Co.”

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Chain of Ponds

Chain of Ponds

This month we spend a few minutes with Graeme Thredgold from Chain of Ponds winery in the Adelaide Hills and find out what makes the region so special.

What was the appeal of the Adelaide Hills for you when you first planted there in 1985?

The Adelaide Hills is still a relatively young wine region in South Australia, so there was definitely the appeal of the unknown. What we did know, however, was that the Adelaide Hills has many varied micro climates and soil types, along with the fact that the temperatures are so much cooler than the immediate neighbouring wine regions of the Barossa and McLaren Vale.

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This opened up so many exciting opportunities such as wine styles and varietals. We have quickly seen the success of varieties in the region for things such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. However, we also wanted to experiment with Italian varietals that we believed were also perfectly suited to the area: Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, all of which have been a great success for Chain of Ponds to date.

How did you arrive at the name for the winery, was it purely based on the history of the location?

The name of the winery chose itself really. We are situated right next door to the old township of Chain of Ponds, which was so sadly demolished in the early 1970s. There were local vineyards at Chain of Ponds, which were planted in the mid 1850s, and the area was always known for its fruit and vegetables. The Chain of Ponds winery was then the first major planting in the surrounding area in 1985. There was so much history that was begging to be told and remembered. We felt it was our responsibility to continue to tell the stories of such an important era and township in South Australia. All of our wines directly relate back to the local area and the people that lived there for 130 years.

What do you think the Adelaide Hills does best?

The great thing about the Adelaide Hills as a wine region is that it grows a number of varieties very well. This is quite unique! Most of the key wine regions are known for one variety, but the Adelaide Hills is quickly growing a strong reputation for being the King of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, but in addition to this, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and cool climate Shiraz. I could keep on going. Maybe I’m a little biased, but maybe not!

You make a few alternative varieties, is the region showing a suitability for such varieties?

Absolutely! The Italian varietals are doing really well in the region. Sangiovese and Barbera are our two biggest selling wines at Cellar Door. People are drawn to the intense savoury fruit flavours, which are so ideally suited to food.

What’s the best thing about the region?

It is so close to Adelaide and it is so different to both McLaren Vale and the Barossa. There are many beautiful places to visit and the cool climate wines are so different to everything else the state produces. It is still somewhat of a hidden gem.

Can you describe some of the events you have at your Cellar Door? Can people just turn up if they are visiting the region?

Our cellar door is open for lunch and free tastings from Fridays to Mondays (11am until 4pm). We have a balcony café, which has stunning views of the local pine forests intermingled with Australian bushland. The cellar door has a lot of information relating back to the old township for people to experience. The annual crush festival is our biggest day of the year, where we will have live entertainment on the lawns with local cuisine. We also have an 1880s farmhouse located on site, which people can rent for a night or longer. It is a fabulous old cottage and you have the run of the place all to yourself.

What’s your favourite food and wine combination?

That is a very difficult question. I love food and I love wine. There are so many different pairings that work so wonderfully well and no doubt the mood of the occasion dictates what you feel like. However, you can’t go past a great Adelaide Hills Savvy and local SA seafood whether it’s salt and pepper squid, oysters, scallops and white fleshed fish.

How is vintage 2013 looking?

Vintage 2013 is looking really good. The whites in particular look amazing as well as the Pinot Noir and Shiraz. We have had some really good conditions leading up to harvest. It has been very dry, but we have enough water available to make sure the vines cope with the heat. Vintage will be fairly compressed and should be just about over by the end of March/early April. Then we can start again in preparation for 2014. Bring it on.

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The Grapes Of Ross

The Grapes of Ross

We recently caught up with one of our favourite pink producers Ross Virgara of The Grapes of Ross in the Barossa Valley. Ross was originally a chef before he turned his hand to making wines having grown up helping his father during vintage and learning the tricks of the trade. In 2008 his Rosé was voted best at the Barossa Wine Show. Here’s what they had to say on all things pink:

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Why do you think Rosé has taken off in such a big way?

It’s fresh and food friendly, we believe it’s a lighter style of wine that suits a new generation of wine drinkers and goes well with popular Asian cuisine and alfresco dining.

What style of Rosé do you make, is it more in the savoury mould?

Our Rose` is typically fresh, fruit–driven and full bodied but finishes crisp and dry with hints of savoury spice.

Why have you chosen the grapes Shiraz and Pinot for your version, where is the Pinot sourced from?

I love the full fruit flavour and structure of wonderful Barossa shiraz and liked the idea of blending with the Pinot characters so you get strawberry and spice, soft tannins and great acidity... all the character styles I was looking for to complement and enhance as a ‘friendly’ and food oriented wine. The Pinot is sourced from Lyndoch Valley, Southern Barossa Valley.

What’s the best way to enjoy your Rosé, is there anything in particular you like to eat with it?

It’s very refreshing, light yet flavoursome with enough body to suit meat dishes, complements Asian and particularly Indian style cuisine, and it is a delightful summer alfresco wine that we enjoy lightly chilled with tapas, salads and finger foods.

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Hart & Hunter

Hart and Hunter

Hart & Hunter was started by Damien Stevens and Jodie Belleville; he makes the wines while she handles sales and back of house. Their first vintage was in 2009 and in 2010 their Semillon won two Trophies at the Hunter wine show. We caught up with Damien recently to find our more about this exciting producer.

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Q: What is it about Chardonnay that you like?

Chardonnay allows an amazing range of styles and flavours more than any other variety. The journey that Chardonnay offers, vineyard and fruit selection, balance of oak, use of yeasts and balancing time in oak offer an ongoing challenge.

Q: What kind of Chardonnay does the Hunter make and do you think producers are thinking more about a modern expression of the variety?

The Hunter is an exciting place to be for Chardonnay. People are producing elegant styles that compete with any other region. There is always a lot of experimenting in the valley; the modern styles have exceptional purity of fruit, acid definition, restraint, texture and artefact.

Q: What’s your favourite Chardonnay?

A bottle of Raveneau with friends at Café Beltree is pretty hard to beat.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Hart and Hunter, why the name and how long have you been around, what grapes do you specialize in?

Hart & Hunter comes from our partners the Harts based in the UK and we make up the Hunter half. The first wine we produced was the 2009 Hart & Hunter Single Vineyard Series Ablington Shiraz. We specialise in the Hunter’s classic varieties, Semillon and Shiraz, showcasing unique parcels as part of our Single Vineyards Series. We couldn’t help ourselves and made the first of our Chardonnays in 2011 and plan to release our first Single Vineyard Chardonnay later this year.

Q: Can you tell me about your limited release Chardonnay, is there anything special you do when making this wine?

All of our wines aim to showcase the fruit as the most important factor; selected from a vineyard in Broke, the 2012 Limited Release Chardonnay has a lovely line of fresh citrus flavours. Small portions as wild ferments and ferments with a high portion of solids add complexity and weight. The wine stayed in oak only long enough to find integration of flavours before going to bottle.

Q: What do you like about making wine in the Hunter?

The passion in the Hunter Valley is second to none. The opportunity to work with some of the oldest vines in Australia and the sharing of ideas within the Hunter Valley makes it a great place to be.

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Leconfield

Leconfield

We catch up with Winemaker Paul Gordon from McLaren Vale and Coonawarra’s Leconfield wines. Owned by the Hamilton family for five generations, this is one of Wine Selectors’ favourite family producers whose wines never cease to impress.

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Leconfield has a simply philosophy – great wines are crafted from great vineyards. What makes your vineyards unique?

Our vineyards are situated in two of the noted regions in Australia ¬– Coonawarra and McLaren Vale – with excellent site selection within these areas. Leconfield prides itself on producing 96% of its own fruit, allowing us to have full control over all aspects of grape growing from pruning, right through to harvest. Our dedicated staff have worked with our vines for many years and have an intimate knowledge of every part of every block. Aesthetically, our vineyards are characterised by hedges of roses that form the boundaries, not only providing a striking display, but also serving as a reminder of the fastidious approach we make to all aspects of wine growing.

Yuu have been with Leconfield since 2001. What is your approach to winemaking and how have you ensured Leconfield’s success?

I have been winemaking since finishing my oenology degree in 1978. The key lesson to be learnt over that time is to approach every variety as though it was the best fruit resource in the world, never underestimating its potential. Individual blocks and batches are kept separate to determine if the wine lives up to its expectation as grapes, and to test if the various tinkerings one does during the maturation process enhances the quality. Every vintage adds to the learning of winemaking.

What are some of Leconfield’s most popular wines and why?

The Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is a consistently great example of how a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon should be made and has been the flagship of Leconfield since the first release in 1977. Our philosophy is to produce a Cabernet Sauvignon displaying both depth and elegance where oak complexes and enhances the fruit, but is not allowed to dominate.

Likewise, the Richard Hamilton Shiraz is highly popular as it is crafted to present excellent fruit definition and length and that typifies both the Shiraz fruit and the McLaren Vale region.

The SYN Cuveé Blanc is very popular as it is both beautifully presented and a well crafted sparkling wine, which makes it an elegant offering for any occasion. It is placed at a price point that makes it a very affordable alternative to some of the more expensive sparkling wines on offer – and is their equal in flavour and style.

The Leconfield Merlot this year was awarded Best Merlot In Australia at the 2012 Royal Sydney Wine Show (Arthur Kellman Perpetual Trophy) and in the 2012 Brisbane Show, as well as being a contender for the Jimmy Watson Trophy in Melbourne. While this was an exceptional achievement for the 2010 Vintage, our Merlot consistently performs well and is the perfect example of how great a wine a Merlot can be.

You make a Sparkling range called ‘SYN’ – what was the inspiration for this name?

The name ‘SYN’ originally came from ‘Synergy’ – being the synergy between McLaren Vale/Richard Hamilton and Leconfield/Coonawarra. The name was later shortened to the more catchy, ‘SYN’, which has proved a very popular move and has strengthened the brand.

Richard Hamilton is the fifth generation of his family to be involved in wine. Can we expect to see a sixth?

Annasofia and Thomas are Richard and Jette’s children. As young adults, they are forging their own ways in the world before becoming fully committed to the family winemaking business.

Thank you so much for joining us Paul.

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Yering Station

Yering Station

Established in 1838, Yering Station is Victoria's first vineyard and with their sustainable approach to winemaking. Chief winemaker William (Willy) Lunn, has more than 25 years’ extensive and intimate cool climate winemaking experience in both Australia and overseas. He has been with the award-winning Yering Station since 2008, where he often balances traditional winemaking techniques with modern cutting-edge practices.

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Can you please tell our readers a little about your role at Yering Station and how you fell into this position? Also, what do you love about your job?

I’m the Chief Winemaker at Yering Station, which involves overseeing all of the winemaking and working closely with our viticulturalist to ensure quality and balance in the vineyard. I moved here from Oregon and liked the idea of working for a family committed to quality. I have always been involved in cool climate winemaking. I love that fact that I still consider myself a farmer and that at every step along the way I have a direct involvement on the final outcome – very rare in agriculture.

What was the bottle that —back in the day—sold you on wine? Where did your passion begin and how has it developed over the years?

The first bottle of wine I fell in love with was a bottle of NV Bollinger and it is still one of my favourites to this day. My passion was that we were making something wonderful and that passion has only increased in the last 30 years. Today, we are making wine that people enjoy all over the world. And the most satisfaction I get is seeing someone drink and enjoy something I made. It’s pretty cool.

Since 1996, Yering Station has been at the forefront of progressive winkemaking. How has this been accomplished and how have the wines changed, especially since you came on board?

Essentially, things have stayed the same because the vineyards have not changed. But I have looked very closely at our vineyards, trying to find the “sweet spot” areas within blocks, which give us more concentration and flavour. I’m always looking for ways to bring the site personality of each block to the bottle.

Carrying on from this, can you tell us a little about the highly regarded Yarrabank Sparkling project? What’s you’re involvement?

I make Yarrabank in a truly joint venture with Champagne Devaux. They come out during vintage to help ascertain maturity and then I’ll go to Champagne so we can work on the blend. It’s great fun and I get to learn a lot about sparkling wine. The rest of the process is carried out at Yering Station.

Yering Station is a historic cellar door, dating back to 1859. What does it feel like to be surrounded by such a rich heritage? Does this affect your winemaking philosophy and practices?

We are very lucky to have such a rich history, which provides evidence that the Yarra Valley was seen as an ideal place to grow grapes and make wine. My winemaking philosophy is that close attention to detail will reap the greatest rewards. Also, I want my wines to taste like where they originated and not by who made them.

You have a reputation in experimental winemaking? Can you give us an insight into what this involves?

It really means: how can we make the best wine possible. You only get one opportunity a year to get it right, so always learn something and never leave your brain at the back door!

What are some of Yering Station’s most popular wines and why?

Our most popular wine would most likely be our Pinot Noir, which grows exceptionally well in the Yarra Valley. Our Pinot is on the silky, elegant side, while still having great concentration and power.

What’s in Yering Stations future? Any interesting projects on the horizon?

We are constantly finessing in the vineyard with clones, rootstock and density. Once we nail these, and after vine maturity, look out.

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Irvine Wines

Irvine Wines

This month we’d like you to meet a great friend of Wine Selectors, the highly respected James Irvine of Irvine Wines.

“Jim is probably the nicest gentleman I have met in the wine industry. Each year we trade Cabernet Franc for each others, where I seek his council on them. I consider him a mentor in the variety and someone that I look up to incredibly.” – Christian Gaffey, Winemaker, Wine Show Judge and expert Tasting Panel Member

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1. Your passion for the variety has earned you the unofficial title of ‘Master of Merlot’ by the winemaking industry. What is it about Merlot that you love so much?

Why I love Merlot so much is a simple thing dating back to 1980, wherein I tasted Petrus twice within 12 months. The first time I was absolutely amazed at the beautiful fruity character of the wine, together with its lovely soft tannins and powerful mid palate flavour. The second tasting just capped off all I thought and I said to myself, "if ever I had my own vineyard, there would only be one red grape and that would be Merlot."

2. Is Chateau Petrus still your favourite? Or have you tasted perfection since?

As to my favourite Merlot, Petrus is certainly still up near the top, but these days, of course, there are a number of other superb Merlots which challenge Petrus, and they are not all French. We have found this through our competing in the top Merlot competitions of various countries, but of course Petrus and its second wine, Trotanoy, still have the major influence. As to having tasted perfection since, this is an illusive thing, in so much that every now and again you think you have, only to find a short time later that there is something that you think even better. If you include the blended Merlots of St Emilion, this really makes it difficult to choose a favourite.

3. With your wife Marjorie and daughter Joanne an integral part of Irvine Wines, how do you manage to balance family and business?

Balancing the family business is quite fascinating in that it is so obvious that each of us have a distinct area of responsibility, which is important to the totality of the business. Marjorie with packaging and accounts, Joanne with the winemaking, while I look after the vineyards and marketing. Naturally as the business has grown we now rely on the input of very good people with whom we work.

4. With the purchase of ‘Springhill Vineyard’ Irvine Wines has grown into a premium brand with clear regionality and style. What made you choose the Eden Valley?

Why did we choose Eden Valley – the trite answer is "because it was there.” But in reality in the early '60s I grew to love the area when buying grapes for Thomas Hardy & Son and always knew that one day if I was lucky I might indeed have a vineyard in Eden Valley. But there was no Merlot of any consequence in Eden Valley, and nobody knew how it would grow. The beauty of that is that when you are small it's your money and your risk, providing you understand the situation of that particular vineyard.

5. What is it about the Eden and Barossa Valleys that keep you passionate about the regions?

While indeed I give full credit to Barossa Valley, I have known since 1953 about the excellence of the wines that were produced from Eden Valley. With Eden Valley it was elegance and power, while Barossa tends to be brute force. On the other side, of course, there is the community, the history and the whole buzz that goes to make Barossa the more renowned of the two valleys.

6. Apart from the stunning labels featuring Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel, what is different about your ‘Brueghel’ range of wines?

I am glad you like the Brueghel label, as indeed it appeals to us immensely, suggesting that these people are having fun – and what is on the inside will also offer fun. Brueghel wines are exclusively available for order only, and these are the wines that Joanne and I like to make from time to time, which are different from our main range of wines. The wines themselves are chosen not because they are different, but also because they are interesting in their own right. For instance, the Rosé is made from Cabernet Franc; the last of our Chardonnay is under this label too, and the reds can be small parcels selected from different Merlot vineyards, and sometimes with a Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

7. Your winemaking experience is extensive. Apart from crafting award-winning wines and a lot of hard work, what is your favourite vintage memory?

A favourite vintage memory – well there are actually two – one in 1963 and the other one in 1970. 1963 saw the creation of Siegersdorf Riesling while managing and winemaking at Thomas Hardy Barossa winery. The chief winemaker, Dick Heath, suggested that the wine was so different that it should be put out under a Reserve Bin label, so creating one of the early varietals. With time this grew to be famous in its own right and indeed was one of the more expensive Rieslings of that era.

The second great vintage experience occurred at Krondorf. We had only started building the new winery in October and were winning Gold medals in state wine shows by June/July the next year. When sold three years later it had accumulated 254 awards, something that very few others have done in such a small winery.

8. With an incredible 63 working years in the wine industry, what have you planned for your future?

The planning now, of course, is to make one last great wine and indeed that is in the pipeline ¬– a wine to challenge our Grand Merlot. Beyond that there is the succession planning to be carried out and indeed the final stages of bringing the winery into the 10,000 case size producing finer and finer wines.

9. What is the 2013 vintage looking like so far and how does it compare to the last few years?

This is very much like Myers department store lift! A lot of ups and downs. There are already 2013 wines on the market made by Joanne and her consulting winery and indeed these, of course, are whites. I feel there will be some great wines made in the vintage, but there will also be some ordinary ones. The hot dry weather played havoc and it was fortunate for Eden Valley that the winter rains have held off this summer. We need a couple more weeks before we pick the final reds and it is this patience that usually pays off.

10. What can our Members look forward to tasting from you in the next few years?

With the accent on Brueghel, and a small addition of our Irvine branded wines, it is the variety and rarity that gives great interest, as some of your members may already know. Irvine was one of the very early brands to introduce high-end Merlot, Pinot Gris and the only one into Petit Meslier (the Sparkling white wine from the south of Champagne). So it is variety, interest and quality that will continue in the years ahead. The search for excellence is never ending, but the important part is to recognise excellence when you have it in your glass – and then to thoroughly enjoy it. We truly think about the people who will drink our wines, long before we crush a berry, and yes, it has taken a lot of years to get some understanding of Merlot.

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Langmeil Wines

Langmeil Wines

The Barossa Valley’s Langmeil Winery has a long and very rich history. Here the company’s passionate Sales & Marketing Manager, James Lindner, talks about this wonderful winery, its past and his family’s involvement.

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1. Langmeil has a long and interesting history. How important is that for the current success and future of Langmeil?

Langmeil Winery’s property dates back to 1842 and was the main trading area of the Langmeil village. This is where the blacksmith, cobbler, baker and butcher sold their trades. It’s still home to some of the original village buildings and the Freedom Shiraz vineyard believed to be planted in 1843. This history obviously is a great foundation and our family feels blessed that we are the current custodians of such a unique part of the Barossa’s beginnings. The efforts from the previous ownership and our family’s ongoing commitment has really brought these areas back to life and will continue to be cherished and form aspects of the winery that add to the memorable moments people have at Langmeil Winery.

2. Your Freedom vineyard has Shiraz vines dating back to 1843. Being custodians of such old vines must be a great honour?

The Freedom Vineyard is believed to be the oldest surviving pre-phylloxera Shiraz vineyard in the world. It highlights the Barossa’s rare and unique offerings placing us in an enviable position amongst the great wine growing regions of the world. Such old vines produce only a small amount of fruit, but the complexity and subtlety it brings makes this one of the unique offerings of the wine industry. As this wine is only made from this single vineyard it’s a rare chance, as my Dad says, “to drink a glass of history”. It’s our greatest living treasure and one that we are humbled to be the guardians of.

3. Your wines have some interesting names. Can you explain the story behind the Langmeil Die Kegelbahn Cabernet Sauvignon?

With the Barossa’s early German migration they brought with them certain parts of their home life. One of these is a bowling game known as Kegel. While in some parts of the world this word means something entirely different, in the Barossa it is a time honoured game with a history here of well over 150 years. This is the game that gave birth to ten-pin bowling in America. It is hard to explain in a few words but we love playing it and supporting the local Kegel club. Take a look at the website and if you’re ever planning a trip to Barossa make sure to ring and book the Kegel club for an experience you’ll never forget. Once you play it you will be hooked.

4. Where are your other vineyards located and do you source fruit from other vineyards/regions?

Langmeil Winery proudly produces 100% Barossa wine; by having this single focus we feel we can ensure in our lifetime we can make some great Barossa wines that we trust will be remembered for many years to come. We have two vineyards of our own; one in Tanunda at the Barossa’s heart and one in the south in the town our Italian grandparents lived, Lyndoch - these supply fruit for some of our best old vine wines. We are also fortunate that the Barossa has a rich history of family grape growers who grow fruit across the depth and breadth of the Barossa. This has enabled us to purchase fruit across 19 of the original 30 villages of the Barossa, which in turn ensures we have great diversity of choice in flavours, structures and characters to bring a total Barossa picture in a bottle.

5. More and more vineyards are returning to biodynamic, organic, and sustainable methods of production. How important are these methods to Langmeil?

I often say we are not biodynamic just dynamic (only kidding)! We certainly believe in generational farming and generational business and I suppose with this we have to look at the things that are important to our ongoing industry. In the Barossa there is a mantra that goes “leave the Barossa better for the next generation” and it’s this motto that has helped shape the region for 170 years plus. With this in mind, a more organic approach which Langmeil uses in their vineyard is better for the future of our soils and our industry.

6. Do you have any other varietals/blends on the horizon?

We continue to focus on premium Barossa wine, which encompasses Eden and Barossa Valley. We do like to dabble so from time to time you may find a few interesting wines that don’t ever make the mainstream, but these special offerings are only available at our Cellar Door.

7. Langmeil involves several generations of your family. How important is this and how do you keep the family/work balance?

As a family business we are blessed that we have control of our own destiny. Between my brother and I, we have three little girls all under the age of five. As the current generation in the business full time, it’s up to us to show our girls that you can have a great life and work balance while ensuring we continue to build solid foundations. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself because our industry - even with its ups and downs - can be hard to determine what is work as the global industry is so hospitable. This business continues to take us around the world and has brought long lasting friendships and some of the greatest moments of our lives so far. It is our role to ensure Langmeil’s success is such that we leave our business in better hands for our girls, while ensuring they are grounded in good ethics and philosophies to ensure they can have a life as blessed as the one our parents have helped to shape for us.

8. How was vintage 2013 for Langmeil and how did it compare to recent years?

The recent 2013 vintage was good and bad; the good part is that the Barossa faired pretty well considering the dry conditions. We found that the reds were dark and rich, which we feel will make some great wines on release. The bad part was there was not enough fruit in general, with the Barossa being around 30% to 40% down on total fruit production.

So in short - great wine from 2013 but it won’t last long!

9. What are some of your vintage highlights?

The highlight of vintage was that it only lasted 10 weeks rather than 16 weeks and meant we all got to go fishing earlier than normal. I have to say Barossa Shiraz was the highlight, across most villages of the Barossa. Rich, deep and textured so something to keep an eye out for.

10. What can our Members look forward to tasting from you in the next few years?

With the releases currently of 2010, 2012 and 2013 they can look forward to wines that will span the test of time. Our focus will continue to be on Barossa Shiraz, Eden Valley Riesling and traditional key Barossa varieties like Grenache, Mataro and Cabernet Sauvignon. We also will have a couple of unique offerings for those that take the plunge and visit us in the Barossa.

11. What is it about the Barossa Valley that keeps you and your family inspired to continue to produce premium wines?

The Barossa Valley is my home and has been home for six generations of our family. It has a wonderful sense of community. It’s this active region that has ensured we want to continue to live here. It’s what we as a community wants it to be for today and for the future. It is often also the people that move to the region that fight for its lifestyle.

It is a region that has everything - family, friends and agriculture in an area with vineyard rows for fencing. We can grow our own food, raise our own livestock, make our own wine and importantly share our table with the world.

We are fortunate we get to travel the world, but even more fortunate that we can come home to the Barossa!

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Yabby Lake

Yabby Lake

Tom Carson is more than just a highly awarded winemaker, responsible for crafting fantastic wines. He is also a wine show chairman and judge, a visionary in the industry and a lover of wine since way back. Pour yourself a glass and join us as we get to know the man himself.

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1. From stomping grapes as a child, your connection to wine started early. Was there someone or something in particular which drew your attention to the wine industry as a young man?

My father had a small cellar with lots of dusty old bottles that would only be brought out on special occasions. They seemed like little time capsules that were held in such esteem and there was always quite a ceremony when the old ones were opened. The time taken to make the wines and then how long they wait for their moment – it is something special that has always fascinated me.

2. In the early days of your career you worked with widely respected names in the Australian wine industry, such as Tim Knappstein and James Halliday. Given the opportunity today, is there a particular Australian wine legend you would love to work with?

Certainly some of the real pioneers of wine in the early days, Maurice O'Shea and Colin Preece, who worked in times without any real technology and must have had a great feel for the vineyards and wine. It would of been great to work along side these legends. In fact many of Australia's top small winemakers today rely more on intuition than the scientific aides available to them and it seems this is one of the reasons Australian wine is in such a great place at the moment. The top wines are really wonderful, uncluttered expressions of where they were grown.>/P>

3. Your career has been widely acclaimed, including being awarded the ‘International Winemaker of the Year’ at the 2004 International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. Is there a secret to your success?

Well it takes more than just a single winemaker to achieve that. It really is a massive team effort for everyone who works in the wine industry. But l would say l always tried to set extremely high standards and make sure we are always improving, questioning and reassessing what we are doing every year. One of the great aspects of a winemakers life is the older you get the more experience you have and the better you get at what you do. Your understanding and intuition becomes more sensitive to the needs of the vineyard and getting the full potential out of what nature has served up comes more naturally – you learn to trust yourself more to make the right call.

4. Yabby Lake has vineyards positioned in two very different Victorian climates. In your experience, how does the winemaking process and subsequent wines from the three regions vary?

The region is not really the thing to worry about. It's about understanding the vineyard, the variety and how to bring the best out in a particular season.

5. What is your favourite variety to work with?

Honestly, l don't have a favourite as the challenge is to make the best wine from everything we grow, but l must say l have a soft spot for Pinot Noir. It's still in its infancy in Australia, so a lot of winemakers feel like the pioneers of the variety. For the site we are exploring now, it will be in 20-30 and 40 years from now that the true potential will be known.

6. There are three distinct labels under Yabby Lake, including Yabby Lake Vineyard, Heathcote Estate and Red Claw. What does each label mean to you?

For me, each label is all about achieving the natural expression of their unique vineyard and the year they were grown. But once they hit the market and I see them being consumed by wine lovers in restaurants or wine bars l tend to think of them like personalities. Yabby Lake is a little sophisticated, not showy or loud but very engaging and intelligent, giving up plenty to those you have the time to engage. Red Claw is really fun, cool and the life of the party. Heathcote Estate is a little more reserved and tad serious if you like, but really down to earth and easy to love.

7. Taking part in the intensive five day Len Evans Tutorial resulted in you receiving the honour of Dux. How did the tutorial help shape your wine judging career?

Well that was over 10 years ago, 2002 in fact, and it has helped enormously in opening the door to receiving opportunities to judge at shows – and there have been a lot of wine shows since. It is a wonderful week that is unsurpassed anywhere in the world. It was particularly wonderful to spend that week with Len Evans.

8. You were the youngest Chairman to preside at the National Wine Show in Canberra and have since been the Panel Chair at the Royal Sydney Wine Show and Member of the Panel for Qantas. That first year in Canberra, what was it to be Chairman for such a prestigious show?

It was incredibly daunting to be sure of that, but having a really strong and supportive judging panel around me made the job extremely enjoyable. It was such a team effort by all the judges and l was just one of the team.

9. France has been your international home on many occasions, working vintages in several different wineries. Was there one specific standout vintage/memory/winery from your time there?

It would have to be my second visit to burgundy in 1993. l was working in Rully and Stephane Briday organised a visit to Domaine Ramonet in Chassagne Montrachet, a wonderful Domaine with incredible vineyards. Fortunately, as l walked in so did Robert Parker (the pre-eminent wine critic). l didn't even know who he was, but because of his presence we proceeded to taste all the 1992s out of barrel, a wonderful year for whites, right up to all six barrels of Montrachet – amazing. Then we went into the cellar and because Robert Parker had been in earlier, there were many, many open bottles, including eight vintages of Montrachet back to the legendary 1978. Stunning!

10. You are one of the people held responsible for introducing Pinot Noir to Australia as part of the first two vintages released by Lenswood Vineyards. What would you say is todays up and coming variety?

l think there is a wonderful array of Italian and Mediterranean varieties that are producing exciting wines, both red and white, and it seems in some ways McLaren Vale is leading the charge. Fiano, Vermentino, Tempranillo, Touriga, the list goes on and on. They are really interesting wines with a natural feel to them.

11. What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

The wines getting better and more refined.

12. Are there any upcoming vintage releases from the three labels that you are particularly excited about?

Well we are doing some interesting things at Yabby Lake, including releasing our first traditional method Sparkling in the next two month's from the 2010 vintage. Also, 2012 was such a wonderful vintage and our Yabby Lake release features a stunning array of wines.

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McWilliams Mount Pleasant

McWilliam's Mount Pleasant

Meet Scott McWilliam, sixth generation winemaker, Senior Winemaker for McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant, and wine show judge.

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1. McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant dates back to 1880, and has a long and interesting history including that of the legendary Maurice O’Shea. How important is that for the current success and future of McWilliam’s?

Having vines that are 133 years old is a rare and wonderful thing and is a very big part of our past, present and of course future. Having excellent soils with the right varieties planted to them is of utmost importance going forward. In my opinion Mount Pleasant is the jewel in the McWilliam’s Wines crown, and is critical to the future success of the company as a whole. History brings legacy and that is so important for a family company.

2. Jim Chatto has recently been appointed as Chief Winemaker for McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant – as he is the only the fourth ever Chief Winemaker following from Maurice O’Shea, Brian Walsh, and Phil Ryan, he certainly has legendary reputations to follow and big shoes to fill!

Maurice O’Shea is certainly a legend in my mind. When I look at the photos taken back in the 1950s of how physical it was to make wine, it makes me appreciate how good the wines and vineyards really are. Being a successor to the legacy left from O’Shea is certainly an important undertaking. I am sure Jim will do well.

3. You were born into the Australian wine industry and you are a sixth generation winemaker – was another career path ever an option?

Despite working in the winery and vineyards on and off from the age of 14, I never had a true appreciation for wine until my early twenties. It took experience in all facets of the industry to make me appreciate how wonderful it really is, from working the vineyard to selling wine in bottle shops. Early in my life I wished I could become a professional racing car driver, I laugh when I say I still have that wish but that will never happen. I was always very good at science and engineering and at one stage thought about being an architect. I almost went down the medicine route as well, but realised I could never be a GP since I can’t deal with other people’s problems. I am very lucky to have found a passion for wine, a passion I can also say with my hand on my heart, is my own.

4. What’s the best part of being the Senior Winemaker at McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant?

I get to work with amazing vineyards and wonderful people within beautiful surrounds. But the best part is the reward of having someone love the wine and the experience it brings. I get to make something and share it with people and enjoy it – how cool is that!

5. In addition to your role as Senior Winemaker you have also completed the Winemaker’s Federation of Australia Future Leaders Programme and you’re an active member of Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) – how do find these experiences?

These experiences have certainly been highlights of my career. The Future Leaders Programme has given me guidance and provided a network of like-minded industry peers. This program is very important for identifying people who will guide our future, and ensure the prosperity and health of the industry. The AFFW is an amazing collaboration of some of the oldest family wine companies, I am so very proud that my family is involved. Through the AFFW I have met so many wonderful people who are like-minded and have a huge array of similarities and history to myself. I treat them as extended family and love when we come together for events.

6. McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant has a world-class reputation especially for your stunning and award-winning Semillons and Shiraz, and you also make very fine Verdelho! What is it about the Hunter that lends it to this tasty variety?

Verdelho is an interesting variety that often sits in the shadows of Semillon and Chardonnay. The variety originates from Portugal and is used to make the famous Madiera wines. Coming from a Mediterranean climate means that it is well suited to the temperatures we experience here in the Hunter Valley, however, my experience with it is that it is susceptible to humidity and hence disease. It’s fortunate that it ripens early and usually it beats the rain periods, it is normally the first fruit into the winery too. What makes this variety tasty is the lively tropical melon flavours which I describe as a fruit salad combo.

7. The McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Classic Verdelho 2012 is our Wine Selectors Wine of the Month. As the winemaker of this wine what is your favourite aspect of it and can you describe the vintage conditions that influenced its flavour and structure?

2012 turned into a wet harvest and most varieties suffered adversely. The picking decision for the Verdelho was a simple one, we had to get it in early, in fact it was mid-January. We did this for many reasons, firstly the flavour had matured and the sugar was already good, secondly, we were watching the radar nervously and saw a lot of disease pressure. We were also facing an avalanche of Semillon due to the impending rain and fruit condition, so there was no time for dilly dallying, the Verdelho had to come off. As a result, the 2012 Verdelho is more restrained and elegant, the way I best describe it is it’s more of a green honeydew melon than a ripe rockmelon character.

8. As a wine show judge what do you look for in a good Verdelho?

Like any wine I judge I look for balance, complexity, and concentration of flavour. For Verdelho in particular the wine needs to be clean, fruitful with a good acid balance, not alcoholic or phenolic. If the wine has these attributes then the wine that gets my top gold will also express intense aromatics and great length of flavour on the palate. I don’t like oak in this variety, but that is a personal thing.

9. There is always stiff competition for “the Tiara” (the nickname for the Verdelho Trophy) at the Hunter Valley Wine Show – how did your Verdelho fair this year?

Due to Jim Chatto recently joining our team, McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant did not exhibit this year, since he is the chair of the show. I was very happy that my 2010 Verdelho won the trophy; in fact it was the only Verdelho to be awarded a Gold medal. Jim Chatto had won the trophy the previous year and was happy to present me with the Tiara, however I think my two- year-old daughter appreciated it more than I did. There is a bit of jest surrounding the Trophy and the Tiara that comes with it, it is all in good fun and shouldn’t take away any of the seriousness of the wines.

10. The 2012 Maurice O’Shea Award (which was initiated by McWilliam’s in 1990) was awarded to the Australian Screwcap Initiative. How has this technology affected the ageing of your wine particularly the Semillon?

To be honest, I haven’t seen the wines under the modern versions of the closure for long enough to have a definite answer, so I will only speculate that the wines will age better and longer. Sadly, I think I will be dead before that question can be fully answered with regards to cellaring potential. What I have seen in the last decade is that wines under this closure, especially Semillon, age more consistently without random bottle variation that we see under cork. Since the closure is fragile, it is not perfect, but it is the only closure I want my wines under.

11. How was vintage 2013 for McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant and how did it compare to recent years?

2013 was amazing, for Mount Pleasant anyway. In the last decade in the Hunter Valley the odd years have given the best results, the only difference is that vintage 2013 had drastically reduced crop yields due to a very dry growing season. We picked all our fruit in really good condition just at the right time, but it was knife-edge stuff due to the rain events in early February. Some producers gambled and regretted it since the rain event ended up being a deluge.

12.What can our Members look forward to tasting from McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant in the next few years?

Glad you asked! We have some very new and exciting projects in the pipeline, including high-end single block offerings as well as contemporary new styles. Those who have visited the winery lately may have noticed we have ripped out our Merlot, and we are working on planting some emerging varieties. I can’t give away too many secrets just yet, so watch this space.

13.What is it about the Hunter Valley that keeps you and your family inspired to continue to produce premium wines?

Where do I start? I guess the Hunter is so unique, and as Australia’s oldest viticulture region still in existence we continue to produce some of Australia’s best wines. Some people say that if the pioneers of the region had today’s understanding of viticulture science they may have overlooked the region for grape growing due to the difficult conditions. This has created what I call the Hunter paradox – when the Hunter has a good year, our wines are Australia’s best. We have a unique style of Semillon that has been described as Australia’s gift to the wine world, and a medium-bodied, complex style of Shiraz that is hugely appreciated by wine lovers these days

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Innocent Bystander

Innocent Bystander

Innocent Bystander is unquestionably dynamic. There is an energy in what they produce, how they interact with fans of their wines and how they see their position in the industry. This has a lot to do with their founder having that same charismatic ‘bon vivant’ approach to life as to his winery – yep, thanks to Phil Sexton the Yarra Valley has Innocent Bystander.

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Phil knew the sky was the limit from an early stage with his career starting out in the Air Force as a pilot. But his curiosity for carefully crafted beverages brought his feet firmly back on the ground in Western Australia. In 1981 he began working as a brewer for Swan Brewery, closely followed by establishing Devil’s Lair in Margaret River, then not long after he established The Matilda Bay Brewing Company in Perth. In amongst this flurry of brewing and winemaking there was also coffee roasting and a number of bars and restaurants in the mix. Obviously, no one had told Phil that life wasn’t a race.

After selling Devil’s Lair to Southcorp and a brief stint in Portland, Oregon, Phil touched down in Australia once more, this time calling Victoria home. In 2001, his winery Giant Steps released the first of many single vineyard Yarra Valley wines, followed hot on the heels in 2004 by Innocent Bystander’s launch. And in keeping with Phil’s entrepreneurial style, he also established Little Creatures brewing in Fremantle, Western Australia during this time.

Innocent Bystander as a brand emits a youthful enthusiasm and is hands-on in everything they do. And this is never more evident than when visiting their cellar door. There you will not only enjoy a sip or two of some of the Yarra Valley’s best, but you can devour pastries, breads and pizza baked on the spot, have a cup of their own roasted coffee, or even eat cheese crafted by some of their winemakers.

And whilst their zest for life goes a long way, it doesn’t change the fact that environmental elements and the economy present challenges that the team must meet. Winemaker Steve Flamsteed has said about the 2013 vintage, “It is going to be like no other vintage we have ever seen. I can’t believe we’re saying that again. We’ve said that for the last 10 years. There’s lots of groundwater, full dams and good moist subsoil. I think that’s always a good way to start the vintage.”

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