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Meet Richard Freebairn of Paxton Wines

What was it that drew you to the wine industry?

I grew up on a sheep and cereal grain farm in South East of Western Australia, and I enjoyed the outdoors and hands-on side of farming. However, I love the diversity of winemaking. You can be filling barrels or digging out a ferment one day, and the next hosting a five star dinner in Sydney. Always interesting and great challenges.

You have worked in vineyards all over the country, including the Margaret River, Swan Valley, Sonoma Valley, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley. What is the best thing about working and living in McLaren Vale?

McLaren Vale has it all, I live in Adelaide with my wife and work in the most beautiful wine region five minutes from the ocean and 30 minutes (depending on how you drive) from the city.

What’s your must-do for visitors to McLaren Vale?

BYO picnic basket to our beautiful cellar door surrounded by 1850s stone cottages and rolling green lawns.

What have been some of your highlights of your time at Paxton?

We have won some nice Trophies and received some great James Halliday scores, but I think it is teaching people about Organics and Biodynamics. It is a fantastic way of farming and can really make a big difference to the fruit and especially the wine.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given when it comes to winemaking?

Be patient, wine is not a picture or a snapshot, it is like a movie – always evolving and moving with you. Be patient with wine and enjoy the ride!

Do you have an all-time favourite wine to make? Why is it?

I love making our Pinot Gris, because I don’t use carbon to remove the colour, I use hypoxygenation (basically oxidise it with oxygen). The wine looks so murky and brown all through ferment and stabilisation until one day, generally about three months after harvest, all the brown drops out and you are left with a bright, almost green, hue. It is such a relief!

In 2011 Paxton became a fully certified organic and biodynamic wine producer. Can you tell us more about this certification, what it means, how it is achieved etc.?

We are very proud to be Organic and Biodynamic at Paxton; it gives us a great sense of growing and making for the future. The vines look healthy and the wines have vitality. The certification process takes three years from the dates of application. From that point everything you do must be approved through your certifying body, we are certified through NASAA Certified Organics.

The Paxton Organic MV Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is our Wine of the Month for June – what makes this a standout wine?

The beautiful aroma of winter greens, it is such a fragrant wine. I love smelling this Cabernet Sauvignon. The other great part is the palate, a perfect wine for the colder months. It has power and poise, bright fruit, as well as lovely tannins. A great wine with stews, soups and hearty winter dishes.

What do you do to relax when you’re away from the winery?

I play golf, not so relaxing, but it gets my head out of the winery.

What’s your ultimate wine and food match?

Paxton MV Cabernet Sauvignon, lamb loin chops (from our farm in Western Australia) mashed potato and peas.

What is your favourite…

Movie? The Lion King

Book? Power of One

Time of day? Any time of the day is a great time in McLaren Vale!

Restaurant? Ruby Red Flamingo in North Adelaide.

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Under pressure - Wine VS Mine
Words by Max Allen on 21 Dec 2016
Winemaker Andrew Margan is standing on a rock on a ridge overlooking his vineyard at Broke, in NSW’s Hunter Valley . The landscape is idyllic: vine rows plunge down the hillside; Wollombi Brook curls through the middle distance; tree-covered ranges rise up steeply behind. He’s talking about how different this country could have looked had energy company AGL got its way. “If CSG (coal seam gas) mining had gone ahead here as AGL were planning,” says Margan, “there could have been 300 wells sunk between here and Pokolbin.” Just five years ago it seemed that CSG was a foregone conclusion in the Hunter wine region. A couple of exploratory wells had already been sunk, not far from Margan’s vineyard at Broke, and AGL were attempting to ingratiate themselves with the local winemakers - buying vineyards, sponsoring a local winemaking scholorship, joining the wine industry association. But the local winemakers were having none of it. They had serious concerns about the environmental impact of CSG mining. They worried that hydraulically fracturing - or “fracking” - deep coal seams to release the gas could contaminate the local aquifer and lead to geological instability. And they were outraged that, under then-current legislation, the miners would be able to drill among the vineyards and wineries of the country’s leading wine tourism destination. As fourth generation winemaker Bruce Tyrrell told me at the time: “It’s simple. If any of those bastards come onto the land my family have owned for 150 yrs I’ll bloody shoot ‘em. And I’m still a good shot.” Eventually, the vignerons’ well-organised protest campaigns - including a high-profile march on the NSW Parliament in 2012 - helped encourage the state government to declare the viticultural and equine industries in the Hunter off-limits to CSG mining: boundaries were drawn around these two newly-declared Critical Industry Clusters that prevented any further resource exploration. “We won,” says Andrew Margan. “But it was a hell of a fight.” “The CSG battle almost destroyed us,” admits Andrew’s wife Lisa Margan. “Having to take on such a big issue like that fractures the community, it pulls resources out of the community, it exhausts the community.” ----- The Hunter isn’t the only wine region to have tussled with unconventional gas mining in the last few years. Just before Christmas 2013, resource company Beach Energy sank its first exploratory shale gas well just south of Penola, the main town in the famous wine region of Coonawarra , in South Australia’s Limestone Coast. I visited the region during vintage 2014, a couple of months later, and witnessed that first rig being moved to a second exploratory site west of the main vineyard area. It’s only when you see one of these installations up close - or as close as security will allow - that you get a feel for how much the landscape is affected and what impact dozens or hundreds of such wells would have on the nature of a region: temporary roads carved through paddocks, the four-storey rig itself, the holding ponds dug into the earth to retain contaminated water, lights and sound running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “I just can’t envisage co-existence with a gas well like that next to my cellar door,” said Dennis Vice of Highbank, one of Coonawarra’s leading wineries as we watched another truck loaded with drilling equipment roar by. “How can anyone argue that industrialized gas extraction can sit comfortably alongside wine - a brand that’s based on clean green production? Even if they do put a well in and I’m forced to sell, my vineyard would be worthless because of that rig. The implications for landowners are immense.” During the same visit, local vineyard manager Stuart Sharman, chair of the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council’s unconventional shale gas committee, detailed his deep concerns about shale gas extraction - a process that, like CSG mining, involves drilling down through the aquifer and using large amounts of local water in the process. “We don’t have a lot of confidence that the miners can give us an iron clad guarantee that well integrity will be maintained,” he said. “We know that the wells break down over time - their own documents show that. And (energy company) Santos has just been fined for contaminating the acquifer with uranium up in the Pilliga. If our vineyard irrigation water here becomes contaminated we can kiss goodbye to our sector of the economy: the Coonawarra brand and the whole district will be tarnished.” When I spoke to him again for this article, Sharman told me the pressure has eased. Not long after my visit during vintage in 2014, Beach Energy announced they had decided to concentrate on conventional gas extraction, and not in close proximity to the vineyards. The level of exploratory drilling I witnessed had “slowed right up”. But Sharman says it’s the slowdown in the energy market at the moment that’s contributed to the change of heart, not necessarily the very vocal opposition of the vignerons. “Depressed energy prices are slowing up further expectations,” he says. “It’s just not worth the miners’ while to go to the effort of unconventional gas extraction right now. But I think what we’re seeing is probably a lull, not the end. I imagine it could well ramp up again if the situation changes.” ----- It’s a similar story in the Hunter. Yes, says Andrew Margan, with the declaration of the Critical Industry Clusters, winegrowers have had a reprieve. And yes, AGL announced earlier this year that they were pulling out of CSG in NSW. But the state government hasn’t reversed its stand on CSG overall: the exploratory and mining licences haven’t been revoked. So if - when - the economic climate and the political balance shift, the pressure may build once more to start extracting precious hydrocarbons in the heart of wine country. And if that happens, says Stuart Sharman, there will always be a conflict between the short-term gain of the energy companies and the long-term sustainability of the winegrowers. “In the wine industry we’re busy spending millions of dollars redeveloping vineyards and setting ourselves up for another 50-plus years,” he says. “The mining guys are very publicly saying they’ll only be here for 20 years. But what’s it going to be like - what’s the impact not only to the physical environment but also the social environment - when they walk out in 20 years time and we’re still here.”
Wine
Debortoli Dream Vertical – Taste of Yarra
Words by Paul Diamond on 4 Dec 2017
Leanne De Bortoli and Steve Webber put on a tasting that reflects 30 years of Yarra Valley history. It’s almost 30 years since newly wedded Leanne De Bortoli and Steve Webber headed to the Yarra Valley to take up the family dream of building a cool climate addition to De Bortoli’s wine portfolio . Much has happened in those decades and the De Bortoli offering is, like the family itself, getting better with age. To reflect this, Selector headed to the Yarra, where Steve and Leanne dug out some old bottles and dusted off the stories that came with them. Where it all began
Vittorio De Bortoli from Castelcucco in Italy’s alpine north, immigrated to Australia in 1924, leaving his young fiancé Giuseppina behind. He landed in Melbourne, but soon found himself in the newly irrigated Riverina , sleeping under a water tower and eating from his vegetable patch. After four years, he had saved enough to buy a farm and send for Giuseppina. In the first year of Vittorio and Giuseppina’s Bilbul farm, there was a glut of grapes, so Vittorio constructed a concrete tank and crushed 15 tonnes, officially kicking off De Bortoli Wines. Deen makes his mark With Giuseppina and Vittorio together, the farm thrived and they soon had three children: Florrie, Eola and Deen. Of the three, Deen was fascinated with the machines that operated the winery and as he got older became a permanent fixture. He was a passionate about progress and as the responsibility passed from Vittorio to Deen, he began expanding, experimenting and looking toward the future. Deen married Emeri Cunial, a Griffith girl with Castelcucco heritage and soon the third generation – Darren, Leanne, Kevin and Victor – arrived. The third generation
Deen’s passion for wine was passed down to all his children. Oldest son Darren, now managing director, studied winemaking at Roseworthy College and decided to experiment with botrytis affected Semillon grapes . That wine eventually became the highly awarded 1982 Noble One that propelled De Bortoli to become one of Australia’s great wine brands. Third born Kevin pursued viticulture and now manages the 300 ha of the family estate that produces some 60,000 tonnes of grapes per vintage, while Victor, the youngest, is export manager. Leanne followed her brother Darren to Roseworthy and completed a diploma in wine marketing and was advised by her big brother, “whatever you do, don’t marry a winemaker!” But she did exactly that and married Steve Webber, who was making wine for Leo Buring and Lindeman’s. In 1987, the family purchased the Dixon’s Creek property in the northern edge of the Yarra Valley , which Leanne and Steve moved to in 1989, beginning the Yarra chapter of the De Bortoli story. To help tell it, Steve and Leanne presented us with a range of wines that best reflect their Yarra journey.  The Tasting
​ Sauvignon Blanc is a polarising variety, so it makes sense that Steve and Leanne did not add the ‘blanc’ to their labels. Plus, their versions are textural and savoury, inspired by the Sancerres of the Loire rather than those from across the ditch. “They need to be delicious, and great with food,” said Steve. “When we went to France, we loved the delicate, savoury wines of Sancerre and we decided that was what we wanted to make here.” The 08 Estate Sauvignon was surprisingly fresh, fine boned and creamy, whilst the 2010 single Vineyard PHI, and the mouth-wateringly juicy 2017 Vinoque reinforced that Steve and Leanne make wines they are proud to share at their table. The evolution of Chardonnay Next came the 1990 Estate Chardonnay and as the first wine they made at Dixon’s Creek, it was a treat to taste and contemplate how far Steve’s winemaking and Australian Chardonnay have come . “When I think about some of the wine we made in the early days, we thought we were doing some pretty amazing things,” Steve recalled. “But really we were just babes in the woods.” “Now we have a greater understanding of climate, viticulture and how to approach winemaking, with less interference, letting the wines make themselves.” The 2000 was in great shape with secondary stonefruit, fig and nut aromas and a poised, fleshy, peach-lined palate, but the next three wines really illustrated Steve’s points. As we moved from the 2005 Estate to the 2015 Reserve and the 2015 A5 Section it was like the volume was turned up on complexity, minerality and concentration, while the background noise of weight, oakey textures and mouth-feel was quietly turned off. The A5 Section Chardonnay topped the bracket as it had the greatest complexity, but was delivered without weight, showing citrus blossom characters, with mouth-watering flinty minerals. Reflecting on Pinot
Pinot was next and the same evolution was occurring. Less new oak and a focus on producing perfume not structure became evident as we moved from the 2000 and 2005 Estate and 2005 PHI, through to the glorious 2010 and 2010 PHI from the recently acquired Lusatia Park vineyards. “Pinot has to taste like it is grown, not made,” Steve remarked as we finish discussing the merits of the 2010 and 2014 Phi Pinots . “When it comes to winemaking, it’s sometimes really hard to do nothing, to sit back and let the wines find their way. But that’s when you start to see texture and finesse come into play and reflect this place.” The conversation then turned to the future as we tried three styles that reflect a desire to show the potential of blends and lighter styles reds. The Vinoque Pinot Meunier/Pinot Noir blend was light, concentrated and dangerously delicious. The Vinoque Gamay Noir was in the same vein, but with appealing layers of dried strawberries, rose petals and savoury blackberries and the Gamay/Syrah blend from the La Bohéme range showed that Gamay, particularly as a blending partner with something with more concentration and tannin, has a bright future in Australia. This wine was silky and textural with the fruit hallmarks of Shiraz, but with a soft and juicy red fruit casing. You Say Shiraz, I Say Syrah
Shiraz was next, or I should say Syrah, as this is what Leanne and Steve call most of their Shiraz, as it’s closer to the European, savoury and mid weighted style. The 1992 Estate bottle showed how beautifully these wines can age with delicious leathery development and a soft core of plummy, black cherry fruits. The 1999 was similar, whilst the still very youthful 2004 Reserve was mirroring the stylistic, bright fruited, savoury and textural changes that had occurred with Chardonnay and Pinot at that time. The 2008s, one with Viognier, one without, were both excellent; broody and lifted with silky mocha lines. Lastly came the 2014 and possibly the most exciting Australian Shiraz tasted all year. Juicy and complex with fine layers of mace, five spice, white pepper and mountain herbs, it had soft tannins and layers of acid that make the mouth hum. Looking ahead The De Bortolis have certainly put their stamp on the world of wine and equally, Leanne and Steve on the Yarra. Their genuine love for the place that they call home shines through in the wines they produce and share. As for the next chapter, Steve and Leanne are keen to provide a sustainable future for their kids and enjoy their home. “The Yarra is a beautiful part of the world,” said Leanne. “There’s a wonderful food and wine culture with cool people doing cool things with gin, beer, cider, wine and food. What’s not to love?" Enjoy a De Bortoli dream tasting of your own De Bortoli Section A5 single Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Restrained, fine and seductive with elderflower, lime and peach blossom aromas and balanced layers of white peach, citrus and grapefruit flavours. De Bortoli PHI Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Captivating and ethereal with complex dark cherry, stalk and mineral aromatics. The palate is savoury, textural and fine with plums, spice and blackberries. De Bortoli Section A8 Syrah 2016 Concentrated and fine with perfumed, floral, black fruit and spice aromas. Generous, mid weighted and savoury, dominated by cherries and plums.
Wine
Women in Wine: Celebrating International Women’s Day 2018
Join us as we celebrate International Women’s Day with some of Australia’s top female winemakers. It takes a lot hard work and skill to make it to the top ranks of Australian winemaking but that’s exactly what Janice McDonald, Liz Jackson, Louise Rose, Marnie Roberts, Nina Stocker and Callie Jemmeson have done. In what is a traditionally male dominated industry, these super-talented ladies, and many others, have shown they have the goods to make and market world-class wine. Marnie Roberts and Carrisa Major – Chief Winemaker and General Manager, Claymore Wines
The formidable duo of Claymore Wines ’ chief winemaker Marnie Roberts and general manager Carrisa Major, make Australian wine rock. Under their leadership, Claymore Wines produces outstanding Clare Valley wines that are playfully named after popular song titles including Purple Rain Sauvignon Blanc, Joshua Tree Riesling, Skinny Love Summer White Viognier Whole Lotta Love Rosé, Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz, and Bittersweet Symphony Cabernet Sauvignon. Carissa began her career working for Clare Valley industry leaders including Tim Knappstein and Andrew Hardy after taking a gap year. “I really got sucked in by wine and found this amazing industry that brings people together while opening up the world,” she says. Marnie says her passion for wine and the craft of winemaking goes back to her childhood. “Growing up on a block in Mildura that went from citrus to dried fruit to wine grapes, I have always had an appreciation for the fruit. The love of wine was the next step,” she explains. “I remember one night, when I was around 19 or 20, going to a friend’s house who was studying to be a winemaker and he opened a 1994 Lindeman’s Pyrus. A wine from Coonawarra that is a Cabernet Sauvignon /Merlot and Malbec blend. IT WAS MASSIVE and I thought wow, I need to try more wines. It really blew my socks off as I hadn’t tried anything as big and succulent as that before.” She says she loves the winemaking process and the chance to follow it the whole way through. “From the vineyard basics of pruning and harvesting to ferment to batching to oak to tank to bottle to mouth….it’s an amazing journey that I get to guide these babies through.” Further reading:  Meet Carissa Major and Marnie Roberts of Claymore Wines Nina Stocker and Callie Jemmeson – Chief and Assistant Winemakers, In Dreams It’s a case of double girl power at In Dreams, where Nina Stocker and Callie Jemmeson have teamed up to create superb Yarra Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Born and raised in a town on the border of the Alsace wine region in Switzerland, chief winemaker Nina says it was her family’s involvement in a local village vineyard that inspired her career as a winemaker. She moved to Australia and graduated with a Bachelor of Science and Arts degree at Monash University, which she followed it up with a post-graduate degree in Winemaking at the University of Adelaide. Nina says during her first vintage she worked as a cellar hand doing jobs like digging grape skins out of drains. “I loved it, and realized winemaking was what I wanted to do!” The other half of the team, assistant winemaker, Callie Jemmeson, grew up with wine in her blood. She says her passion for wine was sparked at a young age during family holidays to Chianti in Italy, and tastings at Louis Roederer in France. She qualified and worked a chef, before she was lured back to the world of wine studying winemaking at Charles Sturt University and working for De Bortoli in the Yarra Valley, Littorai Wines in California, and Fattoria Zerbina in Romagna. Nina and Callies also make wine for their own range of wines under their Wine Unplugged brand. Janice McDonald – Chief Winemaker, Burch Family Wines
Burch Family Wines’ chief winemaker, Janice McDonald, not only crafts exceptional wines, she also brews beer for the Margaret River Ale Company, in her spare time. Growing up the Central West NSW township of West Wyalong, Janice says she developed an interest in wine while studying science at Sydney’s Macquarie University. The interest turned to a passion and she completed a winemaking degree at Charles Sturt University. Her career includes head brewing positions at Matilda Bay and Little Creatures, winemaking roles at Vasse Felix , Brown Brothers and Devil’s Lair; and founding Stella Bella, where she was chief winemaker for 10 years. As the Chief Winemaker at Burch Family Wines Janice is responsible for all winemaking of the Howard Park , Marchand & Burch, Jete Methode Traditionelle and Madfish brands. Liz Silkman – Chief Winemaker, First Creek Wines and Silkman Wines
​ With a long list of accolades and a truck load of Trophy and Gold medal-winning wines to her name , Liz Silkman (nee Jackson) is Australia’s undisputed queen of Chardonnay. As chief winemaker at the Hunter Valley’s First Creek , she’s responsible for making not only their wines, but also the wines of more than two dozen Hunter labels made under contract. Liz and her husband Shaun Silkman, who is winemaker too, have their own label, Silkman Wines, with their first vintage released in 2013. Since then, they’ve won countless awards for their Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot. Add to the mix, time spent as a judge on the Australian wine show circuit and being a mum to two young daughters and you have one very busy lady. Louisa Rose – Chief Winemaker, Yalumba
A leader within Australia’s wine industry, Louisa Rose is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most experienced and talented winemakers. Louisa’s career with Yalumba spans over 25 years with her passion for Viognier and her developmental work of the varietal making her name synonymous with Viognier across the world. She has a string of accolades to her name including the 2014 The Age Australia’s Best Winemaker, the 2008 Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year, and in 2004 the International Wine & Spirit Competition named her the winner of the Women in Wine award. Chief winemaker at Yalumba since 2006, Louisa is also acknowledged as one of the country's top Riesling makers, crafting Yalumba’s Pewsey Vale Riesling for 20 years. Amongst her other hats, she is a Director of the Australian Wine Research Institute, an active member of wine industry councils and advisory boards, and a wine show judge. Further Reading: Louisa Rose talks Viognier in our variety guide
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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