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Wine

Seven New Wines to Explore this Spring

Celebrate the arrival of spring and explore a whole new world of wine with some exciting alternative varietals guaranteed to become firm new favourites.

To take the guess work out of what you think you might or might not enjoy, the Tasting Panel has selected seven favourite main-stream varietals our Members love and suggested a new alternative varietal that is similar.

Chardonnay + Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc + Vermentino, Pinot G + Arneis, Riesling + Gruner Veltliner, Shiraz + Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon + Durif, and Pinot Noir + Nero d’Avola.

Favourites you love + new finds to enjoy

1. Roussanne

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"Wonderfully aromatic, Roussanne delivers all the stonefruit and honeysuckle characters that Chardonnay drinkers can’t resist,” says Tasting Panellist, Dave Mavor.

Roussanne hails from the Northern Rhône and its name comes from ‘roux’, French for ‘russet’, which describes the reddish-gold colour of its skin when ripe.

It thrives in moderate to warm climates such as Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Rutherglen.

Its rich texture makes it ideal with creamy sauces – roasted poultry, shellfish with cream sauce, pork dishes.

Discover the delights of Roussanne here.

2. Vermentino 

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Sauvignon Blanc fans will love how Vermentino is just as mouth-watering and full of citrus flavours,” says Tasting Panellist, Nicole Gow. Find out more about the variety with Nicole's Vermentino guide here.

Most famously grown on the Italian island of Sardinia, it makes perfect sense that Vermentino suits Australia’s warm climate, especially that of McLaren Vale. Styles range from light and fresh to rich and textural.

It thrives in cool to warm climates giving different characteristics. Grown increasingly in Australia, most notably in King Valley, McLaren Vale and the Hunter Valley.

Bright acidity and textural elements make it idea with a range of simply-prepared foods – grilled white fish, calamari, and tomato based sauces.

Experience the refreshing citrus flavours of Vermentino here.

3. Arneis

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“Crisp, floral and packed full of pear with a lovely texture, like Pinot G, Arneis is a fabulously food-friendly white,” says Tasting Panellist, Keith Tulloch.

Originating in Italy, Arneis is a white varietal winemakers often blend with Nebbiolo to add a touch of sweetness and perfume. Here in Australia, it’s living up to its reputation as being a little difficult to grow – an emerging hit.

It thrives on cool to moderate climates such as Adelaide Hills, King Valley and Mornington Peninsula.

A crisp yet generous and versatile variety – pair it with salads, egg-based dishes, antipasto.

Discover the food-friendly Arneis here.

4. Gruner Veltliner

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Gruner Veltliner is very similar to Riesling, but with just a little more richness and a distinctive peppery aroma that I know you’ll adore," says Tasting Panellist, Trent Mannell.

Gruener Veltliner is the most famous and widely planted white variety in Austria. Here in Australia it’s gaining a great following due to passion of producers including Tomich Wines, Cape Barren and Geoff Hardy.

It thrives in cool climates such as Adelaide Hills.

An elegant, complex and savoury variety, ideally suited to aromatic dishes, spicy vegetables, tofu and Japanese.

Venture into the world of Gruner Veltliner here.

5. Montepulciano

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“Montepulciano’s (‘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," says Tasting Panellist, Adam Walls.

In true Aussie style, Montepulciano has been shortened to ‘Monte’. The Italian varietal has had success in Australia’s warmer and cooler climates, most likely because it’s a relatively late ripening variety. Just like Shiraz, it’s hardy, disease-resistant and can handle the heat and cold.

Great examples of Monte can be found in Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley and Riverland.

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 complementary pairings include mushroom ragu with rag pasta, braised beef shin and pepperoni pizza.

Explore this increasingly popular varietal here.

6. Durif

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Durif and Cabernet are similarly luxurious with dark cherry, chocolate and hints of anise,” says Tasting Panellist, Dave Mavor.

Hailing from the south of France, Durif is now most prolific in Australia and California. It has great ageing potential and blends beautifully with Shiraz.

It thrives in hot climates such as Rutherglen, Barossa Valley and Riverland.

Pair it with richer, high fat foods to balance the robust tannins – rich braised meats, casserole and meaty pasta.

Delve into the delicious world of Durif here.

7. Nero d’Avola

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“With its spicy fruits and supple savoury texture, Nero d’Avola will sweep you off your feet,” says Tasting Panellist, Adam Walls. Find out more about the variety in Adam's video here

Translating as ‘black grape of Avola’, Nero d’Avola hails from the Italian town for which it’s named. It didn’t arrive in Australia until 1998 and while it’s not widely known, it’s proving to be a delicious drink.

It thrives in moderate to warm climates such as Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Riverland, Heathcote and Murray Darling.

Pair it with rich dishes that will be balanced by the tannins and high acidity – osso bucco, spicy Indian and game meat.

Make a Nero d’Avola discovery here.

Expand your cellar with all of these great new finds, and open up a whole new world of food and wine matching possibilities.

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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  .
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Merlot Members Tasting
Words by Ralph Kyte Powell on 4 Jun 2018
Merlot is a mystery to a lot of us. Many other red wine grapes have much more recognisable varietal personalities, giving them more immediate impact than Merlot . Cabernet Sauvignon , for example, nearly always says ‘Cabernet’ emphatically, via varietal cues that cut across the vagaries of region, climate, winemaking, and culture. Blackcurranty character, leafy austerity, angular, savoury personality and tannic backbone mark Cabernet-based wines, apparent even in warmer, riper versions. So it is with Pinot Noir ’s distinctive fruit characters, softness and silken structure. Pinot Noir says Pinot Noir loud and clear, but what of Merlot? Confusing Merlot’s identity crisis is the multiplicity of different styles available. In the coolest places, the variety’s leafiness can become too herbal and green; in the warmest places, it can be big, jammy and soupy. When overcropped and made on an industrial scale, Merlot can be washed out, sometimes sweet, a simple quaffer. In the middle of all this, we find Merlot’s ideal spot in skillfully tended vineyards in temperate areas. Here we encounter suggestions of plum, mulberry and fruitcake, raspberry, cherry, violet, spice and dried herb hints, maybe chocolate and olive from oak input. These wines tend to be soft, plump and juicy, worthy of plenty of attention as a friendlier type of red wine than tannic Cabernet or Shiraz . Compared to Cabernets, Merlots are generally much lower in methoxypyrazines too. These compounds in grapes give raw, green, herbaceous characters that can be shrill and unpleasant, another reason for good Merlot’s friendly personality. Cabernet’s comrade Merlot’s historic role as a blending variety also tends to compromise its individual identity. In its Bordeaux home, its early ripening characteristics act as insurance against the later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, especially across difficult vintages. Merlot develops higher sugar levels and riper fruit characters weeks before Cabernet, and it’s planted much more widely in the Bordeaux region as a result. Its rich, supple personality tempers Cabernet’s more severe traits in a blend, and it usually doesn’t need nearly as much mellowing bottle age to be gluggable. Around the world Merlot’s fortunes have been improving worldwide over the last few decades as plantings have expanded into new territory. Chile has been at the forefront and has built a large export market for easy-sipping Merlot. In the Old World, Merlot has been replacing other more mediocre varieties in vineyards across the European continent. Its international appeal and reputation for friendly wine has supported vast new plantings in places like France’s south-west as the French hit back after the inroads New World wineries have made in their traditional markets. French wine drinkers possibly don’t know Merlot by name very well, but they like it and so do their international customers. American consumers have an idea what to expect from Merlot – softness, maybe a little sweetness, easy drinking. New Zealanders are also familiar with Merlot’s easy manners and the variety has traditionally sparred with Pinot Noir as the red of choice for Kiwis. In recent times, NZ Pinot has been ascendant, but Merlot is still in the mix. Generally, Australians are much less Merlot-aware. No mention of Merlot can be made without referring to the cult American movie Sideways . In the USA, Merlot is the second most popular red wine grape after Cabernet Sauvignon, mainly due to vast quantities of soft, low tannin reds that appeal to wine novices. In Sideways , made in 2004, wine tragic and wine snob Miles rails loudly against Merlot. “If anybody orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any f…ing Merlot,” he declares, and his comments contributed to a drop in Merlot sales in the USA, the UK, and probably Australia. Merlot has recovered, but I suspect a slightly negative perception lingers, helped by Merlot’s lack of a distinct varietal identity in the minds of many consumers. Taste expectations So to discover what makes Merlot tick, we recently gathered together a panel of eight keen Merlot fans from the ranks of Wine Selectors Members for a tasting dinner at Melbourne’s Papa Goose restaurant. Joining them were Selector publisher, Paul Diamond and yours truly. Sixteen wines from across Australia were served masked in brackets of four. South Australia was represented by seven wines from a diversity of regions, with the emphasis on somewhat cooler places like the Adelaide Hills , Eden Valley and Limestone Coast/Coonawarra regions. Victorian wines included examples from the Yarra Valley , the Pyrenees and the warm vineyards of Rutherglen , while New South Wales and Western Australia presented a cross-section of vineyard sources. As we sat down to taste, we made a quick survey of what the Members looked for in Merlot. “I like Merlot because it’s not too heavy,” said Wine Selectors Member, Darren Dean, “It’s soft, easy to drink, sweet and smooth.” Fellow Member Ingrid Fraser agreed. “They are soft, complete wines, plump and lovely,” she said. Paul looked for, “consistency of mouthfeel, smooth texture, seamlessness.” Softness and smoothness were terms most tasters used to describe Merlot’s general appeal. Were these characteristics reinforced as the dinner progressed and the group came to terms with the wines served? Paired to perfection Matching food and wine is much discussed in the gastronomic world. 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Gnocchi with king oyster mushroom, tarragon and amaretti cream pointed up the depths of the following group of four wines, with rich flavours and textures woven through aromatic ones. Eyebrows were raised when we saw that the porterhouse with red wine sauce was coming with caraway coleslaw – caraway can be formidable – but the dish’s subtlety actually drew out some of the foresty, herbal notes in the wines, making the sum of the parts far more than the individual inputs. Cheese can be problematic with a lot of wines, but the mild, mature Pynegana Cheddar, served to finish dinner, had fruity accompaniments of chutney, quince paste and muscatels to temper it. Merlot stood up to the entire menu, confirming its delicious suitability at the table. The dinner confirmed in everybody’s eyes that Australian Merlot does indeed have its own distinct personality, and that it deserves to be centre stage alongside better-known brethren like Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. 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Shipwrecked Wines - what would you take?
You’re shipwrecked on a desert island with one bottle of wine – what did you bring? Find out about the wines our experts believe they just couldn’t survive without. Picture this – it’s a balmy sunny Sunday and you’re on a boat bobbing around on the ocean with friends enjoying the good life. The skies suddenly darken, the sea begins to churn, but luckily before the waves come crashing down washing you over overboard, you’re able to rescue a bottle of your favourite wine.  Nicole Gow – Wine Selectors Tasting Panellist , Wine Show Judge “I chose Chardonnay with melon and stone fruits in abundance. Survival in nothing but luxury is my goal. I'll be gathering my tropical fruits each morning, hunting some shellfish and chilling my bottle in the cooling rock pools, while I'm getting subtly toasted, just like my yummy oak!” Credaro Five Tales Chardonnay 2016 Brad Russ – Tulloch Wines “Sparkling of course. Drinking Sparkling suggests it’s party time – in this case on a deserted island so it’s very exclusive and bespoke, plus it’s the perfect accompaniment to freshly shucked oysters and seafood. And, if I drank enough I’d be able to use the corks to float my boat.”   Tulloch Cuvée NV Scott Austin –  Austins & Co, Six Foot Six
“It’s Pinot Gris for me! It’s a real conversation starter, a wine to destress with, to simplify the issues and bring claim to the group of stranded crew, and begin the bonding process for everyone to get to know each other and work out what they will do next. It's crisp and refreshing style will bring light and clarity to an otherwise potentially intense situation.” Six Foot Six Pinot Gris 2016 Anna Watson –  Lost Buoy Wines “I’d take Shiraz to drink with the wild goat we just hunted and cooked, and to drink with the shipwrecked sailors washed up on the shore. And, if it’s cold weather, I could simmer it down for a great mulled wine. However, I’d probably also take a case of Gin - more medicinal". Lost Buoy The Edge Shiraz 2016 Adam Walls – Wine Selector Tasting Panellist and Wine Educator, and Wine Show Judge “Rosé for sure! There is no better wine to have at your disposal when stuck on an island – it’s cold and crisp and defines refreshment. And it blends in perfectly with the colour of your sunburn!’ Chaffey Bros Not Your Grandma’s Rosé 2017 6 Wines for when You're lost-at-sea Throw yourself a life raft and get shipwrecked-ready with the official  Wine Island 6-pack that includes a fantastic selection of favourites including a bottle each of Credaro Five Tales Chardonnay 2016 , Six Foot Six Pinot Gris 2016 ,   Tulloch Cuvée NV , Chaffey Bros Not Your Grandma’s Rosé 2017 , Byron & Harold Rose & Thorns Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 and Lost Buoy The Edge Shiraz 2016 . 
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