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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
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.
Wine
Shipwrecked Wines - what would you take?
You’re shipwrecked on a desert island with one bottle of wine – what did you bring? Find out about the wines our experts believe they just couldn’t survive without. Picture this – it’s a balmy sunny Sunday and you’re on a boat bobbing around on the ocean with friends enjoying the good life. The skies suddenly darken, the sea begins to churn, but luckily before the waves come crashing down washing you over overboard, you’re able to rescue a bottle of your favourite wine.  Nicole Gow – Wine Selectors Tasting Panellist , Wine Show Judge “I chose Chardonnay with melon and stone fruits in abundance. Survival in nothing but luxury is my goal. I'll be gathering my tropical fruits each morning, hunting some shellfish and chilling my bottle in the cooling rock pools, while I'm getting subtly toasted, just like my yummy oak!” Credaro Five Tales Chardonnay 2016 Brad Russ – Tulloch Wines “Sparkling of course. Drinking Sparkling suggests it’s party time – in this case on a deserted island so it’s very exclusive and bespoke, plus it’s the perfect accompaniment to freshly shucked oysters and seafood. And, if I drank enough I’d be able to use the corks to float my boat.”   Tulloch Cuvée NV Scott Austin –  Austins & Co, Six Foot Six
“It’s Pinot Gris for me! It’s a real conversation starter, a wine to destress with, to simplify the issues and bring claim to the group of stranded crew, and begin the bonding process for everyone to get to know each other and work out what they will do next. It's crisp and refreshing style will bring light and clarity to an otherwise potentially intense situation.” Six Foot Six Pinot Gris 2016 Anna Watson –  Lost Buoy Wines “I’d take Shiraz to drink with the wild goat we just hunted and cooked, and to drink with the shipwrecked sailors washed up on the shore. And, if it’s cold weather, I could simmer it down for a great mulled wine. However, I’d probably also take a case of Gin - more medicinal". Lost Buoy The Edge Shiraz 2016 Adam Walls – Wine Selector Tasting Panellist and Wine Educator, and Wine Show Judge “Rosé for sure! There is no better wine to have at your disposal when stuck on an island – it’s cold and crisp and defines refreshment. And it blends in perfectly with the colour of your sunburn!’ Chaffey Bros Not Your Grandma’s Rosé 2017 6 Wines for when You're lost-at-sea Throw yourself a life raft and get shipwrecked-ready with the official  Wine Island 6-pack that includes a fantastic selection of favourites including a bottle each of Credaro Five Tales Chardonnay 2016 , Six Foot Six Pinot Gris 2016 ,   Tulloch Cuvée NV , Chaffey Bros Not Your Grandma’s Rosé 2017 , Byron & Harold Rose & Thorns Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 and Lost Buoy The Edge Shiraz 2016 . 
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 . 
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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