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Introducing Kim Bickley, our new Tasting Panel member!

We’re excited to introduce our new Tasting Panellist, Kim Bickley. As one of Australia’s most highly respected sommeliers with over 10 years’ experience and an avid wine-lover, Kim is going to make a wonderful addition to our team of experts.

What first attracted you to working with wine?

I'd always had an interest in wine, but my interest truly peaked when I began a job in a restaurant while studying a degree in Communications. I worked alongside a talented sommelier who encouraged all the team to taste, read and attend tastings. I loved the anticipation of what was in the bottle, the older wines in particular, and I still do. 

You qualified through the Court of Master Sommeliers – what did that involve?

The Court of Master Sommeliers includes a 3-part examination: theory, tasting and service. You need to know about wine and spirits from all around the world, including being able to differentiate them in a blind tasting. Also, how to cellar, serve and maintain a restaurant wine list. The study never really stops if you’re really into wine, things are always changing, new regions emerging and older ones reinventing themselves. I just love it. 

You’ve since worked for some of Australia’s most impressive restaurants including Luke Mangan’s Glass Brasserie and Black by ezard – what are some of your standout memories?

I have so many, the team become like family to you; the regular customers like friends…things like that are what keep you in the game. I also enjoyed looking after some of the world’s best known celebrities and seeing what they like to drink. From Jerry Lewis (Barolo lover) to Cuba Gooding Jr (Sauvignon Blanc).

You’ve been a sommelier for over a decade, what are the top 3 changes you’ve seen in that time?

  1. When I started out, there were only a handful of true sommeliers working in Sydney, now almost every little restaurant has one. It has become accessible and easy for young and upcoming sommeliers to study and qualify now, for a long time there was very little available, aside from reading The Oxford Wine Companion, now almost every city has WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) available (and it's also possible to study online), there are multiple tastings on every week, and a great selection of truly talented Group Head Sommeliers for them to train under – it's a great time to be a somm. 
  2. Good Aussie Chardonnay has gone from over-oaked and overblown to incredibly restrained, balanced and often as good as some of the best in the world. 
  3. The increased popularity of so called 'natural wines', some of which are incredible and delicious, but many of which are faulty and horrible to drink. I find it fascinating that they have become so popular, given the risky nature of purchasing them if you don't know the producer well. 

 How has your love of wine changed over your career so far? Do you still have the same favourite varieties as you did when you started?

I still have the same favourites, plus a few more now. My love of wine has only deepened, I have been fortunate to have had the chance to travel Australia and the world to see so many amazing regions and their wines. Best of all, I have met so many great people, vignerons and sommeliers alike. 

You’re also a wine educator – what’s the most rewarding part of teaching people about wine?  Seeing people learning the basics of wine and have that 'ah-ha' tasting moment when they really get it, you know they'll be hooked for life. And seeing some of the young sommeliers that trained with me running their own wine lists in some of the world’s best venues; and a couple are even winemakers now. 

What are you looking forward to most about being on the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel?

Tasting and discovering some of Australia's best new wines with my talented Panel-mates, discussing these wines and seeing them enjoyed by the Wine Selectors customers. I especially look forward to tasting them at the airport cellar doors, next time I pass by! 

You now call the Hunter Valley home, what drew you to this region and what do you think are some of the most exciting wine styles being made there?

I always loved the Hunter Valley and its Semillon in particular. There is no other wine in the world like it. It's so delicate and yet powerful, it's flexible with food and is one of the handful of white wines that develop beautifully with age. Now with most being under screw cap, its ageing potential will be amazing to track in the next 50 years and beyond.

I also love Hunter Shiraz and am excited to see the historical blend of Pinot Noir and Shiraz making a very strong comeback. 

It's a beautiful place to live, I'm so happy to be here. 

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Wine
Simply Savvy
Words by Mark Hughes on 19 Dec 2016
It is fair to say that Sauvignon Blanc is the most recognisable wine ever, but Australian producers are doing their best to create a host of appealing new identities. We find out who is doing what to make drinkers swipe right. I’ll come right out and say it. I quite like Sauvignon Blanc. That statement will probably earn me the ire of a few wine critics that I know, but I reckon it is a sassy and wondrous wine, and deserving of far more than the limited adulation we give it. I’d be as bold as to say it has been unfairly heaped with harsh criticism. There are a few reasons as to why Sauvignon Blanc is the kid the rest of the class picks on. Firstly, Sauvignon Blanc is seen as a pretty simple wine – it really is a case of WYSIWYG – What You ‘Smell’ Is What You Get and Sauv Blanc has an unmistakable tropical aroma. No matter where it is grown, it will always smell like Sauv Blanc, and this leads to the second reason why it is ridiculed. Because it is so recognisable, it is the first wine that drinkers new to the game can accurately identify. And for the well-heeled wine critic, that is just so ho-hum. Thirdly, it is popular, and we all know Australians hate anything that is popular. It is so well-liked for the two reasons given above. It is appealing for the novice wine drinker, particularly young women, as its simple tropical and punchy profile is not too dissimilar to the flavour of juices and fruit punches we enjoy drinking as teenagers. And it is popular because the novice wine drinker can identify it. Not only does that give them a sense of assurance that the wine experience they are about to have is going to be an enjoyable one, but it also gives them a sense of pride about their burgeoning wine knowledge. And finally, it is because New Zealand has had phenomenal success with the varietal and Aussies just can’t put that Trans Tasman rivalry to bed. It is a wonder we are still playing rugby given the dominance the All Blacks have had over us this millennium, and for the foreseeable future.   ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW Having said all of that, Australian winemakers are a hardy bunch (even more so than the Wallaby scrum) and they have been busy creating a unique identity for Aussie Sauv Blanc that will have a point of difference from Kiwi SB and be just as popular, or even more popular. “I think Australian Sauvignon Blanc tends to be leaner than NZ wines, lower in alcohol with less residual sugar,” says McWilliam’s winemaker Adrian Sparks, whose High Altitude Sauvignon Blanc from the Orange wine region topped our State of Play tasting. “It is a crisper, more refreshing style of wine. This is what we try to achieve, but you want the wine to say where it is from. “I would hate to see wines from Margaret River , Adelaide Hills and Orange all looking the same. Regional differences are important.” Dan Berrigan, winemaker at Berrigan Wines and avid Sauv Blanc lover agrees. “As an Aussie winemaker, I try to understand what makes the NZ Sauv Blanc so popular, and emulate those characters in my wine,” he explains. “I then weave in the regional Mt Benson personality, which is usually in the form of more fruit weight on the palate, and I feel that it’s this combination that drinkers really appreciate, and are drawn to as a point of difference.”   BETTER WITH AGE Shane Harris, chief winemaker at Wines by Geoff Hardy in the Adelaide Hills makes another good point – we have only been growing and making Sauvignon Blanc for the last decade or two. After a slow start, we are growing better fruit and getting better at making good wine out of it. “When the Sauv Blanc train came to town, lots of the industry was fixated on turning the volume up to 11 on the varietal character, but somewhere along the line, the focus on site was lost and replaced with maximising varietal character with picking times and yeast selection based on volume of varietal character more than reflection of site,” says Shane. “More and more Australian winemakers are learning how to get the best out of the fruit sources they have available to them. Sauv Blanc has a great ability to show the site it comes from if you let it.” “I love Australian wine due to the vast differences in climate and styles. We are so fortunate in that fact and more so than any other country,” adds Adrian. “The altitude of Orange is the key, with its warm days and cool nights allowing the grapes to ripen slowly, retaining wonderful acidity and not tending to have full blown tropical fruit, rather a lovely combination of citrus, herbs and exotic notes.”   TINKERING THE TECHNIQUE So what are some of the techniques winemakers are using and what result does it have on the wine? Overall, the answer seems to be to bring Sauv Blanc some complexity. “Winemaking begins in the vineyard,” says Dan. “With the Berrigan Sauvignon Blanc this means managing the canopy to achieve fruit with a balance of tropical and grassy flavours. “In the winery, you then need to extend the skin contact time of the must to ensure that those flavours you’ve worked hard for in the vineyard are extracted from the skins and into the juice. From there, it’s all about minimising the extraction of phenolics, while maximising flavour retention and balance in your wine without oak maturation, lees stirring or fining.” “Oak with the right fruit works very well,” says Adrian conversely. “Lees contact providing texture and depth and some wild fermentation all are providing layers of complexity.” “Sauv Blanc responds to as little to as much winemaking as you wish to give it. Whether that response is appropriate depends on the site and the intended style,” explains Shane. “This doesn’t mean that just because you can do something that you should! A level of restraint is required to bring the subtle characters from your little patch of earth. “For our site I find that some skin contact time, leaving the juice slightly cloudy, and yeast selection are the most important areas of my input. Some post primary fermentation lees contact also helps, but this varies vintage to vintage. “The ability to change and adapt to vintage variation and change your approach is required to get the best out of the variety. Following what you did last year isn’t good enough if you want to get the best out of it this year.”   THE FUTURE While critics predict the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc cannot last, our winemakers seem to believe it will be here for quite some time to come. “The wine style is just so strong in its personality, and with the majority of Australians living in warm, sunny coastal regions, the freshness of Sauvignon Blanc will always have its place amongst our lifestyles,” says Dan. It will always be popular as it’s such an easy drink and suited to Australia’s summer climate,” agrees Adrian. “I hope as an industry we can move with the ebb and flow of consumer preferences and make moves to deliver a style that is relevant and current,” says Shane. “We have to learn to not flog the horse too hard and kill the market and burn the variety, we need to be more sensitive to changes in consumer preferences and move with it, not fight against it. “Keep it fresh, keep it relevant.” Top 20 Sauvignon Blanc 2016 McWilliam’s Wines High Altitude Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Orange) Scotchmans Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Geelong)  Henschke & Co Coralinga Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Adelaide Hills)  Berrigan Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Mount Benson)  Taylors Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Adelaide Hills)  Blue Pyrenees Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Pyrenees)  Redgate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (Oak Matured) 2014 (Margaret River) Silkwood Wines The Walcott Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Pemberton)  Tamar Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Tamar Valley) Dominique Portet Fontaine Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Yarra Valley) Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Margaret River) Alkoomi Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Frankland River) Dandelion Vineyards Wishing Clock Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Adelaide Hills) Wangolina Station Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Mount Benson) Geoff Hardy Wines K1 Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Adelaide Hills) Cherubino Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Pemberton) Eden Road Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Canberra District) d’Arenberg The Broken Fishplate Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Adelaide Hills) Lambrook Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Adelaide Hills) Nannup Ridge Firetower Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Blackwood River)
Wine
Tasting Panel’s Top 6 Spring Wines
Sunny days cooled by beautiful breezes – spring is here and with it a wealth of opportunities to entertain outdoors with delicious Australian wines. To start your spring collection, our expert Tasting Panel presents their Top 6 Spring Wines. Artwine Prego Pinot Grigio 2017 Supple and fleshy, more of a Gris style, with red apple, pear and white melon, creamy texture, nutty complexity and lemony acidity. RRP: $20 or $17 per bottle in any dozen. West Cape Howe Riesling 2017 Clean and dry with subtle citrus fruits, free-run purity and softness, a juicy fruit core and chalky minerality. A lovely young Riesling drinking well now, but with the structure to cellar. RRP: $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen. Amato Vino Blanc 2017 Mouth-filling and velvety, it's beautifully packed with bright, ripe fruit and creamy softness. Mouth-watering with an even mix of gooseberry, melon and fig with lovely freshness, gentle acidity and vibrant persistence. RRP: $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. Thorn-Clarke Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut NV Lovely red and yellow fruit depth with a smooth, creamy texture, mouth-watering acidity and toasty notes adding complexity. RRP: $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen. In Dreams Pinot Noir 2016 Juicy and warm with a silken core of blood plum, white strawberry and game, deep, velvety tannins and a mouth-watering finish. Delicious. RRP: $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. Hewitson Baby Bush Mourvèdre 2015 Varietal and peppery with intense flavours and robust tannins, black fruit depth and dried herb and cocoa powder hints. RRP: $28 or $23.80 per bottle in any dozen. For more great wine selections, including packs featuring those listed above, shop our  spring wine catalogue  now.
Food
Top eats in the Hunter Valley
Words by Patrick Haddock & Mark Hughes on 7 Aug 2015
The Hunter Valley Wine Region is fast becoming a mecca for foodies. From casual bites to artisan cheeses and full degustation fine dining, there is a burgeoning restaurant scene that is exciting locals and visitors alike. Here is our list of the Hunter’s top 20 culinary delights. Muse 1 Broke Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 6777 Hands down the Hunter’s best fine dining destination conveniently located at the gateway to the vineyards inside the sleek architecture lines of Hungerford Hill winery. Chef Troy Rhoades-Brown uses the best seasonal produce to serve immaculate dishes such as butter-poached scampi tails, slow-cooked lamb and his signature Muse Coconut dessert. Restaurant Botanica 555 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin (02) 6574 7229 Restaurant Botanica at Spicers Vineyards Estate has made a name for itself thanks to its emphasis on sustainability. They make fresh bread daily and use their on-site kitchen garden to create healthy and locally sourced dishes that deliver freshness and flavour. Margan Restaurant 1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke (02) 6579 1317 Margan uses produce from its one-acre kitchen garden and orchard in its the Meditteranean-inspired meals and complements it with Andrew Margan’s award-winning wines. A delightful atmosphere with views of the Brokenback Range.   Bistro Molines 749 Mount View Rd, Mt View (02) 4990 9553 Located at Tallavera Grove Bistro Molines is coveted by locals as one of the Hunter’s little gems thanks to the consistent cooking of Frenchman Robert Molines, who arrived in the region in 1973. Rustic provincial cooking paired with a stunning wine list. Circa1876 64 Halls Road, Pokolbin (02) 4998 4998 One of the new culinary highlights of the Hunter, located in the refurbished site of the historic Robert’s Restaurant at Pepper’s Convent. American-born chef George Francisco uses seasonal produce from the on-site kitchen garden to create a superb menu of modern Australian with French flair. Muse Kitchen Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 7899 Muse Kitchen (at Keith Tulloch Wines) is the second Hunter venue from Troy Rhoades-Brown, this one somewhat more laid back but still delicious seasonal produce. Breakfast at the weekends is not to be missed. Esca 790 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 4666 Located at Bimbadgen Estate, Esca serves modern Australian cuisine such as confit pork belly and Madgery Creek venison. Match with Bimbadgen wines or something off the varied international list. Verandah Restaurant Palmers Lane, Rothbury (02) 4998 7231 Situated at Calais Estate, the Verandah Restaurant serves up delicious tapas or a la carte dishes such as slow-braised pork belly.   Make sure you save some space for the signature dessert of soft chocolate soufflé with Baileys and almond ice cream. Sabor 319 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale 1300 958 850 Sometimes it’s a sweet hit you require and if you like to skip mains, Sabor is the place for you. Portuguese custard tarts, gourmet ice creams, hand made chocolates and terrific coffee. Café Enzo Cnr Broke & Ekerts Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 7233 Located next door to the boutique wines of David Hook in Peppers Creek village, Café Enzo’s charming Tuscan-inspired courtyard is open for traditional breakfast, and lunch dishes such as barramundi on kipfler potatoes & pea purée.   Mojo’s on Wilderness 84 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale (02) 4930 7244 By day you can stop by the deli and stock up on gourmet sandwiches, delicious tarts and quiches straight from the oven, in the evening, Ros and Adam Baldwin serve up cultured European cuisine with natural flair.   Restaurant Cuvee at Peterson House Cnr Broke Rd & Wine Country Drive, Pokolbin 02 4998 7881 At the very gateway of the Hunter Wine Region is Peterson House where you can taste the best sparkling wines and pair them with the freshest of oysters then stay on for the full a la carte menu using regional produce. Smelly Cheese Shop 2188 Broke Rd, Pokolbin 02 4998 6960 No trip to the Hunter is complete without a visit to the Smelly Cheese Shop. Now in two convenient locations, there’s no better way to match the wines of the region than to some of the locally made and international cheeses. A cheese lover’s paradise! Goldfish Cnr of Broke & McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin (02) 4998 7688 Unwind in this bar & kitchen in the heart of the Hunter. Down to earth, laid back dining paired with a broad cocktail list with a range of tequila, whisky, boutique beer and of course, wine. Oishii Cnr of Broke & McDonalds Rd’s, Pokolbin  02 4998 7051 Right next door to Goldfish at Tempus Two Winery you’ll find Oishii which fuses the best of Thai and Japanese cuisine. There’s sushi, sashimi and teppanayaki as well as Thai curries and salads.   Lindemans 1843 café McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin 02 4993 3700 Casual and comfortable dining for the whole family with dishes like wood fired pizzas, pulled pork and wild mushroom risotto – all at reasonable prices.   Tatler Tapas 477 Lovedale Road, Lovedale  (02) 4930 9139 Head chef Katy Carruthers has designed a delicious range of tapas delights including bacalau & potato croquetas, sardines escabeche, and Moroccan meatballs Shakey Tables 1476 Wine Country Dr, North Rothbury 02 4938 1744 Art and food collide at chef Paula Rengger’s Shakey Tables, which serves up modern Australian blended with touches from Paula’s Scottish heritage. Morpeth Sourdough 148 Swan Street, Morpeth 02 4934 4148 On the other side of the Hunter in the picturesque village of Morpeth, this is the site where the iconic Aussie brand Arnott’s started. Morpeth Sourdough serves an amazing range of sourdough breads. A must visit.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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