The Top 100 list 2020

Whites under $25

96 wines submitted

Riesling has more to recommend it than semillon in the first few years of its life, although the scales even up somewhat with age. The elephant is chardonnay, with five wines in this group and 11 in the over-$25 category, riesling the bridesmaid with 10 all up.


Best’s Great Western Riesling 2020

96 points | $25 | drink to 2040
The vines are direct descendants of the 1866 plantings in the nursery block. A core of sweet lime juice essence and spine-tingling acidity makes a wine that follows in the footsteps of its multi-gold medal winning predecessors. An indefinite lifespan. Screwcap, 12% alc.

Henschke Peggy's Hill Eden Valley Riesling 2020

96 points | $25 | drink to 2030
Delicious riesling in full-on Eden Valley style, lemon blossom aromas swiftly replayed on the juicy yet tightly framed palate. Makes life difficult for the taster such as I with dozens of wines remaining to be tasted, and prohibiting the impulse to swallow just a little bit. Screwcap, 12% alc.

Jim Barry Jim's Garden Clare Valley Riesling 2020

95 points | $25 | drink now
A new addition to the Jim Barry riesling portfolio. The salty, spicy bouquet gives no warning of the intensity of the attack on the palate that continues without hesitation through to the lingering aftertaste. Lime, spice and mineral are the players in a powerful wine. Screwcap, 12% alc.

Pikes Traditionale Clare Valley Riesling 2020

96 points | $25 | drink to 2035
Elegance is the cornerstone of this lovely riesling, with a flawless serenade of citrus allsorts, its spine of acidity a contradiction in terms, because it’s almost sweet – an illusion, of course. An eachway proposition for now or later consumption. Screwcap, 12% alc.


Thomas Synergy Vineyard Selection Hunter Valley Semillon 2020

95 points | $20 | drink to 2035
Multi-vineyard sources as usual, but there’s nothing usual about the depth of varietal fruit expression on the palate. Lemongrass/lemon curd flavours run throughout, Hunter acidity the staff of the long life ahead. Great success in a difficult vintage. Screwcap, 11.5% alc.

Mistletoe Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon 2019

95 points | $25 | drink to 2030
Hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed, a short maturation in tank on gross lees post a cold ferment. Gleaming straw-green; the lemon-scented bouquet leads into a generously flavoured palate, with lemon curd and Meyer lemon fruit flavours extended by the backbone of acidity. Now or later enjoyment. Screwcap, 12.2% alc.

Sauvignon Blanc and blends

Deep Woods Estate Ivory Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2020

93 points | $15 | drink to 2024
Typical Deep Woods’ abundance of flavours from a broad tropical pasture with passionfruit, custard apple and a French dressing of citrus. The price is downright embarrassing, but it’s Margaret River’s monopoly of the blend. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.

Stella Bella Skuttlebutt Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2020

94 points | $19 | drink to 2025
Margaret River does this style so well it would be hard to deny at any price, let alone this. It’s made in the vineyard, vinification without any embellishment – except perhaps a hint of sweetness. No matter; the blend of kaffir lime, white peach and passionfruit is balanced and freshened by crisp acidity. Screwcap, 12.9% alc.

Sidewood Estate Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020

95 points | $22 | drink to 2022
A fragrant blossom-filled bouquet, with tropical notes feeding through to a lively, juicy palate that presents a dual stream of citrus and passionfruit flavours. Has the effortless charm that many sauvignon blancs lack. Ready now. Screwcap, 12% alc.

Murdoch Hill Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020

95 points | $24 | drink to 2022
The aromatic bouquet has a suite of nettle, herb and fresh-cut grass notes that play directly to the lively and fresh palate, there picked up with gooseberry and citrus fruit. The finish is clean and brightly polished, the wine at its best now. Screwcap, 12% alc.


Dominique Portet Fontaine Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2019

93 points | $22 | drink to 2027
All the reliance is on the fruit, not the winemaking. The lion’s share was cool-fermented in stainless steel, oak (including some new French barriques) introduced for 7 months maturation on lees. White peach is the driver, with a flinty, mouthwatering finish. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Juniper Crossing Margaret River Chardonnay 2019

93 points | $22.50 | drink to 2026
Hits the target fair and square in a laid back Margaret River style without the need for new oak. There’s depth and complexity in the grapefruit and stone fruit palate with its faintly funky edge adding interest and length. A very good entry point wine. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.

Oakdene Bellarine Peninsula Chardonnay 2019

94 points | $24 | drink to 2029
Fermented and matured for 10 months in new and used French barriques. Gleaming straw-green hue. The quality of the fruit is obvious, the wine already in the saddle, the gait smooth and supple, white stone fruit, citrussy acidity and creamy cashew in harmony. Screwcap, 13.4% alc.

De Iuliis Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2019

93 points | $25 | drink to 2026
If climate warming is having such a disastrous impact on viticulture, the Hunter should be out for the count. In fact – other than the bushfire smoke of ’20 – it is having a fine run of good to very good vintages. The answer to the riddle is adaptation, and flexible balance between fresh fruit and oak. Screwcap, 12.8% alc.

Devil's Lair Dance with the Devil Margaret River Chardonnay 2019

94 points | $25 | drink to 2025
The bouquet has pronounced barrel ferment aromas benefiting from a hint of smoky oak, and the palate takes the baton in a smooth movement. It’s easy to take this level of chardonnay for granted, but that’s the gift of a climate that is so reliable for crystal clear varietal expression. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Other Whites

Tahbilk Marsanne 2020

93 points | $19.50 | drink to 2028
Tahbilk has made marsanne its own, the quality and style seemingly set in stone, or should I say steel. Citrus, apple and pear now, honeysuckle biding its time because it is certain to arrive in a year or two, when the texture of the wine will be transformed. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Mount Langi Ghiran Vineyards Billi Billi Pinot Gris 2020

93 points | $20 | drink to 2023
The cool Grampians climate gives pinot gris the drive that it misses in warmer regions. Nashi pear aromas surge out as the glass is swirled and the range of flavours intensify on the palate and finish. Grapefruit zest, nashi pear and minerally acidity coming into play. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.

Hahndorf Hill White Mischief Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner 2020

95 points | $24 | drink to 2023
Small bunches started the ball rolling for a wine with an excellent mouthfeel and a faint white pepper varietal marker. The length and drive on the finish give the wine serious gravitas. Attention to vinification detail is its own reward. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Shadowfax Minnow Roussanne 2019

95 points | $24 | drink to 2023
Cool-fermented in French hogsheads in the underground cellar. Young roussanne can be boring, but this is the opposite, with a plethora of aromas and flavours in Southern Rhone style, honeycomb, fig, marzipan and pear are neatly corralled by just-in-time acidity. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Shingleback The Bio Project McLaren Vale Fiano 2020

94 points | $24.95 | drink to 2026
Fiano is a variety that will surely achieve ever greater significance in Australia’s varietal landscape. It holds its acidity and its lingering aftertaste wherever it is grown. Its almond and kaffir lime flavours delicately coat the mouth, the next glass never far away. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.

Reds Under $30

199 wines submitted

The wines came from 11 regions: McLaren Vale and Margaret River (four wines each), Yarra Valley (3), Mornington Peninsula (2) and one wine each from Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Grampians, Hunter Valley, Langhorne Creek and Pyrenees. The varietal spread threw up shiraz (7), cabernet sauvignon (5), pinot noir (4), grenache (3) and malbec (1).

Pinot Noir

Woods Crampton Tread Softly Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2020

94 points | $22 | drink to 2023
From the Upper Yarra, early picked, wild-fermented, matured in large-format used French oak. Woods Crampton steps out of South Australia to fashion this attractively labelled (and vinified) wine. It’s not thin or green, the bright, full clear crimson hue marking a bargain. Screwcap, 12.2% alc.

Foxeys Hangout The Red Fox Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2019

95 points | $29 | drink to 2030
Modest colour; cooking spices frame the bouquet, contributing even more of the palate’s message. In Foxeys’ usual style, fine tannins are also centre stage together with exotic dark berry fruits. Second place in Foxeys’ hierarchy, but nonetheless impressive. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Dappled Appellation Upper Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2019

96 points | $30 | drink to 2030
Good depth of colour; the bouquet has fragrant spiced plum and forest berries, the impressive, deeply robed palate following precisely in the tracks of the bouquet. The volume of flavour and mouthfeel suggests even more spicy complexity will follow in the next 2-3 years. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Yabby Lake Vineyard Red Claw Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2019

95 points | $30 | drink to 2029
Hand-picked and sorted, open-fermented with 25% whole bunches, matured in used French puncheons. Bright crimson-purple; the fragrant bouquet weaves a tapestry of red berry blossom with a darker note picked up on the complex palate and its long finish. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Shiraz and blends

Jim Barry Lodge Hill Clare Valley Shiraz 2018

96 points | $25 | drink to 2038
A very impressive wine at this price, the colour deep and bright, the expressive bouquet with earthy/spicy nuances to black fruits. The medium-bodied palate has an extra level of depth aided by supple tannins and a twitch of oak. The value cannot be gainsayed. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Thomas Synergy Vineyard Selection Hunter Valley Shiraz 2018

95 points | $25 | drink to 2038
Multiple vineyard sources separately vinified. The high quality vintage shines through the expressive, dark berry-filled, bouquet and into a sculpted medium-bodied palate. Its freshness and savoury fruit/oak/tannin balance guarantee it will develop superbly over decades. Value+. Screwcap, 14.2% alc.

Dune Blewitt Springs McLaren Vale Shiraz 2019

96 points | $26 | drink to 2034
Fermented with a mix of whole bunch, whole berry, and crushed fruit. This really sings; it proclaims its Blewitt Springs birth with energetic, spicy, savoury notes threaded through predominantly black fruits, backed and lengthened by fine, but firm, tannins. Remarkable wine. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Riposte The Cutlass Single Vineyard Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2019

95 points | $28 | drink to 2027
Adelaide Hills and shiraz are having a public love affair, exemplified by this brightly flavoured pepper and spice cherry fruits, on a very complex palate that’s just within medium-bodied bounds. Its 50% whole bunch fermentation adds fine, savoury tannins to the long finish. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Windance Margaret River Shiraz 2019

96 points | $28 | drink to 2034
An elegant medium-bodied wine with red and black cherry fruit on the smooth and supple palate. Exemplary handling of extract and the use of oak puts this in the class of its ’18 predecessor, even if the show record of that wine was momentous. Great balance and mouthfeel. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Paxton Quandong Farm Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz 2019

96 points | $30 | drink to 2034
The first Paxton vineyard to adopt a biodynamic regime. The complex bouquet has sweet dark berry fruits, spice and wood smoke (not bushfire) aromas, and a medium to full-bodied palate that stays light on its feet in a wealth of licorice, juniper and savoury, earthy notes. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Thistledown Cunning Plan McLaren Vale Shiraz 2019

96 points | $30 | drink to 2039
A full-bodied shiraz that reflects cunning winemaking. Whole berry fermentation has put a rich gloss on the palate without overloading the tannin structure. The predominantly black berry fruit is shot through with licorice, spice and an airbrush of dark chocolate. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.

Cabernet Sauvignon and blends

Juniper Crossing Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2018

95 points | $19.80 | drink to 2030
Bright, clear crimson-purple; this punches way above its weight from the outset. Supple cassis and persistent – but silky – tannins sketch the outline of a wine with freshness and a balance that will sustain its shape for however long you elect to cellar it. Exceptional value. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Dominique Portet Fontaine Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

95 points | $22 | drink to 2034
Quite what a classy Yarra Valley cabernet-dominant blend (3% each of petit verdot and malbec, 2% cabernet franc) is doing at this price is beyond me. It is elegant, medium-bodied and finely structured, the suite of red and black currant fruits given 12 months in French oak (20% new). Screwcap, 13% alc.

Robert Oatley Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

95 points | $24 | drink to 2033
This is first class Margaret River cabernet at an economy price. It has elegance and poise, the cassis and black olive flavours fresh and detailed, the crisp tannins likewise. The colour, too, is bright and clear. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Larry Cherubino Pedestal Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

96 points | $25 | drink to 2033
From vineyards in Wilyabrup, matured in French oak for 12 months. It ticks all the boxes with its cassis fruit on the one hand, firm cabernet tannins on the other providing all-up balance. Exceptional value for a wine with an extended drinking window of opportunity. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Dog Rock Pyrenees Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2019

95 points | $30 | drink to 2030
A 60/40% blend matured for 10 months in French oak (40% new). A brightly coloured, medium-bodied wine with a mix of red and black fruits, spices and fine tannins that have almost casually absorbed the contribution of new oak. The low alcohol is all good. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.

Other Reds and blends

Bleasdale Vineyards Second Innings Langhorne Creek Malbec 2019

95 points | $22 | drink to 2027
Bleasdale can’t put a foot wrong with malbec at whatever price point it chooses. This is flooded with plum varietal fruit, but also has the texture and back-palate structure that many malbecs miss out on. Winemaker Paul Hotker is a whizz. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Varney Entrada McLaren Vale Grenache Mourvedre Touriga 2019

95 points | $25 | drink to 2029
A 60/30/10% blend, the grenache from 60yo Blewitt Springs bushvines, all components picked early for vibrancy. Partial whole bunch fermentation, briefly matured in used oak. Holding its hue well, and delivering a very complex yet juicy palate, jumping with spice and fine, savoury tannins. Screwcap, 13.1% alc.

Purple Hands Old Vine Barossa Valley Grenache 2019

96 points | $30 | drink to 2029
Old bushvines, 35% whole bunch, matured in used puncheons for 10 months. The wine is medium-bodied and perfectly balanced, the flavours of red and purple fruit held in a gently savoury net of fine tannins. It’s akin to a high quality Rhone wine with no confection, and will live for years. Screwcap, 14% alc.

The Story Grampians Grenache 2019

95 points | $30 | drink to 2029
As winemaker Rory Lane comments, late-ripening grenache is a recent arrival in the Grampians, warmer vintages opening the door. This has a perfumed bouquet of rose petals, violets and powder puff, the palate rapier-like with its savoury clothing of wild strawberry fruits. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Whites over $25

242 wines submitted

25 of the 38 wines on the shortlist were chardonnay, and 10 were riesling, thus it was inevitable they should provide 11 and six wines respectively in the final selection, then one each of semillon, sauvignon blanc and grüner veltliner. No surprise that the Clare Valley, Eden Valley and Great Southern should each claim two rieslings.


Max & Me Woodcarvers Vineyard Mirooloo Road Eden Valley Riesling 2020

96 points | $30 | drink to 2032
High-toned blossom/flower scents fill the bouquet, the juicy palate with Rose’s lime juice and crisp, clear acidity to give balance now, and join forces with the fruit as the wine gains texture and complexity with prolonged cellaring. Screwcap, 12.9% alc.

Singlefile Single Vineyard Mount Barker Riesling 2020

96 points | $35 | drink to 2035
All class, as befits its Blue Lake Vineyard birthplace. The blossom and talc bouquet is shadowed by the intense, crisp palate where Granny Smith apple, crisp lemon and lime infusion, and detailed acidity, carry the wine to a vibrantly fresh finish. Screwcap, 11.9% alc.

Rieslingfreak No. 2 Riesling 2020

97 points | $37 | drink to 2033
From the Polish Hill River. Bright straw-green, it’s an utterly delicious wine which has aromas and flavours that seem to change in quick succession, with Meyer lemon, white peach and Granny Smith apple in full song. Its mouthfeel and the length of the finish are both exceptional. Screwcap, 12% alc.

Duke's Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling 2020

98 points | $42 | drink to 2040
Its power, length, layer upon layer of kaffir lime is wrapped in a pure silver cloak of acidity running through, but never challenging, the fruit. Duke Ranson has every reason to suggest this is one of the best rieslings to come from this jewelled vineyard at the heart of the estate plantings. Screwcap, 13.2% alc.

Henschke Julius Eden Valley Riesling 2020

97 points | $45 | drink to 2035
Filled with citrus and apple blossom on the notably expressive bouquet that leads into a delicious palate, its elfin grace and purity defying the impact of drought. Forget food matching – this lime and lemon-infused wine has such elegance and balance it sets its own stage. Screwcap, 12% alc.

Pikes The Merle Clare Valley Riesling 2020

98 points | $52 | drink to 2035
Pikes’ flagship, but also a Clare Valley flagship. It’s not often a 6-month old riesling can be described as luscious, but that’s the impact of this wine. It’s citrus-focused, of course, and it also has keynote acidity, but it’s the honeyed mouthfeel and flavour that hits the jackpot. Screwcap, 12% alc.

Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc

Moss Wood Wilyabrup Margaret River Semillon 2020

96 points | $44 | drink to 2035
Although vinified a la Hunter Valley – clear juice with multiple yeasts, bottled asap after cold fermentation – the result is a universe away from young Hunter semillon. It has striking depth to its supple lemongrass and white peach fruit flavours, lengthened and balanced by demure acidity. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.

Terre à Terre Crayeres Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2019

96 points | $50 | drink to 2025
Cold-settled for 2 months, a technique developed by Brian Croser, but rarely duplicated. Fermentation in used 600l demi-muids, then matured on full lees for 8 months. The result is very complex, but the fruit is undaunted, with layers of lemon curd, citrus and a whisper of honey. Screwcap, 13.1% alc.


Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards Margaret River Chardonnay 2018

96 points | $35 | drink to 2030
Leeuwin Estate has the game sewn up with this entry point wine. It’s so precise, so balanced, so pure. The distinction between fruit and oak is impossible to gauge, the length magical (the Art Series ’18 was not tasted). Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Dexter Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2019

97 points | $40 | drink to 2030
The bright straw-green hue heralds a beautifully handled wine. The fragrant bouquet of fused fruit and oak is increased on the harmonious, perfectly balanced palate. There’s ultimate detail to the wine, with white peach all the way through to the finish and aftertaste. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Dappled Les Verges Single Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2019

97 points | $45 | drink to 2030
From the red soil Upper Yarra D’Alosio Vineyard at Seville. Wild yeast barrel fermentation in French oak, no additions other than SO2. The bouquet is complex, fruit and oak both contributing, the palate with grapefruit and white peach persisting throughout the long journey. Compelling. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Larry Cherubino Cherubino Dijon Wychwood Vineyard Karridale Chardonnay 2019

97 points | $45 | drink to 2030
Fermented and matured for 10 months in new and 1yo French oak. The elegance and detail of the perfectly balanced mix of white peach, grapefruit and quality oak reflects the marriage of the Dijon clones and quality oak. The length and balance are immaculate. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Mewstone Hughes & Hughes Lees Aged Chardonnay 2019

98 points | $45 | drink to 2032
From a single vineyard in the Coal River Valley, wild-fermented in barrel, 100% mlf, matured on lees for 10 months. The power and intensity of the wine is remarkable, as is its funky complexity. Grapefruit is in the saddle, white stone fruit close by. A compelling wine. Screwcap, 13.9% alc.

Domaine Naturaliste Artus Margaret River Chardonnay 2019

97 points | $49 | drink to 2034
Whole-bunch pressed, wild-fermented in new (40%) and used French oak. The bouquet is complex with funky (good) aromas, the palate briefly nodding to the bouquet before moving on to a pure stream of fresh citrus and white peach. The balance and aftertaste are special. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Hoddles Creek Estate Road Block Chardonnay 2018

98 points | $60 | drink to 2030
From an east-facing contoured vineyard that catches all the morning sun. Perfectly ripened white stone fruit with a quick squeeze of Meyer lemon. Has been fermented and matured in French oak in such a way as to leave the gorgeous fruit centre stage, the palate of endless length. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.

Fighting Gully Road Black Label Smith's Vineyard Beechworth Chardonnay 2018

97 points | $65 | drink to 2030
From vines planted in ’78, fermented and matured for 18 months in new and used French oak, partial mlf. The power, intensity and depth of the wine comes from the low yield of these venerable vines. Ripe white nectarine/peach is offset by grapefruit pith and flinty acidity. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Flametree S.R.S. Wallcliffe Margaret River Chardonnay 2019

97 points | $65 | drink to 2032
From a single site, wild-fermented and matured for 10 months in French puncheons (40% new). Intense white peach and pink grapefruit dance a pas de deux on the long palate, creamy cashew oak nuances beating a rhythm in a perfectly judged support role. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay 2019

98 points | $84 | drink to 2033
A strikingly beautiful chardonnay with its flowery bouquet bearing witness to the sheer purity of the incredibly long palate, the full palette of chardonnay flavours on display. Nectarine, white peach and grapefruit zest are sewn together by an invisible silver thread of acidity. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2018

99 points | $130 | drink to 2038
It’s so difficult to avoid comparisons with Montrachet, except to say both have profoundly deep and long palates, Of course, there’s high quality French oak, and the requisite acidity to freshen the finish, but the ultimate quality lies in the freakish length of the wine. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Other Whites

Stoney Rise Gruner Veltliner 2020

97 points | $32 | drink to 2040
Gruner veltliner is a late-ripening variety that flourishes in a cool climate, the cooler the better. Its varietal signature of white pepper on the bouquet is present, but even more is the tightly wound spring of acidity. Its length is prodigious, and it is a wine built for the (very) long haul. Screwcap, 11.5% alc.

Reds Over $30

404 wines submitted

22 of the 59 wines on the shortlist were shiraz, eight selected, the remainder equally split between pinot noir/ meunier, cabernet sauvignon/blends and grenache, and each provided four of the selections. This category was by far the strongest, the selection process the most difficult.

Pinot Noir

Stargazer Palisander Vineyard Coal River Valley Pinot Noir 2019

98 points | $55 | drink to 2020
The seductive bouquet exudes dried rose petals, spices and some darker foresty notes underneath. The intense palate is all class, blending purity, precision and power. There’s a freshness to the mouthfeel that carries through to the long finish and lingering aftertaste. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2018

98 points | $75 | drink to 2035
Wild-fermented with 10% whole bunches. Superb colour; this is at the tip of the pyramid of the remarkable Home Hill Pinots, the silky mouthfeel unique unto itself, yet from a family bound by common ancestry. Here the perfume of the bouquet soars from the glass the moment it is swirled. Screwcap, 13.9% alc.

Dawson & James Pinot Noir 2017

98 points | $78 | drink to 2029
Fermented with 40% whole bunches, matured for 10 months in French oak (40% new). The wine takes only a millisecond to capture all your senses in a silken embrace. The perfume, the mouthfeel, the parade of spices and fruits, the perfect tannin and oak balance and integration. Screwcap, 13.1% alc.

Best’s Old Vine Great Western Pinot Meunier 2019

99 points | $100 | drink to 2044
The perfumed bouquet of violets and roses introduces a palate with that absolute certainty of place. Like ripples of water lapping the shore at night, its tapestry of flavours is endlessly complex, yet subtle. You must come to it, for there’s no fireworks here, but when you do, you will taste a truly great wine. Screwcap, 13% alc.

Shiraz and blends

O’Leary Walker Polish Hill River Armagh Shiraz 2018

97 points | $35 | drink to 2038
Very good colour through to the rim; the bouquet has a complex array of licorice and tantalising warm spices. The palate is full-bodied and intense, yet so balanced it doesn’t muffle a classic Clare Valley shiraz filled with blackberry and black cherry fruit. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.

Scotchmans Hill Bellarine Peninsula Shiraz 2018

98 points | $42 | drink to 2040
15% whole bunches, wild fermentation,10 months in French oak. A highly expressive, fragrant and complex bouquet carries onto the savoury/spicy palate with wild blackberry, licorice and black peppercorn flavours. The tannins are very good, adding to texture and length. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.

Chalk Hill Clarendon McLaren Vale Syrah 2018

97 points | $48 | drink to 2048
A fine example of temperate-grown shiraz. The bouquet pulsates with black cherry, spice, licorice and pepper, the palate opening with a fanfare of dark fruits and finishes with fine-grained tannins. The drinking window is open, and won’t close for decades. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Angove Family Winemakers The Medhyk McLaren Vale Shiraz 2017

98 points | $65 | drink to 2042
Disciplined attention to detail has produced a perfectly balanced medium to full-bodied palate that has supple, juicy and smooth plum and blackberry fruit with a hint of dark chocolate, integrated cedary oak and built-in tannins. It sings from start to finish. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.

Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Brooks Road McLaren Vale Shiraz 2018

98 points | $75 | drink to 2048
From the ’71 contour plantings, 50% crushed, 40% destemmed, 10% whole bunch, 18 days on skins, with 15 months oak elevage. Extremely complex and intense, but perfectly balanced red and black fruits with flourishes of spice and black peppercorns, tannins a feature. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.

Brand’s Laira Coonawarra Stentiford's Old Vines Shiraz 2016

97 points | $80 | drink to 2046
Vines planted in 1893, and the length and focus of the wine in the mouth speaks eloquently of very old vines. The structure and texture, coupled with the dark fruits, are the key to the wine’s quality, though not making oak and tannins irrelevant. Coonawarra at its best. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea Hunter Valley Shiraz 2018

99 points | $250 | drink to 2026
An utterly stupendous wine, in the same league as Penfolds 1962 Bin 60A. This O’Shea has the complexity of a great tapestry woven centuries ago when time was of no consequence. The sky, the soil and the fruit coalesce into an entity that throbs with intensity and a never-ending kaleidoscope of blackberry, earth and leather flavours. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz 2018

99 points | $350 | drink to 2058
A single block of mainly 50yo vines. Take a bottle with you to drink with Maurice O’Shea and he’ll be ecstatic. It’s supple, perfectly balanced, a pure expression of a quirky vineyard that has been the work of winemaker Iain Riggs for four decades. ’18 was a great vintage, and he pinged it. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Cabernet Sauvignon and blends

Duke's Vineyard The First Cab 2019

98 points | $60 | drink to 2039
This is the first vintage, its history dating back to ’74 when Duke Ranson tasted a wine made with a clone of cabernet sauvignon he chased for over 40 years to plant. With an entrancing bouquet and beautifully structured, supremely elegant palate, it is liquid, heart-stopping cassis, handled with great skill. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.

Deep Woods Estate Reserve Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

97 points | $75 | drink to 2038
From the original vineyard planted in ’87, the wine matured in new and used French oak for 18 months. This is high quality, autocratic cabernet, with blackcurrant, earth and bay leaf on the bouquet and palate alike. It’s minimalist winemaking, allowing the fruit maximum room to speak. Screwcap, 14% alc.

John Duval Integro Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2017

98 points | $220 | drink to 2047
A full-bodied wine of ultimate coherence and quality, the bouquet setting the signal for the palate to follow. Attention to detail is obvious, especially the handling of tannins and oak. The integration of these components with the blackcurrant fruit is faultless. Cork, 14% alc.

Bec Hardy Pertaringa Tipsy Hill Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

99 points | $295 | drink to 2047
From Blewitt Springs, an easterly slope planted in ‘99. Open-fermented, 14 days on skins, pressed to barrel (50% new French hogsheads) on gross lees for 9 months, racked for the next 9 months. Marvellous wine, fluid, juicy and vibrant, with a very long finish, the tannins a gossamer web. Diam, 15% alc.

Other Reds and blends

Yangarra Estate Vineyard Old Vine McLaren Vale Grenache 2019

96 points | $35 | drink to 2034
From vines planted in ’45 on a deep sandy dune dubbed ‘The Beach’ by Yangarra; whole bunches are open-fermented. The bouquet exudes fresh-picked raspberries which form the nucleus of the powerful and intense palate, with grainy tannins that underline the complexity of the wine. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Turkey Flat Barossa Valley Grenache 2019

97 points | $45 | drink to 2029
Primarily produced from 100+yo estate vines, it is a model of consistent style, quality and supreme value. Its balance is marvellous, appropriate for a wine that makes its statement of juicy red berries, Turkish delight and rose petals without fuss or fanfare. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.

Chalk Hill Alpha Crucis Old Vine McLaren Vale Grenache 2019

98 points | $55 | drink to 2025
Predominantly 90yo vines in Blewitt Springs, 10% whole bunch ferment, matured in third-use French oak for 11 months. Brilliant crimson hue; an intensely perfumed bouquet floats into the juicy palate of pomegranate, red cherry and spice. A gorgeous grenache. Superlative length. Screwcap, 14% alc.

Chapel Hill 1897 Vines McLaren Vale Grenache 2018

98 points | $65 | drink to 2048
Hand-picked from a single block planted 1897. Deeply coloured; a very high quality wine, traditional grenache at its greatest, the palate at once velvety and spicy, ripe tannins expertly managed. Length, balance and purity. Powerful, layered, very long lived. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.

Australian Sparkling

47 wines submitted

Five of the seven traditional method sparkling wines came from Tasmania (the eighth a sparkling shiraz), a pattern that will become normal for the quality sector. The price gap between upper end champagne and Australia’s Arras is here to stay.

Sidewood Estate Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV

95 points | $22
A selection of Dijon clones for both the 60% pinot and 40% chardonnay components. Enormous care is taken for a non-vintage blend at a price of $22, following the trail of previous releases with gold medal success. Fresh, lively, the balance excellent, ditto length.

House of Arras Blanc de Blancs NV

94 points | $34.99
89.7% chardonnay, 8.8% pinot noir, 1.3% pinot meunier aged for 30 months on lees, 8.1g/l dosage, disgorged Mar ’20. The balance of stone fruit/apple flavour lights the mouth, with balance and precision; long finish and aftertaste.

Home Hill Ms Daisy Cuvee 2017

95 points | $40
60% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay, tiraged Nov ’17, 9.75g/l dosage, disgorged Aug and Oct ’19, 2280 bottles made. Palest pink hue, partridge eye; the pinot noir drives a wild strawberry-flavoured wine, the dosage perfectly judged, the length good.

Jansz Tasmania Late Disgorged 2012

96 points | $56
55%  chardonnay, 45% pinot noir, seven and a half years on lees (2741 days), disgorged Jun ’20. The result is a very intense wine that is still fresh, fruit and acidity more obvious than brioche/lees complexity. Remarkable.

Apogee Deluxe Brut 2016

97 points | $63

53.3% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir, 7.7% pinot meunier, traditional method, with 45 months on lees, disgorged Jan ’20. Pale salmon hue; the bouquet is very complex, the palate even more so, with spiced strawberry fruits, brioche and soft acidity on the long finish.


Chandon Australia Cellar Release Winemaker's Selection Rose 2013

97 points | $64
The palest of pale roses is in another league from Chandon’s NV Brut Rose. Yarra Valley, Whitlands and Strathbogie-sourced. It has a heady perfumed bouquet with violets and spice, the palate of ultimate elegance and effortless length.

Seppelt Show Sparkling Limited Release Shiraz 2008

96 points | $100
Whole berry fermentation, powdery tannins in the base wine, with 7+ years on lees. The dosage of 21g/l is at the bottom end of the scale. A complex bouquet, with notes of spice, pepper and leather. Shiraz shines in this wine, tannins adding to the appeal.

House of Arras Grand Vintage 2009

97 points | $108.99
65.9% chardonnay, 34.1% pinot noir, aged for 9 years on lees, disgorged Apr ’20 the dosage only 2.5g/l. Full straw-yellow hue; layered brioche complexity, powerful drive and length. Australia’s answer to Krug.


67 wines submitted

Last year seven of the 12 wines selected were priced below $100; this year there were only three. Once the $100 barrier was broken, prices for the next five rose steadily to $160 before the final quartet soared from $285 to $475. Last year the most expensive was $295.

Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Cuis Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs NV

94 points | $80
In these days of sharply rising prices, this family-run house offers great value thanks to its magnificent chardonnay vineyards. This is Gimonnet’s entry point wine, the bouquet of white flowers/apple blossom, the palate with elegance and balance, fruit finish fresh thanks to the modest dosage of 5.5g/l.

Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV

95 points | $85
One of my favourite champagne houses. This entry point has one-third each of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay from 30 crus, 25% reserve wines, spending 4 years on tirage. It has a flowery bouquet, terrific mouthfeel thanks to a hint of honey, and Meyer lemon cleansing the finish and aftertaste.

Bollinger Special Cuvee NV

96 points | $90
Surely the most underpriced champagne on the market today, yet one of the most complex. The 60% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay and 15% pinot meunier blend is of scant importance compared with the 400 components with 60% reserves, the oldest 8+ years old. Majestically complex and layered in a jewelled crown of freshness.

JM Labruyere Grand Cru Prologue NV

95 points | $110
A new kid on the block, from Grand Cru vineyards in Verzenay, the base wine of 70% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay, on tirage 2/4/14, disgorged 17/5/19. Lives up to expectations with a spicy brioche bouquet, the palate elegant and well balanced, with a particularly long finish and fresh aftertaste thanks to its micro dosage.

Veuve Clicquot Vintage Brut 2012

96 points | $120
A blend of 51% pinot noir, 34% chardonnay and 15% pinot meunier, with 11% reserves aged in large foudres. It’s beautifully sculpted and balanced/white peach and cashew glide across the palate. The lingering finish and aftertaste are as fresh as a daisy. One of the most consistent houses.

Vve Fourny & Fils Monts de Vertus Blanc de Blancs 2012

97 points | $139
100% Premier Cru vertus chardonnay ex 60yo vines. First fermentation in vats, 7 months on lees, on tirage 5+ years, disgorged Jan ’18, the dosage only 3g/l. Bright, light yellow-gold hue; has an intense, focused and very long palate with threads of nectarine, white peach and pear fruit. The finish is compelling.

Billecart-Salmon Vintage Extra Brut 2009

96 points | $155
Comprises 40% pinot noir, 33% chardonnay and 27% pinot meunier, 73% Grand and Premier Crus. The low dosage of 2g/l and the warm vintage allow the fruit-based flavours free rein – white peach, Granny Smith apple and nectarine. The finish and aftertaste remain fresh and long. A house in grand form.

Pol Roger Vintage Brut 2012

97 points | $160
A 60% pinot noir/40% chardonnay blend sourced from 20 Grand and Premier Crus, the dosage 7g/l, on tirage for upwards of 7 years. Full yellow-green hue; it’s a luscious wine with superlative length and balance, flowing across the palate in an unbroken stream. Irresistible.

Dom Perignon Vintage Brut 2010

97 points | $285
The challenging vintage (botrytis) may have reduced the usual massive production, using only the best fruit harvested with military precision. On tirage for 8 years. The complex and expressive bouquet opens for a palate with flavours from quince to honey circling around a core of stone fruit, the finish penetrating.

Krug Vintage Brut 2006

99 points | $350
Krug leaves other great champagnes in its wake, as it fills the senses to overflowing. A blend of 48% pinot noir, 35% chardonnay and 17% pinot meunier; 12 years on tirage. It has an incredibly complex play between berry fruits and spicy brioche flavours, and it’s hard to imagine a better structured and balanced wine.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008

98 points | $400
From the great ’08 vintage, 100% blanc de blancs Grand Crus. It’s the favourite champagne of Australian winemakers. A scintillating blend of citrus and white peach wrapped in strands of almond, brioche and mineral notes, the length and freshness of the finish and aftertaste phenomenal.

Louis Roederer Cristal 2012

98 points | $475
60% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay, 32% vinifed in old oak casks, no mlf, 7.5g/l dosage. Forget the hype of New York, this is a beautiful wine, with a burst of sunbeams in a springtime garden of white flowers, the length of the palate and its aftertaste are magnificent. A total contrast to Krug in style.

Life: Wine

James writes a weekly column for The Weekend Australian.

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