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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)
Wine
Following the Prosecco Road - Your Guide to Australian Prosecco
Australian Prosecco   is a vibrant sparkling wine style taking over Australia from the Prosecco Road in Victoria’s King Valley to the Adelaide Hills . Internationally, it is now the world's most popular Sparkling wine, overtaking Champagne in sales. Learn more about its long history, how it’s made and where to find the best Australian Prosecco with this helpful guide and infographic.   Firstly, what is Prosecco? Prosecco is a style of Sparkling wine made from the Glera grape variety. This historic variety is believed to hail from the ancient Slovenian village of Prosek, now part of Italy. There are records of  Julia Augusta drinking wine from the Prosek region as early as 79 AD . But, what we now know as Prosecco hails from the North-east Italian province of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia near Treviso enshrined in the Prosecco DOC, or the designated production zone. The characteristic ‘fizz’ of Prosecco is classed as either Spumante, the most exuberant, as a more moderate Frizzante or with no fizz at all as a Tranquillo. Prosecco is a late-ripening variety and is harvested once the varietal flavours of white peach, white pear and lemon peak and the acidity has softened. Cool climate and high altitude regions like  King Valley     or the  Adelaide Hills  are well suited to this variety. Prosecco vs Champagne and Sparkling Wines  Apart from featuring different grapes, it’s the way Prosecco is made that plays a large role in the difference between Prosecco,  Champagne  and  Sparkling Wine s . Whereas Champagne is fermented in its bottle using Methode Champenoise, Prosecco is fermented pressurised steel tanks in a process known by much of the world as the “Charmat” method. However, mention the word Charmat to an Italian winemaker and there might be trouble. In Italy, it’s known as the “Martinotti Method”, invented and patented in 1885 by Fedricco Martinotti, seven years before the French winemaker Eugène Charmat filed for his take on the method. The Martinotti method involves conducting the second fermentation in large autoclave steel tanks before clarification and cooling. This forgoes the need for fermentation, riddling and disgorgement inside individual bottles required in the Champagne method. This method is a very efficient process lowering the resources required by the winemaker. However, it shouldn’t be viewed as an inferior process, as it allows for increased control, scale, filtration and the ability to lower the required yeast lees contact during the winemaking process. This is the key difference. Methode Champenoise wines have complex and rich autolytic textures from this process with restrained fruits. Martinotti method Prosecco wines are all about lightness, freshness and fruit, designed to be enjoyed at any occasion. Joy in a bottle. A further, often neglected fact is that  we owe the Bellini cocktail to Prosecco , invented by Giuseppe Cipriani when he combined white peach puree with Prosecco in Harry’s Bar Venice close to the Prosecco DOC, or designated production zone. Dal Zotto brings Prosecco to Australia Victoria’s King Valley can lay claim to planting the first Glera vines in Australia.  The wine history of the King Valley  starts in the 1880s in the regions’ tobacco plantations, established by Chinese settlers seeking new opportunities as the Victorian gold rush stagnated. By the 1940s Italian migrants had arrived to the region working on the tobacco farms. Yet, in the 1960s, the local tobacco industry was starting to decline. Otto Dal Zotto, born in the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG region, where Prosecco vines carpet the hillsides, came to Australia in the late 1960s. Like many Italian migrants before him, Otto was drawn to the region to work in the tobacco fields. But, as the work dried up he moved into the region's emerging wine industry planting Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Gradually, the region began to plant classic Italian varieties, expressing the passion of the winemaker’s collective Italian heritage. Then, in 2000 Otto planted the first Glera grapes and the rest, as they say, is history. The Rise of King Valley and the Prosecco Road
The road that traverses the valley from  Milawa’s Brown Brothers  to Chrismont in Cheshunt is known as the Prosecco Road. Along the way, visitors pass Dal Zotto Wines , Pizzini Wines and Sam Miranda Wines. These five wineries are among the best wineries in the region, all famous for this variety. As a result, the King Valley, long known for Italian and other alternative varieties such as Arneis, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera, is now most famous as the home of Australian Prosecco. We recently caught up with Ross Brown from Brown Brothers to talk Prosecco and Christmas  in this recent article. Sam Miranda is the third generation of a prominent winemaking family who moved from Italy to Australia in the 1930s. Since making the King Valley home in 1996, and drawing on a proud Italian heritage and a love for innovative winemaking, Sam Miranda Wines have been instrumental in the rise and collective promotion of King Valley Prosecco into the legend it is today. The Adelaide Hills and other Prosecco Regions
Glera vines are starting to gain momentum in other cool climate regions such as the Adelaide Hills and Yarra Valley. With wineries including Innocent Bystander, Tempus Two and Coriole Vineyards leading the charge. As consumer demand continues to increase for Australian Prosecco this will only continue. Tasting Notes Prosecco is a light, fresh, creamy and fruit focused Sparkling wine.  Tasting Panellist Adam Walls  notes that Prossecco generally presents with a “pale lemon colour and a fine bead collar. Abundant in pear, apple and citrus fruits with creamy soft texture, it’s little wonder that Prosecco is proving to be a favourite with drinkers across the country”. Prosecco Food Pairings
Prosecco is a style that’s wonderful to enjoy on its own as the party’s getting started or with appetisers such as savoury canapes of cured meats or fresh fruit such as  Lyndey Milan’s stuffed figs wrapped in bastourmar . This Italian-style Sparkling is also the perfect match for light seafood or Mediterranean dishes. As the temperature rises it’s ideal with fresh, zesty Asian inspired salads like this  Vietnamese summer salad recipe . Explore more of our  recipe ideas now. Try Prosecco Today At its heart, Prosecco is designed to be enjoyed with friends. This light refreshing style has no pretence, and is made to be served immediately and not saved for a special occasion like Champagne. Instead, all moments are celebrations. With this ethos, it’s little wonder that it’s taking over the world.
Wine
Know Your Variety - Montepulciano
Words by Adam Walls on 16 May 2017
Adam Walls cuts through the confusion about Montepulciano, the dark, brooding Italian Red wine that’s going great guns in Australia Besides being tricky to pronounce, Montepulciano is one of the more complicated grapes. You see, there's an Italian town called Montepulciano, which produces a wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. But, this wine is mostly made from  Sangiovese , and doesn't actually include any of the Montepulciano grape! A Quick Guide to Montepulciano The most famous examples of Montepulciano (the actual wine) come from the Italian region of Abruzzo, but it's planted throughout much of central and southern Italy, but nowhere near the town of the same name. Thankfully, as a grape grown in Australia, it's much more straightforward and in true Aussie style, we've taken away the pronunciation problem by shortening it to 'Monte'. In its very short lifespan here in Australia, Monte is starting to win international acclaim. Last year, at the  International Wine Competition in London , for the first time, Gold medals were given to Montes outside of Italy and they were won by two Australian wines - Bird in Hand and Mr Riggs. Origins As I mentioned, Montepulciano is most famously made under the  DOC of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo  . A producer called Aziendo Agricola Valentini produces Italy's most renowned expression - it's like the Penfolds Grange of Monte - having taken it from a quaffing red to a serious, thrilling wine. Australian Montepulciano Regions Monte has had success in our warmer and cooler climates, possibly because it's a relatively late ripening variety. Also, like  Shiraz , it's hardy, disease-resistant and can handle the heat and the cold. Look out for examples from  Adelaide Hills  ,  Barossa Valley  and  Riverland  . Montepulciano Tasting Notes Monte's appeal lies in its beautifully generous fruit, including red plum, sour cherry and boysenberry, and moderate acidity, so I reckon if you love  Australian Shiraz  , you'll love Monte, too. Food Matching
The general fruit intensity and richness of Monte mean that it's a natural match to an array of rich and intensely flavoured dishes. Some of my favourites include  Guy Grossi's pappardelle with spiced veal ragu recipe ,  braised beef shin and pepperoni pizza.  Explore our great range of recipes here  .
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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