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Best of Member Wine Tastings 2016

In 2016, some fortunate Wine Selectors members had the pleasure of joining our tasting panel to put Hunter Shiraz, Pinot G and Sparkling to the taste test.

Hunter Shiraz

The winemakers of the Hunter Valley craft a style of Shiraz that's unique to the region with its vibrant, fruit-driven appeal. While wineries and experts are on board with this style, we wanted to find out what wine-lovers think.

Our guests discovered Shiraz that lived up to the regional reputation for being medium-bodied and savoury, but also found the Hunter could produce excellent fuller styles such as those from The Little Wine Company and Pepper Tree . The wine that drew unanimous praise was the De Iuliis Shiraz 2014 ,which was described as having "beautiful balance with long, spicy, elegant tannins." Overall, our members vowed they'll explore and add more Hunter Shiraz to their collection. Find out more about our Hunter Valley Shiraz member tasting experience here.

Pinot Gris and Grigio

Over the last few years, Pinot Gris and Grigio have become very popular white wines, but generally the drinking public don't know the difference between the two, so we invited some members to discuss the difference in styles. In a nutshell, Grigio is the Italian style that's fresh and zesty with a savourycharacter, while the French Gris is richer with more body, stonefruit flavours and some spice.

Mainly due to marketing, winemakers in Australia have tended to use the trendier Grigio on the label, even if the wine is more in Gris style, which understandably only adds to the confusion.

Fortunately, the big thing to come out of this tasting was the development of winemaking techniques that show that noted producers, at least, are making Grigio and Gris more in line with their European counterparts. Find out more about the differences between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio we discovered here.

Sparkling

Which Sparkling is trending this summer? We asked some lucky members: Traditional, Prosecco or Blanc de Blanc? The results of this very festive tasting revealed that all three styles are well liked, it was just a matter of what type of occasion our guests were attending that would determine their choice of bubbly.

One of our members, Trudi Arnall voiced everyone’s thoughts when she said, “If I was to turn up for an afternoon BBQ with the kids in the pool, a Prosecco would be great. If I was going to a dinner party, I’d go with the traditional Sparkling and if I really wanted to impress, I’d go with a Blanc de Blanc with some age.” Find out more about the results of our tasting here or learn more about the difference between Prosecco and sparkling wines with our handy infographic and guide.

Find out more about becoming a Wine Selectors Member today!

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Wine
Know Your Variety - Viognier
From near extinction, to a vibrant revival, Australian Viognier is going from strength to strength. To help us learn more about this elegant wine, we reached out to a few experts with winemakers from Yalumba, Soumah and Claymore Wines. Marnie Roberts, Claymore Wines’ chief winemaker , sums up this luscious and complex white variety: “ Viognier can be a bit tricky to get right as it has a tendency to have variable crop loads, favours warm, but not hot climates, and requires specific attention to harvest time as it provides a small window for ripeness,” she says. “In saying that, if you get it right, the perfume and aromatics, as well as flavour and delicate mouthfeel produce an absolutely stunning wine.” Australian Viognier - An Infographic Guide Origins
Viognier ’s spiritual home is in France’s northern Rhône appellations of Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie, however, it is thought that it originated in Dalmatia (Bosnia) and was imported into France around 280AD. While Viognier is popular now, it came close to extinction in the 1960s, largely because of its low yields and unpredictability in the vineyard. By 1968 there were only around 14 hectares growing in northern Rhône. Luckily for wine lovers, by the 1980s a few Californian wineries and Australia’s Yalumba had become very interested in Viognier, ensuring its rescue and a new lease on life. Viognier in Australia
Australia’s diverse climate results in a broad range of Viognier styles from the elegant, fragrant style to a luscious, full-bodied white wine. While, Viognier is grown across Australia in regions including Barossa , Adelaide Hills , Hunter Valley , the Yarra Valley , Riverland and the Limestone Coast, it’s in the Eden Valley under the care of Yalumba , that it has really flourished and produces some of the world’s best white wines.    Considered one of the world’s most influential producers of Viognier, Yalumba was responsible for the first significant plantings in Australia when they planted 1.2 hectares of vines in the Eden Valley’s Vaughan Vineyard back in 1980. For over 40 years they have nurtured the variety in their Yalumba Nursery from the early Montpellier 1968 clones used for nearly half of the early plantings, to instigating a clonal development programme in consultation with the great Viognier makers from around the globe. What the Experts Have to Say
Louisa Rose – chief winemaker, Yalumba A leader within Australia’s wine industry, Louisa’s career with Yalumba spans over 20 years with her passion for Viognier and her developmental work of the varietal making her name synonymous with Viognier in Australia.    “After many years of work and experimentation, we have six individual wines in our Yalumba Viognier collection,” explains Louisa. “In 2005, eight different clones propagated in the Yalumba Nursery were planted on the south-eastern part of the Yalumba Eden Valley vineyard in the Virgilius Vineyard. It’s now the most clonally diverse planting of Viognier anywhere in Australia – giving my team and I, the opportunity to create wines of great promise and diversity.” “Viognier is exciting to drink and talk about – it goes so well with our food based lifestyle,” says Louisa. “There is still a long way to go to make the variety known to all the wine drinkers out there, lots of talking and tasting and spreading the world.” Scott McCarthy – chief winemaker, Soumah Located in the Yarra Valley , Soumah specialises in wines from eastern France and across to northern Italy and refers to their Viognier as Goldie Locks, “as it has to picked just right!” “It’s the peaches and cream characteristics that we seek and in our quest, we’ve planted three distinct clones of Viognier,” says Scott. “However, it is not only about the creamy lusciousness of the wine, it is also about a refined yet nervous spine that leaves a fresh clean-cut finish.” “If we pick too early we lose the peaches, if we pick too late we will deliver an oily, clumsy wine, so it has to be just right, a goldilocks temperament so to speak, and we endeavour to get it just right every year!”
Marnie Roberts – chief winemaker, Claymore Wines Claymore Wines ’ Shankly Vineyard is one of the very few plantings of Viognier in the Clare Valley. “Our Viognier is grown in a small pocket in Watervale that provides ambient sunshine and daytime warmth but cool nights. This allows the delicate florals and juicy acid to gradually develop and gives us the opportunity to have a bit of a play with it. We pick at a lower end of ripening (about 10 baume) to retain the juicy acid and delicate nature to allow us to stop fermentation prior to complete dryness for an off-dry to sweet style of this grape,” Marnie explains. “Our Skinny Love Summer Viognier is made with minimal intervention ensuring that the mouthfeel is super appealing, like biting into a red delicious apple. It’s an extremely pretty, delicate and approachable wine.” Viognier Tasting Notes The distinguishing characters of Australian Viognier include stone fruit, predominantly apricot, perfumed scents and high alcohol. Viognier responds positively to oak, adding richness to the texture and a nutty complexity that complements the apricots. Viognier is also regularly co-fermented, or blended with Shiraz to give further complexity and fragrance. “When great, the wines are seductive, luscious, opulent, viscous, full-flavoured with exotic aromas of lychee, musk, rose, pear, apricot, peach, nectarine, ginger, spice, citrus blossoms and long silky rich textures,” explains Louisa Rose. Food Matches Similar in weight to Chardonnay and Rousanne, it pairs well with a great range of foods including rich seafood, red and white meats, and spicy dishes like Indian, Thai and Moroccan. “In short Viognier is a fabulous food wine,” says Louisa Rose. “It goes with everything from the spicy northern African to Asian cuisine, from white meat to reds meat, and with all the earthy flavours and textures such as mushrooms, wasabi and root vegetables, plus it’s just at home with a cheese plate.” “Viognier covers the foods and occasions that you would expect a white to, and then seamlessly moves into those that you would normally associate more with red wines and it is often called the red wine drinkers white wine,” she says.
Food
Regional Flavours: The sunshine state’s must-do food and wine festival!
From lazy, waterfront cocktails to a bustling market, celebrity chefs and beyond, Regional Flavours presented by The Courier-Mail is Australia’s largest free food festival. Started 10 years ago and held this year on 21-22 July in the stunning South Bank Parklands, the event will again showcase Queensland’s best fresh produce and gourmet ingredients. Celebrities on the Main Stage On the Main Stage in the South Bank Piazza, the specialty dish is entertainment – served fresh from Australia’s best celebrity chefs and culinary experts including Network Ten’s Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris, Miguel Maestre, food goddesses Sarah Wilson, Katherine Sabbath, Jessica Sepel and global flavour connoisseur Adam Liaw. See how to create mind-blowing flavours and street-hawker-worthy meals at home, take in a tutorial on cooking with Queensland seafood, start to incorporate sustainable, plus much more. Entry is free, but spaces are limited, so arrive early to secure your seat. Queensland Taste Stage and Marketplace The thriving Queensland Taste Stage and Marketplace featuring more than 80 stalls from across the state will have a distinct theme of healthy alternatives, gluten and dairy free ingredients as well as vegan and vegetarian foods. On the stage, local chefs will walk you through exquisite recipes using local produce – think black garlic from Gympie, brilliantly-coloured Lockyer Valley beetroots and melt-in-the-mouth Moreton Bay seafood to name a few. Picnic Patch Located on the Little Stanley Street Lawn, Picnic Patch will be abundant with masterfully decorated tables, parlour games, cosy blankets and scrumptious food stalls offering fresh produce from the Lockyer Valley. Kick back in the winter sunshine and taste the tantalizing flavours of Australia’s salad bowl.
Future Food pavilion Take a glimpse into the crystal ball and hear from leading experts on what trends and insights you might expect on your dinner plate now, and in 2050 at the Future Food pavilion. Discover 3D printed food, smart horticulture and more, plus cheer on recent participants in the Future Food Business Acceleration Programs in the daily Grill to Till pitch competition. The Hunting Club Presented by Meat and Livestock Australia and The Charming Squire, The Hunting Club is part bar and bistro, part stage in a fabulous fusion of Queensland’s meat and malt scene. Open exclusively at Regional Flavours, you can head along for lunch, dinner and all-day grazing prepared by popular South Bank restaurateur, The Charming Squire. The Hunting Club also features special, extended opening hours – from 5pm until late on Friday 20 July, and 10am until late on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 July. Kids Collective Pint-sized gourmets can enjoy a spot of food-focused play at the Kids Collective. Located at Central Café Lawns & Arbour View Lawns, Kids Collective lets children get their hands dirty with the Potato Journey by OzHarvest, a truly immersive experience of the life of a humble potato. There’s also a range of colourful craft activities to enjoy including edible fruit caterpillars, rainbow-coloured nutrition and book readings from Brisbane City Council Libraries. River Quay If rest and relaxation in palatial surrounds is what you desire, venture to River Quay presented by eatSouthBank. At Regional Flavours’ most luxe location, revel in the gentle hum of mellow tunes plus food and cocktails from some of South Bank’s five-star restaurants; Stokehouse Q, The Jetty, River Quay Fish, Popolo and Aquitaine at River Quay. Open from 10am until 8pm, so you can savour that spritz just a little bit longer. Is your appetite whetted? To plan your day and experience Australia’s largest free food and wine festival, head to regionalflavours.com.au . 
Wine
Magic Mediterranean - Vermentino
Words by Daniel Honan on 15 Oct 2017
The Italian varietal Vermentino is winning fans for its wonderfully refreshing characters and textural mouthfeel making it the drink for this summer. You heard it here first – Vermentino is the new white! There are fewer wines around that are as sexy to say, taste as good, and are perfect paired with a spread of fresh seafood on a summer’s afternoon. In fact, drinking a glass of Vermentino is like going on a Mediterranean holiday. Indeed, Vermentino hails from the type of places where warm sun and cool sea breezes, cellar doors and summer afternoons are in abundance. Just off the coasts of Italy and France are the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, which lie (almost) in the middle of the Mediterranean, split between the Balearic and Tyrrhenian Seas. Here you’ll find a melting pot of different soils (limestone, granite, sandstone and clay) and climates (maritime and continental) mixed together to provide the perfect growing conditions for this unique grape variety. Aussie Vermentino Just like its home in the Med, here in Australia, Vermentino seems especially at home near the coast, in regions like McLaren Vale , Margaret River , even the Hunter Valley . Yet, this grape variety is also finding favour, and flavour, in other places a little further from the shore, such as King Valley , the Barossa , and the Riverland wine region around Mildura. Inland wine growers, Chalmers, have been pioneering alternative varietals for over 15 years. The family first planted Vermentino back in 2000, and were one of the first wineries in Australia to make wine from the variety. 

“Vermentino was one of our first flagship wines,” says Kim Chalmers. “It’s a variety that loves warm summers and sunshine, which is perfect for our Australian conditions. Its big bunches and juicy berries make it quite resistant to long heat waves. We’ve had a lot of success growing Vermentino at our vineyards in both Heathcote and Mildura.”

- Kim Chalmers, Chalmers Wines, Riverland
That is the great thing we’ve discovered about this (and other) Italian varietals recently trialled across the many wine regions of Australia - their adaptability. If you speak to a European producer of Vermentino, they’ll probably tell you that the grapes must be grown in close proximity to the sea, so that they can possess and express their inherently unique and refreshing sea-spray aroma and flavour. “Our experience growing Vermentino would suggest otherwise,” counters Kim. “We’ve only ever grown the variety very inland, and yet we still get that delicious sea-salt, briny character in all of our wines made from the variety. I think the closeness to the ocean rumour might be an old wives tale.” Key characters
The unique textural and sensual characteristics of Vermentino are what make this variety such a delicious alternative to your typical tipple of, say, Sauvignon Blanc , or Pinot Gris . The dominant aromas and flavours expressed by the grape include juicy lemons and limes, fleshy grapefruit, crunchy green apples and crushed almonds. Sometimes, you may notice the briny scent of ocean-spray drifting over fresh jasmine. At other times, you might smell a hint of beeswax and musk, or taste fresh tropical fruits, crispy pear, with a touch of salt. This all depends, of course, on where the grapes are grown, when they’re picked, and what the winemaker’s intent is when making Vermentino into wine. If the grapes are picked early you will, typically, note freshness and citrus, with bright, crunchy acids. If the grapes are allowed to ripen and are picked a bit later, you get a fleshier, juicier, more tropical style of wine. “The thing about Vermentino is it’s a very late picked varietal, for example, in the Hunter they pick it after Shiraz,” says winemaker David Hook, who has been specialising in Italian varietals for 30 years. “Some go for that lighter, crunchier style, which is picked earlier and is great for everyday drinking. But in Orange, where I source my Vermentino, I like to wait as long as I can to pick it as it gives a bigger, richer style that really highlights the varietal characters and the texture is ramped up.” Phil Ryan, co-Chairman of the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel , echoes David’s preference for the fuller, riper style of Vermentino, saying that it offers so much more for the drinker. “The riper style of Vermentino offers far more complexity and intrigue to the wine,” says Phil. “It also allows those delicious stonefruit characteristics to come to the fore and plays to one of its major appeals, which is its texture.” Vermentino’s textual qualities (the way the wine feels in the mouth when you drink it) also boosts its food matching ability and is one of the reasons why this varietal stands out from the rest of the wine crowd.

Vermentino always goes down well by the glass, here. We’ll often get people sitting at the bar snacking on a bowl of salty, crispy white bait. Personally, I love it matched to a plate of grilled blue mackerel with fresh tomato, olives and chilli.

- Stuart Knox, , Owner and sommelier of Fix St James, in Sydney.
For renowned Vermentino producer Joe Grilli from Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, the big attraction of Vermentino is the combination of freshness and texture. “Our Vermentino has aromas of fresh melon fruits, then some intriguing almond notes, followed by the slightest touch of citrus to finish,” says Joe. “What makes Vermentino so delicious is when all these facets are wrapped up in a lighter bodied wine with still enough texture to really satisfy the tastebuds.” In fashion There is no doubt Vermentino is one of the hottest whites around. Its increasing popularity in wines bars and restaurants around the country is reflected in its growing success at wine shows, particularly the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, held each year in Mildura. Organiser, Kim Chalmers says that Vermentino is one of the most popular wines of the show. “It’s massive,” says Kim. “We’ve had a Vermentino class since 2008 and for a number of years only a handful of wineries entered wines into that class. Within five years, the numbers have boomed. Last year there were 93 entries, and now the class has split into two separate classes: one for the lighter and fresher styles, and one for the more fuller bodied, richer styles.” There’s even a third style to be found in Australia, these days. It’s said that the name Vermentino derives from the Italian word, ‘fermento’, which relates to the fizzy characters of the young wine and this might have inspired Fowles Wine, from the Strathbogie Ranges, to make a fun, sparkling style of Vermentino. “I’m a huge fan of the tangy lemon and light florals of Vermentino and thought it might be fun to see those characters sparkle,” says Matt Fowles. “We make our sparkling Vermentino in a Prosecco style, and, I must say, I’ve been surprised just how well it’s been received!” The tasting For this tasting, over 50 Vermentinos were submitted to the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel . For a wine considered to still be an ‘emerging’ varietal, the pass rate was impressively high with around 75% scoring a medal. The top 20 wines were hotly contested and, as expected, the spread of regions was vast with multiple entries from the Hunter Valley, McLaren Vale and Barossa, as well as Riverland, which doesn’t often get much kudos in wine shows, but is proving to be a real contender with Italian varietals. The styles were varied, which is to be expected, given all the variables, but the underlying characters remained true – delicious stonefruit flavours balanced with freshness and texture with subtle sea salt notes and energetic acidity. You just have to find the particular nuances that appeal to you. Yep, Vermentino is here. Whether enjoying a warm afternoon with a sumptuous spread of seafood or sitting in a cosy bar planning a potential Mediterranean sojourn, pairing your activity with a glass of your favourite Vermentino seems like the perfect thing to do. The Standout Vermentino from the Tasting Trentham The Family Vermentino 2016 (Murray Darling) Chalmers Vermentino 2016 (Heathcote) Stone Dwellers Limited Release Vermentino 2015 (Strathbogie Ranges) Lovable Rogue The Italian Jobs Vermentino 2016 (Hunter Valley) Parish Hill Vermentino 2016 (Adelaide Hills) Seppeltsfield Cellar Door Collection Vermentino 2017 (Barossa) Tulloch Cellar Door Release Vermentino 2017 (Orange) Chalk Hill Wines Vermentino 2016 (McLaren Vale) Saddler’s Vermentino 2015 (Barossa) Alejandro Vermentino 2016 (Riverland) Alternatus Vermentino 2016 (Mclaren vale) David Hook Central Ranges Vermentino 2016 (Orange) First Creek Vermentino 2016 (Hunter Valley) La Maschera Vermentino 2015 (Barossa)
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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