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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


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.


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 - 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  .
Hunter Valley Shiraz Member Tasting
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 31 Aug 2016
Hunter Valley  winemakers have embraced their unique style of Shiraz and it’s set to become a timeless classic Fashion is a strange beast. Whether it’s moulding what we wear, what we eat or the car we drive, it’s hard to escape its influence. Even winemaking is at the mercy of fashion with critics often the ones to set the trends. One of recent history’s greatest influencers has been Robert Parker Jr, a US-based doyen of wine who has been described in  The Wall Street Journal   as being “widely regarded as the world’s most powerful wine critic.” Parker has always shown a predilection for  Barossa  Shiraz with its bold, generous, full-bodied characters and during the 1990s he really helped put this South Australian region on the world wine stage. But where did that leave other regions whose Shiraz fell short of Parker’s preference for the voluptuous? According to Hunter Valley winemaker Andrew Thomas,  Shiraz  producers in his region attempted to emulate the Barossa style. “They left the fruit on the vine for longer, added tannins, used too much new oak.” That wasn’t the only challenge affecting Hunter Valley Shiraz at this time. Unfortunately, some of the region’s wineries were affected by a spoilage yeast called Brettanomyces, which led to the development of the ‘sweaty saddle or barnyard character’ you might have heard associated with the style. While it should be savoury, Andrew says, Hunter Shiraz shouldn’t have these characters. An Optimistic Outlook
This all added up to a crying shame because the Hunter has its own unique brand of Shiraz that’s very different to that of the Barossa, but with equal appeal. Thankfully, Andrew goes on to describe, around ten years ago, Hunter winemakers made a unified effort to rid the region of Brettanomyces. They also came to the realisation that they had something special to offer and embraced the Hunter’s distinct style of Shiraz. The key to allowing Hunter Shiraz to show its true beauty is “letting the vineyard do the talking”, says Andrew. Fellow Hunter winemaker and Hunter Valley Living Legend Phil Ryan agrees, calling the vineyard the “principle number one factor” in Shiraz success. Add to that vine age and site selection, where you’ve got red soils over limestone, and you’ve got a winning formula. The result is a style of Shiraz that’s vibrant, fruit driven and, as Phil describes, “more user friendly”. While in the past winemakers had to rely on bottle ageing to soften the wines, Phil says, today “they’re basically made to drink as they’re bottled.” That’s not to say that Hunter Shiraz has lost its capacity to age. “The great vineyards have the potential to mature for decades,” Phil says. So Hunter winemakers are excited about their Shiraz and success is rolling in on the wine show front, but does this equate to consumer appeal? Happily, contemporary Hunter winemakers now have fashion on their side. Having recently returned from a European sojourn, Phil experienced first hand the demand for fresh, flavoursome reds with a lighter tannin structure. “Hunter Shiraz with its medium body and fruit sweetness on the palate can compete with what people see as modern red wines – Sangiovese  ,  Tempranillo  or even  Pinot Noir  from various countries.” The Wines of the Tasting Peter Drayton Wines Premium Release Shiraz 2014 Tulloch Wines Pokolbin Dry Red Shiraz 2014 Allandale Matthew Single Vineyard Shiraz 2014 Brokenwood Wines Shiraz 2014 Pepper Tree Limited Release Shiraz 2014 Margan Shiraz 2014 Hart & Hunter Single Vineyard Series Ablington Shiraz 2014 Mount Eyre Three Ponds Holman Shiraz 2014 De Iuliis Shiraz 2014 Sobels Shiraz 2013 The Little Wine Co Little Gem Shiraz 2013 Andrew Thomas Elenay Barrel Selection Shiraz 2014 First Creek Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz 2014 Usher Tinkler Wines Reserve Shiraz 2014 Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 9 Shiraz 2013 Mount Pleasant Rosehill Vineyard Shiraz 2013 Leogate Estate Wines The Basin Reserve Shiraz 2013 Petersons Back Block Shiraz 2013 Judge and Jury
When it comes to the attraction of Hunter Shiraz, the Tasting Panel needs no convincing. As our  resident Hunter expert Nicole Gow  describes, “there’s nothing overpowering about this style and its beautiful savouriness and medium weight makes it a wonderful food wine.” The question is, are Australian wine-lovers on board with the new face of Hunter Shiraz? To find out, the Panel decided to put a line-up of Hunter Shiraz to the taste test in the company of some Wine Selectors members. Joining the judging team of Nicole Gow and Trent Mannell were members Melissa and Tony Calder and Marilyn Willoughby, along with winemaker Andrew Thomas. The Tasting When the guests were asked what they liked in their reds, the resounding answer was smoothness. One of the smoothest Shiraz of the tasting turned out to be Andrew Thomas’ Elenay Shiraz 2014 , which Marilyn also admired for its lovely spicy appeal. The story behind this wine is a colourful one, so perhaps skip to the next paragraph if you’re sensitive to strong language. In 2011, Andrew found himself with some leftover barrels of two of his other premium Shiraz. These barrels became known as the ‘lips and arseholes’, but when they were blended together, they actually produced a standout Shiraz. So the label – Elenay (L and A) was continued and has enjoyed great success since. While the majority of the wines in the tasting lived up to the regional reputation for being medium-bodied, there were a couple of fuller styles among the standouts. The Little Wine Company Little Gem Shiraz 2013 was described as “a wine for the oak-lovers”, which Melissa and Marilyn both enjoyed. The other was the Pepper Tree Limited Release Shiraz 2014, which Nicole praised for its generous plummy fruit. The wine that really brought all the tasters together was the De Iuliis Shiraz 2014, which was described as having “beautiful balance with long, spicy elegant tannins”. Overall, our members left impressed with the Hunter Shiraz they tasted and will definitely be adding more examples to their collection. So let’s hope that now there’s a new found confidence in the style from local winemakers, wine-lovers will share in their enthusiasm and Hunter Shiraz will become a timeless classic in the world of wine fashion.
Pinot Gris vs Grigio: What’s the difference?
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape variety, so what's the difference? We talk to some passionate Pinot G winemakers to find out. While it's fast becoming one of Australia's most popular varieties,  PinotGris/Grigio  still presents a point of confusion for many wine-lovers. Made from one variety, a member of the Pinot Noir family, this grape has two different names thanks to the two countries in which it is most commonly grown: France and Italy. Gris is French for "grey" and in France it finds its home in the Alsace region. French Pinot Gris is generally known for being a rich, full-bodied white with a lovely silky texture. Grigio is the Italian for "grey" and in contrast to the French, Italian Grigio has made a name for being a light, crisp wine ideal for early drinking and is most famously known in the regions of Veneto and Friuli. Across the two styles, the common aroma and flavour descriptors include apple, pear, strawberry, honey, hay, brioche and bread. AUSSIE HOME
The variety was first introduced to the Hunter Valley with the James Busby collection of 1832, however it wasn't until the 1990s that the variety started to really emerge. This was thanks to a winemaking couple who made their home on Victoria's  Mornington Peninsula  in 1988: Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy. Having been introduced to Pinot Gris at college, Kathleen felt intuitively that they had come to the perfect region for producing the variety. They released their first commercial Pinot Gris in 1993, have had huge success since, and are now seen as setting the benchmark for Australian interpretations of the variety. Following in their footsteps is their son, Tom, a winemaker at Quealy wines who has inherited his parents' passion for Pinot G. What's more, he's been to the homes of both the Gris and Grigio styles. "I have worked vintages at Domain Paul Blanck in Alsace, where Pinot Gris is 1 of 4 premium varieties", he explains. "Their vineyards define the quality and the personality of each of their wines. They revel in the power and voluptuousness of these wines, from bone dry with the generous dollop of extract in the middle palate, to off dry with enough flavour and structure to make the wine balanced and suitable with a main course. They are able to make and market their even richer sweeter late harvest styles. The wines are beautiful to drink, slightly drying out with a few years bottle age, and suit their dishes of duck and pork. "I have also worked and spent time in Friuli. Their lighter soils and their food culture define their Pinot Grigio style: crunchy pear, dry and textured. The winemaking art of blending abounds. There are field blends and regional blends of many white varieties, with Pinot Grigio a central component." MORNINGTON MAGIC
Back home, Tom explains the  Mornington Peninsula 's superior suitability for Pinot G down to a combination of regional factors. "It's the climate - cool, maritime, Indian summers. It's the cloud cover and sea breezes. The Red Hill and Main Ridge flank creates intimate valleys of rich volcanic soils that hold onto the rainfall. The dryland farming keeps each berry and bunch tiny and concentrated. Then there's a winemaking fraternity reared on  Pinot Noir  and now applying these skills to their love child Pinot Gris."   ADELAIDE HILLS EXCELLENCE
Another standout Aussie Pinot G producer is  Wicks Estate  in the  Adelaide Hills , where, Tim Wicks, explains, "The cool evenings promote great acid retention in the fruit, along with a gradual flavour ripeness without excess phenolic development. This allows the variety to retain a charming aromatic lift which combines beautifully with the subtle textural elements." At Wicks Estate, they make a Gris rather than a Grigio, but as Tim describes, it may be akin to the Gris style, but it maintains a hint of the Grigio aromatics and racier acid lines. This is reflective of the Gris-Grigio overlap that Tim sees as common in Australia. "We have countless fantastic wines that tend towards either the richer Gris characters or lighter aromatic Grigio characteristics. There are also wines that exhibit traits of both, take our  Wicks Estate Pinot Gris , for example. We like the sharpened focus and aromatic style of the Grigio, but tend to lean towards the textural qualities of Gris on the palate. The styles have their own identity, however, we have diverse terroir and climate in Australia that can lend itself to a hybrid style."   THE PROOF IS IN THE TASTING At the end of the day, whether you go for a  richer Gris or a zestier Grigio , or a mix of both, only your palate can decide. To help you choose, we've got an extensive range from the Mornington Peninsula, Adelaide Hills and beyond to  explore  .
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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