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Wine

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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Know Your Variety - Australian Fiano
Words by Adam Walls on 3 Apr 2017
Adam Walls teaches us the finer points about Australian Fiano and why it could be Australia's next big white wine. When  Coriole   in   McLaren Vale  released Australia’s first Fiano in 2005, it signalled an exciting evolution for white wine lovers, myself included. This Italian white thrives in hot, dry climates, making it perfect for many Australian wine regions. This ability to handle the increasing heat spikes we’re experiencing during vintage makes it a very environmentally friendly variety as its need for water is low. What’s more, Fiano retains its acidity in the heat. So while other whites like  Sauvignon Blanc   and  Chardonnay  often lose their acidity when the temperature rises, Fiano can be made into a beautifully balanced, refreshing wine. Fiano at a Glance Origins of Fiano
In its Italian home, Fiano is mainly grown in the hills surrounding Avellino in the Campania region. It has been traced back to ancient Rome and is thought to have been the primary variety in Apianum, an ancient Roman wine, meaning ‘bees’ in Latin. Even today, swarms of bees are drawn to the sugary pulp of Fiano grapes in Avellinese vineyards. Australian Fiano Regions
As I mentioned, Fiano grows best in our warmer regions and has had great success in  McLaren Vale  and  Clare Valley . But what I’m really excited about are the wins that have been had with the variety in the Riverland and  Riverina  regions. While these are regions traditionally famous for producing cheap, bulk wines, Fiano has given local winemakers a chance to show they can make exciting, cutting-edge wines. Characters At the  Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show , Fiano is divided into two classes: light and fresh, and full-bodied and textural. The stye in which it is made is determined by the winemaker. For example, if a winemaker decides to pick the grapes later in the season and/or uses lees during fermentation, their Fiano will be a richer, more textured style. Fiano Food Matching
Given that Fiano hails from a region that is coastal bound, it makes sense it is a wine that works well with seafood – baked fish, shellfish, etc. It’s perfect with vegetarian pasta dishes, too, as the acidity in the wine offsets the richness of cream-based sauces and complements the acidity of tomato-based recipes. Recommended Recipe:   Stefano Manfredi’s potato gnocchi with burnt butter and sage
Food
Be part of Heston’s barbeque revolution
Over the last two decades, Heston Blumenthal has transformed food and shown us what is possible with flavour and the total eating experience. His imagination, innovative approach and ‘Question Everything’ philosophy has changed forever the way we think about food and cooking. Recently, Heston turned his attention from the kitchen to the backyard and challenged the barbeque world.In collaboration with Australia’s most respected barbeque producer, Everdure, he focused his imagination and creativity on designing a stunning range of barbeques that take the primary outdoor cooking techniques of charcoal and gas and reshape them to allow the everyday cook to barbeque like never before. By adding electricity to charcoal preparation and supercharging gas and barbeque convection design, his rebellious nature has created two ranges of barbeques that will revolutionise what is possible in our backyards.
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Find out for yourself Everdure by Heston Blumenthal and Selector want you to join this barbeque rebellion and discover just how well you can cook in your own backyard if you have the right equipment. We are running a series of masterclasses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Hunter Valley. Executive chef for the Everdure by Heston Blumenthal range, Bart Beek, will cook a sensational array of barbeque delights and Wine Selectors will match each and every serving with a perfectly paired wine. Book your place now at these exclusive events to ensure you’re part of the barbeque rebellion with Everdure by Heston Blumenthal. Book Melbourne BBQ Revolution Masterclass Book Sydney BBQ Revolution Masterclass   Book Brisbane BBQ Revolution Masterclass   Register your interest for the Hunter Valley Masterclass  coming soon Note: Heston will not be at the events. To view more about Everdure by Heston Blumenthal visit:  www.everdurebyheston.com/
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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