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Celebrating Christmas with Brown Brothers

We recently caught up with Ross Brown from the iconic Brown Brothers to talk Prosecco and Christmas.

Your Brown Brothers Vintage Release Single Vineyard Prosecco 2014 is our Wine of the Month for December – what makes it so special for this time of the year (or anytime really)?

Sparkling wine is all about celebration with friends and Prosecco is the new exciting fashion for Sparkling. It’s fine, zesty, dry and refreshing and just perfect for those lazy summer days.

Brown Brothers has over 126 years of history in Australian winemaking and family is obviously very important to you. How is your family planning on spending this Christmas?

Having all the immediate family around the Christmas dinner table is mandatory, but just a bit more complex this year, as Emma our youngest daughter is living in Napa Valley, California. We have all made a commitment to be in Mammoth Mountain, a ski town for Christmas. We will go by the local market and buy oysters and salmon for entree and duck for mains. My wife Judy's confit of duck recipe is a family legend.

What wines will your family be enjoying over Christmas?

This year as Emma is hosting, she's sourcing the wines with the brief to surprise us with the best of California, especially Pinot for the duck.

Can you remember the first wine you ever tried?

No, not really. There was always wine on the dinner table, and I was always allowed to taste, as long as I described the taste and aroma. It was no big deal as wine and food was a natural.

When did you fall in love with wine?

Growing up in the 1960s drinking wine socially was a risky business – real men drank beer! In the 1970s wine became fashionable and I had lots of friends curious about what wine I had brought to the party. I guess that was when I fell in love but not only with the wine.

It’s a tough question, but do you have a favourite wine or varietal?

When I'm asked which is my favourite wine, my reply invariably is the "next one".
In truth Riesling is my favourite white varietal – the flavour dimensions are remarkable with lean and minerally Tasmanian styles through to rich, ripe and generous Noble Riesling.

With reds I'm fascinated with Pinot Noir. For me it’s about the silken texture – fine and powerful and so reflective of the vineyard. It matches so many different foods and I'm already thinking about that duck for Christmas.

What is your favourite wine memory?

This is an impossible question as my entire life has been wine. I have been just so fortunate to grow up in a thriving family business, based in beautiful North East Victoria, and to share a wine and food lifestyle with so many wonderful people.

Having dinner with friends and finding that gem that has remained hidden in the cellar for far too long, and it opens fabulously, along with a flood of memories around the year the wine was made, is the ultimate Saturday night filled with lots of laughs and short memories!

How do you spend your time when you’re not making wine?

With my daughter Katherine now winemaking, I'm delighted to run away and admire her good work, especially knowing she has the best mentors in the world.

Judy and I love the ‘hunting and gathering’ lifestyle, we are crazy about fishing and love Tasmania. There we can catch crayfish, calamari, and flat head or fly fish for trout all in one day, and if it's a really tough day, fit in a game of golf just for the frustration.

For me seeing another generation, my three daughters, excited and totally engaged in the wine business is the greatest reward, especially if they find a great Riesling and Pinot for Christmas dinner and don't forget the Prosecco!

What is your choice at Christmas:

Carols by Candlelight – love them or loathe them? A must on Christmas Eve. 
Sparkling Shiraz, Champagne or both? Prosecco is the new Champagne.
Plum pudding, pavlova or trifle? Depends on the age of the Noble Riesling.
Turkey, glazed ham or seafood? Seafood, seafood and more seafood.
Christmas lunch or dinner? Don't know the difference as it starts around 11am and goes on and on....
Boxing Day recovery? This calls for exercise and this year given a white Christmas, we will all be skiing probably until lunch.

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Meet Alex Russell of Alejandro Wines
More and more alternative wine varietals are being grown and produced here in Australia. We catch-up with Alex Russell to chat about his passion for these delicious drops and his exciting alejandro range. Your alejandro label focuses on a diverse selection of alternative varieties of European origin including Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Fiano and Arneis – why these varieties? Shortly after starting work for Angove in Renmark, the then chief winemaker Warrick Billings, introduced me to Riverland Vine Improvement Committee (RVIC). RVIC at the time was an importer of new varieties and they would propagate the vines and produce trial wine from them. I agreed to produce trial wine for them on a voluntary basis. I bottled their 2008 vintage and started making wine for them in 2009, in addition to my role at Angove. Before long, we were crushing far more than anticipated and the facility was filled with small winemaking equipment I had been accumulating since the early 2000s. As far as choosing different varieties, I’ve never accepted the status quo. In 2011, Fiano , Vermentino and Montepulciano were bullet-proof during the worst vintage we had had in 30 years and the latter two went on to win Gold medals at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show. From there I led RVIC into their own label, Cirami Estate. It was a little too entrepreneurial for RVIC and we parted ways after vintage 2014 at which point alejandro was born. I didn’t choose these varieties, they chose me. These varieties are perfectly suited to being grown in the Riverland and Mildura and produce textured, flavoursome and distinctly varietal wines. What would you say to our Members to encourage them to try more of these varieties?

If you enjoy wine enough to purchase through Wine Selectors, you know enough about wine to broaden your horizons. Have an open mind, ignore the name, even set up a blind tasting with friends, and just take the wine for what it is – it’s much easier to remember Saperavi or Bianco d’Alessano when you’ve had a great experience with them.

What makes the Riverland region so suited to growing Mediterranean-style and alternative varieties? Riverland and Mildura regions are equally suited to alternative varietal wines. If you’ve travelled to Spain or Italy during summer months, you’ll know the climates in Mildura and Renmark are very similar. The regions are hot and dry, with low disease pressure and there is so much sun. These varieties love sun and heat with Montepulciano ripening among the latest of all – late April for vintage 2017. Many of these wines, Graciano and Tempranillo , are as boozy in Spain as they are here. That said, the whites are produced with moderate alcohol to retain their fresh, distinctive flavours. Can you recall the first wine you tried? My parents always drank wine – from a cask. We had sips of wine here and there, but the best memory of my first wine was following work selling pies at the footy – the MCG. I was 14 or 15 years old and I had made my first wine by this stage, but I remember this fondly because it involved getting wine from the super boxes of the old northern stand. The foil capsule had been removed from these reds and were therefore unsalable. I took the bottles home with quite a number of Four’n’Twenty pies and my father and I sat on the couch and we ate pies and drank red wine together. Making it more memorable for me was how hot and red in the face I became having bumped consumption from a few sips to a couple of glasses. When did you fall in love with wine? I think I fell in love with making booze before I fell in love with wine. I was always close with my dad, he’s gone now, but he loved his beer. I used my pie selling income to buy a home brew kit from Kmart and produced Coopers Lager – though this was after I’d made my first mash beer using 4.5L demijohns and every item of stainless in the kitchen. Do you remember that moment? What happened? After the first mash came, Coopers, ginger beer, apple cider, elderberry wine and in Year 10, I made my first Shiraz, ironically from Shiraz juice concentrate out of a can from the Riverland ’s Berri. Another memorable moment was vintage 2002 in Mildura, working for Littore Family Wines. At the time they had a Merlot block in Gol Gol with 2000m long rows. I found a rogue vine in row 57 from the north end, 16 panels to the south. It was an off-white variety, I picked the fruit and soon realized it was Gewürztraminer. My housemates and I drank that wine before it had finished fermenting. Do you have an all-time favourite wine to make? Why is it this wine? That’s like asking who your favourite child is – all wines are different and there’s an occasion for each. I do like making Montepulciano, but mainly drink Tempranillo and Durif. Now with a vineyard in Tasmania, I also produce Pinot Noir which is a very interesting wine. There’s a wine for every occasion and every appetite. There are some 15 wines in my range – gives me a lot of choice! Other than your own wine, what is the wine that you like to drink at home? I like to compare competitors’ wines, like varieties and other obscure varieties, but the quaffers I like are Rosé wines. I’m not a fan of Cabernet Rosé or ‘drain off’ Rosé but give me a purpose produced Rosé with four days cold soak and I’m all over it. What is your ultimate food and wine match? My first experience with such food was at the 2012 Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show where Stephano di Pierre cooked and we had Vermentino with freshly shucked oysters with lemon and fresh oregano. Tempura Sardines are great with Bianco d’Alessano. In Tasmania we grow Wiltshire Horn sheep for meat. They mow the vineyard down in winter and keep hard to slash areas clean during the growing season. The meat is rich, tender and moist – Lagrein is a good match for this lamb. Can you cook? If so, what is your ‘signature dish’? My wife and I lived in China for 12 months, near the North Korean border. I used to cook a lot more but now my wife cooks anything and everything, she has a knack for it. When I cook I go Chinese and cook the dongbei cai from the north east of China, Dalian and Pulandian. These are better suited to Tsingtao and Mi Jiu and although considered qiung ren cai (poor man’s food) they are simple and delicious: Ban san ding is chopped cucumber and red onion with fresh roasted peanuts (skin on) with fish sauce and sesame oil dressing (and a dash of MSG). Tu dou zi is shredded potato with carrot, green chilli and garlic, stir fried for about 30 seconds with fish sauce and sesame oil. Xie hong shi chao ji dan is stir fried egg and tomato, again with fish and sesame, and don’t forget the garlic. It’s simple and really quick to prepare. What do you think is special about your wine region? Tasmania is now home and we are expanding our vineyard. Pinot is a great variety to grow and produce and the whites are excellent – although most visitors are left a little wanting for a big red. Riverland and Mildura (and Riverina) are the work engines for Australian wine and where I gained all my experience. They are quickly snubbed by many but do produce good wine. My greatest criticism of South Australia and the Riverland is that even many Riverland businesses dismiss their own wines when tourists ask for something local, offering Clare or Barossa instead. Do you have a favourite holiday destination/memory? Spain. Fly into Barcelona and jump in a rental car and head up to Ainsa, Mont Serrat. We have a winemaker friend named Ara there who I worked at Zilzie with in 2008. She came back to Australia for vintage 2012 in the Riverland and might have helped a little with alejandro in 2016 when she was here on holiday. Ara lives in Hellin and produces wine from Murcia region. Spanish food, wine and beer – ahhh! What is your favourite… Movie? Gladiator. I’m a wanna be Maximus, and the sound track I used to play when I slept – my housemates were worried at the time. TV show? Dexter, everyone loves it when a baddie gets it. Big Bang Theory because I was one of those nerds – a cross between Howard and Leonard. Sport/Sporting Team? Cricket…. Beer? My taste constantly changes depending on the day or the menu, but I love hoppy beers and stouts and pilsners with saaz and hallertau hops.
Wine
Meet Richard Freebairn of Paxton Wines
What was it that drew you to the wine industry? I grew up on a sheep and cereal grain farm in South East of Western Australia, and I enjoyed the outdoors and hands-on side of farming. However, I love the diversity of winemaking. You can be filling barrels or digging out a ferment one day, and the next hosting a five star dinner in Sydney. Always interesting and great challenges. You have worked in vineyards all over the country, including the Margaret River, Swan Valley, Sonoma Valley, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley . What is the best thing about working and living in McLaren Vale ? McLaren Vale has it all, I live in Adelaide with my wife and work in the most beautiful wine region five minutes from the ocean and 30 minutes (depending on how you drive) from the city. What’s your must-do for visitors to McLaren Vale? BYO picnic basket to our beautiful cellar door surrounded by 1850s stone cottages and rolling green lawns.
What have been some of your highlights of your time at Paxton? We have won some nice Trophies and received some great James Halliday scores, but I think it is teaching people about Organics and Biodynamics . It is a fantastic way of farming and can really make a big difference to the fruit and especially the wine. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given when it comes to winemaking? Be patient, wine is not a picture or a snapshot, it is like a movie – always evolving and moving with you. Be patient with wine and enjoy the ride! Do you have an all-time favourite wine to make? Why is it? I love making our Pinot Gris , because I don’t use carbon to remove the colour, I use hypoxygenation (basically oxidise it with oxygen). The wine looks so murky and brown all through ferment and stabilisation until one day, generally about three months after harvest, all the brown drops out and you are left with a bright, almost green, hue. It is such a relief! In 2011 Paxton became a fully certified organic and biodynamic wine producer. Can you tell us more about this certification, what it means, how it is achieved etc.? We are very proud to be Organic and Biodynamic at Paxton; it gives us a great sense of growing and making for the future. The vines look healthy and the wines have vitality. The certification process takes three years from the dates of application. From that point everything you do must be approved through your certifying body, we are certified through NASAA Certified Organics. The Paxton Organic MV Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is our Wine of the Month for June – what makes this a standout wine? The beautiful aroma of winter greens, it is such a fragrant wine. I love smelling this Cabernet Sauvignon . The other great part is the palate, a perfect wine for the colder months. It has power and poise, bright fruit, as well as lovely tannins. A great wine with stews, soups and hearty winter dishes. What do you do to relax when you’re away from the winery? I play golf, not so relaxing, but it gets my head out of the winery. What’s your ultimate wine and food match? Paxton MV Cabernet Sauvignon, lamb loin chops (from our farm in Western Australia) mashed potato and peas. What is your favourite… Movie? The Lion King Book? Power of One Time of day? Any time of the day is a great time in McLaren Vale! Restaurant? Ruby Red Flamingo in North Adelaide.
Wine
Check Out the Best Barossa Valley Wineries
There’s a fantastic range of Barossa wineries and cellar doors to visit just outside of Adelaide. And, to help plan your trip to this internationally renowned wine region we’ve selected a collection of wineries that provide the best cellar door experience plus we’ve included a handy interactive map down below . A trip to the Barossa allows you to visit two world class wine regions on the same day, the Barossa Valley and the Eden Valley . The former is internationally renowned for it’s bold Shiraz, of which there is plenty on offer. The Eden Valley enjoys a cooler climate, higher elevation, and shallow rocky soils, resulting in exquisite Rieslings and vibrant more medium bodied Shiraz . Many wineries in the Barossa will source fruit from individual vineyards in each region depending on the style they are searching for. This ability to quite quickly move between the two areas allows for a unique comparison and understanding of the impact of climate and soil to the winemaking process. You can find out more about the regions in our Barossa Valley and Eden Valley region guides. The Best Barossa Valley and Eden Valley Cellar Doors Chateau Tanunda Established in 1890, the grand buildings and exquisite gardens of Chateau Tanunda are built on the site of the Barossa's earliest vines. Be sure to book for the Discover the Chateau tour, which departs daily at 11:30 am, unwind with a game of croquet on the lawn and enjoy a wine tasting in the grand barrel room. 9 Basedow Rd, Tanunda - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Chateau Tanunda website Elderton Wines Elderton’s cellar door is quintessential Barossa, with its stunning views, fantastic wines and warm welcome from their friendly staff. There is a stunning array of wines on offer for tasting, from their Nuriootpa, Craneford and Greenock vineyards. 3-5 Tanunda Rd, Nuriootpa - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 4 pm Mon-Fri 11 am to 4 pm Sat-Sun Visit the Elderton Wines website Pindarie Wines The old farm buildings that make up the Pindarie cellar door were hand restored over a period of 20 years by vigneron and winemaker couple Wendy Allan and Tony Brooks. This determination and eye to detail is present in their exquisite estate grown wines featuring Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and unique range of Mediterranean varietals such as Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese. 946 Rosedale Rd, Gomersal - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 11 am to 4 pm Mon-Fri 11 am to 5 pm Sat-Sun Visit the Pindarie Wines Website Henschke Wines The intimate and charming cottage that serves as the Henschke cellar door showcases the sustained six-generation focus on producing internationally renowned wines that make the Henschke family famous. Drawing on select vineyards from the Eden, Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley regions, the Henschke cellar door is the perfect place to sample the unique effect of terroir in their premium single-vineyard wines. Selector caught up with Justine Henschke to talk Barossa food and wine in this interview 1428 Keyneton Rd, Keyneton - view on our Barossa winery map Open Mon – Fri 9 am to 4:30 pm Sat 9 am to 12 noon Visit the Henschke website Seppeltsfield Seppeltsfield is perhaps Australia’s most historic winery with a fascinating history forged in the pioneering vision of Joseph and Joanna Seppelt in 1851. This grand complex of heritage buildings is the perfect place to sample their unique 100-year-old fortified wines and to taste wine from the year of your birth. Seppeltsfield is a must for every Australian wine tragic or budding wine historian. 730 Seppeltsfield Rd, Barossa Valley - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10:30 am to 5 pm Visit the Seppeltsfield website Thorn-Clarke This relaxed Barossa cellar door is the perfect place to unwind during your visit to the region. Enjoy the locally sourced regional platter in the winery garden while sampling the fantastic Eden Valley whites or Barossa Valley reds on offer sourced from their four estate-owned vineyards. 226 Gawler Park Rd, Angaston - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon-Fri 11 am to 4 pm Sat-Sun Visit the Thorn-Clarke website Two Hands Wines This boutique Barossa Valley winery allows visitors to sample their range of innovative wines in an intimate and informative setting out on the tasting deck with views across Marananga. 273 Neldner Rd, Marananga - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Two Hands website Yalumba Established in 1849, Yalumba is one of Australia’s most iconic and important wine labels. The impressive wine room, built inside the original brandy store is the perfect place to sample the wide range of wines on offer from everyday table wines through to their exquisite reserve collections. 40 Eden Valley Rd, Angaston - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Yalumba website Grant Burge Nestled atop of a hill along Krondorf road, the Grant Burge cellar door enjoys exquisite views over the Barossa Valley floor in one direction and rollings lawns and manicured gardens in the other. With a fantastic range of world class Barossa shiraz to sample, spend the afternoon unwinding on the lawn with one of their highly regarded platters. Krondorf Rd, Tanunda - view on our Barossa winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Grant Burge website Interactive Barossa Winery Map Planning a trip to the Barossa? Download our interactive Barossa Valley winery map. To save on your browser or device click here For more information on visiting the Barossa be sure to visit the official Barossa website or stop by the Visitors Center in Tanunda when you're in the area. But, if you’d like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit – explore our wide selection of Barossa wines and find out more about the wineries listed in this guide in our Meet the Makers section. With our Wine Selectors Regional Releases , 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 Regional Releases page to find out more!
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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