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Wine

Talking wine with Jancis Robinson

You are known for you comprehensive tomes such as the Oxford Companion to Wine, so this 112-page book is a very different offering from you. How did this come about?

It started with our 24-year-old daughter, who was always being asked by her friends about wines... ‘How should I store this? Should I buy this wine? Your mother is a wine writer so you must know.’ So at one stage, she thought she would write a guide to wine for her friends. She got a whole load of them around and did a bit of a focus group to see what they wanted to know and what puzzled them. Then she got a great job and she gave up on that idea. But I thought it was a great idea, so I used her checklist and put together this book.

So who is the book for?

The 24-Hour Wine Expert is for people who drink wine, but aren’t too serious about it. They want to know the basics, the short cuts to the important things about the wine.

What are the things that people want to know?

I think they want to know the practicalities. They want to know how to taste, how to get the most out of every bottle. For instance, they want to know why you should only fill your wine glass half full. They want to know how to choose a bottle of wine off the shelf, they want to be able to look at a wine label and understand what it is telling them. They want to be able to choose wine from a wine list at a restaurant...People want to know what the heck that business of giving a taste of wine in restaurants is all about.

Can someone become a wine expert in 24 hours?

The book is written in a way that you could easily read it in 24 hours and after which you’d have all the essentials for understanding wine.

Having said that, I have been writing about wine for 40 years and I am a Master of Wine, but I never call myself a wine expert because I don’t know it all. There was one short time in my life when I thought I knew everything about wine and that was when I came top of my wine education course. Then I wrote my first book and realised I didn’t know much about wine at all. The world of wine is constantly changing and I learn something every day.

The title could also have another meaning, because you are the expert (despite what you’ve just said) and you probably think about wine 24/7. Are there times when you don’t think about wine?

That’s a good question, because I have to admit my dreams are often about wine. I write about wine and my husband writes about restaurants and so we are pretty ‘wine and foodie’. But once the family comes into play, that takes over.

Watch our exclusive video with Jancis below: 

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Wine
Intellectual property
Words by Mark Hughes on 8 Apr 2016
There’s something remarkably special in the hills outside of Canberra. With a truly unique heritage, this ‘thinking person’s wine region’ has taken just four decades to emerge as one of Australia’s premium wine areas. What do you get when two etymologists meet with a biochemist to talk about wine? It almost sounds like the opening line to a joke, but it is in fact a crucial moment in the birth of the Canberra District wine region. In 1970 CSIRO etymologists Dr Edgar Riek and Ken Helm found they had a mutual interest in wine and started up a wine club. Biochemist Dr John Kirk came along to the first meeting. Within a couple of years the three of them had started their own vineyards, and in so doing, began what is recognised today as one of Australia’s most exciting wine regions. In 1971 John planted in Murrumbateman, founding Clonakilla, while Edgar planted on the shore of Lake George for Lake George Winery. Ken set vines not far from John in a tranquil setting now referred to as Helm’s Valley in 1973. Other wine interested folk followed suit, setting up vineyards, including more scientists, helping the Canberra wine region to blossom. These include Lark Hill Winery’s Sue and John Carpenter who have doctorates in statistics and applied mathematics respectively, Dr Roger Harris, who founded Brindabella Hills Winery, and Lerida Estate’s Jim Lumbers, both CSIRO alumni. With so much collective brain power, the Canberra District really is the thinking person’s wine region. It is a unique history and something that truly sets Canberra apart from any other wine region in Australia, perhaps the world. But as Ken, who still mans the cellar door located in a former 19th century schoolhouse at Helm Wines, says, it has been a both a blessing and a hindrance. “Many other wine regions are started by medicos and barristers with high disposal incomes. Canberra was started by academics, who didn’t have much money, so it was really a bootstrap operation,” he says. “It was one of the difficulties because the district had very good research minds, but not a lot of commercial knowledge. It wasn’t until 1980 that the first qualified winemaker came to the district. We were fascinated – having that academic background we learned to question and think and be innovative. If there was a seminar or short course we went to it, slowly developing techniques of how to get the best out of the area.” Initially, the district had to fight against critics who said it was too cold, or suffered from too many frosts, that the wines were green and that it would never be a premium wine region. The scientist put themselves through wine courses, where most probably knew more than their teachers. The winemaking improved and the wines started to confirm the enormous potential of the region. Ken started turning heads with numerous awards for his Riesling, Edgar earned rave reviews for his Pinot Noir, while John won awards for his Clonakilla Shiraz. His son, Tim, who took over as chief winemaker in 1996, made the wine world stand to attention when his Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier won Wine of the Year Award at the New South Wales Wine Awards.Canberra’s Eden Road Winery did likewise when they won the 2009 Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for best red in the country with their Shiraz. Nowadays, the Canberra District is regarded as one of the best in the country, confirmed by the fact that 75 per cent of the region’s 40 or so wineries have a four star or more rating by esteemed wine critic James Halliday. The lay of the land It is a curious feature of the Canberra wine region that only one winery, Mount Majura, is actually located within the Australian Capital Territory, the others are located north of the city in NSW. Frank van der Loo, winemaker at Mount Majura, champions Spanish varietals Tempranillo and Graciano alongside the region’s flagships of Riesling and Shiraz . He says their vineyard site was actually chosen by Edgar Riek. “Edgar chose the site from a geology map and was attracted to a patch of limestone on an east-facing slope. It is quite a unique little patch of dirt, and a great site for vines,” says Frank. The rest of the Canberra wine district falls into three sub-regions. The first is just 15 minutes out of Canberra along the Barton Highway at Hall. This area is situated at around 550 metres high and is blessed with gorgeous rolling hills that fall away to a twisting Murrumbidgee River. It is here that Roger and Faye Harris set up Brindabella Hills in 1986. “The main concern in this district is frost, so we looked for a spot with good cold air drainage,” Roger tells me over a glass of Riesling. “The vineyard is actually on a ridge that juts out over the Murrumbidgee Valley and there is a 100-metre drop to the valley floor, so that absorbs the cold area for most frost events.” As well as Shiraz, Cabernet and Riesling (ask Roger for some glorious aged Riesling he is hiding), Brindabella Hills is experimenting with the Italian Sangiovese varietal, which is ideal to sip at their picturesque Tuscan-inspired cellar door that has breath-taking views over the Murrumbidgee.
Wine
Masters of Riesling - Jim Barry Wines
We caught up with second generation winemaker Peter Barry, whose stunning Jim Barry The Lodge Riesling 2015 from the Clare Valley is the Wine of the Month for August. What makes the Clare Valley such a special grape growing wine region? The Clare Valley is such a special grape growing region due to the warm days and cool nights which allow grapes to ripen fully but retain natural acidity and hence freshness. The undulating hills provide many aspects so we can grow Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet on different slopes of the same vineyard. What are some of the winemaking challenges it presents? The major winemaking challenge in Riesling is sunburn, which can be mitigated by canopy management to ensure no fruit is exposed to direct sunlight. For red wine, it is about picking at the right time to achieve a balance between ripeness and acid without the grapes becoming over ripe. What have been some of Jim Barry Wines’ greatest achievements in recent years? We’ve had great success, but some of the standouts include: Mathew Jukes Australian Winery of the year for 2016. Trophy for 2016 Lodge Hill Riesling at the 2016 Royal Sydney Wine Show Trophy for Barry Brothers Shiraz Cabernet for 2013 as the Brisbane and Melbourne Wine Shows, as well as Trophy in Brisbane for the 2014 vintage. Trophy for best producer at the Clare Valley Wine Show for five of the past six vintages. Also we’re very proud to have introduced the Greek variety of Assyrtiko to Australia. Can you sum up your experience of the 2016 vintage in a few words? Good rains in January hydrated very thirsty vines, leading to an exceptional vintage. When Jim Barry purchased the Lodge Hill vineyard in 1977 he was confident it would “produce some of the best Riesling in Clare”. What did he see that was so special about this vineyard? Three things. Elevation which leads to cooler night and better acid retention in Riesling, rocky/slatey soil meaning the vines have to send their roots deep into the ground in search of moisture and many aspects to suit Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet. The Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Riesling 2015 is the Wine Selectors Wine of the Month for August. What makes this a standout expression of the variety? The 2015 The Lodge Hill Riesling shows the perfect balance between ripe flavours, acidity and minerality. We matched it with Thai pork salad in our 2016 calendar. What is your favourite food match with this wine? With its natural acidity and zesty citrus, Riesling is the perfect match for spicy Asian food. Having said that, The Lodge Hill is absolutely delicious with a simple plate of freshly shucked oysters with finger lime.
Wine
What's in a label?
Words by Mark Hughes on 19 Aug 2017
I recently had the privilege of watching the legendary Liverpool FC towel up Sydney FC in a soccer friendly in a private suite at ANZ Stadium courtesy of Claymore Wines . The Clare Valley winery is owned by Adelaide doctor Anura Nitchingham, who became a lifelong Liverpool fan while attending university in the northern England city back in the 80s. Since founding his own winery, he’s been able take his fandom to the next level with the Claymore Wines Liverpool FC range , hence the invite to the match. During the half-time break, with the Reds comfortably leading 3-0, I observed a young couple at the bar looking through the range of Claymore Wines on offer. “Can I try the Purple Rain Sauvignon Blanc …I just love Prince,” the young lass asked of the barmaid. “I’ll have the London Calling,” said he, seemingly unaware of the varietal. It’s a Cabernet Malbec blend, by the way, and a good one, having recently won Platinum  at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Besides football, Anura’s other great love is music. So instead of having wines like a ‘single vineyard Shiraz’, Claymore’s labels bear the name of some of Anura’s favourite songs and albums, such as the Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz, Joshua Tree Riesling and Voodoo Child Chardonnay. “I just wanted to have some fun,” Anura tells me when I ask him the reasoning behind the labels. “After all, wine is meant to be fun, right?” Marketing Wine to Millennials
While it does seem fun, Claymore’s labels seem to fly in the face of traditional wine marketing, where the producer’s logo is consistent across all their wines and information such as varietal, origin and vintage is first and foremost. “It was a struggle early on because the inconsistent branding was deemed anti-marketing,” admits Claymore’s general manager, Carissa Major. “But once we explained the story, we had a more personal conversation with the customer. Now, people come to our cellar door, pick up a Bittersweet Symphony (Cab Sav) and say, ‘this is from my generation, I get it’. The labels were never meant to be a gimmick, they are the sound track to Anura’s life. But marketing-wise today, they present exciting opportunities rather than barriers.” Recent studies from California State University help explain the marketing swing. Researchers looked at the fastest growing buyer market in wine – millennials – people born after 1980, so termed because they hit maturity at the turn of the millennium. This generation is cashed up, brand savvy and, most importantly, they are on the verge of overtaking baby boomers as the biggest buyers of wine. The university study found that millennials prefer wine labels that are brightly coloured, less traditional, more graphically focused and feature creative brand names. If you’re a wine producer listening to a baby boomer marketer, maybe it’s time to think outside the box. The story of Fowles Wine’s Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch is a great example. The label shows an art deco-style image of a lady in her finery out for a hunt. “My wife designs the labels and we actually took advice from a leading marketer about whether this was a good idea. Their response? No!,” explains Fowles Wines owner, Matt Fowles. “We ultimately disagreed and released the wines, but it was useful advice in the sense that it was liberating. We thought, if there is no place in the market for this, then we should just do the designs we really love, so we did. It was all a bit of fun and, surprise, surprise, they sell well.” Art for art’s sake
Riverland producer Delinquente Wine Co. has taken label art in an even more contemporary direction channelling a punk ethos on their wines such as The Bullet Dodger Montepulciano and the Screaming Betty Vermentino. “The starting point with the artwork for Delinquente was to do something very different to traditional wine labels, but also to represent things we have a passion for, like street art and alternative culture,’ says winemaker/owner Con-Greg Grigoriou. “The art represents our ideas and allows us to connect with people in an interesting way. We all know a ‘Screaming Betty’, or would at least like to party with her. So they have taken on a life of their own.” Not everyone is a fan. Seventy-nine-year-old wine critic James Halliday described Delinquente Wines as setting “the new low water-mark” for labels in Australia. But he likes their wines. And that’s the thing, the wine has to be good to get the buyer to keep coming back. These days, wine is fashion and bottle shop aisles are the catwalks. Marketing a label is just as important as the wine inside the bottle. Get both right and you could just make it. Traditionalists will most likely continue to stock their cellars with family crested bottles. The millennials crave new and exciting. As for me, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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