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Wine

Fruits of the Forest

The produce of Western Australia’s Southern Forests is world renowned, the wines of the region are starting to follow suit.

It’s hard not to be intoxicated by the Southern Forests region, with its towering forests, cascading waterways, sprawling valleys dotted with vineyards and orchards quilted with blossoming fruit trees. This special place is a leisurely three-hour drive from Perth and winds through some of the most fertile land in the world – home to a tapestry of fresh produce. While this quintessentially Australian landscape was historically timber-milling and tobacco country, today it is Western Australia’s third largest wine region – and one of the nation’s richest agricultural districts.

Situated in the lower south west corner of WA, the Southern Forests has over 80,000 hectares of prime agricultural land and includes the Manjimup, Pemberton and Great Southern Geographical Indications (GIs). With its high altitude, cool climate and rich, loamy karri soils, the region is suited to the production of Burgundy-style wines with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay simply thriving in this lush environment. More recently, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Verdelho, Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc have also emerged as important varieties.

And with Margaret River as its neighbour, it is not surprising that this district is forging a solid reputation for its premium cool climate wines to match its world-class produce.

The Southern Forests’ reputation as a top culinary tourism destination has grown exponentially since the introduction of the Genuinely Southern Forests campaign and now the vignerons want their wines to share that international platform. As a result, the Manjimup and Pemberton wine associations are in the process of amalgamating to create a unified brand to further promote their wines to the world. If approved, it will be known as the Wine Industry of the Southern Forests.

“This move will allow us to operate more efficiently in association with the Southern Forests Food Council (SFFC) and effectively benefit all of the membership with the administration and distribution of funds from the recently established Agricultural Produce Commission,” says Mark Aitken of Woodgate Estate.

“For WA to be acknowledged as one of the premier wine growing regions in the world, it needs a critical mass of strong regional brands each with a unique identity in the same way the rest of the great wine regions of the world now operate.”

According to Vic Peos from Peos Estate, this move will allow Southern Forests winemakers to achieve this recognition and continue evolving their styles in the international domain.

“We aim to grow the value of agriculture and give educational opportunities to future generations so they can live, work and have a quality lifestyle within the area. This will also create vibrancy and jobs within the community,” he says.

While the Peos family have been in the region for 80 years, it wasn’t until 1996 that Vic and his three brothers created Peos Estate as a legacy to their late father and grandfather who cultivated grapes in Macedonia a century ago before migrating to Manjimup in the 1950s.

Over the years, the Peos family has farmed dairy cattle, potatoes, cauliflowers and beans so it was no great leap for their farming pedigree to be put to use to cultivate wine grapes.

“Manjimup is one of the coolest regions in WA which allows for distinctive fruit flavours to be enhanced and the sustained ripening period gives some varieties the ability to age and slowly mature.

“Our single vineyard Shiraz is a perfect example of this with its medium-bodied, savoury and complex flavours which are powerful, yet elegant. It is also a great match with food to give you a wonderful culinary experience,” explains Vic.

Epicurean Delights

To say these vignerons are spoilt for choice when it comes to food matching selections to pair with their wines is a huge understatement. It is a melting pot of flavours here with these privileged winemakers having a bountiful choice of seafood, dairy, meat, fruit and vegetables at their fingertips to enhance the gastronomic journey.

Silkwood Wines is one such establishment that has opened a restaurant at its cellar door, showcasing its range of wines and locally harvested produce. All it takes is one afternoon of sitting on the deck overlooking the lake whilst enjoying a glass of their vibrantly fresh Sauvignon Blanc and a tasting plate to become immersed in this region.

At Chestnut Grove, winemaker David Dowden is undertaking wild ferments with his Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs to create an extra layer of complexity, texture and finesse in his wine stable. And not content with wine production alone, the winery is now making a verjuice from its deliciously fruity Verdelho, as well as an extra virgin olive oil.

Whilst most produce will flourish in this fertile land, Monica Radomiljac from Pemberley of Pemberton, says living in ‘karri country’ can be challenging.

“The soil here is too good and too rich. In order to prevent the vines from growing as huge as their famous neighbours, the karri trees, we have to stress the plants using techniques such as minimal or no irrigation and hard pruning,” says Monica.

“This results in grapes that are vibrant with flavours and alive with freshness when they are harvested for crushing from February to April each year.”

Living in Harmony

This symbiotic relationship between the soils and vines extends to something devilishly smelly that also grows here and has gourmands around the world salivating for its pungent, earthy flavours. I am referring to the elusive black Perigord truffle that originated in France and has now, somewhat surprisingly, found a new home in Manjimup. So firmly are their spores entrenched in these soils that the Truffle and Wine Co. is now the largest producer of black truffles in the world.

The marriage of food and wine is such an intrinsic part of any culinary journey and it is at this trufferie where you can experience a truffle and wine degustation lunch with a range of wines that have been specifically created to enhance your truffle experience.

“The fresh produce is a result of committed farming families who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries,” says the Truffle & Wine Co.’s Amber Atkinson.

“A prime example is the new Bravo apple. Research, development and thinking outside the square led to the introduction of truffles to Manjimup. Wine production is no different and wineries from this region continue to gain momentum, which is reflected by wine show accolades across the country.”

As I leave the truffles in my wake, I pass many roadside stalls and open farm gates. There are native finger limes, apples, chestnuts, berries, stone fruit, avocados, cherries, brassica beef, dairy, potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, to name but a few. You can even throw a fishing line in the river for trout and, at certain times of the year, you can snare freshwater marron, endemic to this wonderful region, from one of its many watercourses.

“We aim to celebrate the people, place and produce by creating exceptional culinary experiences,” says Southern Forests Food Council GM, Jayme Hatcher.

“This pristine part of the world still remains relatively undiscovered with its complementary offering of produce and wines, which makes this region a genuine foodie’s dream.”

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Wine
Riverina: Farming, Food And Wine
Words by Nathalie Craig on 16 Mar 2018
The Riverina region has undergone a renaissance that’s seeing its established traditions given a fresh makeover. The result is a dynamic food and wine experience presenting local produce with European flair. The Riverina  has long been referred to as Australia’s food bowl. This south western region of New South Wales between Griffith and Wagga Wagga is abundant with citrus and stonefruit, grapes, figs, olives, nuts, lamb, beef, chicken, wheat and rice. What is not so widely known is that there is a shift happening in this rural farming centre. It’s being led by a growing number of innovative chefs, winemakers and growers dedicated to providing new and unique wine, food and agritourism experiences. Dining Out
The wealth of fresh produce available in the Riverina , combined with a strong history of Italian immigration following the World Wars, means there is no shortage of quality places to dine. Chef Luke Piccolo, who owns and runs Griffith’s renowned Limone Dining , cut his teeth at Sydney restaurants Pilu at Freshwater and Pendolino before returning home to Griffith to open his own fine-dining establishment. Luke, who is of Italian heritage, won the Council of Italian Restaurants Australia (CIRA) Young Talent Award in 2013. His nonna, who cooks beautiful rustic Italian food, was the first to show him the ropes in the kitchen. “When he left school, Luke came to help at our family restaurant and we were blown off the planet with what he could do,” his father, Peter reveals. “We were blind to what had been going on for the past decade. Then all of a sudden there he was in the kitchen at 16 years of age with amazing cooking skills, work ethic and creations.” Luke’s nonna taught him about the no waste policy, which you can now see woven into Limone Dining. The place is built almost completely from recycled materials and Luke offers an evolving seasonal menu featuring local produce. Think fresh tagliolini with spring lamb ragu followed by char-grilled quail with pancetta finished off with blood orange almond sponge and lemon custard. For full-blown Italian dining in Griffith, visit Zecca Handmade Italian in the old bank building. Run by returning locals, Ben, Michaela and Daniel, Zecca’s regularly changing chalkboard menu is packed with delicious Italian staples. Their Maltagliati, casarecce and pappardelle pastas are lovingly made by hand each day. Plates of house-made antipasti are packed with olives, salumi and baccala from local Murray cod. Another restaurant not to pass by is Pages on Pine in the main street of Leeton. It is a stalwart of the area, run by French-born chef Eric Pages and his wife Vanessa. They serve up French fare with a creative twist and are huge supporters of local producers, including Coolamon Cheese, Bruceron pork, Riverina  lamb and Randall Organics. They also offer a three-course set menu, matched with Leeton wines from Lillypilly and Toorak. Coolamon Cheese
A nirvana for cheese-lovers has been formed inside an historic 1920s co-op building in the main street of Coolamon. Cheesemaker Barry Lillywhite and his son Anton Green have filled the space with top-of-the-line cheese making facilities, a commercial kitchen, deli and generously sized dining area. All their cheeses are handcrafted on site using just four simple ingredients: local Riverina milk, starter culture, rennet and salt. “By hand-making our cheeses in small batches we can tend to them more closely, watch them mature cheese by cheese and release them to our customers at exactly the right time,” Barry explains. Barry’s signature collection of native Australian-flavoured cheeses pack a punch. Right now he has lemon myrtle, river mint, bush tomato and alpine pepper cheeses on the menu. Other cheeses available include vintage cheddars and oil-infused fettas, blues and runny Bries and Camemberts. His soft cheeses are a far cry from varieties you find in the supermarket. “Our soft cheeses are not stabilised and this is why they are soft and gooey and have a mind of their own,” he explains. “In fact, the only preservative we use in any of our cheeses is salt.” Visitors to Coolamon Cheese can taste test the cheeses or sit down to a cheese-inspired meal from the cafe menu. Here the cheeses are served with a range of gourmet accompaniments like tempura saltbush, cold roast lamb, pickles, onion jam, sticky prunes and balsamic strawberries. Guests are also invited to take a tour of the factory led by one of their cheese makers. “We want visitors to understand where their food comes from and the processes it goes through to get to their plates,” Barry says. Wine a plenty
The Riverina  is home to 20,000 hectares of vines, making it the largest wine producing region in NSW and the second largest in Australia behind Riverland in South Australia. The region is well established, having been pioneered in 1913 by the famous McWilliam family of the Hunter Valley. Riverina wineries are largely family owned with many having Italian heritage including Calabria Family Wines, Mino & Co, Lillypilly Wines and De Bortoli . Some of the families behind these labels actually began making wine out of necessity when they first migrated to Australia, so they could enjoy a glass with their meal as they would have back home in Italy. “At the end of the long working day, my grandfather found he looked forward to a glass of home-made wine,” Elizabeth Calabria of Calabria Family Wines explains. “Unfortunately, he didn’t have the money to invest in all of the necessary equipment to make it, so he took over my grandmother’s laundry tubs and improvised,” she continues. “Soon enough, he was producing wines for the local Europeans who had also made Griffith their home.” Ideal conditions
The Murrumbidgee Irrigation scheme, coupled with rich red soils and a warm Mediterranean climate, allows most varieties of grapes to grow well. Although the area was once looked upon as a producer of table wines, successful Italian varieties are fast becoming the star. “What is exciting is what we are learning about alternative varieties, such as Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, Vermentino and Pinot Bianco,” chief winemaker at Calabria Family Wines, Emma Norbiato says. “By controlling the yield and the canopy, we are seeing some beautiful fruit and making some exciting wines. “In the next five years, I would like to think we will see more thoughtful viticulture and winemaking in our alternative varieties. Montepulciano , Nero d’Avola , Pinot Bianco are new to our region and haven’t even reached their potential yet.” Vermentino has also been a successful addition to Lillypilly Wines. Their first vintage of the dry Italian white was released in 2015 and went straight on to win the trophy for Best Dry White Varietal at the Perth Royal Wine Show and another gold at the Small Vigneron Awards in Canberra. General manager of Mino & Co, Nick Guglielmino says while Italian wines are not new to Griffith, there is now a higher demand for them. “We are experiencing a time where these varieties are being more accepted by consumers,” he says. “Griffith indeed has a rich history of Italian culture, so it makes sense for us to follow the style of wines we are familiar with, that of Italian authenticity yet grown in Australian conditions similar to that of their origins.”
Wine
The Best McLaren Vale Wineries and Cellar Doors
Exceptional wine blends, new varieties, and ocean views abound as we present the best McLaren Vale wineries and cellar doors with this guide and interactive map McLaren Vale is a dream to visit, with exceptional wines, regional produce and beautiful scenery nestled between the Mount Lofty Ranges and the beaches of Gulf St Vincent. The region is the gateway to the stunning Fleurieu Peninsula, which looks remarkably like much of the coastline around Lisbon in Portugal. It’s this warm, Mediterranean-style climate and proximity to the sea that explains the fantastic range of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese varieties on offer throughout the region. Expect to see  Tempranillo ,  Sangiovese , Touriga Nacional, Vermentino, Zinfandel, Fiano, Touriga and countless other  alternative varieties   on offer. There is clearly no fear of experimentation in McLaren Vale, which is evident in their superior  Red Wine blends  and a real sense of passion and something new evident at every winery and cellar door. You can find out more about the wines on offer in our  McLaren Vale region guide . Wine Selectors’ Tasting Panellist and Wine Show Judge , Trent Mannell is a big fan of McLaren Vale: "It's a region where the vines meet the sea, so it has a unique coastal vibe and the wines reflect the influence of the maritime climate. The cellar doors are so peaceful; it’s the most tranquil wine region I know.” The Best McLaren Vale Wineries Hugh Hamilton Wines
The Hugh Hamilton Wines cellar door is not to be missed during your next McLaren Vale visit. The unique setting, perched above the vines with near 270 degree views is remarkable, as is the passion for wine on show by the cellar door staff. There is a great range of wines available for tasting from their classic Shiraz through to the eclectic blends and new alternative varieties for which McLaren Vale is so famous. We recommend booking for one of the great hosted wine and cheese flights of their single vineyard wines. 94 McMurtrie Rd, McLaren Vale –  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Open Daily 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Hugh Hamilton website Battle of Bosworth
This charming boutique cellar door is a must visit in the region, particularly so if you are curious about learning about  organic wines . Winemaker Joch Bosworth took the reins for the family business in 1995 and began the conversion to organic practices. There is a real pride in doing things the old-fashioned way, which comes through in the fantastic examples of Touriga Nacional, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The cellar door is located just outside historic Willunga, in their restored 1850s stables, with views over the vineyards and west to St Vincent. 92 Gaffney Rd, Willunga –  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Open Daily 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Battle of Bosworth website D’Arenberg
d’Arenberg is an institution in McLaren Vale, with d’Arry Osborn and his chief winemaker son, Chester renowned for their fantastic Shiraz and Grenache. For now, the d’Arenberg cellar door is housed in their beautifully restored 19th-century homestead. In this charming setting, you can enjoy an extensive range of great wines, guided by their always entertaining cellar door staff. But not for long, soon the daring and ambitious ‘d’Arenberg Cube' will be complete. At the moment, it is more of a sight to behold, than the multi-venue cellar door it will become. But, if you’d like to keep an eye on its progress, you can watch one of their regular  construction time-lapses . Find out more about The Cube and d’Arenberg in our interview with  Chester here . Osborn Rd, McLaren Vale –  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the d’Arenberg website Gemtree Wines
Husband and wife , Mike and Melissa run  Gemtree Wines   with a simple philosophy – minimal intervention in the winemaking process and a more environmentally conscious farming system to produce wines which are powerful, concentrated, and expressive of the true characteristics of each grape variety and the region. This relaxed and simple outlook translates through to the cellar door experience on their outdoor verandah with views all the way to the sea. Here you learn more about  organic  and biodynamic farming practices while sampling their fantastic wines, or get adventurous and explore the 10 hectare wetland eco-trail. 167 Elliott Rd, McLaren Flat –  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Gemtree website Leconfield Wines
Nestled amongst the vineyards with magnificent views to the Willunga escarpment, the  Leconfield  cellar door is the perfect place to sample Richard Hamilton’s Estate, Single Vineyard Reserve, and select Leconfield wines. With family owned vineyards in McLaren Vale, as well as the lovely vines surrounding their McLaren Vale cellar door, you are able to sample and appreciate the difference that the natural environment has on the wines. You can find out more about Chief Winemaker,  Paul Gordon’s process in our recent Q&A . With platters of local regional food on offer and sweeping lawns and verandahs, the Leconfield cellar door is a delightful stop during any visit to the area. 439 Main Rd, McLaren Vale –  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Leconfield website Mr Riggs at the General Wine Bar
Part restaurant, part cellar door, this McLaren Vale institution is a collaboration with Zonte’s Footstep, another noted McLaren Vale winery. It is the perfect place to stop for lunch or Friday night dinner. There are fantastic wine flights on offer in which spectacular Mediterranean varieties, Shiraz, and whites are matched with morsels of contrasting and complementary dishes from Chef Ben Sommariva. Winemaker Ben Riggs is able to use his extensive contacts with growers to cherry pick fruit from McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, and other premium South Australian sites. This, combined with Ben's considerable European experience, is evident in every wine available for tasting. 55a Main Rd, McLaren Flat –  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Open Daily Sat-Thur 10 am to 5 pm, Fri 10 am to late Visit the Mr. Riggs website Oliver's Taranga
This fantastic McLaren Vale cellar door is contained within a charming original 1850s stone workers cottage, built by the first generation of the Oliver family. There is a great range of exceptional Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as small batch Fiano, Grenache, Mencia, and Sagrantino. Before you visit McLaren Vale, be sure to check their  events page , as they host many novel wine and food events such as their monthly Porchetta Parties and Twilight Pizza events through to pop-up events in Adelaide. 246 Seaview Rd, McLaren Vale –  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Open Daily 10 am to 4 pm Visit the Oliver’s Taranga website Coriole
Coriole is situated in the undulating hills of McLaren Vale, within sight of the sea. The small and boutique cellar door is found in the old ironstone barn built in 1860 and is surrounded by the Estate vineyards.  Coriole is famous for pioneering alternative varieties in the region, namely Sangiovese in 1985 and the release of Australia's first Fiano in 2005. Their diverse range includes Sangiovese, Barbera,, Fiano, Picpoul, Nero d’Avola through to exquisite examples of the classic varieties, Shiraz and Cab Sav. Chaffeys Rd, McLaren Vale -  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Mon – Fri 10 am to 5 pm, Sat – Sun 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Coriole website Penny's Hill
Set on the historic Ingleburn property and its stunning grounds, this charming winery is the perfect place to stop for lunch during your travels through McLaren Vale. Indulge in the Kitchen Door Restaurant before wandering through the Red Dot Gallery or visiting the farmyard animals. Winemaker Alexia Roberts has picked up a swag of wine show wins recently, including the World’s Best Cabernet at the Concours International des Cabernets in France, as well as Best Australian Red in Show at Mundus Vini Germany for the past two years running. This talent is very obvious in the premium wines available for tasting. 281 Main Rd, McLaren Vale –  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Penny’s Hill website Serafino
Steve (Serafino) Maglieri arrived in Adelaide in 1964 as a teenager from Italy with little more than a passionate dream to make great wine. After many highs and a few lows in the wine industry, eventually the Serafino label emerged and the Maglieri family was able to craft their own piece of paradise amongst the gumtrees of their McLaren Vale winery. The warm, friendly and familiar ethos of Serafino is evident in the cellar door, charming restaurant, and four-star accommodation. As such, it is the perfect place to base yourself during a weekend getaway. There is a great range of Italian and alternative varieties such as the Bellissimo series of Vermentino, Fiano and Montepulciano through to reserve Grenache and Shiraz. Kangarilla Rd, McLaren Vale –  view on our McLaren Vale winery map Open Daily 10 am to 4:30 pm Visit the Serafino website Mclaren Vale Winery Map  Planning a trip to McLaren Vale? Download our  interactive McLaren Vale winery map.  To save on your browser or device,  click here For more information on visiting McLaren Vale, be sure to visit the official  McLaren Vale region website  or stop by the McLaren Vale & Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre in the centre of town. But, if you’d like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit, explore our wide selection of McLaren Vale wines and find out more about the wineries listed here in our  Meet the Makers section . 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! 
Life
Go West
Words by Jeni Port on 4 Jul 2017
Henty, the Grampians, Pyrenees and Ballarat – there are plenty of tasting treasures to be unearthed in the wine regions of Western Victoria. We need Western Victoria and its wine. We need its different taste and the perspective it brings: a balanced, middle-weighted, pepper-infused, mint-garnished, spicy, smooth, sometimes savoury, sometimes rustic kind of alternative taste. Vineyards are vast and isolated here, attached by dirt roads to country towns and sometimes just the smallest of hamlets. Wines are made by men and women of the land, people like John Thomson at Crawford River in the Henty region, who talks of his “peasant genes,” and who has four generations behind him who have farmed sheep and cattle on the land. He and his wife Catherine branched into wine in 1975. “I didn’t set out to grow grapes,” he says. “I set out to make wine.” There was, he adds, more money in the latter. It’s a common enough story around these parts. Western Victoria is a collective term for four independent wine regions:  Henty , the  Grampians ,  Pyrenees  and Ballarat. This is home to  Shiraz  (plenty of it) and  Cabernet Sauvignon  (less of it) along with  Chardonnay  and a little  Sauvignon Blanc ,  Riesling  and  Pinot Noir  with a gaggle of Italian varieties bringing up the rear. The Back Story
It’s the flagpoles out front issuing a kind of multi-national wave of welcome that stump first time visitors to  Taltarn i . There’s the Aussie flag to the forefront shouldered on either side by the American stars and stripes and the French tricolour. What does it all mean?   Like a few wineries in Western Victoria, it’s all about history and foreign influences.  Taltarni’s  story involves a wealthy Californian owner who set up the operation in 1972, and his long-time French winemaker who laid the foundations for its enduring, elegant wine style. The French were among the first to see the potential that lay in the Pyrenees, with Cognac-based Rémy Martin arriving at Avoca in 1960, ostensibly to make brandy, but wine quickly followed. They called their enterprise Chateau Rémy. We know it today as  Blue Pyrenees Estate . But the biggest influence on the region was gold. Discovered in the 1850s, it made towns like Ballarat and Great Western magnets for prospectors from around the world. After the gold, people like Joseph and Henry Best stayed and moved into wine. Joseph built a substantial winery and used unemployed gold diggers to carve out underground cellars. It was the beginning of what came to be Seppelt, one of the biggest Sparkling wine producers in the country. Henry Best planted vines fronting Concongella Creek at Great Western. But it was the purchase of the site by Frederick Thomson in 1920 that really saw the Best’s Wines story take off. The Grampians
Western Victoria is a land of wide plains running smack up against some pretty spectacular hills and ranges, none more impressive than the rugged National Park that gives the  Grampians   its name. Mountain walkers, climbers and cyclists really love this part of the world. With a range of B&Bs, hotels and camping sites to choose from, most make Halls Gap their HQ. Wineries like Mount Langi Ghiran and The Gap are just down the road. Mount Langi Ghiran is best known as the producer of archetypal  cool climate, peppery Shiraz , which first drew the industry’s attention to a budding new style in the 1980s. How pepper gets into the wines of Western Victoria to such a degree that it might be called a phenomenon has only slowly been revealed by scientists at Melbourne University working with the winemakers at Mount Langi Ghiran (it’s got to do with a cool climate and wet seasons). On paper, the region (19 vineyards, eight cellar doors) looks small, but its history and influence belie its size. The Great Western sub-region was the commercial cradle of Sparkling wine production in Australia at Seppelt and is synonymous with a great Aussie icon, Sparkling Shiraz. Grampians Estate and Seppelt lead the pack, but for added gravitas, tour the Seppelt underground drives to feel the history and finish with a glass of spiced-up red bubbles. One of the state’s great restaurants, the  Royal Mail Hotel , can be found in a highway town called Dunkeld. Five and eight course degustation menus star local produce, alternatively there is an informal wine bar. Or there are the local Mount Gambier wines to try, including up-and-coming Pinots, at Tosca Browns in Hamilton. Henty is a developing wine region as far west as you can go before you bang into South Australia. Volcanic, gravelly soils over limestone are the key to some of the best Rieslings in Australia made here at Crawford River Wines. And what a treat to find a one hat quality restaurant such as The Pickled Pig in Warrnambool. The Pyrenees
Major Thomas Mitchell, the 19th Century explorer, was a bit of a romantic, clearly. He named this part of the Great Dividing Range,  the Pyrenees , as the dense, blue-hued hills reminded him of the mountains dividing France and Spain. Given the hills outside the towns of Avoca and Moonambel rise to 800 metres compared to some 3400 metres in Europe, that’s a bit of a stretch, but point taken. This is a pretty part of the world. It is here that the wine lover will confront the Pyrenean wine character known in academic circles as 1,8-cineole. The rest of us call it eucalyptus, aka, mint or menthol (the cineole is sourced from leaves and stems that find their way into fermentation), and it’s often found on either a red wine’s bouquet or flavour, or both. Its usual vehicle of choice is the Shiraz grape, which dominates plantings, but it can be found in any number of red wines. That eucalyptus in wine should be such a powerful influence is not so surprising. Gum trees are everywhere around these parts. For those who applaud its inclusion in wine, it’s part of the land, a question of terroir. The Pyrenean red winemaking style is understated, medium-bodied and earthy. Best in Bubbles
And strange as it may seem when so many producers today seek the super cool regions like Tasmania for sourcing grapes for sparkling wines, the Pyrenees does an excellent job with bubbles. Blue Pyrenees Estate 2010 Midnight Cuvee  beat some of the country’s top Sparklings to be named World Champion Australian sparkling at the inaugural Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships in England in 2014. A 100 per cent Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs style, Midnight Cuvee’s success comes thanks to 10 years of refinement in the vineyard and winery by winemaker, Andrew Koerner. And, yes, the fruit is harvested at midnight at optimal coolness. Taltarni  is another leader in Sparkling wine, sourcing grapes grown on the estate in addition to Tasmania for its successful Clover Hill brand. The region’s great white, whether for still or Sparkling, is Chardonnay. It has undergone changes over the last decade or more, moving away from a rich heavyweight to a more fruit-powered, streamlined number. At Dalwhinnie, the importation of a Chardonnay clone from Champagne has served to highlight citrus and grapefruit qualities with sustained acidity and textural weight. It is a wine of great presence in the glass. While Mount Avoca’s early reputation was built on Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, I suspect that it is the Italians coming through – Pinot Grigio, Nebbiolo,  Sangiovese , Lagrein – that now attract the drinker’s attention. The adjoining region of Ballarat is smaller again, but its focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay indicates that it is heading in a different direction to its neighbour. Eastern Peake Winery at Coghills Creek is a Pinot Noir maker par excellence, and is one of the few open for tastings seven days. Or, for a relaxed look at the wines of the west over a meal, head to Mitchell Harris Wine Bar in North Ballarat, part-owned by former Domaine Chandon Sparkling winemaker, John Harris. Events Out West Avoca Riverside Market   - Dundas & Cambridge Streets, Avoca, on the fourth Sunday of each month. Blue Pyrenees Estate Avoca Cup   - Avoca Racecourse, Racecourse Road, Avoca, each October. Grampians Grape Escape Food and Wine Festival   - Showcases regional wine and fare during a month-long festival in April, culminating in the Grampians Escape Weekend tastings, auction, grape stomping and live music in Halls Gap. Staying out West Pyrenees Eagles Nest at Dalwhinnie Vineyard, Moonambel  Redbank Chestnut Cottage Mount Avoca Vineyard Eco-Luxe Lodges, Avoca Warrenmang Vineyard & Resort, Moonambel Grampians/Henty Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld Boroka Downs, Halls Gap Aztec Escape, Halls Gap Links Retreat, Ararat   
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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