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Talking wine with sommelier Sebastian Crowther

Selector recently had the pleasure of catching up with Sebastian Crowther, Master Sommelier with Sydney’s Rockpool group.

Sebastian’s love of wine grew from a realisation that it was a topic that offers so much to explore. As he explains,  " I was just so oblivious to how big and how interesting the world of wine was and I think it was that moment of realisation that wow, there’s so much more to this than what I actually know.”

Today, having attained the title of Master Sommelier, his love of wine extends to the origins, people, stories and passion that are poured into every bottle and he loves communicating that message to his restaurant guests and presenting them with beautifully complementary food and wine matches.

“Food and wine matching is something that we have a focus on,” he says, “We look at the protein, we also look at the sauces that are accompanying it, whether they’re salty, sweet or have heavy umami characteristics, we try to find wines that complement these and really integrate into the flavours that the dishes have.”

Of course, a wine is only as good as the glass that it’s served in and Sebastian believes he’s discovered the best. “I must admit, I’m a self-confessed Riedel glassware freak, not only in the way they enhance the aroma and flavours of the wine, but also this beautiful tactile feel that they give.”

About Riedel

For 250 years, the Riedel name has stood for the high art of glassmaking.  However it was Claus Riedel’s 1950s discovery that the shape of your glass impacts the aroma, flavour, and overall profile of wine, which revolutionized the industry.  His masterpiece series “Sommeliers was the first ever stemware line to provide wine drinkers with an instrument designed to enhance the enjoyment of wine. 

His creation of ‘wine friendly’ stemware led to the production of varietal-specific glassware by his son Georg, 10th generation.  Working with experienced tasters and winemakers, he designed his ground-break Vinum series through sensory workshops, whereby the glass’ bowl shape is determined only by sensory perception, rather than on a drawing board.

Maximilian Riedel, 11th generation, now sits at the helm of the company after taking over from his father in 2014.  His introduction of the O Series, varietal-specific wine tumblers, as well as his imaginative series of snake decanters, continue to drive the company forward. 

Maximilian further strengthened Riedel’s commitment to the hospitality industry with the introduction of the Riedel Restaurant lines.  The Restaurant series allows on-premise access to the Riedel portfolio and “Grape Varietal Specific” philosophy, at a lower cost and with greater durability.

Visit Riedel for more details.

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Preserving the truth on sulphates in wine
Recently, one of our members, Penny Bamford, got in touch to ask about preservative 220, which you might have seen listed on the back label of bottle of wine. She wanted to know whether it can cause allergic reactions and whether it’s used in organic and biodynamic wine. Tasting Panellist Dave Mavor came to the rescue with an explanation. The main preservative used in wine is sulphur dioxide, which you’ll see on the label as ‘preservative 220’, ‘minimal sulphur dioxide added’ or ‘contains sulphites’. Sulphur dioxide is added in the winemaking process to protect the wine from oxidation and bacterial spoilage. I can tell you that the sulphur dioxide used in winemaking is less than many other products (e.g., dried fruits, some beer, meat, etc.) that we consume every day. It has been used as a preservative in wine since Roman times. And don’t be fooled into thinking that because preservatives aren’t listed on European wines that they’re not present, it’s just that they don’t have the same strict labelling laws as Australia. The amount of sulphur dioxide winemakers are allowed to add is strictly controlled to a limit of 250 milligrams per litre. With such low levels it is unlikely to cause any health issues, however, some people feel they are quite sensitive to it. If that is you, here are some tips: There tends to be higher levels of sulphur dioxide added to white wines as they are more susceptible to oxidation, whereas the tannins in red wines act as a natural preservative. If you have symptoms from drinking red wine, it’s more likely to be from the histamines. Age also affects the sulphur dioxide levels in a wine, as it dissipates over time, so if you’re sensitive to sulphur dioxide, go for older wines. There is less sulphur dioxide used in organic and biodynamic wines. Certification allows 50 per cent of what can be used under conventional standards. Preservative-free wines don’t have sulphur dioxide added, however, it can also be a natural product of fermentation and is therefore often present even if it hasn’t been deliberately added. Also, without added preservatives, the wine will be very susceptible to spoilage by oxidation, so it needs to be consumed straightaway – which is not a bad thing. You might have noticed the recent emergence of products that claim to remove the sulphur dioxide from your wine. Dave explains that these are simply made up of diluted hydrogen peroxide. While this is a chemical sometimes used in the winery when too much sulphur has been accidently added to a wine, it’s extremely controlled by winemakers with a thorough understanding of the chemical process. Remember that if you add too much hydrogen peroxide to a wine it will go off and you will have spoilt all the winemaker’s hard work!
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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