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Wine

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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Five Of The Best Rutherglen Wineries and Cellar Doors
Explore world-renowned wines and enjoy great country hospitality as we present the best Rutherglen wineries and cellar doors with this guide and interactive map . Forged out of the fortunes of the gold rush era,  Rutherglen   is one of the oldest wine regions in Australia and that history is on display everywhere. From the historic corrugated iron sheds housing dusty barrels of world-class fortified wines, to the old hand-tended vines that have lived through world wars, drought and pests, the whole region embodies the quintessential pioneering Australian spirit. Rutherglen is arguably the unrivalled king of Australian fortified wines, but there is also a great variety of robust reds and crisp dry whites.  Durif   is the region's speciality red wine. It's full-bodied with dark fruit and cola characters and high levels of alcohol and tannin, but there is also a great abundance of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Shiraz and alternative varietals on offer. To help plan your trip, we've selected a collection of Rutherglen wineries we feel provide the best cellar door experience, plus we've included a handy interactive map down below . Rutherglen Cellar Doors List Stanton & Killeen
The charming Stanton & Killeen winery is set amongst established gums and rolling pasture with beautifully landscaped grounds and rustic iron sheds. For over 141 years, this Rutherglen icon has produced full-bodied, robust reds, crisp white wines and luscious Muscats, Topaque and vintage fortifieds and there is a great range available to sample during your tasting. Their fortified tasting flights are outstanding, allowing you to sample different categories of Muscat and Topaque to learn more about the process, the importance of ageing, blending and the difference between each method and variety. The historic bond room, originally added for storing spirit, and the original cement vats and fermenters give a snapshot of what winemaking practices were like at the turn of the century. 440 Jacks Road, Rutherglen -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Stanton & Killeen website Rutherglen Estates
  Rutherglen Estates  is proving to the world that Rutherglen can produce world class white wines in addition to the region's renowned fortified and red wines. There is a great range of traditional, Mediterranean and alternative varietals on offer from Viognier, Marsanne, Fiano, Savagnin and Roussanne through to Shiraz, Sangiovese and Durif. Located on the edge of the town in the Tuileries complex, Rutherglen Estates is the perfect place to base your stay in the region. There is a fantastic newly renovated cellar door, a unique Aboriginal art gallery as well as  boutique accommodation overlooking the vines  , a quality café, bar and a great restaurant. And you're just a stone's throw away from Rutherglen's Main Street to explore more after dark. Tuileries Complex, 13-35 Drummond Street, Rutherglen -  view on our map Open daily 10:00 am to 5:30 pm Visit the Rutherglen Estates website Pfeiffer Wines
This charming winery is set inside a historic old distillery complex by the bank of the Sunday Creek. The father and daughter winemaking team of Chris and Jen Pfeiffer produce a world class range of wines that has garnered over 50 trophies and 350 medals from wines shows around the globe. After sampling the full range in the tasting room, you can then relax outside under an umbrella on the century-old Sunday Creek Bridge. With a glass of their world-renowned  Pfeiffer Wines fortified  or aromatic Gamay, you can try to catch a glimpse of a platypus in the creek below. Distillery Rd, Wahgunyah -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Pfeiffer Wines website Cofield Wines
The Cofield family have been an integral part of the Rutherglen winemaking community since Frank Cofield first tendered to the St Leonards vineyards in 1909. Today, that family passion for wine lives on with third generation Damien at the helm of their wines with premium fruit sourced from Rutherglen, the King Valley, Alpine Valley and Beechworth. Cofield is a great choice when travelling with the family with lovely grounds, free BBQ facilities and outdoor games, bean bags, chess and totem tennis. And does spending the night under the stars with a glass of wine beside the vineyard where the grapes in that wine were grown sound like your ideal weekend escape? If so, then you're in luck, as you can camp beside the Cofield vines thanks to Grape Vine Glamping. Distillery Rd, Wahgunyah -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Cofield Wines website Campbells Wines
For over 145 years and five generations, the Campbells family have produced iconic, full flavoured Rutherglen reds and elegant Rutherglen Port, Muscat and Topaque. That heritage is on display as you walk along the 'muscat mews' lined with century-old barrels of ageing fortified wines in their cellars. There is a great range of emerging varietals, Rutherglen stalwarts such as Shiraz and Durif through to their renowned sweets and stickies to taste accompanied by local cheese and olives. Make sure to book ahead for a private tour and tasting or reserve a hamper filled with delicious regional treats to enjoy on the lawns beside the vines. 4603 Murray Valley Hwy, Rutherglen -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Campbells Wines website RUTHERGLEN WINERY MAP Planning a trip to Rutherglen? Download our interactive Rutherglen winery map. To save on your browser or device,  click here For more information on visiting Rutherglen, be sure to visit the official  explore Rutherglen website  or stop by the visitor information centre in the middle of town. But, if you'd like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit, explore our selection of Rutherglen wines and find out more about the wineries listed here in our  Meet the Makers section  . And, 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!
Wine
Vine Change for the Good Life
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 27 Nov 2017
Ever dreamed of making a vine change? Meet some daring individuals who took a leap of faith to embrace the good life – vinous style. We’ve all been there. Visited a winery, wandered through the vines, dreaming of days spent pruning tips and tasting wines straight from the barrel. Of course, this romantic picture glosses over the constant stress of too much or not enough rain, grape-eating pests and the changing tastes of fickle consumers. But for a special selection of wine producers, the challenges were never too great. Their dream of a life on the land was enough motivation to pack in their career and take up the secateurs for a life dictated by vines, veraison and vats. For Todd and Jeff of Belford Block Eight in the Hunter Valley , it was love at first sight of their property’s driveway. As Jeff explains, “Todd and I turned off the car, listened to nature, admired the olives, turned to one another and said, ‘this is it.’” Jeff gave up his job in the finance department for CanTeen and Todd left Ebay, where he’d worked for 12 years in strategy, marketing and analysis. Neither knew anything about winemaking. But on their property were around 12,000 vines, so, as Todd describes, “Jeff and I tracked down a bottle of 2006 Brokenwood Block Eight Semillon, a single vineyard release made only using our grapes and it was truly remarkable. So, we thought, maybe there’s an opportunity to make some nice wine from these grapes, let’s give it a go!” And given it a go they certainly have with their first ever wine, the 2014 Reserve Semillon now an award-winner. It hasn’t been all plain sailing, though, and they’ve learnt some valuable lessons. Apart from the vagaries of harvest, the necessity of tractor headlights and that their deckchairs are just for show, they also know that un-neutered piglets turn into boisterous 150kg boars and goats can be as loyal as dogs. But regrets? “No bloody way, mate!” is Jeff’s answer, “One day we’ll sit on those deck chairs, sipping on a 20-year-old Block Eight, admiring what we’ve built.” Healthy vines
Back in 1997, while Jeff and Todd were still slogging away in the corporate world, over in South Australia’s Clare Valley, medical professional, Anura Nitchingham planted his first vineyard. He’d chosen Clare because, he says, “The region is really an unsung hero in the world of viticulture. It’s unique and has some really great producers in a very small, but beautiful region.” That first planting has grown into Claymore Wines , one of Australia’s most unique wine brands. While Anura hasn’t left his medical career, he says that winemaking provides something medicine can’t: “Vines don’t complain! And there’s wine!” The medical theme is also part of the story of Hobbs of Barossa Ranges . Allison Hobbs was a nurse and her husband was a former policeman turned firefighter when they bought their vineyard in the Barossa. Their decision to make a vine change was borne of a desire to provide a rural lifestyle for their children. Like Jeff and Todd, Allison and Greg knew very little about making wine, but the stars aligned, providing them with some strokes of good fortune in the early years. Foremost was they happened to buy the property next door to local winemaking expert, Chris Ringland, who provided invaluable advice and made their wines. While being a nurse, police officer or fire fighter might be worlds away from making wine, Allison and Greg feel they brought vital skills from those professions to their new endeavour. As Greg says, “attention to detail is very important to both nursing and winemaking”, and Allison adds, “the observation techniques you learn in nursing, the police and fire brigade are important as we wander through the vineyard and take note of what’s right and what’s not.” Livin’ in the 70s
Although Allison, Greg and Anura faced challenges in the mid-1990s, things were even more basic in the 1970s. Having left successful careers in the emerging computer industry, Linda and Ian Tyrer bought a property in WA’s Mount Barker region to establish Galafrey Wines . Again, they had no experience, but, as Linda describes, she arrived at their new home four months pregnant, armed with a few thousand grape cuttings – “naive but starry-eyed, full of enthusiasm.” A lack of money meant a lot of back-breaking work, but by 1985, they had won their first Trophy and Ian’s tireless dedication saw him awarded the George Mulgure Award for outstanding service to the industry in 2003. Unfortunately, the same year, Ian lost his battle with cancer. However, his legacy lives on with Linda still at the helm, along with daughter Kim, who left her own career as an artist to return to the vines. One thing all these people would agree on is that a life among the vines is a hard slog. But is it the good life? Absolutely!
Wine
Under pressure - Wine VS Mine
Words by Max Allen on 21 Dec 2016
Winemaker Andrew Margan is standing on a rock on a ridge overlooking his vineyard at Broke, in NSW’s Hunter Valley . The landscape is idyllic: vine rows plunge down the hillside; Wollombi Brook curls through the middle distance; tree-covered ranges rise up steeply behind. He’s talking about how different this country could have looked had energy company AGL got its way. “If CSG (coal seam gas) mining had gone ahead here as AGL were planning,” says Margan, “there could have been 300 wells sunk between here and Pokolbin.” Just five years ago it seemed that CSG was a foregone conclusion in the Hunter wine region. A couple of exploratory wells had already been sunk, not far from Margan’s vineyard at Broke, and AGL were attempting to ingratiate themselves with the local winemakers - buying vineyards, sponsoring a local winemaking scholorship, joining the wine industry association. But the local winemakers were having none of it. They had serious concerns about the environmental impact of CSG mining. They worried that hydraulically fracturing - or “fracking” - deep coal seams to release the gas could contaminate the local aquifer and lead to geological instability. And they were outraged that, under then-current legislation, the miners would be able to drill among the vineyards and wineries of the country’s leading wine tourism destination. As fourth generation winemaker Bruce Tyrrell told me at the time: “It’s simple. If any of those bastards come onto the land my family have owned for 150 yrs I’ll bloody shoot ‘em. And I’m still a good shot.” Eventually, the vignerons’ well-organised protest campaigns - including a high-profile march on the NSW Parliament in 2012 - helped encourage the state government to declare the viticultural and equine industries in the Hunter off-limits to CSG mining: boundaries were drawn around these two newly-declared Critical Industry Clusters that prevented any further resource exploration. “We won,” says Andrew Margan. “But it was a hell of a fight.” “The CSG battle almost destroyed us,” admits Andrew’s wife Lisa Margan. “Having to take on such a big issue like that fractures the community, it pulls resources out of the community, it exhausts the community.” ----- The Hunter isn’t the only wine region to have tussled with unconventional gas mining in the last few years. Just before Christmas 2013, resource company Beach Energy sank its first exploratory shale gas well just south of Penola, the main town in the famous wine region of Coonawarra , in South Australia’s Limestone Coast. I visited the region during vintage 2014, a couple of months later, and witnessed that first rig being moved to a second exploratory site west of the main vineyard area. It’s only when you see one of these installations up close - or as close as security will allow - that you get a feel for how much the landscape is affected and what impact dozens or hundreds of such wells would have on the nature of a region: temporary roads carved through paddocks, the four-storey rig itself, the holding ponds dug into the earth to retain contaminated water, lights and sound running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “I just can’t envisage co-existence with a gas well like that next to my cellar door,” said Dennis Vice of Highbank, one of Coonawarra’s leading wineries as we watched another truck loaded with drilling equipment roar by. “How can anyone argue that industrialized gas extraction can sit comfortably alongside wine - a brand that’s based on clean green production? Even if they do put a well in and I’m forced to sell, my vineyard would be worthless because of that rig. The implications for landowners are immense.” During the same visit, local vineyard manager Stuart Sharman, chair of the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council’s unconventional shale gas committee, detailed his deep concerns about shale gas extraction - a process that, like CSG mining, involves drilling down through the aquifer and using large amounts of local water in the process. “We don’t have a lot of confidence that the miners can give us an iron clad guarantee that well integrity will be maintained,” he said. “We know that the wells break down over time - their own documents show that. And (energy company) Santos has just been fined for contaminating the acquifer with uranium up in the Pilliga. If our vineyard irrigation water here becomes contaminated we can kiss goodbye to our sector of the economy: the Coonawarra brand and the whole district will be tarnished.” When I spoke to him again for this article, Sharman told me the pressure has eased. Not long after my visit during vintage in 2014, Beach Energy announced they had decided to concentrate on conventional gas extraction, and not in close proximity to the vineyards. The level of exploratory drilling I witnessed had “slowed right up”. But Sharman says it’s the slowdown in the energy market at the moment that’s contributed to the change of heart, not necessarily the very vocal opposition of the vignerons. “Depressed energy prices are slowing up further expectations,” he says. “It’s just not worth the miners’ while to go to the effort of unconventional gas extraction right now. But I think what we’re seeing is probably a lull, not the end. I imagine it could well ramp up again if the situation changes.” ----- It’s a similar story in the Hunter. Yes, says Andrew Margan, with the declaration of the Critical Industry Clusters, winegrowers have had a reprieve. And yes, AGL announced earlier this year that they were pulling out of CSG in NSW. But the state government hasn’t reversed its stand on CSG overall: the exploratory and mining licences haven’t been revoked. So if - when - the economic climate and the political balance shift, the pressure may build once more to start extracting precious hydrocarbons in the heart of wine country. And if that happens, says Stuart Sharman, there will always be a conflict between the short-term gain of the energy companies and the long-term sustainability of the winegrowers. “In the wine industry we’re busy spending millions of dollars redeveloping vineyards and setting ourselves up for another 50-plus years,” he says. “The mining guys are very publicly saying they’ll only be here for 20 years. But what’s it going to be like - what’s the impact not only to the physical environment but also the social environment - when they walk out in 20 years time and we’re still here.”
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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