The Top 100 list 2021

Whites under $30

111 wines submitted

Only six of the wines had any exposure to oak, and even then the majority employed used/old oak – all this gives 2021 maximum airplay. Bargains galore.


West Cape Howe Mount Barker Riesling 2021

95 points | $22 | drink to 2032

Ticks each and every box along the journey, starting with the quartz-green colour, then the flowery and fragrant aromas telling of the citrus-accented palate gathering drive as it explores lime and passionfruit. All throughout the line of acidity provides cohesion. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.


Henschke Peggy's Hill Eden Valley Riesling 2021

97 points | $25 | drink to 2031

​The blossom-filled bouquet surges instantly from the glass, citrus leading, apple tucked in close behind, the palate every bit as expressive. The crisp acidity provides the framework to carry the long finish and aftertaste; world class for a song. Screwcap, 12% alc.


Singlefile Great Southern Riesling 2021

95 points | $25 | drink to 2031

Fresh and lively; a delicious array of lime, lemon and passionfruit opens proceedings on the palate and bouquet; steely acidity runs throughout, but doesn’t disturb the peace. Changes will emerge down the track, but don’t hesitate to drink it tonight. Screwcap, 11.9% alc.


Castle Rock Estate Porongurup Riesling 2021

97 points | $26 | drink to 2041

Draws on six estate blocks; 100% free run juice. The perfumed apple and lime blossom bouquet doesn’t prepare you for the searing intensity of the slatey acidity and lemon zest palate. This is purity on a grand scale, its future unlimited. Screwcap, 11% alc.


Teusner Empress Eden Valley Riesling 2021

96 points | $27 | drink to 2035

A truly gorgeous Eden Valley riesling, the bouquet full of citrus blossom, the palate overflowing with lime, grapefruit and Meyer lemon, the high tensile acidity a perfect anchor for consumption today or 10 years hence. This from a red wine specialist! Screwcap, 12.5% alc.



Meerea Park XYZ Hunter Valley Semillon 2021

95 points | $25 | drink to 2035

Co-founder and winemaker Rhys Eather is the larger than life great-great-grandson of Alexander Munro, a famous Hunter vigneron in the mid-19th century. This wine is still in its infancy, but already has an abundance of juicy sweet citrus flavours, and a great future. Screwcap, 11.0% alc.


Sauvignon Blanc and blends

Sidewood Estate Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2021

96 points | $22 | drink to 2022

Sidewood Estate has won 8 trophies (including this) and 52 gold medals for its sauvignon blanc since 2012. The cut grass, nettle and citrus aromas are joined on the palate by utterly seductive grapefruit and guava fruits with a sheen of just-so acidity. Bargain on a grand scale. Screwcap, 12% alc.


Cape Mentelle Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2020

94 points | $26 | drink to 2024

Extended stainless steel ferment at very low temperatures with cultured yeast. Opens with passionfruit/tropical florals on the bouquet, tightening up in the mouth with a stream of citrussy acidity channelling along the tongue, the finish bright and breezy. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Deep Woods Estate Ivory Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2021

93 points | $15 | drink to 2023

This wine would be my $15 steed for a joust with sauvignon blanc or sauvignon blanc blends from Marlborough and anywhere else in this side of the ditch, its tapestry of citrus and passionfruit covering most contenders at prices soaring above $20. Screwcap, 12% alc.


Amelia Park Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2021

95 points | $23 | drink to 2025

A 60/40% blend; part left with solids in stainless steel barrels to complete wild fermentation, the rest fermented at 12-13˚C in tank. Citrus/lemon blossom/cut grass aromas set the scene for the complex palate with both texture and structure achieved without the use of oak. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.



Devil's Lair Dance with the Devil Margaret River Chardonnay 2020

92 points | $15 | drink to 2025

Bright straw-green colour. One reason for the inexplicably low price: an over-supply of Margaret River chardonnay – a bonanza for the consumer. The graphics of the label are perfect for brasserie or picnic settings, and those who are after old style, rich chardonnay should love this. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Xanadu Circa 77 Margaret River Chardonnay 2020

92 points | $20 | drink to 2024

The name is derived from the first plantings by Xanadu in 1977. $20 (and presumably discounted below that) is a ridiculous price for this so-cleverly made wine, its core dinky-di white stone fruits and a dash of grapefruit, together with a feather-light infusion of oak. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Hoddles Creek Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2020

95 points | $22 | drink to 2030

Seven clones; barrel-fermented (25% new oak) part wild, part cultured yeast; 9 months in oak, the impact subtle on a palate with both finesse and intensity. Grapefruit and Granny Smith apple are the flavour drivers of the long palate, crisp acidity to close. Screwcap, 13.2% alc.


Dominique Portet Fontaine Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2020

95 points | $26 | drink to 2030

From 20yo vines in Gladysdale; fermented in French oak (10% new); kept on its fermentation lees for 8 months. A very attractive, well made wine, with that extra degree of white peach/grapefruit and inherent acid balance that the Upper Yarra is able to produce at will. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Other Whites

Tahbilk Marsanne 2021

95 points | $20 | drink to 2031

The Nagambie Lakes shared the great vintage for whites, and Tahbilk didn’t miss out here, oozing with honeysuckle, lime and custard apple, the signature of acidity neatly tying the parcel up for now or in a decade or two. It’s a dead set gold medal. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Bleasdale Vineyards Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2021

94 points | $22 | drink to 2025

75% fermented cool in tank; 25% fermented with high solids and wild yeast in used French puncheons. This will come as a surprise for those expecting another ho-hum white wine. There is both flavour and texture complexity, largely nashi pear and citrus, plus tropical and spice slants. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.


Varney Fiano 2019

95 points | $28 | drink to 2024

24hr skin contact pre cold pressing. Cool fermented in used French barriques, with frequent lees stirring. Alan Varney certainly knows what he’s doing. The scented, slightly peppery bouquet is a logical forerunner of the skilfully engineered, grapefruit-accented palate. Stands tall with any food style. Screwcap, 12.4% alc.


Hahndorf Hill GRU Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner 2021

96 points | $30 | drink to 2030

Has more weight and gravitas than its siblings, but the same balance and length: it’s a crying shame that I don’t methodically lay down the Hahndorf Hill gruners for a decade or so to watch their development, giving the same reward as fine rieslings. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Primo Estate Adelaide Hills Pecorino 2021

96 points | $28 | drink to 2025

Primo Estate was the first to plant pecorino in South Australia – and, by definition, in the cool Adelaide Hills. The highly floral bouquet is left on the wayside by the richness and succulence (not sweetness) of the palate. It strikes a further blow with its titanium backbone of acidity. ​Screwcap, 12.5% alc.


The Story Marsanne Roussanne Viognier 2018

95 points | $30 | drink to 2027

A single co-planted (2007) vineyard, the wine wild fermented in old oak and taken through 100% mlf, this reflected in its malty aromas. Despite the mlf, fruit and acidity dance around each other in an energetic display which carries through the finish and aftertaste. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.


Reds Under $40

233 wines submitted

Not a single pinot noir; instead there’s a wonderful rosé and 19 varietal reds from all corners of the globe just waiting for you.


Giant Steps Yarra Valley Rosé 2021

97 points | $30 | drink to 2025

100% pinot noir, hand-picked, specifically for this rosé, wild yeast fermented. Vibrantly fresh aromas and flavours; rose petals, violets and delicate spices on the bouquet, wild strawberries and raspberries on the mouth-watering palate. Great wine, not just great rosé. Screwcap, 12% alc.


Shiraz and blends

West Cape Howe Frankland River Shiraz 2019

94 points | $22 | drink to 2037

A small portion finishes its ferment in new oak barriques; matured in new and used French oak. You have to wonder how any new oak expenditure could be justified by the give away price. Unbeatable now or later consumption with its spicy black fruits and precise tannin control. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Angove Family Winemakers Family Crest McLaren Vale Shiraz 2019

95 points | $25 | drink to 2039

You’d never guess Angove is a recent arrival in McLaren Vale. This is a near-perfect illustration of varietal character with eiderdown tannins underlaying a Magimix blend of dark chocolate and blood plum fruit. Generosity is its calling card, and it won’t die any time soon. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Shingleback Davey Estate Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz 2019

95 points | $25 | drink to 2034

Matured for 13 months in new and used oak. 3 trophies McLaren Vale Wine Show ’20. A compellingly endowed shiraz which has managed to emerge from its oak womb with a supple, seductive medium-bodied palate that has an energetic savoury finish, the high point of the wine. Screwcap, 14% alc.


Bondar Violet Hour McLaren Vale Shiraz 2020

97 points | $30 | drink to 2035

Sourced from Shiraz plantings dating back to 1947 ex the Rayner Vineyard. A beautiful wine in every dimension – its crimson colour, haunting perfumed bouquet, fruit that caresses the mouth with its perfectly ripened fruit, superfine tannins, and subtle but relevant oak. What a bargain. Screwcap, 14% alc.


The Story Grampians Syrah 2019

97 points | $30 | drink to 2040

Has built on its layers of savoury/spicy cool grown shiraz flavours over the past year, adding weight and depth but without compromising its freshness. The lingering aftertaste is special, with sparklets of blackberry and blackcurrant. Oh, and vigneron Rory Lane has a degree in ancient Greek literature. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Paul Osicka Heathcote Shiraz 2019

97 points | $38 | drink to 2040

The lively bouquet offers fluttering wafts of spices crossing into dabs of French oak, but gives little advance notice of the depth and intensity of the black fruits wrapped in a fine skein of ripe tannins. A Grampians-like twist is all the better for that in the hands of Simon Osicka. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Windows Estate Petit Lot Basket Pressed Syrah 2018

97 points | $39 | drink to 2030

The still brilliant crimson hue introduces a vibrant medium-bodied shiraz with its dancing array of red cherry, plum and blackberry fruits; acidity and fine, spicy tannins complete a very beautiful wine. Drink whenever the mood strikes, but be careful when pouring it. Screwcap, 14% alc.


Deep Woods Estate Margaret River Shiraz et al 2020

94 points | $20 | drink to 2033

Fermentation and maceration proceeded for 12–14 days, thence to French barrels for 15 months maturation. Vivid colour; it beggars belief this has an RRP so low. It’s the real deal – a wine with layer upon layer of red and black fruits and serious tannins, and then given that time in French oak. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Cabernet Sauvignon and blends

Bleasdale Vineyards Mulberry Tree Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

95 points | $22 | drink to 2032

Vinified in open fermenters with 12 days on skins including post ferment maceration; 12 months in new (10%) and used French puncheons. Great colour; cassis is the first and last impression of the bouquet and palate respectively, albeit with plenty of dried bay leaf and black olive. Screwcap, 14% alc.


Wynns Coonawarra Estate The Siding Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

96 points | $25 | drink to 2049

A clear indication of Coonawarra’s great cabernet vintage when this luscious blackcurrant wine has an RRP (read before discounting) of $24.99. It’s one of those wines that demands nothing of the consumer, and gives everything, whether now, five years or 20 years hence. Screwcap, 13.6% alc.


Vasse Felix Filius Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

95 points | $29 | drink to 2029

It all hangs together perfectly, from its light crimson hue to its ultra-fragrant bouquet and juicy red and black currant palate. Even better is the structure revealed on the finish and aftertaste: tannins wrought with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Domaine Naturaliste Rebus Wilyabrup Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

97 points | $36 | drink to 2038

Matured for 12 months in French oak (40% new). The bouquet is a fragrant mix of cassis and cedar/cigar box, the intense palate with a tapestry of flavours of cassis and savoury bay leaf. Yet  it has the lightest of tannin touches encouraging a quick return to the glass. Screwcap, 14% alc.


Wirra Wirra Church Block McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2019

94 points | $22 | drink to 2039

A 46/42/12% blend matured for 18 months in French and American oak satisfies all the criteria for a blend such as this: bright colour and fresh black and red fruits undaunted by the extended time in barrel, and satisfying ripe tannins. And a gold-plated bargain. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Other Reds and blends

Eldorado Road Quasimodo Nero d'Avola Shiraz Durif 2018

96 points | $29 | drink to 2038

Super-bright colour; an unusual blend that immediately announces it’s fresh and fragrant on the bouquet, and dances on the medium-bodied palate with spicy red and purple fruits, the flavours lingering for minutes, yet the tannins are largely sidelined – remarkably so. Screwcap, 13.6% alc.


Purple Hands Barossa Valley Grenache 2020

96 points | $30 | drink to 2032

Hand-picked old bush vines; 25% whole bunch wild ferment; 10 days on skins; basket pressed to puncheons; 10 months maturation. A springtime basket of red flowers and fruits fill the senses, with a bright, almost tangy, back-palate and finish. Purple Hands at its best – and happiest. Screwcap, 14% alc.


Ministry of Clouds McLaren Vale Grenache 2020

96 points | $40 | drink to 2032

Ex bush vines up to 100yo; 80% whole berries, 20% whole bunches in an open wild ferment; 21 days on skins; 10 months maturation in old oak. Vivid, clear colour; the scented, spicy, flowery bouquet leads a red berry/cherry/piquant palate, savoury elements increasing overall complexity. Screwcap, 14% alc.


Varney Entrada McLaren Vale Grenache Mourvèdre Touriga 2020

95 points | $25 | drink to 2026

Improbably, it may seem, this has similar weight and mouthfeel to a classy 2yo pinot noir. Its floral bouquet nearly makes way to outright perfume, the palate a delicious offering of small red fruits. It’s not profound, but what there is, is faultless, the length ditto. Screwcap, 13.1% alc.


Willow Bridge Estate G.S.M Geographe Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2020

95 points | $25 | drink to 2030

The light colour is akin to a wolf in sheep’s clothing, although within expectations for this blend. The fruit darts all over the place without pausing for a breath, and long into the aftertaste of licorice, spice, rum and raisin, plum and a silky rope of tannins. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Stella Bella Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2019

95 points | $25 | drink to 2034

Cabernet sauvignon is the driver, percentages irrelevant; it’s blackcurrant rather than cassis per se, but the tannins that might have bullied the merlot are in fact relaxed and accommodating. A budget-priced entry into the Margaret River castle of this blend, helped by the excellent vintage. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Whites over $30

154 wines submitted

Seven rieslings over $30 – ravishingly, madly unprecedented. Winemakers/professionals place riesling on the pedestal it deserves.


Stargazer Coal River Valley Riesling 2021

97 points | $35 | drink to 2036

This is a glorious wine; the bouquet and fore-palate are full of Rose’s lime juice that has a siren allure, but it’s the soaring finish and aftertaste that send all the senses into overdrive with a quivering line of acidity within its fruit. Screwcap, 12% alc.


Best’s Foudre Ferment Great Western Riesling 2020

97 points | $35 | drink to 2035

Made from juice with extended skin contact and wild fermented in a large oak foudre, more or less exactly how a winemaker in the Rheingau would make a kabinett riesling. It pulsates with a sinuous dance between the juicy lime fruits and delicate but intense acidity. Screwcap, 12% alc.


Freycinet Riesling 2020

96 points | $35 | drink to 2040

Freycinet is best known for its pinot noir and chardonnay, but also has a proud history of producing immaculately honed and balanced rieslings with a life span measured in decades rather than years. Glistening citrus all sorts is the violin, crisp, minerally acidity the bow. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling 2021

97 points | $37 | drink to 2036

The scented white flower and lime blossom aromas promise much to come on the palate, and don’t deceive. It is utterly delicious, with swathes of lime and pink grapefruit which are fruit-sweet (not residual sugar). Absolutely out of the box. Screwcap, 12.6% alc.


Rieslingfreak No. 12 Riesling 2021

97 points | $37 | drink to 2036

From the Flaxman Valley. The perfumed bouquet has a spray of white florals before the palate opens its doors with an exquisite play between deep mineral notes and intense citrus zest. So perfect is the balance, these inputs so harmonious, the wine is positively ethereal. Screwcap, 11% alc.


Henschke Julius Eden Valley Riesling 2021

98 points | $47 | drink to 2034

Citrus and passionfruit blossom soar as you swirl the glass, and the palate achieves the seemingly impossible with the volume of turbo-charged fruit. It reaches every receptor in the mouth and there’s no hint of added acidity, the balance and length faultless. Screwcap, 11.5% alc.


Grosset Polish Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2021

97 points | $72 | drink to 2031

Estate-grown, and 100% free run juice. The lime blossom perfume of the bouquet sets the scene for a palate of precision and linear power, crisp acidity drawing out the long, lingering finish and aftertaste. Lime, lemon and apple all add their part. Will develop gloriously. Screwcap, 12.9% alc.


Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc

Leogate Estate Museum Release Creek Bed Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon 2013

97 points | $50 | drink to 2033

Still as young and effortless as it was in its youth with its parade of all things lemon – zest, pith, unsweetened juice (redoubled by Hunter Valley’s minerally acidity). It will slowly pick up even more depth as it ages, but lacks for little right now. Screwcap, 11.5% alc.


Brokenwood ILR Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon 2014

99 points | $100 | drink to 2034

Still freakishly green-straw, it is an exercise in purity from start to finish, all the facets of the bouquet and palate utterly harmonious, balanced and long with citrus, beeswax and lemongrass floating on a transparent film of acidity. A flawless wine that is a vinous masterpiece. Screwcap, 11.5% alc.


Domaine Naturaliste Sauvage Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc 2020

96 points | $33 | drink to 2025

A great white wine vintage. Bright straw-green, barrel fermented in French puncheons (33% new), but that is not the only winemaking input, some enriching use of solids also in play. It’s complex, with a lineage that will ensure the wine has a very healthy life ahead. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Geoff Weaver Ferus Lenswood Sauvignon Blanc 2015

96 points | $45 | drink to 2025

Estate-grown, wild-fermented in French barriques followed by 12 months maturation. Brilliant green-gold. Last tasted 3 years ago, and is still as fresh as a daisy. As good as they can possibly come in this style, said without intending to demean a wine of international class. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Flowstone Queen of the Earth Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc 2019

97 points | $55 | drink to 2028

Fermentation and 15-months maturation in a 600l demi muid, occasionally stirred. Always a striking and complex wine that manages to be as light on its feet as a ballet dancer, juicy fruits flowing in curved lines through the mouth, humming drink me, drink me. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.



Mandoon Estate Reserve Margaret River Chardonnay 2020

97 points | $59 | drink to 2032

Whole bunch-pressed; wild fermented in new and used French barriques. Has it both ways: elegance and richness (with intensity and length), and a citrus blossom fragrance. All of these characters come together, along with white peach and Granny Smith apple to make magic. Screwcap, 13% alc.


TarraWarra Estate Cellar Release Reserve Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2012

97 points | $60 | drink to 2027

If you wish to see the extreme length and longevity of Yarra Valley chardonnay, go no further. This lovely self-possessed wine is on its plateau of perfection, and will hold its form for years (5+) to come. The freshness of its finish and lingering aftertaste is its ace-in-the-hole. Screwcap, 12.8% alc.


Stella Bella Luminosa Margaret River Chardonnay 2020

98 points | $70 | drink to 2030

Wild fermented in French barriques; neither fined nor filtered. A very complex wine of immediate power, with a deliberately funky bouquet, then changing tack with the glorious purity and focus of the palate, white peach, grapefruit and cashew/almond combining in a single stream of joy. Screwcap, 13.6% alc.


Bannockburn Vineyards S.R.H. 2018

98 points | $77 | drink to 2038

From a single block of the P58 clone planted 1976 honouring founder Stuart Hooper. This is a glorious chardonnay achieving the near-impossible equal blend of purity and complexity. If served blind to me first up, I’d be in Burgundy with a grand cru in the Montrachet family. Screwcap, 13.1% alc.


Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay 2020

98 points | $93 | drink to 2033

Tolpuddle is cementing its place in the great regional chardonnays of Australia, with its piercing purity and intensity reflecting its great Richmond vineyard. Its impact on the aftertaste has no equal, leaving you rooted to the spot. Tolpuddle doesn’t waste great vintage opportunities. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Penfolds Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2020

98 points | $125 | drink to 2035

All fermentation takes place on solids, some juice direct from press to barrel for wild ferment; 100% mlf. This is transparently obvious in the extremely complex bouquet, palate and texture of grapefruit, white peach and fig. Magnificent line and length in world terms. Screwcap, 12.5% alc.


Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Chardonnay 2018

98 points | $126 | drink to 2043

A more expressive – and complex – bouquet than this great, long-lived, wine normally offers at this age, the palate matching the bouquet in its depth and power. Grapefruit, spice and apple tart are its markers, and it’s the vineyard that bestows its resilience. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Other Whites

Coriole Rubato Reserve McLaren Vale Fiano 2020

97 points | $50 | drink to 2030

Ex 2002 plantings, Coriole the pioneer in McLaren Vale. A small  bottling of a few barrels, with a gleaming straw-green hue, and an endlessly complex mouthfilling array of flavours, ranging from warm Asian spices to honey and nougat, savoury acidity instilling a sense of order. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Reds Over $40

254 wines submitted

Four pinot noirs make up for the small number with a cascade of high points – for which I make no apology. This is ‘Lucky Country’ stuff.

Pinot Noir

Stargazer Palisander Vineyard Coal River Valley Pinot Noir 2020

97 points | $55 | drink to 2030

25% whole bunches, 75% whole berries; 8 months in French oak. Perfect clarity and colour; a vibrant pinot that caresses the mouth with its red cherry, wild strawberry, pomegranate flavours and gossamer tannins. Utterly delicious, yet there’s more to come with exotic spices. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Port Phillip Estate Morillon Single Block Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2019

97 points | $60 | drink to 2029

Soured from a 0.4ha patch of the oldest estate plantings. The bright, clear, youthful crimson hue announces a gloriously fragrant and flowery bouquet with its spray of red fruits, the palate a perfect replay of red berries and a squeezed pomegranate. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Giant Steps Applejack Vineyard Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2020

98 points | $65 | drink to 2035

The clarity, the purity, the elegance and the perfume that the Upper Yarra Valley Applejack Vineyard brings to the party is immediately recognisable. Equally insistent is the sheer power of the red fruits and spices hidden by the light colour of the cloak. 66 barrels/barriques. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Pooley Jack Denis Pooley Pinot Noir 2020

99 points | $140 | drink to 2037

Matured in 33% new French barriques. This 33% whole bunch pinot has depth beyond that of its siblings. It’s full-on forest floor, full-on savoury spices, and tannins made to measure, but all bow down to the primacy of the dark berry fruit of the impossibly long finish. World class. Screwcap, 13.1% alc.


Shiraz and blends

Scotchmans Hill Bellarine Peninsula Shiraz 2019

98 points | $42 | drink to 2049

Typical estate vinification: whole bunch, whole berry, cold soak, wild ferment, new and used French oak. The wonder of cool grown shiraz with attention to detail from start to finish, partly the mouth-watering spice and black pepper, licorice and blackberry flavours, part the structure. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Purple Hands After Five Wine Co. Single Vineyard Barossa Valley Shiraz 2019

96 points | $45 | drink to 2044

Ex Stansborough Vineyard. Utterly weird labelling, abstract front, After Five Wine Co on the back, Craig Stansborough winemaker. It’s full-bodied, but supple and long, with plump tannins neatly balanced by blackberry and plum fruit, and an overall seductive generosity. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Sons of Eden Zephyrus Barossa Shiraz 2019

97 points | $45 | drink to 2039

Eden (61%) and Barossa (39%) Valleys; 10% to 40% whole bunch; 15 months in French hogsheads (40% new). A finely structured wine of great class as befits the vintage, the whole bunch lifting the red fruit aromatics on the predominantly blackberry/black cherry foundations. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Eden Road Canberra Syrah 2019

97 points | $50 | drink to 2039

Matured in French oak (20% new) for 16 months. Deep crimson-purple hue; classic cool grown high altitude continental site with fragrant black cherry, blackberry, and distinct fruit spices. Medium-bodied but intense and perfectly balanced, the finish and aftertaste as fresh as a daisy. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Tyrrell’s Single Vineyard Stevens Hunter Valley Shiraz 2018

97 points | $50 | drink to 2058

Matured for 15 months in used 2500l French casks. The regional magic allows the power of this great shiraz to come from 13.5% alc and neutral oak. It’s Hunter Valley to its bootlaces, with decades to come, a steal in these days of $300 plus wines coming from everywhere. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Heathcote Estate Single Block Release Block F Shiraz 2019

97 points | $60 | drink to 2039

The critical decision by winemaker Tom Carson was to pick early from the low-yielding, warm north-west facing block. The result is a long, medium-bodied wine that has hallmark Heathcote richness of supple dark fruits married with the vibrant freshness ex the 13% alcohol. Screwcap, 13% alc.


Spinifex Single Vineyard Moppa Barossa Valley Shiraz 2019

97 points | $60 | drink to 2050

From the deep colour and vivid crimson edge through to the finish, this wine sings a song of purity and intensity. The black fruits, the background of earth, oak and lifted spice simply serve to throw you back to shiraz of great quality, thanks to the skill of winemaker Peter Schell. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


O’Leary Walker The Sleeper Reserve Barossa Valley Shiraz 2018

98 points | $70 | drink to 2050

Destemmed and wild fermented; 14 days on skins, plus a further 10 days maceration. A flying start ex high quality fruit, and extended time on skins has worked exactly as intended; in the old wine show terminology, full-bodied, soft finish. A delicious shiraz now or 30 years hence. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Penfolds Grange Bin 95 2017

97 points | $950 | drink to 2047

100% shiraz, only the 7th such (’51, ’52, ’63, ’99 ,’00, ’11); 18 months in new American hogsheads. Fascinating Grange marrying typical Grange richness and depth with the tempering influence of this cool vintage, harvest one month later than ’16 (elegance and length key descriptors). Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Cabernet Sauvignon and blends

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

98 points | $45 | drink to 2049

Coonawarra enjoyed a perfect 10 out of 10 growing season. The triumph is the alcohol which gives the wine a freshness, a clarity and perfect length and balance. The best Black Label Cabernet made to date from Wynns’ vast viticultural resources across Coonawarra. Screwcap, 13.8% alc.


Amelia Park Reserve Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

97 points | $65 | drink to 2038

Open fermented, held on skins for 2 months, with a further 18 months barrel maturation This long plunging maceration requires constant attention to detail, but Jeremy Gordon has avoided any problem in this cassis/blackcurrant medium-bodied cabernet, complexed by forest floor notes. Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Yeringberg Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

98 points | $98 | drink to 2049

Amazing crimson-magenta hue; matured for 2 years in French oak. Purity, elegance, line, length and balance; a mesmerising bouquet of cassis and cedar, the vibrant medium-bodied palate providing mouth-watering feather-light tannins and oak on the long finish. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Cullen Diana Madeline 2019

98 points | $140 | drink to 2059

Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot; matured for 15 months in French oak (45% new). Superb colour, the bouquet a wondrously complex mix of cassis, earth, tapenade and black olive, all fused into a magically woven palate with tightly furled tannins. Screwcap, 13.5% alc.


Hewitson Old Garden Vineyard Barossa Valley Mourvèdre 2018

96 points | $88 | drink to 2038

Every vine is part of Friedrich Koch’s bush-pruned 1853 planting, the oldest mourvèdre in the world. A positively juicy wine, with exotic spices woven through the collage of red fruits, large and small, and its superfine tannins. Oak also makes a contribution. Screwcap, 14% alc.


Other Reds and blends

Chalk Hill Alpha Crucis Old Vine McLaren Vale Grenache 2020

98 points | $55 | drink to 2030

From 90yo Blewitt Springs bushvines. The bouquet is expressive and enticing, as is the gorgeous juicy and mouthwatering medium-bodied palate. Moving the wine back and forth in the mouth unlocks rivulets of earthy spices running through the pomegranate and red forest fruits. Screwcap, 14% alc.


Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Vineyard McLaren Vale Grenache 2019

98 points | $75 | drink to 2029

The 50-plus yo vines were hand-picked, open fermented as part whole bunch, part whole berries. The perfumed, flowery bouquet of red berries and spices heralds a vibrant, glistening palate, the texture and structure are tannin-free zones (yet neither fined nor filtered). Screwcap, 14.5% alc.


Australian Sparkling

38 wines submitted

All made using the traditional method of fermentation in the bottle in which it was fermented, and received it dosage. Labour intensive and expensive.

Petaluma Croser Non Vintage NV

93 points | $30

A complex wine; its fine bead lasts for some time, with cashew/almond notes on the bouquet, shifting to include grapefruit and green apple on the long, perfectly balanced palate. Traditional method, hand-picked pinot noir and chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills, aged on yeast lees in the bottle for 12 months; disgorged and bottled on demand.


Pirie Traditional Method Non Vintage NV

92 points | $30

Tasmania gets the wine off to a flying start with hand-picked chardonnay and pinot noir. The persistent bead introduces aromas of citrus, Granny Smith apple and brioche/toast, the long palate driven by vibrant, minerally acidity complexed by nuances of spice and nougat. The base wine ex ’18, 10% of museum material, and spent 2 years on lees pre-disgorgement.


Dominique Portet Yarra Valley Brut Rosé LD NV

95 points | $36

Pale salmon; Yarra Valley sparkling wine is increasingly sourced – as this is – from the Upper Yarra Valley. Vivid aromas build on the 60/40% pinot noir and chardonnay base wine, take in red cherry and wild strawberry (the pinot), brioche and toast (the chardonnay). Traditional method, 24 months or more on lees (disgorged on demand), 6g/l dosage.


Freycinet R3 Radenti Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV

96 points | $65

Radenti is doing a Krug, moving from vintage (the last ’11) to a blend of three vintages (40% ’12, 44% ’13, 16% ’14), the overall blend 70% chardonnay and 30% pinot noir. It is a vibrant wine, with fresh fruit flavours in a complex, textured frame. The extra year on cork has been beneficial, and will continue to build further complexity into the future.


TarraWarra Estate Late Disgorged Yarra Valley Blanc de Blanc 2010

96 points | $70

This is a remarkable wine, a one-off that has handsomely repaid the decision to defer disgorgement for a decade. The bright straw-green colour signals an elegant, finely-strung array of white flowers on the bouquet, moving to white peach, citrus and brioche on the palate. The overall balance and length are perfect. Traditional method; disgorged in May ’21.


Apogee Deluxe Sparkling Rosé 2018

96 points | $80

Dr Andrew Pirie AM has devoted his life to the cause of viticulture and winemaking in Tasmania, his most recent move the establishment of Apogee in ’07. Full salmon-pink, it fully reflects the 81% contribution of pinot noir and pinot meunier, with its strong biscuity bouquet and raspberry characters underwriting its impact and length.


House of Arras Blanc de Blancs 2013

98 points | $130

At once complex yet feather light, Granny Smith apple, white peach, hint of brioche, the 2.9g/l dosage perfect. 100% chardonnay from Tasmania’s East Coast, Derwent Valley and Coal River. Hand-picked, first press to 90% tank, 7% French barriques for primary fermentation, then to second fermentation and mlf in bottle; 7 years on lees. Bright quartz, amazing colour.


House of Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2006

99 points | $266

Extraordinary: still so fresh and balanced, minerally, laser-like acidity; infinite length, apple, pear, brioche and honey coexistence seems impossible, but it’s not, nor is its ability to stare down Champagne. 67/33% chardonnay and pinot noir from Derwent Valley and the East Coast. Spent 14 years on lees, the dosage only 2.6g/l. Disgorged March ’21.



54 wines submitted

Given the world wide demand for top quality wine exceeding supply, it’s a break for consumers to find half the Champagnes on offer for less than $100. Try to buy a half-decent Burgundy for $100 and you’ll come away empty-handed. But gather the rosebuds while ye may: official news from Champagne for this year’s vintage is a harvest down 36% on last year.

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

91 points | $60

Full straw-green; fresh and lively, though the colour suggests some time in bottle (post disgorgement). Impressive palate length and composition, grapefruit and apple dominant; crisp acidity makes light of the 9g/l dosage; 50/30/20% pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. Base wine vintage ’17; 20% reserve wines from the preceding 5 vintages, disgorged October ’20.

Champagne Ayala Brut Majeur NV

91 points | $70

Toasty, wild flower aromas; a particularly complex palate, in both texture and flavour; ripe Meyer lemon/white peach ex chardonnay; toast and brioche ex pinot noir/pinot meunier. 45/35/20% chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier; average 3 years on lees, disgorged October ’20, 7g/l dosage. An old house that came in from the cold when acquired by Bollinger in ’05.

Champagne Vve Fourny & Fils Blanc de Blancs Vertus Brut Premier Cru NV

93 points | $80

As ever, one of my favourite – indeed most favourite – budget-priced champagnes. The flavours of ripe white peach, grapefruit and fig and brioche follow on the lead of the bouquet, and do not waver on the long finish and lingering aftertaste. 100% chardonnay, ’17 base year, 20% reserve from 3 consecutive vintages; disgorged February ’21, 5g/l dosage.

Champagne Taittinger Brut Réserve NV

92 points | $82

Particularly well balanced ; a mix of white fruits, flowers and honey on the one hand; red fruits and spice on the other; a very consistent NV, noted for its freshness. Great by the glass. 40/35/25% chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier; base year ’17, 30% from reserve wine, held on lees for 3 years; disgorged August ’20, 9g/l dosage.

Champagne Franck Bonville Grand Cru Rosé NV

93 points | $85

A rare combination of grand cru chardonnay and grand cru pinot noir, the latter coming through with an unexpectedly powerful rip of red cherries, yet in no way obscuring the 90% white flowers and honey ex the chardonnay. Great value. 90%  chardonnay from Avize, 10% pinot noir red wine from Ambonnay, made by Paul Déthune; disgorged July ’20; 6.6g/l dosage.

Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee NV

96 points | $90

Spectacularly complex ‘Poor Man’s Krug’, a Catherine Wheel of spice and apple aromas and flavours; superb structure and imposing length. Surely the greatest value champagne of all. More than 300 parcels from more than 85% grand crus and premier crus, 15% of the base wine fermented in old barrels; 60/25/15% pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.

Champagne Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Extra Brut 2013

92 points | $110

Vintage dated wines account for just 1% of the annual production of Moët & Chandon. Well made wine; very good vintage, noted for its acidity, well above the 10-year average, and reflected in the white grapefruit bite on the finish. 41/38/21% chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier; 6 years on lees; dosage 5g/l; disgorged September ’19.

Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosé Brut NV

95 points | $130

100% pinot noir; 10 crus; 50/50% base year/previous vintage; 5 years on lees; 8g/l dosage. The unique vinification of the base wine in oak sees destemmed grapes macerated for 48 to 72 hours, and fermentation of virtually free run juice. The result is a pale salmon hue, aromas of rose petals and spices and a supple palate driven by red berries and cherry, and a crisp, clean finish.

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV

95 points | $160

The complex bouquet reflects the primary fermentation in oak casks; the palate no less so thanks to the quality of the premier and grand cru reserves, also matured in oak. But it’s all a question of degree; there’s a core of citrussy acidity underwriting the freshness and length of the wine. 7 years on lees; disgorged December ’20, 7g/l dosage. 

Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée NV

99 points | $329

What can one say? Magnificent; all this power with all this finesse, elegance and freshness, from the first whiff to the aftertaste. Apple, grapefruit blossom, dried and fresh fruits and spicy pastry. One glass is never enough, with or without food. 169ème Édition; 146 wines, 11 different years ’00-’13; 43/35/22% pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.

Champagne Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 'Yayoi Kusama' 2012

97 points | $330

Lightness and freshness are the immediate reaction; then purity; then pink and white grapefruit on a palate of exceptional length, reflecting a vintage saved by the last weeks up to harvest. 90/10% pinot noir and chardonnay, largely grand cru. FYI Madame Kusama is Japanese artist.

Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal 2013

98 points | $475

Sheer, frightening intensity; pure unsweetened citrus. It’s a wine notorious for improving on cork in the years following release, but this will take longer than most. 100% estate-grown, 60/40% chardonnay and pinot noir, one-third each Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côtes des Blancs; 6 years on lees, disgorged September ’20.

Life: Wine

James writes a weekly column for The Weekend Australian.

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