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Following the Prosecco Road - Your Guide to Australian Prosecco

Australian Prosecco is a vibrant sparkling wine style taking over Australia from the Prosecco Road in Victoria’s King Valley to the Adelaide Hills. Internationally, it is now the world's most popular Sparkling wine, overtaking Champagne in sales. Learn more about its long history, how it’s made and where to find the best Australian Prosecco with this helpful guide and infographic.

Prosecco Infographic of this sparkling wine variety

 

Firstly, what is Prosecco?

Prosecco is a style of Sparkling wine made from the Glera grape variety. This historic variety is believed to hail from the ancient Slovenian village of Prosek, now part of Italy. There are records of Julia Augusta drinking wine from the Prosek region as early as 79 AD. But, what we now know as Prosecco hails from the North-east Italian province of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia near Treviso enshrined in the Prosecco DOC, or the designated production zone.

The characteristic ‘fizz’ of Prosecco is classed as either Spumante, the most exuberant, as a more moderate Frizzante or with no fizz at all as a Tranquillo.

Prosecco is a late-ripening variety and is harvested once the varietal flavours of white peach, white pear and lemon peak and the acidity has softened. Cool climate and high altitude regions like King Valley  or the Adelaide Hills are well suited to this variety.

Prosecco vs Champagne and Sparkling Wines 

Apart from featuring different grapes, it’s the way Prosecco is made that plays a large role in the difference between Prosecco, Champagne and Sparkling Wines. Whereas Champagne is fermented in its bottle using Methode Champenoise, Prosecco is fermented pressurised steel tanks in a process known by much of the world as the “Charmat” method. However, mention the word Charmat to an Italian winemaker and there might be trouble. In Italy, it’s known as the “Martinotti Method”, invented and patented in 1885 by Fedricco Martinotti, seven years before the French winemaker Eugène Charmat filed for his take on the method.

The Martinotti method involves conducting the second fermentation in large autoclave steel tanks before clarification and cooling. This forgoes the need for fermentation, riddling and disgorgement inside individual bottles required in the Champagne method.

This method is a very efficient process lowering the resources required by the winemaker. However, it shouldn’t be viewed as an inferior process, as it allows for increased control, scale, filtration and the ability to lower the required yeast lees contact during the winemaking process. This is the key difference. Methode Champenoise wines have complex and rich autolytic textures from this process with restrained fruits. Martinotti method Prosecco wines are all about lightness, freshness and fruit, designed to be enjoyed at any occasion. Joy in a bottle.

A further, often neglected fact is that we owe the Bellini cocktail to Prosecco, invented by Giuseppe Cipriani when he combined white peach puree with Prosecco in Harry’s Bar Venice close to the Prosecco DOC, or designated production zone.

Dal Zotto brings Prosecco to Australia

Victoria’s King Valley can lay claim to planting the first Glera vines in Australia. The wine history of the King Valley starts in the 1880s in the regions’ tobacco plantations, established by Chinese settlers seeking new opportunities as the Victorian gold rush stagnated. By the 1940s Italian migrants had arrived to the region working on the tobacco farms. Yet, in the 1960s, the local tobacco industry was starting to decline.

Otto Dal Zotto, born in the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG region, where Prosecco vines carpet the hillsides, came to Australia in the late 1960s. Like many Italian migrants before him, Otto was drawn to the region to work in the tobacco fields. But, as the work dried up he moved into the region's emerging wine industry planting Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Gradually, the region began to plant classic Italian varieties, expressing the passion of the winemaker’s collective Italian heritage. Then, in 2000 Otto planted the first Glera grapes and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Rise of King Valley and the Prosecco Road

The road that traverses the valley from Milawa’s Brown Brothers to Chrismont in Cheshunt is known as the Prosecco Road. Along the way, visitors pass Dal Zotto Wines , Pizzini Wines and Sam Miranda Wines. These five wineries are among the best wineries in the region, all famous for this variety. As a result, the King Valley, long known for Italian and other alternative varieties such as Arneis, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera, is now most famous as the home of Australian Prosecco. We recently caught up with Ross Brown from Brown Brothers to talk Prosecco and Christmas in this recent article.

Sam Miranda is the third generation of a prominent winemaking family who moved from Italy to Australia in the 1930s. Since making the King Valley home in 1996, and drawing on a proud Italian heritage and a love for innovative winemaking, Sam Miranda Wines have been instrumental in the rise and collective promotion of King Valley Prosecco into the legend it is today.

The Adelaide Hills and other Prosecco Regions

Glera vines are starting to gain momentum in other cool climate regions such as the Adelaide Hills and Yarra Valley. With wineries including Innocent Bystander, Tempus Two and Coriole Vineyards leading the charge. As consumer demand continues to increase for Australian Prosecco this will only continue.

Tasting Notes

Prosecco is a light, fresh, creamy and fruit focused Sparkling wine. Tasting Panellist Adam Walls notes that Prossecco generally presents with a “pale lemon colour and a fine bead collar. Abundant in pear, apple and citrus fruits with creamy soft texture, it’s little wonder that Prosecco is proving to be a favourite with drinkers across the country”.

Prosecco Food Pairings

Prosecco is a style that’s wonderful to enjoy on its own as the party’s getting started or with appetisers such as savoury canapes of cured meats or fresh fruit such as Lyndey Milan’s stuffed figs wrapped in bastourmar. This Italian-style Sparkling is also the perfect match for light seafood or Mediterranean dishes. As the temperature rises it’s ideal with fresh, zesty Asian inspired salads like this Vietnamese summer salad recipe.

Explore more of our recipe ideas now.

Try Prosecco Today

At its heart, Prosecco is designed to be enjoyed with friends. This light refreshing style has no pretence, and is made to be served immediately and not saved for a special occasion like Champagne. Instead, all moments are celebrations. With this ethos, it’s little wonder that it’s taking over the world.

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The Best McLaren Vale Wineries and Cellar Doors 2019
Pristine ocean views, exceptional wine blends, an abundance of new varieties… what’s not to love about the birthplace of the SA wine industry? Take a tour of the best McLaren Vale wineries and cellar doors for 2019 with this guide from Wine Selectors. Home to some of the world’s oldest grapevines and with over 80 cellar doors and vineyards accessible just 45 minutes from Adelaide, McLaren Vale is a wine-lovers dream. Nestled between the Mount Lofty Ranges and the beaches of Gulf St Vincent, this region is the gateway to the stunning Fleury Peninsula, evocative of the stunning coastline around Lisbon, Portugal. This warm, Mediterranean-style climate and proximity to the sea goes a long way to explaining the fantastic range of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese varieties on offer throughout the region. Alongside the deservedly celebrated Tempranillo , Zinfandel, Sangiovese , Vermentino, Fiano and Touriga Nacional varieties on offer, a sense of adventurism abounds in the countless alternative varieties and superior red wine blends coming from the region, with something new to discover at every winery and cellar door. Trent Mannell, Wine Selector’s Tasting Panellist and Wine Show Judge is effusive in his love for McLaren Vale region. “It’s a region where the vines meet the sea, so it has a unique coastal vibe and the wines reflect the influence of the maritime climate. The cellar doors are so peaceful; it’s the most tranquil wine region I know.” Read on for Wine Selector’s picks for the best McLaren Vale wineries and cellar doors for 2019, and discover more about the wines you can explore in our McLaren Vale region guide . The Best McLaren Vale Wineries Hither & Yon Built from the soil up and lovingly curated by a truly invested team, Hither & Yon celebrates not just the rolling nature of the region, but the easy-going nature of the Brothers Leask and this family-and-friend run business. Their cellar door – originally an 1860s Willunga butcher’s shop – retains its local slate flooring and limestone walls, yet has been refreshed to reflect the artisanal vibe of a vine to table sensibility. With wine tastings, cheese platters, and a fireplace to kick back and savour a fine Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Blanc or Nero D’Avola (among others), Hither & Yon emphasises sustainable grape-growing that celebrates the geography and maritime influence of McLaren Vale. 17 High St, Willunga Open Daily 11 am to 4 pm Visit the Hither & Yon website SHOTTESBROOKE The Shottesbrooke story actually begins just outside the South Australian hamlet of Myponga, with the quality fruit produced by founder Nick Holmes. A new era for the label began when he purchased a McLaren Flat property, where the Shottesbrooke winery and cellar door were built and some of McLaren Vale’s most exciting wines were brought to life. Nestled amongst the company vineyards with magnificent view to the surrounding Mount Lofty Ranges, the cellar door offers a diverse range of excellent wines made at the winery right next door, presented by a passionate and experienced staff. You can make a day of it with an all-inclusive full-day tour , and take a journey into the heart of the winemaker’s craft; or, stroll through the estate vineyards for a three-course lunch prepared by the award-winning chefs at The Currant Shed, best enjoyed alongside a hand selected range of matched Shottesbrooke wines. 101 Bagshaws Road, McLaren Flat Open Daily 10 am to 4.30 pm, Sat – Sun 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Shottesbrooke website D’ARENBERG d’Arenberg  is a McLaren Vale institution with d’Arry Osborn and his son Chester, Chief Winemaker, renowned for their fantastic Shiraz and Grenache. Formerly housed in a beautifully restored 19 th -century homestead, the d’Arenberg cellar door has now soared into a bold new era with the daring d’Arenberg Cube, a multi-venue experience that is home to masterclasses, à la carte or degustation dining, as well as a contemporary art museum. You can even play winemaker for the day, blending and bottling your own wine. And, of course, you can also explore an extensive range of quality wines, guided by their always entertaining cellar door staff. Learn more about The Cube in our interview with Chester , and explore The d’Arenberg Experience at their website. Osborn Rd, McLaren Vale Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the d’Arenberg website BATTLE OF BOSWORTH Want to learn how organic wines are cultivated? Then make sure to stop by this charming cellar door and sample the wares of boutique winemaker Joch Bosworth, who took the reins of the family business back in 1995 and drove a return to the old ways. Such pride in tradition is suitably reflected in quality examples of Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional. Located just outside the historic township of Willunga, the cellar door occupies a restored 1850s stable with views over the vineyards and west to St Vincent. 92 Gaffney Rd, Willunga Open Daily 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Battle of Bosworth website HUGH HAMILTON WINES A sweeping, 270-degree view of one of McLaren Vale’s signature vineyards awaits you at the Hugh Hamilton Wines cellar door, a must-stop for anyone visiting the region. Recognised as Australia’s oldest wine family, the passion and knowledge of the cellar door staff is on clear display and the range on offer is exceptional with everything from a classic Shiraz through to the exciting new blends and alternative varieties the region is so rightfully famous for. Our tip? Book a hosted wine and cheese flight of their single vineyard wines for a trip you’ll always savour. 94 McMurtrie Rd, McLaren Vale Open Daily 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Hugh Hamilton website GEMTREE WINES Gemtree Wines  operates on a simple philosophy – minimal intervention in the winemaking process, and a more eco-conscious farming system. The result is a range of wines which are powerful, concentrated, and expressive of the true characteristics of each grape variety and the region. The relaxed and unassuming outlook created by husband and wife duo Mike and Melissa permeates every aspect of the cellar door experience, which features views all the way to the sea from their outdoor verandah. Sample their fantastic wines while learning more about  organic  and biodynamic farming practices, and make sure you take the time to explore the 10-hectare wetland eco-trail while you’re there. 167 Elliott Rd, McLaren Flat Open Daily 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Gemtree website LECONFIELD & RICHARD HAMILTON WINES Looking for the perfect place to sample Richard Hamilton’s Estate, Single Vineyard Reserve and select Leconfield wines? Then set a course for Leconfield cellar door , where you can appreciate the natural qualities imparted by the family-owned vineyards in McLaren Vale as well as the vines surrounding the cellar door itself. With its sweeping lawns and verandahs plus generous platters of local regional food on offer, Leconfield will delight the senses. Find out more about Chief Winemaker Paul Gordon’s process in our Wine Selectors Q&A. 439 Main Rd, McLaren Vale Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Leconfield & Richard Hamilton Wines website SERAFINO Steve (Serafino) Maglieri arrived in Adelaide in 1964 as a teenager from Italy with little more than a passionate dream to make great wine. After many highs and a few lows in the wine industry, eventually the Serafino label emerged and the Maglieri family was able to craft their own piece of paradise amongst the gumtrees of their McLaren Vale winery. The warm, friendly and familiar ethos of Serafino is evident in the cellar door, charming restaurant, and four-star accommodation, making it the perfect place to position yourself for a weekend getaway… the better to enjoy Serafino’s great range of Italian and alternative varieties such as the Bellissimo series of Vermentino, Fiano and Montepulciano through to reserve Grenache and Shiraz. Kangarilla Rd, McLaren Vale Open Daily 10 am to 4:30 pm Visit the Serafino website OLIVER'S TARANGA Contained within an original 1850s stone worker’s cottage built by the first generation of the Oliver family, Oliver’s Taranga cellar door retains both an authentic charm and a deserved reputation for exceptional wines. In addition to its excellent range of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon you’ll also find small batch wonders like Fiano, Grenache, Mencia and Sagrantino to delight the palate. Planning a visit? Be sure to check their events page before you go, as the venue hosts many unique food and wine events to enjoy, including monthly Porchetta Parties, Twilight Pizza events, and even pop-up happenings in Adelaide.  246 Seaview Rd, McLaren Vale Open Daily 10 am to 4 pm Visit the Oliver’s Taranga website CORIOLE Set within sight of the sea amidst the undulating McLaren Vale hills, this small boutique cellar door can be found in an old 1860s ironstone barn, surrounded by the Coriole Estate vineyards which are celebrating their 50 th birthday this year. Famous for its pioneering efforts in introducing alternative varieties to the region – most notably Sangiovese in 1985 and the first Australian Fiano in 2005 – Coriole’s range has an impressive diversity that includes Sangiovese, Barbera, Picpoul, Nero d’Avola, Fiano, as well as exquisite examples of the classic Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties. If you’re lucky, you may even get to sample a rare single vineyard Shiraz, or perhaps a Mourvedre. It’s only a small cellar door so if you’re travelling in a group of eight or more you will need to book. Chaffeys Rd, McLaren Vale Mon – Fri 10 am to 5 pm, Sat – Sun 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Coriole website PENNY'S HILL This charming winery, set on the stunning grounds of the historic Ingleburn property, is the perfect place to stop for a long lunch during your travels through McLaren Vale. Two Forks recipient Chef Tom Boden has crafted a menu celebrating the artisan food producers of the region at the Kitchen Door Restaurant, presenting classic meals prepared in contemporary style. After your meal, wander through the Red Dot Gallery or soak up the farm yard atmosphere and chat with the chooks. The talents of celebrated Winemaker Alexia Roberts, winner of 2016’s World’s Best Cabernet at the Concours International des Cabernets in France, are on fine display with elegant, fruit-driven, single-vineyard estate-grown wines that display the very best qualities of McLaren Vale wines. 281 Main Rd, McLaren Vale Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Penny’s Hill website MORE INFORMATION Before visiting McLaren Vale, be sure to check out the official  McLaren Vale region website  or stop by the McLaren Vale & Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre in the centre of town. Or, if you’d like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide prior to setting out, explore our wide selection of McLaren Vale wines and learn more about the wineries listed here in our  Meet the Makers section . With the Wine Selectors Regional Release program, you'll experience a different wine region each release with all wines expertly selected by our Tasting Panel. Plus, you’ll receive comprehensive tasting notes and fascinating insights into each region. Visit our  Regular Deliveries  page to find out more, and explore more great wine regions with our Wine Selector’s Cellar Door Guides. Enjoy!
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Merlot Members Tasting
Words by Ralph Kyte Powell on 4 Jun 2018
Merlot is a mystery to a lot of us. Many other red wine grapes have much more recognisable varietal personalities, giving them more immediate impact than Merlot . Cabernet Sauvignon , for example, nearly always says ‘Cabernet’ emphatically, via varietal cues that cut across the vagaries of region, climate, winemaking, and culture. Blackcurranty character, leafy austerity, angular, savoury personality and tannic backbone mark Cabernet-based wines, apparent even in warmer, riper versions. So it is with Pinot Noir ’s distinctive fruit characters, softness and silken structure. Pinot Noir says Pinot Noir loud and clear, but what of Merlot? Confusing Merlot’s identity crisis is the multiplicity of different styles available. In the coolest places, the variety’s leafiness can become too herbal and green; in the warmest places, it can be big, jammy and soupy. When overcropped and made on an industrial scale, Merlot can be washed out, sometimes sweet, a simple quaffer. In the middle of all this, we find Merlot’s ideal spot in skillfully tended vineyards in temperate areas. Here we encounter suggestions of plum, mulberry and fruitcake, raspberry, cherry, violet, spice and dried herb hints, maybe chocolate and olive from oak input. These wines tend to be soft, plump and juicy, worthy of plenty of attention as a friendlier type of red wine than tannic Cabernet or Shiraz . Compared to Cabernets, Merlots are generally much lower in methoxypyrazines too. These compounds in grapes give raw, green, herbaceous characters that can be shrill and unpleasant, another reason for good Merlot’s friendly personality. Cabernet’s comrade Merlot’s historic role as a blending variety also tends to compromise its individual identity. In its Bordeaux home, its early ripening characteristics act as insurance against the later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, especially across difficult vintages. Merlot develops higher sugar levels and riper fruit characters weeks before Cabernet, and it’s planted much more widely in the Bordeaux region as a result. Its rich, supple personality tempers Cabernet’s more severe traits in a blend, and it usually doesn’t need nearly as much mellowing bottle age to be gluggable. Around the world Merlot’s fortunes have been improving worldwide over the last few decades as plantings have expanded into new territory. Chile has been at the forefront and has built a large export market for easy-sipping Merlot. In the Old World, Merlot has been replacing other more mediocre varieties in vineyards across the European continent. Its international appeal and reputation for friendly wine has supported vast new plantings in places like France’s south-west as the French hit back after the inroads New World wineries have made in their traditional markets. French wine drinkers possibly don’t know Merlot by name very well, but they like it and so do their international customers. American consumers have an idea what to expect from Merlot – softness, maybe a little sweetness, easy drinking. New Zealanders are also familiar with Merlot’s easy manners and the variety has traditionally sparred with Pinot Noir as the red of choice for Kiwis. In recent times, NZ Pinot has been ascendant, but Merlot is still in the mix. Generally, Australians are much less Merlot-aware. No mention of Merlot can be made without referring to the cult American movie Sideways . In the USA, Merlot is the second most popular red wine grape after Cabernet Sauvignon, mainly due to vast quantities of soft, low tannin reds that appeal to wine novices. In Sideways , made in 2004, wine tragic and wine snob Miles rails loudly against Merlot. “If anybody orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any f…ing Merlot,” he declares, and his comments contributed to a drop in Merlot sales in the USA, the UK, and probably Australia. Merlot has recovered, but I suspect a slightly negative perception lingers, helped by Merlot’s lack of a distinct varietal identity in the minds of many consumers. Taste expectations So to discover what makes Merlot tick, we recently gathered together a panel of eight keen Merlot fans from the ranks of Wine Selectors Members for a tasting dinner at Melbourne’s Papa Goose restaurant. Joining them were Selector publisher, Paul Diamond and yours truly. Sixteen wines from across Australia were served masked in brackets of four. South Australia was represented by seven wines from a diversity of regions, with the emphasis on somewhat cooler places like the Adelaide Hills , Eden Valley and Limestone Coast/Coonawarra regions. Victorian wines included examples from the Yarra Valley , the Pyrenees and the warm vineyards of Rutherglen , while New South Wales and Western Australia presented a cross-section of vineyard sources. As we sat down to taste, we made a quick survey of what the Members looked for in Merlot. “I like Merlot because it’s not too heavy,” said Wine Selectors Member, Darren Dean, “It’s soft, easy to drink, sweet and smooth.” Fellow Member Ingrid Fraser agreed. “They are soft, complete wines, plump and lovely,” she said. Paul looked for, “consistency of mouthfeel, smooth texture, seamlessness.” Softness and smoothness were terms most tasters used to describe Merlot’s general appeal. Were these characteristics reinforced as the dinner progressed and the group came to terms with the wines served? Paired to perfection Matching food and wine is much discussed in the gastronomic world. Carefully constructed dishes, devised with a particular type of wine in mind, can offer experiences that transcend the simple idea of eating and drinking. When we consider food-friendly wines, the softer, lighter, lower tannin drops offer more food compatibilities than bigger, tougher wines. Thus, Pinot Noir, or softer, cool climate style Shiraz, works well where the big bruisers fall short. On this basis, Merlot should excel as a food wine, and as the dinner progressed, the pairings proved harmonious. This was due to Papa Goose chef Neale White’s intuitive ability to create Merlot-compatible dishes to complement the wines. The four course menu began with a superb dish that echoed Merlot’s charm. Cured and smoked duck breast was accompanied by beetroot, raspberry and red sorrel, all flavours that dovetailed superbly with the first bracket of wines. Gnocchi with king oyster mushroom, tarragon and amaretti cream pointed up the depths of the following group of four wines, with rich flavours and textures woven through aromatic ones. Eyebrows were raised when we saw that the porterhouse with red wine sauce was coming with caraway coleslaw – caraway can be formidable – but the dish’s subtlety actually drew out some of the foresty, herbal notes in the wines, making the sum of the parts far more than the individual inputs. Cheese can be problematic with a lot of wines, but the mild, mature Pynegana Cheddar, served to finish dinner, had fruity accompaniments of chutney, quince paste and muscatels to temper it. Merlot stood up to the entire menu, confirming its delicious suitability at the table. The dinner confirmed in everybody’s eyes that Australian Merlot does indeed have its own distinct personality, and that it deserves to be centre stage alongside better-known brethren like Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot should be on everybody’s shopping list.
Life
Go West
Words by Jeni Port on 4 Jul 2017
Henty, the Grampians, Pyrenees and Ballarat – there are plenty of tasting treasures to be unearthed in the wine regions of Western Victoria. We need Western Victoria and its wine. We need its different taste and the perspective it brings: a balanced, middle-weighted, pepper-infused, mint-garnished, spicy, smooth, sometimes savoury, sometimes rustic kind of alternative taste. Vineyards are vast and isolated here, attached by dirt roads to country towns and sometimes just the smallest of hamlets. Wines are made by men and women of the land, people like John Thomson at Crawford River in the Henty region, who talks of his “peasant genes,” and who has four generations behind him who have farmed sheep and cattle on the land. He and his wife Catherine branched into wine in 1975. “I didn’t set out to grow grapes,” he says. “I set out to make wine.” There was, he adds, more money in the latter. It’s a common enough story around these parts. Western Victoria is a collective term for four independent wine regions:  Henty , the  Grampians ,  Pyrenees  and Ballarat. This is home to  Shiraz  (plenty of it) and  Cabernet Sauvignon  (less of it) along with  Chardonnay  and a little  Sauvignon Blanc ,  Riesling  and  Pinot Noir  with a gaggle of Italian varieties bringing up the rear. The Back Story
It’s the flagpoles out front issuing a kind of multi-national wave of welcome that stump first time visitors to  Taltarn i . There’s the Aussie flag to the forefront shouldered on either side by the American stars and stripes and the French tricolour. What does it all mean?   Like a few wineries in Western Victoria, it’s all about history and foreign influences.  Taltarni’s  story involves a wealthy Californian owner who set up the operation in 1972, and his long-time French winemaker who laid the foundations for its enduring, elegant wine style. The French were among the first to see the potential that lay in the Pyrenees, with Cognac-based Rémy Martin arriving at Avoca in 1960, ostensibly to make brandy, but wine quickly followed. They called their enterprise Chateau Rémy. We know it today as  Blue Pyrenees Estate . But the biggest influence on the region was gold. Discovered in the 1850s, it made towns like Ballarat and Great Western magnets for prospectors from around the world. After the gold, people like Joseph and Henry Best stayed and moved into wine. Joseph built a substantial winery and used unemployed gold diggers to carve out underground cellars. It was the beginning of what came to be Seppelt, one of the biggest Sparkling wine producers in the country. Henry Best planted vines fronting Concongella Creek at Great Western. But it was the purchase of the site by Frederick Thomson in 1920 that really saw the Best’s Wines story take off. The Grampians
Western Victoria is a land of wide plains running smack up against some pretty spectacular hills and ranges, none more impressive than the rugged National Park that gives the  Grampians   its name. Mountain walkers, climbers and cyclists really love this part of the world. With a range of B&Bs, hotels and camping sites to choose from, most make Halls Gap their HQ. Wineries like Mount Langi Ghiran and The Gap are just down the road. Mount Langi Ghiran is best known as the producer of archetypal  cool climate, peppery Shiraz , which first drew the industry’s attention to a budding new style in the 1980s. How pepper gets into the wines of Western Victoria to such a degree that it might be called a phenomenon has only slowly been revealed by scientists at Melbourne University working with the winemakers at Mount Langi Ghiran (it’s got to do with a cool climate and wet seasons). On paper, the region (19 vineyards, eight cellar doors) looks small, but its history and influence belie its size. The Great Western sub-region was the commercial cradle of Sparkling wine production in Australia at Seppelt and is synonymous with a great Aussie icon, Sparkling Shiraz. Grampians Estate and Seppelt lead the pack, but for added gravitas, tour the Seppelt underground drives to feel the history and finish with a glass of spiced-up red bubbles. One of the state’s great restaurants, the  Royal Mail Hotel , can be found in a highway town called Dunkeld. Five and eight course degustation menus star local produce, alternatively there is an informal wine bar. Or there are the local Mount Gambier wines to try, including up-and-coming Pinots, at Tosca Browns in Hamilton. Henty is a developing wine region as far west as you can go before you bang into South Australia. Volcanic, gravelly soils over limestone are the key to some of the best Rieslings in Australia made here at Crawford River Wines. And what a treat to find a one hat quality restaurant such as The Pickled Pig in Warrnambool. The Pyrenees
Major Thomas Mitchell, the 19th Century explorer, was a bit of a romantic, clearly. He named this part of the Great Dividing Range,  the Pyrenees , as the dense, blue-hued hills reminded him of the mountains dividing France and Spain. Given the hills outside the towns of Avoca and Moonambel rise to 800 metres compared to some 3400 metres in Europe, that’s a bit of a stretch, but point taken. This is a pretty part of the world. It is here that the wine lover will confront the Pyrenean wine character known in academic circles as 1,8-cineole. The rest of us call it eucalyptus, aka, mint or menthol (the cineole is sourced from leaves and stems that find their way into fermentation), and it’s often found on either a red wine’s bouquet or flavour, or both. Its usual vehicle of choice is the Shiraz grape, which dominates plantings, but it can be found in any number of red wines. That eucalyptus in wine should be such a powerful influence is not so surprising. Gum trees are everywhere around these parts. For those who applaud its inclusion in wine, it’s part of the land, a question of terroir. The Pyrenean red winemaking style is understated, medium-bodied and earthy. Best in Bubbles
And strange as it may seem when so many producers today seek the super cool regions like Tasmania for sourcing grapes for sparkling wines, the Pyrenees does an excellent job with bubbles. Blue Pyrenees Estate 2010 Midnight Cuvee  beat some of the country’s top Sparklings to be named World Champion Australian sparkling at the inaugural Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships in England in 2014. A 100 per cent Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs style, Midnight Cuvee’s success comes thanks to 10 years of refinement in the vineyard and winery by winemaker, Andrew Koerner. And, yes, the fruit is harvested at midnight at optimal coolness. Taltarni  is another leader in Sparkling wine, sourcing grapes grown on the estate in addition to Tasmania for its successful Clover Hill brand. The region’s great white, whether for still or Sparkling, is Chardonnay. It has undergone changes over the last decade or more, moving away from a rich heavyweight to a more fruit-powered, streamlined number. At Dalwhinnie, the importation of a Chardonnay clone from Champagne has served to highlight citrus and grapefruit qualities with sustained acidity and textural weight. It is a wine of great presence in the glass. While Mount Avoca’s early reputation was built on Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, I suspect that it is the Italians coming through – Pinot Grigio, Nebbiolo,  Sangiovese , Lagrein – that now attract the drinker’s attention. The adjoining region of Ballarat is smaller again, but its focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay indicates that it is heading in a different direction to its neighbour. Eastern Peake Winery at Coghills Creek is a Pinot Noir maker par excellence, and is one of the few open for tastings seven days. Or, for a relaxed look at the wines of the west over a meal, head to Mitchell Harris Wine Bar in North Ballarat, part-owned by former Domaine Chandon Sparkling winemaker, John Harris. Events Out West Avoca Riverside Market   - Dundas & Cambridge Streets, Avoca, on the fourth Sunday of each month. Blue Pyrenees Estate Avoca Cup   - Avoca Racecourse, Racecourse Road, Avoca, each October. Grampians Grape Escape Food and Wine Festival   - Showcases regional wine and fare during a month-long festival in April, culminating in the Grampians Escape Weekend tastings, auction, grape stomping and live music in Halls Gap. Staying out West Pyrenees Eagles Nest at Dalwhinnie Vineyard, Moonambel  Redbank Chestnut Cottage Mount Avoca Vineyard Eco-Luxe Lodges, Avoca Warrenmang Vineyard & Resort, Moonambel Grampians/Henty Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld Boroka Downs, Halls Gap Aztec Escape, Halls Gap Links Retreat, Ararat   
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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