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Wine

Know Your Variety - Prosecco

Adam Walls reveals how Fizz from France is no longer the number one choice for Sparkling wine lovers.

Prosecco is the fizz from Italy that’s overtaking Champagne as the world’s most loved Sparkling wine. The surge in its popularity has seen many an imitation hit the market, even in cans in some parts of Europe!

Understandably, the Italians were keen to protect their product, and since 2009, it’s been designated a wine of origin under EU law. This means you can only call it Prosecco if it comes from its region of origin in north-east Italy.

Except in Australia, that is. We can still use the name on our Prosecco-style wines sold here, but if they’re exported, they must bear the name of the grape it’s made from, Glera.

Prosecco at a Glance

Prosecco Infographic

Origins

Prosecco dates back to Roman times when it was known as Puccino. The bubbly style we know today emerged in the early 1900s thanks to the invention of secondary fermentation techniques.

The north-eastern Italian regions where you’ll find a profusion of Prosecco are Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Did you know?

There are three styles of Prosecco: dry and still; lightly sparkling Frizzante; foaming Spumante. The dry, still style is rarely seen outside Italy and the one we see most of in Australia is Spumante.

In Australia

Our home of Prosecco is Victoria’s King Valley, driven by the Italian heritage of many of the local wine pioneers. Add to this the similarity of the region’s rolling hills to those of Veneto and you’ve got Prosecco perfection.

You’ll also find great examples in the Adelaide Hills, Macedon and Hilltops.

Characters

The Glera grape has high acidity and a fairly neutral palate, making it ideal for Sparkling wine production. Prosecco is made using the Italian method where secondary fermentation occurs in a pressurised tank, the bubbles are captured and the wine is then bottled under pressure. This results in a lower alcohol wine driven by bright fruit and acidity rather than the savouriness of bottle fermented fizz. Find out more about the difference between Champagne and Prosecco here.

Glera’s aromatic profile is characterised by white peaches, pear and citrus. You can also get floral notes of jasmine and hints of pistachio nut.

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Know Your Variety – Australian Grenache
Having claims to its origins in both France and Spain, Grenache is most famously known in Australia as part of a blended trio with Shiraz and Mourvedre . But, Grenache is starting to break out and go solo with some superb single varietal wines from South Australia. To help us learn more about Australian Grenache, we reached out to experts Kevin Glastonbury of Yalumba and Nathan Hughes of Willunga 100 . Australian Grenache Infographic Origins
In Spain it is known as Garnacha, in Sardinia it’s Cannonau and in France, where the variety carpets the Côtes du Rhône, it is Grenache. So, where does Grenache actually come from? It’s complicated. Spain has perhaps the strongest claim to producing the first vines, but this is hotly contested and constantly revised by wine academics . It is, however, France where the variety is most famously grown with Grenache forming an integral part of the classic Rhône blend. In the Côtes du Rhône, Grenache is the star and must make up at least 50% of their prized blend along with Syrah (Shiraz) and Mourvedre. Grenache in Australia
Grenache is a variety that relishes warm climates and improves as the vines grow old, which is why the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale , two of Australia’s oldest regions, produce some of the best expressions. The Barossa, in particular, has blocks of wine with Grenache from 1850 still producing wines, each and every year.

Grenache is a red grape variety that relishes heat and can relatively easily produce ripe, full styles of wine. Perhaps Grenache was grown initially on sites that were more akin to producing a generous crop for fortified winemaking. But, now many wineries are searching for more finesse and picking these Grenache blocks earlier and seeking red fruit rather than riper black fruit flavours. The majority of Grenache in the Barossa is not trellised; it is grown as a bush-vine. These bush-vines tend to take care of themselves, allowing more air flow and light penetration. The Barossa and McLaren Vale are considered the two leading regions for Grenache in Australia. And it is always a great debate as to which consistently produces better quality wine.

- Kevin Glastonbury, Winemaker, Yalumba Family Vignerons
Tasting Notes With a similar weight and tannin structure to light to medium bodied Shiraz, Grenache is light on the palate and is all about purity of fruit. With aromas like pomegranate, wild strawberries, violets and red fruits and a palate that’s restrained and fine in texture, it is often blended with Mataro/Mourvedre, which provides a heightened element of spice and tannin. But, with careful oak treatment, Grenache can produce be a splendid single varietal wine.

South Australia has old vines, this resource cannot be understated. We work with vines ranging from 50 to 90 years old. Grenache is extremely reflective of where it’s grown. In McLaren Vale, we see lighter bodied, more aromatic styles from Blewitt Springs and Clarendon. Down on the flats of Tatachilla, we see a far heavier, richer, full-bodied styles.

- Nathan Hughes, Willunga 100
Grenache food pairing   The heightened alcohol, medium tannin and low acidity that characterise Grenache mean it will work well with a range of dishes from game through to lighter dishes. For Kevin, the perfect match for Grenache is simple - “Pizza, always”. But, he is also fond of pairing it with “Sticky glaze duck with rocket and pear pizza. Pork belly, with buffalo mozzarella, balsamic onion, oregano and radicchio.” The notes of red plum, black cherry and raspberry also mean that Grenache is also a great match for many Asian-style dishes as long as they aren’t too spicy. As Nathan Hughes from Willunga 100 describes, “I love how lemongrass, soy and coriander work with Grenache.” Recommended Recipe: Stefano Manfredi’s roast spitchcock with bread and truffle stuffing Recommended Recipe: Bocconcini, cherry tomato and basil pizza
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Chardonnay Members Tasting
Words by Patrick Haddock on 13 Nov 2017
Australian Chardonnay has undergone quite a transformation since the days of ‘sunshine in a bottle’, coming of age as a world-beating white. I partly blame Selector . For cementing my love affair with Chardonnay , I mean. Seven years ago, Selector hosted the most ambitious Chardonnay tasting ever staged in Australia. In attendance were some luminaries of the industry, including Iain Riggs and Tyson Stelzer and it was my first tasting en masse with a variety I’ve come to adore. It ignited a solid relationship with the many styles and regions in this vast land. Yet weirdly, my affair with Australian Chardonnay had commenced a decade or more before. It was the golden era for Chardonnay and I remember dinner tables being awash with names like Oxford Landing, Koonunga Hill and Rosemount as we slated our thirsts on cheap two-for-one deals in the bottle shops of London. It personified a new taste on the UK wine scene that found an unquenchable thirst. Looking back, it was risible that such overly fruity and highly oaked wines could have made such a splash, but Australia saw the opportunity and grabbed it. The New World invasion of the early 90s was pulled off with aplomb. As the saying went: “No wood? No good.” A Sunny Impression
The other insidious ruse that Australia employed was to label their wines with the variety – virtually unheard of in the Old World and it was a genius bit of marketing. When the English were drinking Burgundy, they may not have known it was actually Chardonnay. A classic example was my mum saying she hated Chardonnay, but loved Pouilly Fuisse – a small sub-region of Burgundy that makes Chardonnay. However, the French are far too proud to put the variety on their bottles, causing mass consumer confusion. UK consumers were also buying into the image of Aussie life, summed up by the phrase for Australian Chardonnay, “sunshine in a bottle.” The label was seen as just as important as what was inside. Australia made wines that were soft and easy to drink with obvious flavours. Australia proudly screamed Chardonnay on the label, most often from South East Australia. We had visions of beaches and sun-tanned sheilas picking the grapes; never mind that it actually came from a mass irrigated desert wasteland somewhere near the NSW border and was machine harvested before being relegated to industrial amounts of new oak or worse still, flavoured with oak chips. A Refining Moment
Yet for all the joy of a tidal wave of wood that Chardonnay brought, it all imploded. The bargain bins remained full as the obvious flavour hit of the New World came crashing down and the wines became increasingly like caricatures of Chardonnay. We had some soul searching to do. Was Australia happy to stand on the world stage offering nothing but bargain basement wines, or did we want to be taken seriously? A decade later, in the middle of the noughties, a seismic shift began. A new wave of Chardonnay producers were re-inventing the wheel, spearheaded by intelligent winemakers in regions like the Yarra Valley , Tasmania and Margaret River . Chardonnay went from being Dolly Parton (buxom and generous) to Kate Moss (skeletal and lithe), although the best example of Chardonnay for mine is the Cindy Crawford – curvy and ample, but still chiselled and toned. Earlier picking, less oak, natural acid and throwing away the process of malolactic fermentation saw the rulebook re-written. It was time for Chardonnay to grow up and make an impression. Then in 2010, one of the UK’s most outspoken commentators, the erudite Andrew Jefford, opined that Australian Chardonnay can “compete effortlessly with the greatest wines of Burgundy.” He went on to exclaim: “There is no variety that responds better to craft than Chardonnay, and the greatest Australian examples are perfect syntheses of grape, place and intellectual understanding.” What a renaissance occurred. And the world took notice. Since then, any Chardonnay producer worth their salt has worked hard to improve the breed. Contemporary Style
Which brings us to today and as Hunter Valley winemaker and Chardonnay craftsman, Usher Tinkler describes, “Australian Chardonnay is in the best shape ever.” While winemakers and wine critics are well aware of Chardonnay’s contemporary appeal, has the everyday wine-lover caught on? To find out, we invited some Wine Selectors members and guests along to The Dolphin Hotel in Sydney for a dinner matched with a selection of modern Australian Chardonnays. As I chatted with the guests before the wines started flowing, a common theme arose. The reputation of Chardonnay was stuck in the past. As member Kirsty Bryant described:

“Although the Chardonnays that come in my regular selections have always been nice, I still have a mental association where drinking Chardonnay equals drinking a tree.”

- Krysty Bryant, Wine Selectors Member
Guest, Lisa Currie was of a similar mind, saying, “Chardonnay has always been a variety that means an intense oakey, woody flavour, very buttery and heavy, which just isn’t to my taste.” To help bring our doubting guests around to the charm of Chardonnay, we were fortunate to be joined by Usher, who offered some insights and, as luck would have it, his Reserve Chardonnay 2016 – a unanimous crowd favourite. To explain why Usher personally loves Chardonnay, he offered a succinct analogy:

“If Shiraz and Cabernet are like Kings, then Chardonnay is the Queen – like the chess piece, it can do anything from anywhere! It’s the most interesting variety to make and to drink.”

- Usher Tinkler, Hunter Valley Winemaker
It’s also extremely food friendly, depending on the style – Chardonnay can be versatile and extremely easy to pair with a variety of dishes. You only need to think of crystalline Chablis with oysters, a generously oaked Chardonnay with roast pork or chicken, and something in between for scallops and lobster. Don’t forget that Chardonnay is also excellent with soft cheeses. It certainly added an extra dimension to the tasting having food to accompany the wines. This was particularly true of the second bracket, which all had high levels of acidity, and so illustrated how food can really enhance the wine experience. The fusilli with crab, chilli and herbs helped soften the acidity, making for a harmonious matching. So Many Regions to Love It
Chardonnay is planted in virtually every region in Australia, but the ones that have excelled include Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley, Tasmania and the Adelaide Hills. Bubbling under for quality there’s Orange, Mudgee and Tumbarumba, Mornington Peninsula and Macedon Ranges, Beechworth and Coonawarra. On the night, it was the Hunter Valley and the Adelaide Hills that got the most nods with support also going to Mudgee, Coonawarra and Margaret River. The styles were varying among the different regions, but showed clearly the development of Chardonnay and the multitude of ways that winemakers are manipulating the variety in their favour to create the best expressions. And for those dubious guests, the tasting certainly had the desired effect. As Lisa described, “I found the flavour nuances really interesting, most were very balanced, yet complex.” Kirsty agreed, saying, “I was delighted to find that when it’s a good Chardonnay, even the more wooded ones don’t taste like trees. They have very inviting flavours.” For member, Robert Vukasinovic, who was already a fan, he found his “love for Chardonnay has grown stronger after the tasting because there are so many new styles available compared to the past bias towards heavily oaked styles.” What it certainly showed is there’s no doubting we’ve come of age and the new dawn of Australian Chardonnay has emerged victorious.
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Know Your Variety - Viognier
From near extinction, to a vibrant revival, Australian Viognier is going from strength to strength. To help us learn more about this elegant wine, we reached out to a few experts with winemakers from Yalumba, Soumah and Claymore Wines. Marnie Roberts, Claymore Wines’ chief winemaker , sums up this luscious and complex white variety: “ Viognier can be a bit tricky to get right as it has a tendency to have variable crop loads, favours warm, but not hot climates, and requires specific attention to harvest time as it provides a small window for ripeness,” she says. “In saying that, if you get it right, the perfume and aromatics, as well as flavour and delicate mouthfeel produce an absolutely stunning wine.” Australian Viognier - An Infographic Guide Origins
Viognier ’s spiritual home is in France’s northern Rhône appellations of Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie, however, it is thought that it originated in Dalmatia (Bosnia) and was imported into France around 280AD. While Viognier is popular now, it came close to extinction in the 1960s, largely because of its low yields and unpredictability in the vineyard. By 1968 there were only around 14 hectares growing in northern Rhône. Luckily for wine lovers, by the 1980s a few Californian wineries and Australia’s Yalumba had become very interested in Viognier, ensuring its rescue and a new lease on life. Viognier in Australia
Australia’s diverse climate results in a broad range of Viognier styles from the elegant, fragrant style to a luscious, full-bodied white wine. While, Viognier is grown across Australia in regions including Barossa , Adelaide Hills , Hunter Valley , the Yarra Valley , Riverland and the Limestone Coast, it’s in the Eden Valley under the care of Yalumba , that it has really flourished and produces some of the world’s best white wines.    Considered one of the world’s most influential producers of Viognier, Yalumba was responsible for the first significant plantings in Australia when they planted 1.2 hectares of vines in the Eden Valley’s Vaughan Vineyard back in 1980. For over 40 years they have nurtured the variety in their Yalumba Nursery from the early Montpellier 1968 clones used for nearly half of the early plantings, to instigating a clonal development programme in consultation with the great Viognier makers from around the globe. What the Experts Have to Say
Louisa Rose – chief winemaker, Yalumba A leader within Australia’s wine industry, Louisa’s career with Yalumba spans over 20 years with her passion for Viognier and her developmental work of the varietal making her name synonymous with Viognier in Australia.    “After many years of work and experimentation, we have six individual wines in our Yalumba Viognier collection,” explains Louisa. “In 2005, eight different clones propagated in the Yalumba Nursery were planted on the south-eastern part of the Yalumba Eden Valley vineyard in the Virgilius Vineyard. It’s now the most clonally diverse planting of Viognier anywhere in Australia – giving my team and I, the opportunity to create wines of great promise and diversity.” “Viognier is exciting to drink and talk about – it goes so well with our food based lifestyle,” says Louisa. “There is still a long way to go to make the variety known to all the wine drinkers out there, lots of talking and tasting and spreading the world.” Scott McCarthy – chief winemaker, Soumah Located in the Yarra Valley , Soumah specialises in wines from eastern France and across to northern Italy and refers to their Viognier as Goldie Locks, “as it has to picked just right!” “It’s the peaches and cream characteristics that we seek and in our quest, we’ve planted three distinct clones of Viognier,” says Scott. “However, it is not only about the creamy lusciousness of the wine, it is also about a refined yet nervous spine that leaves a fresh clean-cut finish.” “If we pick too early we lose the peaches, if we pick too late we will deliver an oily, clumsy wine, so it has to be just right, a goldilocks temperament so to speak, and we endeavour to get it just right every year!”
Marnie Roberts – chief winemaker, Claymore Wines Claymore Wines ’ Shankly Vineyard is one of the very few plantings of Viognier in the Clare Valley. “Our Viognier is grown in a small pocket in Watervale that provides ambient sunshine and daytime warmth but cool nights. This allows the delicate florals and juicy acid to gradually develop and gives us the opportunity to have a bit of a play with it. We pick at a lower end of ripening (about 10 baume) to retain the juicy acid and delicate nature to allow us to stop fermentation prior to complete dryness for an off-dry to sweet style of this grape,” Marnie explains. “Our Skinny Love Summer Viognier is made with minimal intervention ensuring that the mouthfeel is super appealing, like biting into a red delicious apple. It’s an extremely pretty, delicate and approachable wine.” Viognier Tasting Notes The distinguishing characters of Australian Viognier include stone fruit, predominantly apricot, perfumed scents and high alcohol. Viognier responds positively to oak, adding richness to the texture and a nutty complexity that complements the apricots. Viognier is also regularly co-fermented, or blended with Shiraz to give further complexity and fragrance. “When great, the wines are seductive, luscious, opulent, viscous, full-flavoured with exotic aromas of lychee, musk, rose, pear, apricot, peach, nectarine, ginger, spice, citrus blossoms and long silky rich textures,” explains Louisa Rose. Food Matches Similar in weight to Chardonnay and Rousanne, it pairs well with a great range of foods including rich seafood, red and white meats, and spicy dishes like Indian, Thai and Moroccan. “In short Viognier is a fabulous food wine,” says Louisa Rose. “It goes with everything from the spicy northern African to Asian cuisine, from white meat to reds meat, and with all the earthy flavours and textures such as mushrooms, wasabi and root vegetables, plus it’s just at home with a cheese plate.” “Viognier covers the foods and occasions that you would expect a white to, and then seamlessly moves into those that you would normally associate more with red wines and it is often called the red wine drinkers white wine,” she says.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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