Italy, Champagne, France

Italy has some of the oldest wine production methods in the world and almost every part of the country is planted under vine. From the Alps in the north to the very southernmost parts of Sicily where Africa is almost in sight, wine is successfully cultivated. In addition to the latitude covered, Italy's many mountains and hills provide a plethora of altitudes for grape growing in various soils and micro-climates. The extensive coastlines along the peninsula that is Italy provide maritime climates for the coastal wine-growing areas. Over 350 grape varieties are 'authorised' in Italy, though up to 550 varieties are thought to be grown.

The classification system of Italian wines has four classes, with the intention of defining a wine's origin a quality. Two of these classes are table wines, whilst DOC and DOCG fall under the EU quality wine produced in a specific region category. Vino da Tavola (VDT) means that the wine comes from Italy. Most of these wines are generally basic table wines that are consumed domestically. Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) denotes a more specific region within Italy, and the resultant will be of higher quality than simple table wines, but won't conform to the rules required for higher certification. Both Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) are regionally more specific than IGT, and have stricter rules regarding the grape varieties grown, yields per hectare, minimum alcohol levels and so on. The major difference between DOC and DOCG is that the latter has to undergo a blind-tasting session to ensure the highest quality is achieved. Italy has 32 DOCG appelations, 311 DOC appelations and 120 IGT zones.

Key regions include Piedmont, Tuscany, Abruzzo, Veneto, Sicily and Sardinia. Common white varieties grown are Pinot Grigio, Arneis, Vermentino, Verdicchio, Fiano and Moscato. The red varieties grown the most are Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, Primitivo, Nero d'Avola and Corvina.
Champagne is a wine region to the north-east of Paris where wine has been grown since the Romans first planted in the 5th century and the region is most well known for the Sparkling wine that goes by the regions name.

Champagne is made from 3 grapes. The two red grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and the white grape Chardonnay. All three are commonly blended though a ‘blanc de blanc’ meaning ‘white from white’ indicates that only Chardonnay was used. Conversely a ‘blanc de noir’ or ‘white from black’ indicates that the two red grapes were used.

A common misconception is that Champagne was invented by Dom Pérignon. Although this is not the case, he made considerable contributions to the quality and production methods used in the region. The very first bottles of Champagne were created by accident, and coined ‘the devil’s wine’ for all the popping corks. Sparkling wine in Australia was referred to as Champagne but this practise has long been disallowed.

Methode Champenoise is the traditional method by which Champagne is produced and if you see Millisime on a bottle, it represents the fact that the wine comes from a particular vintage rather than being blended, which is the more common practice.

Icons such as Dom Pérignon and Krug are world renowned, but we find as much pleasure in the smaller Champagne houses such as Gosset and Jacquinot. Magnums are perfect for the festive occasions and half bottles are also available.
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